Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia have both spoken on the need for “compromise” while meeting British Senior Foreign Office Minister Sayeeda Hussain Warsi.
“They both spoke about wanting to compromise…whether or not we have a compromise will become clear during the meeting probably tomorrow (Friday),” Warsi told a press briefing after her daylong visit on Thursday.
Baroness Warsi said both leaders assured her of a third meeting on Friday that they had decided to hold when UN envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco was in the country.
She said the Friday meeting would provide “an important opportunity, possibly one of the last opportunities” to try and reach an agreement.
As she enjoyed “very open and warm relations” with both top leaders, Warsi said she had frank conversations with them during her visit.
Baroness Warsi, who is the Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for human rights, said ultimately the Bangladesh people would decide how the polls should be held.
According to Warsi, who is of Pakistani origin, the test of the elections would be “the turnout of voters".
"Whether they can get to the polling booth, will the polls be free of violence, will voters be able to exercise their franchise and how many of them , will elections observers feel that the elections have been free and fair, transparent and technically sound?” are questions Warsi raised.
She said she had pointed out “the consequences of these not happening” during her meeting with both leaders.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, however, urged the media to act as “a responsible press" which can encourage compromise rather "than taking a polarised position”.
Warsi came to Bangladesh for the second time this year at a time when the general elections are slated for Jan 5 with major opposition BNP staying away and violence dangerously going up in the country.
She said this year had been “a challenging year” for Bangladesh.But there has still been progress, Baroness Warsi said, citing Bangladesh’s MDGs achievements and consistent economic growth as instances.“As a friend of Bangladesh, one willing to invest £250m a year in its development, and as a fellow Commonwealth member with half a million people of Bangladeshi origin living in our country, that has to be a concern for us, as well as a concern for ordinary Bangladeshis”.In this context, she said it was a “welcome news” for everyone that dialogue between the Awami League and BNP were taking place.“We all want to see sustainable elections that represent the will of the Bangladesh people,” she said.“It is therefore vital that all parties refrain from any further acts of provocation and their leaders and senior officials participate in a genuine, constructive dialogue.“That also means bringing about a peaceful end to the violence that is damaging not only Bangladesh’s reputation but also its economy and the livelihoods of its people.”Warsi would not go into details of her discussions with the two top leaders, but said they discussed bilateral and international issues apart from the situation in Bangladesh.She said during her meeting with Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali she raised “the question of the imminent execution of Abdul Quader Molla”.“I fully agree that the crimes for which he has been found guilty are horrific, and my sympathies lie entirely with the victims of the violence carried out 42 years ago.
“There should not be a culture of impunity,” she said. But she said they were opposed to death penalty in all circumstance like all European Union countries.She tried to touch a popular chord in Bangladesh when she pointed out that she was born in March 1971 when Bangladesh born.“Bangladesh is still a young, vibrant country with enormous potential. I hope you can unlock it. The UK, as ever, is ready to help where we can,” she said.She praised Bangladesh and Bangladeshi people and said, “When I meet such people it’s easy to see how bright the future can be for Bangladesh.“There’re so many people here who have the creativity, dynamism, intelligence and, crucially, the desire to engage with society, with their local communities, and make a real difference.”British High Commissioner Robert Gibson was also present at the press briefing held at the British High Commission Club.