Emphasizing a participatory election, Canadian High Commissioner in Dhaka Heather Cruden on Saturday said the upcoming national election represents a critical moment in Bangladesh’ s history which will bring an opportunity for its people to choose who will govern their country.
“People in this election will have an opportunity to exercise their democratic rights to choose who will govern their country…this is an important decision and we hope everyone will participate in order to make their voices heard,” the envoy told a trade seminar at the city’ s Sonargaon Hotel.
The Canadian diplomat said elections, while a critical and highly visible part of democracy and the people of Bangladesh will have an opportunity to exercise their fundamental democratic right to choose their future leadership for governing the country and represent them on the world stage.
Referring to political violence and continuing volatility (in her written speech), the Canadian diplomat asked the government and opposition parties to clearly and publicly reject the use of political violence.
“We call on them to engage one another meaningfully and constructively to address ongoing political issues and to ensure that the upcoming election is free, fair and transparent,” she mentioned in the speech provided at the seminar.
The envoy also said engaging in peaceful protest is fundamental to democracy. “We believe that violence has no place in the democratic process.”
Cruden said it is important to continue work on an ongoing basis on all aspects of what makes a fully democratic society - a functioning parliament, vibrant civil society, freedom of speech and assemble, and independent media and independent functioning institutions.
“With this in mind, Canada believes that active citizens’ participation is the key to ensuring that the views of regular Bangladeshis are not only reflected in the upcoming election, but that they also taken into account between election days,” Cruden said.
The envoy also expressed concern over the working conditions of the country’s RMG industry. “Like many other countries, Canada remains concerned about dangerous working conditions in the RMG sector.”
Heather Cruden mentioned terrible tragedies such as the factory collapse in Savar and the deadly fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in November of 2012 as evidence behind Canada’s concern.
She said though Bangladesh has made strong progress in various areas, the current political instability is causing some companies to question whether they should diversify their risks and move out of Bangladesh. “This could be very damaging in the medium- and long-term for Bangladesh.”
On GPT issue, Cruden said the General Preferential Tariff (GPT) would be modernized but Bangladesh is unaffected by these changes since it is eligible for duty-free access under the least developed country tariff.
She said an air agreement has been initiated between Bangladesh and Canada and if it is signed, it will open up more opportunities for both the economies.
The diplomat suggested the exporters to study and understand consumer trends and maintain their competitive advantage to be successful in the Canadian market.
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs need to develop products and markets, both new and existing, and the government needs to develop policy and institutional environment that can support in this regard, she added.
Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Canadian High Commission in Dhaka jointly arranged the seminar.
Commerce Minister GM Quader spoke at the function as the chief guest while Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam and Chief Executive Officer of the BFIT Dr M Mozibur Rahman took part in the discussion.