Eminent citizens have asked the Election Commission (EC) search committee not to select any political beneficiaries as a potential candidate for the next EC, and to make the proposed names public for further scrutiny by the people.
During two meetings on Saturday, the invited citizens asked the search committee to select individuals who are honest, competent, brave and believe in the spirit of liberation war. They also suggested women, minorities and media representatives in the new EC.
"We have proposed that no specially privileged person should get a place in the Election Commission and many have supported our proposal," former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder told journalists after emerging from the first meeting in the morning at Supreme Court Judges' Lounge.
Dhaka University Professor Asif Nazrul said they have given utmost importance to the dos and don'ts of the selection process.
Echoing Ali Imam Majumder, the Dhaka University law department teacher said, "Those who have availed unfair advantages, extra facilities, additional promotion or contractual appointment during the regime of any government should be considered loyal to a certain party and ineligible to be in the next EC."
As journalists asked whether he is confident the search panel would listen to the recommendations, he said, "It's difficult to bestow complete trust as none of our suggestions reflected in the decisions by the previous committees. Besides, there have been different opinions over the integrity of the search committee itself."
Dhaka University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Maksud Kamal said they proposed to shortlist 20 potential candidates instead of ten to finalise the five-member EC by the president. He said service records of the potential candidates should be evaluated to make sure that they had been honest and dedicated to their responsibilities.
Bangladesh Asiatic Society President Prof Mahfuza Khanam said the selected candidates should have the spirit of the liberation war.
Lawyer MK Rahman said the committee has been asked to make short-listed candidates public.
After the second meeting in the afternoon, Ekattor TV Editor-in-Chief Mozammel Babu said, "Since some of the political oppositions refrain from the EC formation process, the selection must not pick any controversial person making the EC subjected to questions."
"We also requested the search panel to make the names public so that we can take note of public reaction. Otherwise, those become the causes for disgrace after EC formation."
Mozammel Babu said he also advocated women, minorities and media representatives in the next EC.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury demanded making the names public. He also proposed another effort to involve the political parties that had boycotted the EC formation process.
Ajker Patrika Editor Prof Md Golam Rahman also came up with similar proposals.
Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta said the EC has an uphill task to retrieve voter confidence.
"We did not suggest any names. However, I proposed to have minority representatives in the commission since they [religious groups] suffer the most in election violence," he added.
AK Azad, managing director of Channel 24, said names of the proposed eligible and non-controversial candidates should be published in the media.
Press Club President Farida Yasmin said the next election commission should be acceptable to all as she has proposed the candidates to be honest and devoted.
Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam
"The eminent citizens have made several proposals. But all of their key note is to form an election commission which is acceptable to all," said Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam.
He said another such meeting would be held Sunday. After that, the search committee will map out their next course of action.
The cabinet secretary said they have received a total 329 names – 136 from political parties, 40 from professional bodies, 34 from individuals and 99 via email. The committee will decide how the candidates will be short listed.
Asked about making names of the short-listed candidates public, he said the committee will decide on it in its next meeting.