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10 April, 2016 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 April, 2016 01:24:59 AM

EC steps to curb violence insignificant, say experts

EC steps to curb violence 
insignificant, say experts

Although violence in the first and second phases of the union parishad (UP) polls has claimed nearly 50 lives and several hundred people have been injured, the Election Commission (EC) has not done anything significant in this regard, except for filing a few cases and imposing some fines.
Though a large number of people, including a minor body, has been killed in the local body elections, the EC has repeatedly said the polls were held in a fair and peaceful manner. The commission further said it would not take any responsibility for the victims killed in election violence as the personnel of the law enforcement agencies have performed their due role in the elections.
But as experts have pointed out, only filing cases and imposing fines cannot ensure free and fair elections; rather, filing cases means simply sending the matter into cold storage. They have further cautioned that the use of bullets to curb violence in the elections is not the solution and that it is necessary to take pre-emptive measures.
EC sources said at least 12 people were jailed for different terms—ranging from 15 days to six months, while 13 persons were fined over Tk. 4 lakh for committing different irregularities in the first and second phases of the UP polls.
The commission also suspended 11 assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs) for negligence of duty when they were deployed at the polling centres in the elections. Besides, the EC asked six officers-in-charge (OCs) and the superintendent of police of Satkhira to arrest the perpetrators allegedly involved in rigging of votes, occupation of centres and irregularities in the first phase of the UP polls.
In addition, it has relieved three upazila nirbahi officers (UNOs) and four OCs of their duties over negligence. It has also transferred a district election officer and an upazila election officer to other places for negligence of duty.
The EC has filed over 100 cases against different people for violation of electoral rules in the last two phases of the UP polls. Besides, it has suspended polls in 65 centres across the country for various irregularities during the first phase of elections in 712 UPs and 37 centres in the second phase.
The commission said it has warned and directed the law enforcers to prevent violence at election centres and to maintain a peaceful environment. It further said in a press release yesterday that the EC has not shirked its duties since it had

issued warning that punitive measures would be taken against those officials who would be found guilty of any sort of negligence of duty.
But after talking to different officials of the EC, who requested anonymity, it has been learnt that mere imposition of fines and filing of cases cannot ensure free and fair elections. They emphasised that stern action, including cancellation of elections, is also necessary to hold free and fair elections.  The EC has directed law enforcement agencies to apply their “maximum powers” to curb violence and other irregularities during polls in the next phases.
“A free and fair election cannot be ensured just by filing cases and imposing fines. If cases are filed, it clearly means that the matter is sent into cold storage. The EC should have cancelled elections where even minimum allegations were raised by different quarters, including the media. But we don’t see any visible results,” Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder told The Independent.
In the first phase of polls to 712 UPs, scheduled on March 22, at least 27 people were killed before and after the elections. In the second phase of polls in 639 UPs on March 31, at least 11 people were killed, including a minor, before and after the elections.
“The use of bullets to curb electoral violence is not the solution. It can’t ensure free and fair elections. The commission should have taken pre-emptive measures to prevent violence,” Badiul Alam said.
“We’ve seen that miscreants firing indiscriminately at an election centre, which killed a child. But it’s the duty of the administration to recover all illegal arms before elections, following the directives of the commission. How could the perpetrators then use illegal arms?” he wondered.
He further said that the election system is on the verge of being destroyed, but there is still time to save it if different quarters, including the government, take steps to strengthen the commission by restructuring it. “Elections are the precondition of democracy. The government should take steps in this respect. If elections are not held peacefully, the government would also suffer in future,” he added.
Even ruling Awami League castigated the EC for failing to curb violence in the 1st and 2nd phases of the UP polls.
AL Advisory Council Member Suranjit Sengupta on April 1 criticised the EC for not being able to prevent violence in the UP polls. He said that Bangladesh Election Commission is more powerful than any other country’s election commission across the world. They (EC) can cancel or accept any election, if they want, he added.
“But what type of Commission it is! It neither moves forward nor backward. The EC should do something. In Thursday’s elections, too, at least nine people were killed in the election-related violence. Our Commission could not protect their lives. We don’t form this kind Commission to sit idle during an election,” he said.
The EC said it would take the highest cautionary measures in the next phase of elections as well to ensure the voting rights of the people.



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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.

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