The FCO's Human Rights Work 2010-11 - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence from the Bangladesh Hindu Baudhha Christian Unity Council

1.  It needs no reminder that the people of Bangladesh made tremendous sacrifices during their liberation struggle to safeguard these very rights and the 1972 Constitution of Bangladesh specified Four State Principles viz. Democracy, Nationalism, Secularism and Socialism duly reflecting and underscoring this, though seen from the viewpoint of 2010 these in part reflected the cold war period and the role of Non Aligned Movement, and "nationalism" and "socialism" as defined political cornerstones of a pluralist liberal democracy would no longer be considered appropriate these days, least of all from someone as myself from a centre-right political family, and would perhaps be better replaced today with the more neutral terms of "national independence" and "social welfare".

2.  It is another matter that post independence, the Bangladeshi state underwent several transformations, at times undermining some of the very principles mentioned above, thus jeopardizing the very existence of Bangladesh as a modern, progressive state. The various political parties at the time did not always cover themselves in glory by their petty politicking, frequent recourse to gimmickry and demagoguery, which sadly left the common people confused and in disarray.

3.  We must nevertheless acknowledge that since the restoration of democracy in 1991, there has been some solid achievements like the Peace Accord in Chittagong Hill Tracts and the small / rural credit revolution led by the NGOs freeing up the rural economy, and a praiseworthy transparent, free and fair election in 2008. However, reliable and consistently good governance for the people of Bangladesh still requires some work to be done for it to become a lasting legacy of the liberation struggle.

4.  Bangladesh has tremendous human resources, substantial international assistance and a firm place in the globalised economy. But somehow, these resources and potential remain underutilized and unfulfilled. The worst sufferer of this underachievement are the most marginalized sections of the society especially those from the minority communities. The Bangladeshi state has not yet been able to fully ensure a just and equitable system, though progress has been made such as the vastly improved rights of the Ahmadias, particularly when compared to Pakistan where their treatment remains appalling and massacres are still perpetrated on this vulnerable community. The traditional Bangladeshi political parties as representative of the people in a democratic system play a crucial role in guiding and directing the state for fulfilling its responsibilities and duties. The political leadership of the country must constantly re-evaluate their role and achievement and devise a better future course to correct the remaining deficiencies.

5.  Democracy, Good Governance and Human Rights are inter-related issues and should not or rather can not be compartmentalised. It is our firm belief in Europe that only stable democracy can ultimately provide and ensure good governance and accountability and there can not be any democracy without firm commitment to fully respecting fundamental human rights. Every citizen of Bangladesh must feel that he or she has a stake in the system. Repression, persecution and exploitation on sectarian grounds, if allowed to continue unabated and unchecked, would undermine the very basis of democracy and good governance. It is therefore the sacred duty of all political parties of Bangladesh to ensure that every citizen of this great nation is proud of his or her country and its achievements and do not feel marginalized and exploited in any manner. Only when you are able to convince each and every community and section of Bangladesh that they have an equal and firm stake in the country and that their livelihood, religious and socio-cultural beliefs and political rights are safe, then and only then will the many international friends of Bangladesh be able to proudly and confidently proclaim the enduring success of good governance and democracy in Bangladesh.

8 June 2011

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Prepared 20 July 2011