Friday, April 19, 2019

Bangladesh looks to Singapore to trial offshore NID card project for expats

  • Moinul Hoque Chowdhury, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2019-01-12 05:08:15 BdST

The Election Commission is likely to pick Singapore to trial a project for providing expatriate Bangladeshis with national identity or NID cards.    

EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed has said they want to enrol expatriates as voters through the Bangladesh missions abroad.

EC NID wing Director General Brigadier General Mohammad Saidul Islam told bdnews24.com on Friday that they preliminary planned to launch the test run in Singapore considering the “fewer” hassles regarding passport, visa and other papers of the Bangladeshis working in the small city state.

“It’s a small country (Singapore). If we succeed there, we will be able to provide the expatriates with NID services in other countries as well,” he said.   

The government will send a delegation to Singapore for government-to-government discussion on the project, according to Saidul. Once approved by the EC, the team will fly to Singapore in February, he added.   

It will be tasked with making a report after a study considering all aspects of the project, including manpower, location of registration centre, and possible complications, Saidul said.  

“We want to give smart NID cards to the expatriate Bangladeshis,” he said.

More than 100,000 Bangladeshis work in Singapore. Most of them have machine readable passports or MRPs, according to the authorities.   

After the process to provide the voters with NID cards started in 2008, two election commissioners had travelled abroad for a feasibility study on including expatriate Bangladeshis in the electoral roll so that they can exercise their right to vote.

The government amended the related law in 2010 to make way for the expatriates to vote. 

As there has been no significant progress in the process to provide the expatriates with NID cards yet, Bangladeshis abroad are facing different forms of trouble.

The current EC organised a discussion on the issue months before the Dec 30 parliamentary elections. It was advised to provide the expatriates with NID cards first if they cannot be included in the voting process at the time.

Bangladesh, with a 160 million-strong population, has over 104.2 million voters.

The number of Bangladeshis abroad was around 7.5 million as of mid-2017.