Does conduct of some Diplomats in Bangladesh constitute interference in internal affairs? By Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Does conduct of some Diplomats in Bangladesh constitute interference in internal affairs? By Barrister Harun ur Rashid

It has been a norm that diplomats posted to receiving countries do not publicly express views on internal matters of a country. If they are instructed by their governments, they do it discreetly with the representatives of the government of host countries.

I had the privilege of serving as Bangladesh Ambassador/High Commissioner to both developed and developing countries for 12 years and never have I experienced any member of a diplomatic mission of friendly countries to flagrantly violate the basic diplomatic protocol in countries to which I was posted.

Furthermore, I had noted that an indirect comment on an internal matter by members of diplomatic missions of a great power led to their forced departure from one or two South Asian countries.

Bangladesh’s near neighbour Thailand was in military control from November 9 2006 until February 8 2008 and no one from diplomatic missions in that country reportedly dared to meddle in domestic Thai politics.

Why in Bangladesh?

The question is why do some of the diplomats from friendly countries in Bangladesh interfere in domestic politics?

The answer is not readily found. Possibly there could be three main reasons:

First, attitude and organizational dynamics of political parties in the country appear to be responsible to a great extent to encourage diplomats to speak publicly in domestic politics.

Second, some diplomats want to show their high profile of their activities to their governments for promotion in their career.

Third, they may think they can get easily away with such breaches of diplomatic norms since their governments provide aid to the country (according to a researcher out of every $10 dollars of Western aid, $8 returns to the donor in the form of administrative expenses, consultancy fees, and contracts for donor country corporations).

What diplomats can or cannot do:

All states are sovereign. That means there shall be no interference in the internal or domestic affairs of a state. The UN Charter recognizes this core principle in its Article 2(7).

States, poor or rich, weak or strong, have to realise and appreciate that internal matters pertain to the domain of sovereignty of a state.

Although diplomatic norms and practices are ancient, what the diplomats can or cannot do are now contained in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The provisions are very clear.

The functions of diplomatic personnel are described in Article 3 of the 1961 Vienna Convention which, among others, includes the following:

*Promoting friendly relations between the sending state and the receiving state and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations (note that the word “political” has been omitted).

*Ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving state and reporting thereon to the government of the sending state.

The above paragraphs are relevant in the context of public conduct of some chiefs or members of diplomatic missions posted in Bangladesh.

There are certain “no-go areas” for diplomats and one of them is interference in internal affairs of a state.

In my view, it would have been proper and appropriate for chiefs or members of diplomatic missions to convey the message of sending countries to Government of receiving countries.

Parliamentary Election:

It is noted that Article 58D (2) of the Constitution states that “the Non-party Care-taker Government shall give to the Election Commission all possible aid and assistance that may be required for holding the general election of members of Parliament peacefully, fairly and impartially.” (italics mine).

This provision means that the Care-taker government has constitutional obligations to hold parliamentary elections peacefully, fairly and impartially.

Against the background, many people seem to demand from the Care-taker Government the following: Before holding a free, fair and impartial election, cleanse corrupt element, remove muscle power and black money through due process of law because they influence the outcome of elections. Create congenial environment in which a fair, impartial and peaceful election (as specified in the Constitution) so that multi-parties can participate and voters may exercise their inherent right to elect a government.

Political parties may demand early election and it is perfectly all right for doing so in a democratic country. Political parties and civil society of Bangladesh may demand many things from Non-Party Care-taker Government and the Care-taker government may respond to their demands as it deems appropriate

Given the past records of false voting, everyone knows election can be held if correct voter list with photograph-identity cards is made to remove bogus-voting. Enrolling of nearly ninety million of eligible voters with photo identity cards is a gigantic task for the Election Commission.

As reported in the media, the voter list is expected to be completed by June. Experts say until the voters’ list is completed, the Election Commission cannot legally declare the election schedule.

The Chief Adviser, Advisers and the Chief Election Commissioner together with the Election Commissioners have stated a number of times that parliamentary election will be held before December.

On 16th March it has been reported in the media that Chief Election Commissioner has stated that after the completion of the list of voters, the Election Commission will consider declaring the date of the parliamentary elections.


People of Bangladesh achieved independence through supreme sacrifices. People of Bangladesh cannot easily forget the role of many governments in the difficult period of 1971.People are rightfully very sensitive to undue interference in their internal affairs by personnel of diplomatic missions.

Public views from diplomats on domestic politics are not acceptable because they are not only contrary to diplomatic norms but also tend to offend many citizens in the country. Instead of promoting friendly relations between peoples of two countries, such interference in internal affairs does the opposite outcome.

It would be appreciated if diplomatic personnel do not interfere in internal affairs in the country. However as representatives of friendly nations, they can easily communicate their governments’ views on any issue to the Care-taker government

Place your ads here!

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment