An Auspicious Initiative For Expatriates
Kbd M Alamgir Hossain :
Flawless voter registration is a pre-requisite to fair polls. Since voting is a universal franchise every eligible citizens must be included in the voter list. So why will expatriates remain out of registration? It was a longstanding demand of expatriates to be included in the voter list. Present EC is very much enthusiastic of feeling the public pulse and performing constitutional responsibilities like overseas voter registration programmes.
Honourable CEC, K M Nurul Huda sir has recently launched it through joint video conferencing between Bangladesh and Malaysia.
In earlier days, EC had sent technical and non technical experts to visit in several countries for conducting feasibility study. EC had also arranged a workshop on Feb 27 in 2019 at BICC in Dhaka to receive suggestions and opinions from stakeholders, particularly diplomats stationed in countries.
Let alone, initiatives to register expatriates in the voter list had been taken by the two previous commissions but the move failed. In this process, 10 lakh expatriate Bangladeshis in Malaysia will to get NID cards for the first time. The eligible expatriates would be able to register their information through services.nidw.gov.bd.
This registration process is very easy and transparent. If anyone applies online, the commission would send it to respective Upazila Election Officer for scrutiny. A help desk, to be set up at Bangladesh Missions, would then collect ten fingerprints and iris scan of the eligible person.
Then it would be posted on the commission's server, printed on smart card and distributed to the individual through the help desk at the Bangladesh Mission.
Based on the experiences of Malaysia the EC would extend the initiative to other countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain and there may arise some challenges like:
1) Apathy of illegal expatriates and hesitations of dual citizenships holders may be noticeable to enroll.
2) Most of the expatriates my not understand the written registering instructions and face few problems on online registration since they are illiterate and labour.
3) There may have lack of volunteering role in mobilising the disabled individuals though A help desk may be set up there.
4) Difficulties may be experienced in capturing the fingerprints of certain categories of people who are specially day labour, hard workers, aged people due to fading of their finger lines.
A large number of expatriates (1.16 crores in different countries) are currently living abroad and contributing to the country's economy, but they are deprived of their voting rights during elections. Overseas voter registration may bring out focal opportunities through ensuring some facilities and relaxing some restrictions thus.
1) This process would pave the way for ensuring voting rights to the expatriates at their job destination countries.
2) Expatriates will get all facilities related to NID cards at home and abroad.
3) Applicants donot need to take support from anyone for filling information.
4) Expatriates will be involved in flawless voter registration and will not fall in the trap of the touts if applicants can fill up eight information and submit six documents as requirement.
5) The reason given in Bangladesh is that women cannot go out without male companion or husband's permission. This case can be exempted from overseas registration.
6) Physical insecurity and societal conflict which are bar to go to voter registration centre may not seen in overseas.
7) Women expatriates will not shy away from public declaration of their age and birth date.
8) Process may be smooth and up-to-date since selective and dynamic employees would be deployed and modern voter registering equipments and accessories would be available.
9) There will have no possibility to practice any persuasion or political pressure for biasness.
So, successful registration is badly needed and hopes concerned authority may apply sharing ideas and consider the following recommendations for better performances:
1) A special committee can be formed by the registration officers who would oversee the programmes and solve any issues arising during the process.
2) Bangladesh Missions can inform to concerned committee of EC regarding illegal expatriates and dual citizenship visa holders for determining eligible expatriates.
3) Registration team should be formed by the deserving and dedicating employees of ECs. They must be trained up efficiently. Selections should be crystal clear and budget should be increased.
4) Concerts participated by popular musicians and celebrities in overseas can be arranged to promote the participation of expatriates. Uganda got a positive impact from this strategy.
5) Some key considerations for efficiency in enrolment may be judiciously carried out such as speed of data collection, economic and prevalence software, capture of the most suitable photographs, special care on editing personal information as well as birth dates, state of the art reporting and query tools.
6) Expatriates databases of BB and concerned ministry can be shared. These will give a clear picture and provide vital information of the expatriates indeed.
7) Foreign embassy can hold a constructive meeting with various kind of associations (district, divisions, social, cultural and other professional) and political branch committees formed in overseas with a view to increasing voter registering participants.
8) To this registration end, necessary amendments can be made to the voter list rules in the light of present circumstances.
EC's dynamic and experienced officers have historical performances in completing several voter lists with photographs. Cambodia and Kosovo are following our bioenrollment procedures. I think this programme would not only strengthen the relationships between expatriates and Bangladeshis but also increase patriotism. We do hope no inefficiency, no irresponsibility and no criticism will be focused without presenting a well-accepted expatriates voter list if there remains cordial cooperation from all levels.
(Kbd M Alamgir Hossain, District Election Officer, Moulvibazar)