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EC to set up permanent offices in 100 countries

  • Published at 12:29 am January 18th, 2019
Overseas offices_Bigstock
Photo: Bigstock

The overseas offices will enlist expatriate Bangladeshis as voters

The Election Commission has plans to set up permanent offices in 100 countries with the aim to enlist expatriate Bangladeshis as voters in the voter list.

The decision came at a recent meeting of the commission’s National Identity Wing, sources told the Dhaka Tribune, with plans to send their teams abroad for a feasibility study. 

The technical and non-technical teams, consisting of experts, will visit the countries and conduct a feasibility study on renting office, set up and manpower related expenditures; systems of voter registration, campaign and connectivity.

The decision was made after a meeting took place with the NID wing officials, recently.

Initially, the commission will set up their offices in Singapore, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, UK, US, Italy, Australia, and Canada in several phases. In this regard special teams from the commission will visit those countries and collect information of Bangladeshi expatriates and will be enlisted as voters 

As per the Election Commission’s plan, the first offices will be set up in Singapore and UAE’s Dubai, respectively.

Meanwhile, the commission will not only enlist expatriates in its voter list, but also will collect information of all Bangladeshi expatriates including children born abroad.

Process to collect information on NRB children

The election commission will collect data from birth registration of children to Non Resident Bangladeshis (NRB) born abroad. After that an ID will be provided for each of them. 

An “Advanced ID card” will be given to school going ones and later. After turning 18, they will be given smart NID card.

Information procedures in case of adults

According to the plan, Election Commission with reach out to expatriates through Bangladeshi embassies. Then the collected data will verified physically in each local areas.

Additional Secretary Mokhlesur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune: “This becomes hard when it comes to implementation. Our primary concern, however, is getting them the NID cards first.” 

“We will cross-check the collected data with the voter list to find out whether these expatriates were voters before leaving Bangladesh. Then their names will be included in the new voter list.”

But the process will get more complicated during polls, Mokhlesur added.

“We’re still trying to find the best way for the expatriates to cast their votes from where they currently live,” he said.

A commission official said: “Though there is an option of postal ballot for expatriates to cast their votes but nobody is interested in it. So we plan to use EVMs for them. 

EC’s feasibility team

The feasibility team will submit a report after visiting Singapore first and analyze every angle on how the government of Singapore can help, about their office, place of campaign during polls and many more.

“We will work in Singapore and in Dubai on a pilot basis. Our team members who will visit Singapore will verify everything about the process; if their law permits our plan or what alternativecould there be and other details”, said Abdul Baten, Director (Operations), National Identity Registration Wing (NID Wing).

“We are thoroughly verifying legal implications of other countries. Issues like what support we may get from the embassies and how we can work on the technical sides” said Election Commission NID registration wing Director General Brig Gen Mohammad Saidul Islam.

Why was Singapore chosen first?

Brig Gen Saidul said: “As Singapore is a country of strict rules, very few illegal Bangladeshis live there. So, the country is our first choice.”

“We want to provide the NIDs to the doorstep of all Bangladeshi and even Bangladeshi expatriates. Those who have legal papers to liveabroad will be enlisted in the voter list and will present this proposal in the commission soon,” he added.

When will run the process start?

The commission wants to start the process on March 1, coinciding with the date the Election Commission enlists Bangladeshi citizens in the voter list.

“If we are able to do this processing by March-April then we can starts our next process to set up our offices in 100 countries by June-July.  We will send another team after taking necessary steps regarding this issue,” Baten said

Why is EC taking this step?

There are more than 500,000 Bangladeshi expatriates live in the UK alone. The commission will enlist all of them in the voters’ list. The Election Commission has also taken the steps to bring expatriatesinvolved in crime or money launderingto book.

“The smart NID card will link the commission and Bangladeshi expatriates. The linking will be done through VPN. They all will come under a safety net through the smart card,” Baten said.

Over 10 million Bangladeshi expats live in 157 countries, including the Middle East, Europe and America. Many of these expats have failed to enlist in the voter list and do not have NIDs.

The initiative is to enlist expat voters was taken during the Shamsul Huda-led Election Commission. Now, the incumbent KM Nurul Huda is trying to accomplish the task.