Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday and Friday


Meeting with Juanda Djamal and Teuku Kamaruzaman, from Acheh. Kamaruzaman I had last seen at the negotiations between the Indonesians and the GAM (the Acheh freedom movement) in Geneva, where I was helping the peace process initiated by the NGO Humanitarian Dialogue Centre. Since then he had spent two years in prison in Jakarta, but finally an agreement was reached in 2005 on autonomy which brought former GAM members to power in the territory. Teuku Kamaruzaman is now Secretary General of the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Acheh and Mr.Juanda is civil society leader and former head of several NGOs. The Acheh peace agreement that was finally reached owed a great deal to the wisdom of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who led the negotiations on behalf of the Indonesian government, and to the prudence of the GAM in accepting internal self-rule. Maybe the devastation caused by the tsunami in late 2004 was the final trigger that led to the deal, but there had been years of painstaking negotiation before that, first with the help of Martin Griffiths and his dedicated team at HDC, and later, that of former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari.


Chaired a morning seminar on Bangladesh: Political dialogue and the way forward towards elections in the Moses Room, House of Lords to discuss Bangladesh’s present caretaker government’s election process and their dialogue with the political parties.

The keynote speaker was the Awami League’s leader Saber Hossain Chowdhury, ex - minister and political secretary to ex Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Speakers welcomed positive developments including the timely completion of the electoral register, but a resolution was passed unanimously calling for the immediate lifting of emergency rule. Some wanted the election to be held earlier than December, but the general feeling was that parties needed time to appoint candidates, draft manifestos, get them agreed with the memberships, and activate their local branches. There was some feeling that holding the Upazila elections (the lowest tier of local government outside the cities) before the national elections could give the present government power to control the management of the national elections.

Concern was expressed about the mass arrests of political activists, some of whom were alleged to have been tortured.

It was agreed that a delegation of Members of the UK and European Parliaments would seek a meeting with Lord Malloch-Brown, the Foreign Office Minister who deals with Bangladesh, to exchange views on the electoral preparations and identify further assistance the UK might usefully provide, in the light of this discussion

Participants included: Dr Charles Tannock MEP, Baroness Uddin, Brad Adams, Asia Director Human Rights Watch , Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International,
Barrister Nasir Uddin Ashim BNP, Cllr Talal Karim of Liberation, Jenny Lundström, Human Rights Officer, Global Human Rights Defence, The Hague, Newham Cllr Ayub Korom Ali, Md Kamaruddin of BNP, Westminster Cllr Mustaq Qureshi, Nazmul Chowdhury Sharun, London Metropolitan University Students' Union; Sultan Shariff & Gous Sultan of Awami League.

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