Cablegate: Ambassador Moriarty Calls for Elections by End of Year
DE RUEHKA #0457/01 1131220
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221220Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6639
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0599
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 2129
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 9634
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA PRIORITY 1248
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000457
FOR SCA/PPD; SCA/PB
TAGS: KPAO PREL EAID PHUM BG
SUBJECT: Ambassador Moriarty Calls for Elections by End of Year
1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador Moriarty focused on the three "D's" of
democracy, development and the denial of space to terrorists as the
pillars of U.S.-Bangladesh relations during his first press
conference in Bangladesh. Most of the questions centered on the
issue of democracy. The Ambassador called on the government to
conduct free, fair and transparent elections by the end of the year
and to lift the current state of emergency to make this happen. The
Ambassador's comments were the main headline in the majority of
local newspapers and television news programs. Initial reactions to
his comments from the media and political party leaders have been
positive. A senior GOB official expressed some chagrin that the
Ambassador should be so definite in his first press conference.
While the Ambassador's comments reflected USG policy that has been
articulated at the highest levels in the past, there is no question
that his statement on the day of presenting his credentials was a
powerful message. End Summary.
2. (U) On April 21, Ambassador Moriarty presented his credentials to
President Iajuddin Ahmed. That afternoon the Ambassador held his
first press conference. More than 75 journalists and photographers
from almost 50 different news agencies attended the press
conference. While the reporters were predominately affiliated with
Bangladesh media outlets, AFP, AP, Reuters, VOA, and the Dubai-based
Geo News sent their Dhaka correspondents.
3. (U) In his remarks the Ambassador emphasized the three "D's,"
which are the pillars of U.S. relations with Bangladesh. The "D's"
include: democracy, development and denial of space to terrorists.
His remarks can be found on our website at:
Questions Mainly on Political Issues
4. (U) The reporters' questions focused on the political situation
in Bangladesh. They were keen to learn about U.S. views on the
current Caretaker Government, as well as our views on the prospects
for elections by the end of this year as outlined in the election
roadmap. The Ambassador was also asked about the role of the
Bangladesh Army in the political process. Other reporters wanted to
know about the U.S. position on anti-corruption efforts and whether
former Prime Ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina should be
5. (U) In his comments, the Ambassador used the three "D's" to focus
his message. He stated the U.S. expects to see elections before the
end of this year according to the election roadmap. He also
emphasized that holding credible elections under a state of
emergency would be difficult and called on the government to lift
the state of emergency. He stated the Army should not take on more
political responsibilities or assume power. With respect to the two
former Prime Ministers, he said that as with all defendants, the
government should conduct fair and transparent trials that provide
adequate due process to the defendants. If found guilty by a court
of law the accused should be held accountable, but if the charges
were not proven in court they should be released, he emphasized.
6. (U) In addition to questions about political developments,
reporters also asked the Ambassador about U.S. policies to reduce
food crises both in Bangladesh and around the world. The Ambassador
stated that the United States was watching the situation closely.
He added the U.S. was a major food aid provider in Bangladesh and
that a shipment of almost 50,000 metric tons of wheat would arrive
in Chittagong in May.
Positive Reactions from the Media
7. (U) The press conference was featured as the top story in the
majority of local newspapers and many television news broadcasts.
While covering many of the issues raised in the press conference,
reporting generally focused on the Ambassador's comments that
lifting of the state of emergency is a prerequisite for free, fair
and transparent elections, and that the Army role should not expand
into the political arena. Many newspapers incorporated verbatim
portions of his opening remarks and at least one paper printed these
remarks in their entirety its op-ed section.
8. (SBU) Following the press conference, key Embassy contacts told
us they were pleased with the Ambassador's comments. A prominent
editor said the Ambassador's message would resonate with the people
of Bangladesh. Leaders from both the Awami League and BNP noted
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that his comments were "timely," "clear cut" and "statesman-like."
A senior GOB official commented privately that the Ambassador's
remarks "raised a storm" in the government, but that it was "okay".
9. (SBU) While the GOB official would not elaborate on his comment,
there is no question that the Ambassador's message packed a powerful
punch in the eyes of most Bangladeshis. We have called repeatedly
for free, fair and transparent elections and for a lifting of the
state of emergency. For the Ambassador to make these unambiguous
statements on the day he presented his credentials, however,
increased their significance in the eyes of many.
10. (SBU) The Ambassador's public messages will continue to focus
on the three "D's." We have already seen some media outlets refer
to the "D's" specifically in their reporting, and we expect to see
this in the press even more as the Ambassador begins his calls on
political leaders and other influential members of Bangladesh
society. We will capitalize on the Ambassador's current honeymoon
period through an aggressive press strategy to prominently highlight
the U.S. positions on important issues facing Bangladesh.