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Fear of Rohingyas being used in polls puts administration on high alert

  • Published at 10:37 pm December 21st, 2018
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

As per the EC’s instructions, no Rohingya refugee may leave the boundaries of the camps from 7pm on December 29 till 8am on December 31

The local administration and law enforcement agencies of Cox's Bazar are on high alert, as they fear Rohingya refugees may be used to conduct illegal activities during the upcoming 11th parliamentary election.

In order to prevent the use of Rohingya refugees to commit voting fraud and create unrest, the Election Commission has issued instructions to seal all Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar for the entirety of election day, December 30.

As per the EC’s instructions, no Rohingya refugee may leave the boundaries of the camps from 7pm on December 29 till 8am on December 31. During this period, members of NGOs and voluntary organizations are also not allowed to enter the camps.

The instructions were issued through a letter signed by Election Commission Deputy Secretary (Election Management and Coordination) Atiyar Rahman on Friday. The letter was sent to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief secretary, Chittagong divisional commissioner, Cox's Bazar Refugee Relief and Repatriation commissioner, sub-inspector general of Chittagong Range, returning officer of Cox's Bazar and deputy commissioner, regional election officer of Chittagong, and Cox's Bazar police superintendent.

During a press conference at Chittagong International Convention Centre on Tuesday, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said: "Rohingyas may be used to create unrest and conduct illegal activities on election day. Candidates might hire them to cast illegal votes and use them to serve their own interests during when ballots are being cast.”

"This is why the commission has instructed local authorities and law enforcement agencies to seal all Rohingya camps on December 30,” he added.

According to multiple sources, foreign delegates are also being discouraged from visiting Rohingya camps before the election. The initiative was taken as law enforcement agencies will be busy with election duties, and therefore will not be able to provide extra protection for the delegates.

Meanwhile, residents of the Rohingya camps told the Dhaka Tribune that police, RAB and BGB were now conducting regular drives at some of the camps, where previously only members of Ansar would provide security.

Rohingya leaders have also received strict instructions from the authorities concerned regarding the upcoming general polls.

Ukhiya’s Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp Majhi (community leader) Dil Mohammad said: “We are very grateful to Bangladesh as they have given us shelter. This is a big thing for us. Why would we be used in Bangladesh’s general election?  What will we get from this?”

Balukhali Rohingya camp Majhis Ayub Majhi and Lalu Masili said: “We have already started creating awareness among the members of our community about not leaving the camp on election day. As this is not our country, we have to make sure that we do not have any kind of involvement in Bangladesh’s election process.”

RAB 7 Cox's Bazar office Company Commander Major Mehedi Hasan said: "Our members have been working in the Rohingya camps on a regular basis, and not just for the election. Additional RAB members are also working in plain clothes in these areas. RAB’s special team is also working hard to ensure law and order.”

Cox's Bazar Police Superintendent ABM Masud Hossain said: "We are being vigilant as per the directives from the Election Commission, so that peace and order prevails during the election. Additional members of various law enforcement agencies have been deployed ahead of election.”

Cox's Bazar District Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said: "The entire district will be on high alert. As Cox’s Bazar is densely populated with Rohingya refugees, the chances of them being used to do something illegal or create unrest on election day cannot be overlooked.” 

Currently, there are more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees living in 32 refugee camps in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar. 

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