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Cablegate: Parliament Reconvenes; Bnp Opposition Continues

VZCZCXRO1643
PP RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0063/01 0191006
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191006Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9910
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2222
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2979
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHHMUNS/COMSOCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000063

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/INSB AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS PHUM BG
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT RECONVENES; BNP OPPOSITION CONTINUES
BOYCOTT

Summary
-------

1. (U) Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman opened Parliament's
fourth session on January 4 by calling for unified government
action and a proper role for the opposition. Although the
opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party continued its boycott
of Parliament plenary sessions during the opening, the party
is considering a return. Parliament is scheduled to consider
several proposed bills during its session, including a number
that would improve human rights protections.

President Calls for United Effort
---------------------------------

2. (U) During his opening speech as Parliament began its
fourth session on January 4, President Zillur Rahman called
for "shunning the politics of confrontation" and asked
Parliament for a united effort to meet the government's goals
as stated in the Awami League's 2008 "Charter for Change"
manifesto. Rahman also underscored the need for the
opposition to play its proper role in parliament. He
outlined the government's goals on education reform,
development, expansion and upgrading of information
technology, improvement of communication networks, boosting
of food production, and reduction of the number of
Bangladeshis living in poverty to 15 percent from the current
40 percent by 2021. Rahman highlighted government success
during 2009, including containing inflation and rising food
prices despite the global recession, bolstering law and order
and countering terrorism, and playing a strong role in
drawing international attention to climate change effects on
Bangladesh. (Note: In Bangladesh's system, the President's
speech is written by the government. End note.)

BNP Continues Boycott
---------------------

3. (U) As Parliament resumed, the BNP, Bangladesh's main
opposition party, continued to boycott plenary sessions, even
as the party participated in working committees. The BNP
began its boycott in April 2009, during the second
parliamentary session. The BNP's boycott initially protested
the reallocation of some parliamentary front-row seats,
previously occupied by the opposition, to accommodate ruling
coalition Members of Parliament (MPs). Since then, the BNP
has developed a list of ten demands to be met before ending
the boycott. The demands included the withdrawal of
"politically motivated" corruption cases filed against BNP
Chairwomen Khaleda Zia, her elder son Tarique Rahman and
other party leaders; halting the government's efforts to
remove Khaleda Zia from her government provided house; and
allowing Parliament to discuss opposition proposals on issues
of national interest. (Note: The constitution stipulates
that a Member of Parliament will lose his/her seat if absent
for 90 consecutive days when parliament is in session.)

Issues Being Considered this Session
------------------------------------

4. (U) Parliament is set to discuss a number of issues during
this session, which is scheduled to close on February 18,
including:

- a proposed amendment to the to the Vested Property (return)
Act that would ease procedures for returning property seized
after the 1965 India-Pakistan war, mainly from Hindus who
migrated to India;

- the government's decision to raise the mandatory retirement
age of government employees who were Liberation War veterans;

- legislation to drop the provision for the issuance of
arrest warrants against journalists charged with defamation;
and,

- bills that would criminalize custodial torture, introduce a
code of conduct for MPs, strengthen measures against domestic
violence, and set labor standards for the country's export
processing zones.

DHAKA 00000063 002 OF 002

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The opening session of Parliament offered no
surprises, including the BNP's continued boycott. If the BNP
does decide to return to Parliament, such a return would
likely be only temporary. Many political observers in
Bangladesh expect the BNP to test its muscle by attempting to
mobilize street demonstrations in the next few months. We
will continue to urge MPs and key government leaders to
enhance human rights protections by adopting the considered
bills on custodial torture, strengthening measures against
domestic violence, implementing a MP code of conduct, and
improving labor rights.
MORIARTY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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