SUPPORTING DEMOCRACY IN BANGLADESH -- (House of Representatives - September 23, 2008)
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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I also rise in strong support of House Resolution 1402, a measure that underscores congressional support for democracy, development and respect for fundamental human rights in Bangladesh. I would like to congratulate my good friend from New York, Congressman Crowley, for his leadership on this resolution, and for his long-standing interest in Bangladesh and indeed all of South Asia.
Madam Speaker, the United States and Bangladesh have been strong allies since the founding of that country in 1971. Despite many handicaps, including a unique vulnerability to natural disasters, Bangladesh has made impressive strides in key areas of development during the 1990s. However, political polarization, endemic corruption and the rise of violent extremists all pose serious challenges to Bangladesh society.
In January of 2007, faced with an opposition boycott of national elections and widespread political violence, Bangladesh's president declared a state of emergency. In accordance with the constitution of Bangladesh, the president appointed a caretaker government, which has in turn embarked on an ambitious agenda of reform and renewal for the people of Bangladesh and its institutions.
Since that time, the United States has consistently urged Bangladesh's caretaker government to lift the restrictions on basic rights, meet international standards for due process in pursuing corruption cases and follow through on its commitment to hold free, fair and transparent elections by December 2008.
In recent weeks, there have been positive indications that the electoral roadmap remains on track. The government's progress on updating their voter list and on fighting corruption are encouraging signs, as is its effort to move forward on dialogue with political parties.
Despite these positive developments, however, it remains the strong view of the Congress and the executive branch that the caretaker government must immediately lift the state of emergency or otherwise remove restrictions on freedoms of assembly and freedom of the press.
The political parties of Bangladesh must be able to participate fully in a democratic process. This resolution reaffirms the importance of a U.S. national interest in helping to work with the people of Bangladesh in building a peaceful, prosperous, democracy that will continue to be a strong partner for the United States.
I urge its adoption, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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