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Oikya Front unveils manifesto promising balance of power

  • Published at 11:47 am December 17th, 2018
Oikya Front-election manifesto
Jatiya Oikya Front chief Dr Kamal Hossain, with other leaders of the platform during the unveiling of its election manifesto on December 17, 2018 Mahmud Hossain Opu

Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of Nagorik Oikya, a key component of the alliance, read out the 14-point pledge manifesto

Jatiya Oikya Front has promised cutting a balance of power between president and prime minister, and restricting the prime minister’s post to two terms in a row.  

Announcing its election manifesto before the press at a city hotel on Monday, the Dr Kamal Hossain-led alliance also gave a volley of popular promises to woo voters ahead of the December 30 parliamentary polls.

The manifesto spoke of introducing a bicameral legislature, removing age-limits for public service jobs, scrapping the much-debated Digital Security Act, initiating the introduction of an unemployment allowance, and forming a truth and reconciliation commission. 

It also promised to continue the current process of the war crimes trials. This Oikya Front pledge in particular triggered much public interest as the alliance’s key partner, BNP, has already shared its “sheaf of paddy” poll symbol with 22 MP aspirants belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that gained notoriety for its war crimes role in the 1971 Liberation War. 

Oikya Front also promised putting an end to extrajudicial killings, curbing corruption, ensuring good governance, generating employment, ensuring access to quality education and medical services, improving standards of living, and developing road infrastructure if it is voted into power.

Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of Nagorik Oikya, a key component of the alliance, read out the 14-point pledge manifesto.

Alliance chief Dr Kamal Hossain — and senior leaders, including BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Gonosasthya Kendra Trustee Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, and Krishak Sramik Janata League President Abdul Kader Siddique — among others, were present at the event.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Kamal Hossain accused the government of indulging in widespread corruption. He said: “There is no alternative to good governance to be established by the people. This government does not represent the people and can no longer make such claims.

“In line with student aspirations made apparent during the safe roads movement, we are also calling for ‘repairing’ the present system. The rule of the people must be reestablished. We hope the people will cast their ballot in our favour on December 30, and will guard and protect the polling centres against any irregularities.”

Dr Kamal hoped that power will be handed over to the people in a peaceful transition after the 11th parliamentary election.

PMs can only serve 2 consecutive terms

Jatiya Oikya Front in its 14-point election manifesto pledged introducing a system where a person can only serve up to two consecutive terms as the prime minister of Bangladesh.

In the same spirit, the Oikya Front manifesto promised cutting a balance in power exercised by the president and the prime minister.

It also points out that the much talked about article 70 of the constitution will be amended after discussion with all stakeholders. 

Article 70 states that a party nominated elected Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat if s/he resigns from that party, or votes in parliament against that party.

The manifesto states that to test the viability of creating provincial governments throughout Bangladesh, an all-inclusive national commission would be formed should the Jatiya Oikya Front come to power.

Digital Security Act to be scrapped

Jatiya Oikya Front has stated in its election manifesto that the Digital Security Act will be scrapped if the platform comes to power.

The clause was stated in the “Public Security and Freedom of Speech” section of the manifesto, which was unveiled on Monday afternoon.

Media professionals and rights bodies at home and abroad have long been demanding the government scrap certain provisions of the Digital Security Act that are counter to civil liberties and free thinking.   

Diplomatic relations focuses on improving ties with India, China

Jatiya Oikya Front has pledged to improve its ties with India and China as part of its election manifesto for the upcoming general election.

Steps will be taken to establish a much stronger relationship with India while Bangladesh will join projects under China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, which will be beneficial for the country, said Mahmudur Rahman Manna.

Reading out the manifesto, Manna further said: “Foreign policy will focus on a friendly relationship with every nation and none of the countries will be seen in a negative way.”

“Initiatives will be taken to strengthen all regional and sub-regional bodies, including Saarc [The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation].”

“All bilateral issues including sharing of common river waters including that of Teesta,  and the Rohingya repatriation, will be resolved through discussions,” said Manna.

Truth and reconciliation commission to be formed

According to the manifesto, the alliance will form a truth and reconciliation commission comprising of academics, social workers, and lawyers, to investigate all extrajudicial killings and incidents of enforced disappearances that have taken place in the last 10 years.

It also promised that false cases filed for political persecution would be resolved by discussion, pardon, and compensation.

The political alliance also promised to provide compensation for those facing fabricated cases, and swift punishment for, and withdrawal of, police officers involved in such cases.

Addressing the issue of supposed mass arrests across the country, Dr Kamal Hossain said: “Around 1,900 people have been arrested since the election schedule was announced. This is a shameful series of circumstances.”

Calling on the inspector general of police, Dr Kamal said: “You [Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary] have a good reputation, and to uphold it, please direct the police to halt mass arrests.”

Oikya Front’s promises also include taking measures to stop torture in police remand, reduce the backlog of cases, and a complete halt to incidents of forced disappearances.

The manifesto continued that a ministry would be formed for minorities and indigenous peoples, and special tribunals would try persecution cases filed by minorities and indigenous peoples.

Annual vacations for the Supreme Court will be limited to six weeks and measures will be taken to alleviate the case backlog.

What are the other pledges included in the manifesto?

The alliance also pledged to introduce the provision for a polls-time government, independence of the Election Commission, creating an upper house in parliament, reducing the number of reserved seats for women to 10% from existing 15%, and making it mandatory that 20% of the nominees for parliamentary elections be women.

If voted to power, the platform said it would investigate all corruption committed during the incumbent government’s tenure and bring those involved to justice. It promised appointing an ombudsman, giving the Anti-Corruption Commission independence, and bringing  perpetrators of bank and stock market scams to justice.

The electoral pledges include no age limit for government job entry, except for police and armed forces, an allowance for unemployed youths over 30, and filling all vacant posts in public service within three years of assuming power.

There will be no quotas except for those from underprivileged communities and people with disabilities, it said.

Scrapping public exams like the Primary Education Certificate and Junior School Certificate for fifth and eighth graders respectively, holding a centralized admission test for all public universities, and holding student union elections at all academic institutions are also included in Oikya Front’s electoral pledges.

Other pledges include building medical colleges in all districts, security for women, road safety, food safety, and programs to alleviate poverty. 

It also declared a commitment not to hike the price of gas and electricity in their first year if the Oikya Front is elected to power.

The manifesto also said there would be no hike in electricity prices for five years for people who consume less than 100 units of electricity per month.

What is Jatiya Oikya Front?

The Jatiya Oikya Front is a platform of political parties led by Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain. 

It includes the BNP, Dr Kamal-led Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, ASM Abdur Rab’s Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD-Rab), Mahmudur Rahman Manna’s Nagorik Oikya, and Abdul Kader Siddique’s, Krishak Sramik Janata League.

It was formed on October 13 and demanded the dissolution of parliament, that a free and fair general election be hosted under a neutral government, and that BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia be released from jail.

The alliance participated in two dialogues with the ruling Awami League in the first week of November. Following the dialogues, it decided to participate in the elections.

The coalition also announced that it would use BNP’s sheaf of paddy as its electoral symbol.