Mushfiqul Fazal, UN correspondent
The United Nations secretary-general’s spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric on Friday said that the UN has full confidence in its team operating in Bangladesh.
He said this while replying to questions regarding Bangladesh at a briefing at the UN headquarters in New York in the United States.
The government had summoned UN resident coordinator in Dhaka, Gwyn Lewis, for her tweet expressing concern over the attack on Hero Alom, an independent candidate of Dhaka-17 by-election.
Referring to the incident, UN correspondent M Mushfiqul Fazal asked the spokesperson how a member state can summon the UN resident coordinator for just an informal tweet, or formal tweet expressing concern. He also asked if the secretary general is aware of the situation in Bangladesh.
In response, Stéphane Dujarric said, “Look, there are a couple of things. First of all, the secretary-general has full confidence in the UN team in Bangladesh. It is not uncommon for a member state to call in a Resident Coordinator if they have an issue with what that person has said.”
The spokesperson further said it is the procedure that the member states utilise when they are not happy with something that someone has said.
“But, we have full confidence in the work of our country team,” he added.
The reporter also drew the spokesperson’s attention to the recent rallies in Dhaka and other districts for resignation of prime minister Sheikh Hasina and noted that at least two opposition activists died and hundreds received injuries during their anti-regime demonstration.
He sought to know the UN’s view if it considers the situation in Bangladesh fair enough to hold a free and fair election.
Stéphane Dujarric said, “What I do think is that people have a right to speak up, to demonstrate peacefully. Authorities have a responsibility to help people uphold that right and that goes across the board.”
However, he declined to go for any specific statement over the election, saying, “We get asked this question many times. I’m not going to prejudge the elections before they happen.”
Foreign ministry on Thursday summoned UN resident coordinator in Dhaka Gwyn Lewis for her tweet on the attack on Dhaka-17 by-election independent candidate Hero Alom in Dhaka.
Inspector general of missions of the foreign ministry Asad Alam Siam summoned the UN resident coordinator to express ‘dissatisfaction over her tweet.’
As Gwyn was staying outside on leave, UNICEF representative Sheldon Yett called on the inspector general of missions, who conveyed Bangladesh’s position regarding her tweet, expressing dissatisfaction since it was a political issue, a foreign ministry official confirmed.
“The UN in Bangladesh is concerned over the attack on independent MP candidate Arshaful Alom during the Dhaka-17 by-election. The fundamental human right of everyone to participate in elections without violence should be guaranteed and protected,” UN resident coordinator in Dhaka, Gwyn Lewis, tweeted on July 18.
Gwyn Lewis also posted a news item with a photo of the attack on Hero Alom.
Hero Alom was beaten reportedly by the ruling Awami League activists in the presence of the police at the Banani Bidyaniketan School polling centre during Monday’s by-election in Dhaka on July 17.