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9 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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‘243 Rohingyas’ get into voters’ list

SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, back from Cox’s Bazar
‘243 Rohingyas’ get into voters’ list

Although the Election Commission (EC) has taken stringent measures to halt any attempt by Rohingyas to get enlisted as voters, local public representatives are helping them in this regard. At least 243 Rohingyas have been enlisted as voters with the help of local public representatives in the Chattogram region, including Chattogram city, Chattogram district, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati and Bandarban districts. The Independent found out that Rohingyas have used incomplete addresses and local public representatives’ recommendation to be enlisted as voters.

This correspondent investigated some cases of Rohingya voters. A letter, signed by Arafat Ara, assistant commissioner (research & development) of the Election Commission (EC), National Identity Registration Wing, on June 15 was sent to the Chattogram regional EC. It says: “A voter list of 1,772 people was received from the statistics and information department of the Ministry of Planning. As per their statement, these voters are citizens of Myanmar and belong to the Rohingya community. After scrutinising the voter list with the EC, information about 243 was found to be correct.”

The letter urged the regional election commissioner to arrange for scrutiny by a special committee. The regional EC, Mohammad Hasanuzzaman, said he has directed all districts and upazilas to investigate the list and submit reports.

However, he is yet to receive any report. During the investigation, it was found that Rohingyas are being made voters not only in villages, but in Chatttogram city as well. A Hasim Sheikh, a Myanmar national Rohingya, was enlisted as a voter in ward 37 South Halishahar of the Chattogram City Corporation area on June 24, 2017. His National Identification Number is 19681592037000021. Interestingly, he is also an Australian citizen; a copy of his Australian passport is with this correspondent.  He said he went to Australian by boat in 2006.

With the help of one of his uncles, who lives in Malaysia, he came to Bangladesh in 2017 and managed to get the Bangladesh NID card. In his NID card, there is no specific address, just 12/AG Bandar Colony. Md Shafiul Alam, councillor of ward 37, told The Independent: “Sometimes residents collect nationality certificates and birth certificates from our office staff. Sometimes, we issue nationality certificates getting recommendation from some locally renowned person or our members. If these people have managed to get certificates, it is a mistake. I don’t know them.”

This correspondent has randomly chosen a union parishad (UP)—Jaliapalong Union Parishad of Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar. On the list, five people, Abul Kalam, National Identity Number (NID) 19832219431793576, Dildar Hossain, NID 19802215696312441, residents of south Painnyashia; Chhayera Khatun, NID 19782219431796260, Mir Ahmed, NID 19382219431796328, residents of Painnyashia Charpara; and Marium Khatun, NID 19772219431859582, resident of Choyankhali, are voters.

This correspondent, visiting the area, found only three people—Abul Kalam, Dildar Hossain and Mir Ahmed. No one, including the local UP member or community leader Mujibul Haque Chowdhury, could confirm their identity. People said they might have been Myanmar citizens, but left the area after getting NID cards.

Abul Kalam and Dildar Hossain, bothers-in-law, have been living in the remote reserve forest area of Painnyashia. This correspondent learnt from Abul Kashem, father-in-law of Dildar Hossain, that he came from Myanmar to Bangladesh long ago. After marrying his daughter, Dildar is living here. However, Dildar was not found at home at 5pm on Thursday.

Dildar Hossain, contacted over mobile phone, denied the allegation, but he could not confirm the location of his ancestor’s home in Bangladesh. Local people said Abul Kashem, father of Abul Kalam, also came from Myanmar long ago. Mir Ahmed said: “I am a Bangladeshi, but married a woman of Myanmar about six year ago after the death of my wife.”

Local UP member Monirul Aalm said: “I know only Abul Kalam and Mir Ahmed, not the others.” UP chairman, Nurul Amin Chowdhury, refused to comment on the matter. This correspondent went to West New Baharchara, ward 2 of Cox’s Bazar city, to look for another voter on the list, Yesmin Akhter, NID 19842222402371725, but no one could give any information about her.

The local ward councillor, Mizanur Rahman, could not recognise her, though his nationality certificate was mandatory for being a voter.

In 2017, Mizanur Rahman issued a nationality certificate and a landless certificate recommendations for Yesmin Akhter, 21, for a passport. She got the passport and was arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) while going to Malaysia.

At least three upazila election officers in Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram said they can do nothing but enlist them as voters, if local representatives issue nationality and birth certificates in favour of Rohingyas.

Cox’s Bazar district election officer Shimul Sharma said: “We got the list from the EC office and we are investigating the matter.”

He also said that earlier they had struck off the names of 32 Rohingya from the voter list as per directives of the Prime Minister’s Office.  

The EC declared 32 upazilas, include all eight of Cox’s Bazar district, all seven upazilas of Bandarban, eight upazilas (except Nanniarchar and Kaukhali upazilas) of Rangamti, and seven upazilas of Chittogram district as special zones to avoid Rohingya voters.

But the field-level people involved in updating voter lists said it is a difficult job as Rohingyas always try to dodge them.

Shahnaz Yesmin, headmistress of the East Kharulia Govt Primary School in Cox’s Bazar, involved in voter list updating since 2007, said: “By marrying Bangladeshis, Rohingyas are becoming voters. Showing the Bangladeshi father-in-law and mother-in-law as parents, a Rohingya man or woman is becoming voter. Due to lack of time, people who update lists cannot verify whether one is a Bangladeshi citizen or not.”

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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