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It’s not for foreigners to say how election should be held: UK envoy

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 27th October, 2021 08:38:57 PM
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It’s not for foreigners to say how election should be held: UK envoy

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# UK to work with Bangladesh to achieve a smooth and successful graduation, says envoy

# UK envoy describes his country's admiration for what had been achieved in Bangladesh in past 50 years

As Bangladesh graduated from Least Developed to middle income country status, British envoy in Dhaka on Wednesday said the UK will continue to provide trade facilities to Bangladesh for its smooth graduation.

Addressing at “DCAB Talk” at Jatiya Press Club, British High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson said they are working with British businesses to build a trade and investment relationship with Bangladesh.

“Graduation is a milestone not a finishing line. We will continue to work with Bangladesh to achieve a smooth and successful graduation. We have also decided to provide continued duty-free, quota-free access to the UK market for three years after graduation, to 2029,” he said.

Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) hosted the event. DCAB President Pantho Rahaman and its General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the event.

Describing the UK’s admiration for what had been achieved in Bangladesh over the past 50 years, the High Commissioner said he was delighted that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would be visiting London and Manchester to engage with British businesses during her visit to the UK.

As the third-largest individual destination for Bangladeshi exports, Robert said this was an important signifier of the UK’s continued commitment to work on this relationship, as was the UK’s status as the second-largest cumulative investor in Bangladesh.

British companies such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and Unilever play an important part in the economy of Bangladesh, not least as some of the nation’s largest tax payers.

The High Commissioner said the UK would work with new and existing investors to ensure they could add benefit to, and benefit from, the extraordinary success of Bangladesh’s economy.

He said the UK’s strong view was that stability and economic growth – which he hoped would continue in Bangladesh – flourished best for the long term in open and democratic societies with strong institutions, public accountability and competitive elections.

Highlighting the role of media, he said free media played an important role admired the courage, persistence and commitment of the media community in Bangladesh in continuing to carry out the role and duties of a media in a free society, even though there were sometimes challenges in so doing.

Turning to election, the British High Commissioner said the UK would continue to support plural and democratic practice in Bangladesh as was set out so admirably in the Constitution, and support as far as possible, as external friends, a fair electoral process with protections for voters and participants when the next general election is held.

The UK would watch with interest as preparations were made for institutions like the Election Commission and looked forward to that sending a strong commitment on a free and fair process for the elections when they were next held, he added.

Replying to a question, the British High Commissioner said anything related to election should be a Bangladesh-driven and Bangladesh-led process, noting that it is not foreigners to say how the election should be held here.

 “It’s not for the foreigners to say how the election should be carried out,” he said, adding that it is a matter for the Bangladeshi people to decide. There is plenty of expertise and talent in Bangladesh to make the election a Bangladesh-driven process reflecting the values of the country’s constitution, he added.

Robert said it would be good to have an election that is transparent and openly contested. He thinks it is important that all the voices and all political parties are able to participate in the elections and are able to have confidence in the electoral process.

The High Commissioner referred to the Bangladesh constitution and laid emphasis on fulfilling the constitutional ambition.

The envoy said that he had watched recent events around communities in Bangladesh with concern. He had made clear in public, and in conversations with senior people, that the UK stood with those who supported tolerance and religious freedom, as set out most admirably in the Bangladeshi Constitution, which enshrined freedom of expression and religion.

Returning to trade, Robert said he was pleased to hold the first bilateral UK-Bangladesh Trade and Investment Dialogue in February, which addressed market access barriers and improvements that could be made to the business environment in Bangladesh, to realise the potential of Bangladesh’s impressive growth.

The UK hoped the market could be opened up more than in the past, to the sort of high-value services that British companies excelled in globally, including in finance, education and health services in which the UK led the world.

On education, the High Commissioner said many British universities were keen to contribute to higher education in Bangladesh, including through partnerships with Bangladeshi institutions.

 “This would enable more British universities to make their services and world-class education available to young people in Bangladesh, which in turn would enable Bangladesh to develop the better-trained workforce that would be crucial to flourishing as a middle income country. This was a win-win for both sides.”