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2018 general elections: Bandarban - a peaceful example for Bangladesh

  • Published at 03:41 pm December 28th, 2018
WEB_Bandarban_AL, BNP candidates' houses_Edited_28.12.2018.jpg
The neighbourhood in Bandarban sadar where the houses of Awami League candidate Birbahadur Ushwe Sing and BNP candidate Saching Pru Jerry are located. The campaign bases of both the candidates have been set up in this neighbourhood during the two weeks of electioneering for the 11th general elections. The photo was taken on Friday, December 28, 2018 Dhaka Tribune

While pre-poll violence has been raging on across the country, the hilly district has seen zero hostility between the rival candidates

When it comes to electioneering, a thing or two can be learnt from the candidates in Bandarban.

Since the campaigning for the 11th general election began on December 10, reports of clashes and attacks on campaigns have been coming in from all constituencies in the country – except for Bandarban, where there have been no incidents of election violence.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, locals were proud in saying that both the candidates conducted their campaigns peacefully, and the rest of the country could follow their example.

Bandarban, the 300th parliamentary seat, has Awami League candidate Birbahadur Ushwe Sing and BNP candidate Saching Pru Jerry contesting the general polls, due on Sunday. These two rivals live within five yards of each other. Their campaign offices have been set up right outside their respective houses. Hundreds of campaigners have gathered at the offices and been seen campaigning in the constituency every day, yet there has been no reports of untoward incidents.

“There have been no incidents of clashes between the rival campaigners,” said Bandarban Sadar police station OC Md Shahidul Islam Chowdhury said. “They [the Awami League and BNP campaigners] have been electioneering peacefully.”

Locals said Bandarban is home to Bangalis and 11 ethnic minority groups, who have been cohabiting peacefully in the district – one-third of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) – for decades, despite political and cultural differences.

“People here are traditionally peace-loving,” said Abul Kalam Munna, member of the ruling party’s election steering committee in Bandarban. “None of the leaders indulge hostility and violence among their campaigners. So we expect that law and order will be maintained during the polling on Sunday.”

The candidates have, indeed, been leading by example. After his candidacy was confirmed, Awami League candidate Ushwe Sing went and sought the blessings of senior BNP leader Jerry, his competitor. Local leaders and activists of both the parties said they were instructed to maintain a friendly atmosphere and conduct their campaigns peacefully.

“We instructed our leaders and activists not to hinder the campaign of our rival,” said Mujibur Rashid, joint general secretary of BNP’s Bandarban district unit. “We hope the situation here will remain peaceful on election day too.”

Bandarban constituency consists of seven upazilas under the two municipalities. BNP candidate Jerry, who is running for office for the fourth time, won the seat in the 1996 general elections. Awami League candidate Ushwe Sing, on the other hand, won the seat five times, and is running for office for the sixth time.

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