Dhaka, Feb 22: Claiming that the government staged a ‘farce’ on December 30 in the name of election, Jatiya Oikyafront convener Dr Kamal Hossain on Friday urged all to be united to take the country’s ownership back and ensure the voting rights of people. “…this can’t be called an election. This is a farce. There was a ceremony on December 30 when the government staged a farce in the name of election, deprived the country’s people of their rights, violated the constitution and defamed democracy,” he said, UNB reported.
Dr Kamal, also Gono Forum president, made the comments while delivering his concluding speech at a public hearing arranged by Jatiya Oikyafront at the Supreme Court Bar Association auditorium.
The public hearing was arranged to depict the ‘irregularities in the 11th parliamentary election before the country’s people and the international community.
About the depositions made by 42 candidates in the public hearing, Dr Kamal said, “The speeches all of you delivered here depicted a similar picture across the country. The government had taken all the mechanisms and strategies so that a free and fair election was not held.”
He also demanded unconditional release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, saying the demand is justified and logical.
Dr Kamal led a seven-member jury panel at the hearing.
Other members of the jury panel were Prof Emajuddin Ahmed, ex-judge AKM Anisur Rahman Khan, Prof Nurul Amin Bepari, Prof Dilara Chowdhury, Prof Asif Nazrul and Advocate Mohsin Rashid.
During the seven-hour hearing that started around 10am, the alliance candidates shared their experiences, ‘’irregularities and repressive acts’’ in the election.
In his concluding speech, Dr Kamal said people were deprived of their ownership of the country through a ‘so-called’ election. “Nothing can be a more grievous offence than it. I think it’s an onslaught on the country’s independence.”
He said it is regrettable that Awami League, which is a party of Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is now ‘destroying’ the election process and ‘snatching’ people’s voting rights.
The Oikyafront convener urged the government to clearly tell people that it wants an ‘individual’s rule’ in the country instead of democracy.
Kamal said a single person with the help of some people in the administration and law enforcers are indulging in unconstitutional acts.
“The officials and employees of the administration who are serving an individual ignoring their constitutional responsibilities should be ashamed of their acts. See your own faces in the mirror and ask your conscience. You should hate yourselves seeing your own faces,” he observed.
Dr Kamal said people’s ownership of the country will be restored if they can get united. “Let’s put united efforts so that when we’ll mark the golden jubilee of the independence we can say we saved our country from the hands of an autocrat.”
Earlier, speaking at the hearing, almost all the 42 Oikyafront candidates brought similar allegations, including obstruction to electioneering, attacks on them and their supporters, stuffing ballots at many centres the night before the voting on December 30, driving out of their polling agents and attacks on them and the partisan role of the administration and law enforcers to deprive people of their voting rights.
They also wanted to know from the senior leaders of the alliance as to why they did not take any protest programme or boycott the polls when a minimum election atmosphere was not ensured.
Most BNP candidates seriously criticised their senior leaders for not announcing any action programme demanding the release of their chairperson Khaleda Zia after the election.
“Ballots were stuffed at night on December 29 creating an appalling situation in my constituency,” AMSA Amin, a Gono Forum leader and Kurigram-2 Oikyafront candidate, said during the hearing.
BNP candidate from Jashore-3 seat Aninda Islam Amith said his election posters were continuously damaged while he faced obstruction during electioneering. “I came under bomb attacks thrice. I was injured and my vehicle was vandalised.”
He said most of his leaders and activists could not stay in their houses due to harassment by law enforcers.
Gono Forum leader Reza Kibria said most of his supporters were implicated in false cases to drive them out of their areas in his constituency Habiganj-2. “There was vote robbery, not voting on December 30.”
The BNP candidate for Lalmonirhat-3 said ballots were stuffed in many polling stations on the night of December 29. “I have footage of stuffing ballots at night in my seat.”
Dhaka-6 seta’s Gono Forum candidate Subrata Chowdhury said voters were not allowed to go to polling stations while most of his polling agents were driven out in the morning.
Some victims also shared how they were subjected to torture and attacks on December 30 as they went to polling stations to work as agents of the Oikyafront candidates.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and standing committee member Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan joined the hearing, but other party standing committee members did not turn up.
Most of the candidates of the 20-party alliance partners, including that of LDP and Jamaat, were also absent.
However, senior leaders of Gono Forum, JSD, Nagorik Oikya and Krishak Sramik Janata League joined the programme.
At the beginning of the hearing, Fakhrul read out a condolence motion in memory of those killed in the Chawkbazar fire.
The Oikyafront leaders and activists paid homage to the fire victims by observing a one-minute silence.
All the depositions of the candidates and victims were recorded and will be published in a book later, said Dr Kamal.