Written by Diplomatic Correspondent
UN & HRW urge Bangladesh go to ensure justice for Nusrat
The UN resident coordinator in Dhaka has hailed Nusrat Jahan Rafi as a “brave” girl who stood up against the gender-based violence, and said “there must be justice for Nusrat”.
“And it must go further than that,” Mia Seppo said on April 18, while speaking at the launch of the state of the world population report of the UNFPA in Dhaka... ...
Nusrat, a 12-grade madrasa student, in Feni district was killed in a gruesome attack in which five people set her on fire at the madrasa’s rooftop on April 6.
Seppo said this tragedy pierced the hearts of all who heard about it.
She spoke up against gender-based violence. “Her brave decision to do so was met with even more violence, ending her life. Not only is this unacceptable but such violence against women should not continue.”
“There needs to be systems in place to protect women and girls from sexual harassment and assault. When prevention fails, perpetrators must be held to account and those who speak up must be protected against retaliation,” Seppo said.
“Without this, equality cannot be achieved,” she said, adding that, “We owe this to Nusrat and every other woman or girl who faces such unimaginable violence.”
Human Rights Watch also urged Bangladesh government to ensure justice for Nusrat.
“The Bangladesh government should thoroughly investigate the murder of madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi and fairly prosecute all those responsible,” Human Rights Watch said.
The murder of Nusrat, who was killed after she filed a complaint of attempted rape, should spur the authorities to take concerted action to combat sexual violence in the country, according to a report of the New York-based rights organization published on April 16.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation,” she added.
UK for stronger political partnership with Bangladesh: Dickson
Terming Bangladesh as a developing giant on the world stage, British High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson said the UK wants a stronger political partnership with Bangladesh.
"The political relationship has huge potential as Bangladesh assumes its rightful place as a developing giant on the world stage," he said.
The British High Commissioner came up with the remarks while addressing a symposium on ‘Bangladesh-UK Relations: Prognosis for the Future’ organized by Cosmos Foundation held on April 4.
He said the two countries can work together to tackle global challenges and deliver global opportunities.
"We are keen to broaden the UK-Bangladesh relationship, building on Bangladesh's economic success story," the High Commissioner said.
Dickson said Britain will be looking towards the fast-growing economies of South Asia, including Bangladesh, for new partnerships after Brexit.
He pointed out that a more balanced UK-Bangladesh trade relationship will be a good thing for both sides.
The High Commissioner said the UK and Bangladesh can work together at the UN and within the Commonwealth on issues such as climate change and support open and free international trade.
Dickson said the Rohingya issue is something that Bangladesh had nothing to do with but the country has been "unbelievably generous."
"It's a problem made in Myanmar," he said, where Rohingyas, left out of the citizenship law, suffer a "basic injustice."
On April 2, the British High Commissioner Robert Dickson called on Prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganabhaban.
Rohingya issue dominated the agenda at PM’s first meeting with the UK envoy.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated that the country wants safe and quick repatriation of the displaced Rohingya, who took shelter in Bangladesh.
The British High Commissioner also wanted the safe and successful repatriation of the displaced Rohingya.
The High Commissioner highly praised the recent socioeconomic uplift of Bangladesh, saying people's confidence in the country has grown, leading to British companies being "very keen" to come up with more investment in Bangladesh.
The British High Commissioner also called on Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.
The Foreign Minister welcomed UK’s decision to continue to extend “Everything But Arms (EBA)” facility to Bangladesh even after the Brexit, hoping the UK’s support in terms of preferential access would remain in place for Bangladesh’s post-Least Developed Country (LDC) period.
Momen congratulated Dickson on his appointment as the new British High Commissioner and assured him of best of cooperation during his tenure in Bangladesh.
The British High Commissioner assured his country’s support in terms of increased business and investment between the two countries to materialize the development goal.
The British High Commissioner promised to maintain persistent pressure on Myanmar for early but safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their ancestral land in Rakhine.
Miller attends closing ceremony of SWADS exercise & holds talks with stakeholders to promote trade, investment
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller met Chittagong Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Zulfiqur Aziz and toured the seaport facilities through which over 90 percent of Bangladesh’s trade flows. They discussed the important role of US private business and investment in upgrading the port facilities and other construction projects.
