‘New EC members must have a backbone’
Tarek Mahmud, Adil Sakhawat

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Four eminent personalities from civil society yesterday suggested the search panel for the Election Commission (EC) to select people as chief election commissioner (CEC) and election commissioners who they said must have a “backbone”.

They said the EC members have to be competent and honest, with the strength to remain out of political influence.

Claiming that they have their trust on the search committee, the four people expressed the hope that the panel will pick up the best names for 11th EC.

According their suggestions, the selected people, aged below 70, must have non-communal mindset and faith in the spirit of Liberation War.

The next EC should have to be accepted by everyone and will have to be capable of organising a fair, free and neutral election, the four delegates further suggested.

The developments came when ex-CEC Abu Hena, Barrister Rokon Uddin Mahmud, Dainik Samakal Editor Golam Sarwar and The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam sat with the search panel at Supreme Court Judges’ Lounge.

However, the fifth eminent personality, Major General (retd) Abdur Rashid, also a security analyst, did not attend the meeting since his name was dropped from the list of invitees late Tuesday night.

Interestingly, the last-minute decision was made because Rashid has case against him pending at the High Court, said sources in the Cabinet Division, which is playing the secretarial role for the panel.

Yesterday’s meeting was the second of its kind where civil society members exchanged views with the search committee. Earlier on Monday, the panel search committee held talks with twelve representatives of the civil society.

Meanwhile, the committee will sit at the same venue around 4pm today to finalise 10 names out the initially shortlisted 20 names, said Cabinet Division’s Additional Secretary (administration and law) Md Abdul Wadud.

He said: “The 10 names will be submitted to the president who will appoint the CEC and four election commissioners.”

“Other than the suggested names, the search committee can itself choose others on the basis of the experience of its members,” added Wadud.

The four eminent persons suggested selecting such persons who are physical and physiologically fit to run the EC, he also said.

The ten names have to be finalised by February 8 since the tenure of the current EC will expire that day.

Previously, the six-member committee headed by Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain on Tuesday picked up 20 names out of 125 ones that were recommended by 27 political parties.

On January 25, the president formed the search panel after holding a series of dialogues with 31 registered political parties. The committee was instructed to submit finalised names and recommendations to the president within 10 working days.

Remarks of four eminent persons:

Former CEC Abu Hena said, “The persons who will lead next EC must be industrious and knowledgeable. If we want an independent and effective EC, it is needed to find out capable and wise people.”

Hena, however, appreciated the search panel’s initiative to hold meetings with eminent people which he said will help gain public trust, suggesting such practice to repeat in future.

The committee did not disclose the shortlisted names during the meeting, he added.

Mahfuz Anam said: “ We suggested to the committee to place some recommendations as its guideline for the EC which will play a key role in the country’s future democracy.”

“The committee will place names before the president out of their wisdom,” he hoped, adding that the civil society did not recommend any names.

“The panel is selecting the names based on some criteria and trying to recommend the best names,” he further said, expressing his confidence over the committee.

Golam Sarwar said, “We suggested not to select the persons with communal mindset and have no faith on our Liberation War. The article relating to the EC in the constitution has to expanded and clarified instead of adopting a law for the constitutional body.

“I suggested that the CEC be not aged more than 70 with the commissioners having a backbone so that they cannot bow down to any political or bureaucratic influence,” he also said.

 “We also recommended that the civil society’s suggestions be considered for the EC reformation,” he added.

Rokon Uddin Mahmud said, “The committee agreed to consider some suggestions placed by the civil society.”

If the CEC and his deputies fails to perform as expected, the search panel must not be blamed. The committee’s  decision will lead to the reconstitution of the EC, though, he stated.  

“The commission has a challenge to organise next parliamentary election freely and fairly under a partisan government, which the EC has to overcome for the sake of the country,” he added. 

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