EC should be more legally, economically empowered, The Daily Star, Monday, February 20, 2012

Speakers say at BEI discussion

Staff Correspondent

The Election Commission should be more empowered, both legally and economically, so that its decisions go unchallenged and it can bear its expenses without depending on the government, said speakers at a discussion yesterday.

It must also be completely neutral and independent to hold free, fair and credible elections to sustain effective democracy, they added.

The discussion, “Effective Democracy: The role of elections”, was organised by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) at its Gulshan office in the city.

The EC should have its own fund collected from citizens or private sectors to meet its staff allowance and other expenditures. There should also be provisions so that none can challenge it whenever it declares an election null and void, they said.

They also observed that the present caretaker government system “corrupts” the country’s judiciary.

Addressing the discussion, Chief Information Commissioner Muhammad Zamir said accountability is also an important factor in sustaining effective democracy.

This factor comes up as all parliament members, including the prime minister, are paying taxes, he said, adding that free flow of information safeguards human rights and national security.

Officers who try to keep their information on their income a secret have a “colonial mindset”, he said.

The colonial government enacted the official secrecy act over ensuring national security in 1923 but now national security will be threatened if the flow of information is barred, he added.

He also emphasised the need for a proper record management system. “If you do not have a proper record management system, you cannot provide the information asked for.”

The discussion saw two presentations — “Embedded and defective democracy: Elections, rule of law and the power to govern” by Prof Wolfgang Merkel of Humboldt University in Berlin and “Election and democratic consolidations in Bangladesh” by Prof Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah of Dhaka University.

BEI President Farooq Sobhan presided over the discussion where German Ambassador to Bangladesh Holger Michael was present.


20 February, 2012