The US envoy visited Chittagong on April 16-19 to promote bilateral trade and investment, support the growing military partnership between the United States and Bangladesh, and bolster people-to-people ties, said a press release issued by the US Embassy in Dhaka.
Ambassador Miller visited US private energy company Excelerate, whose Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) in the Bay of Bengal is supplying natural gas used to produce power for Chittagong’s six million residents and its entire industrial area.
The FSRU has a 500 million standard cubic feet of gas per day regasification capacity, increasing Bangladesh’s ability to reliably use its domestic natural gas reserves.
Ambassador Miller met business leaders to learn more about local industries that contribute to the economic development of both the Bangladeshi and US economies.
Miller reiterated the importance of worker rights and safety, and called on business leaders to protect workers and the environment and put an end to child labor.
In support of growing US-Bangladesh military ties, Ambassador Miller gave remarks at the closing ceremony of an US-Bangladesh military exercise involving Bangladesh Navy’s Special Warfare Diving and Salvage (SWADS).
The exercise included modules on human rights, first aid, and mission planning.
The US envoy laid a wreath and planted a tree to honor Seaman Mohammad Nurul Islam who was killed during a UN Peacekeeping Operation (PKO) in 2005.
He paid his respects to the 146 Bangladeshis who have lost their lives in PKOs, and expressed his appreciation for Bangladesh’s support of international peace and security as the second largest troop-contributing country in the world.
The US Ambassador visited the Chattogram War Cemetery where he laid a wreath at the grave of American pilot William B. Rice, who lost his life as a member of the British Royal Air Force during World War II.
He also laid a wreath at the Cross of Remembrance in honor of the sacrifices of all who died in the conflict.
On April 23-24, the US Ambassador Earl Miller visited Mymensingh to learn more about the Bachelor of Science (BS) program in Food Safety Management at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU).
The program was launched with support from USAID and the USAID-funded Feed the Future Post-Harvest Loss Reduction Innovation Lab in Netrakona.
During his visit, Ambassador Miller met academics, students, businessmen, and government officials in the region.
Ambassador Miller met Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Md. Jasimuddin Khan at BAU to learn about BAU’s programs and contributions to Bangladesh’s agricultural industry.
He also met teachers and students enrolled in the Food Safety Management program, launched with USAID’s support in March 2019 to address the need for food safety professionals in the agro-export industry. This program is the first of its kind in South Asia.
Bangladesh-Switzerland holds bilateral political consultations to boost ties
Bangladesh and Switzerland are keen to boost ties. The two friendly countries discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral political, economic, development and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
On April 2, the fourth round of bilateral political consultations between Bangladesh and Switzerland held in Dhaka at the State Guest House Meghna.
Ambassador Raphael Nageli, the Assistant State Secretary for Asia-Pacific of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, and Ambassador Kamrul Ahsan, Secretary (Bilateral and Consular) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, led the respective delegations during the consultations
Apart from taking stock of the current status of bilateral relations, the two sides exchanged views on socio-economic developments and human rights.
Both the countries also talked about a whole array of multilateral, regional and global topics of mutual interests, including Agenda 2030, Climate Change, Universal Periodic Review and recent developments in various regional fora.
On the same day, the Swiss delegation held a meeting with the inter-agency committee of the Government of Bangladesh at the Ministry of Commerce.
This committee was formed in September 2018 as a follow up to the Swiss presidential visit of February 2018 with the aim to promote bilateral trade and investment between Switzerland and Bangladesh.
The economic relations between Switzerland and Bangladesh are growing rapidly, according to Swiss Embassy in Dhaka. The trade volume has almost tripled since 2010.
Ambassador Nageli and the Swiss delegation, which also includes Ambassador Thomas Gass, the Assistant Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, met International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Dr Gowher Rizvi and the Principal Coordinator for SDG Affairs at Prime Minister’s Office, Md. Abul Kalam Azad.
The delegation also met with the representatives of the civil society, business, diplomatic community, International Organizations and INGOs during their stay in Bangladesh.
Earlier on March 31, a five-member Swiss delegation arrived here to participate in the consultations.
During their stay in Bangladesh, the Swiss delegation travelled to the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar to obtain a first-hand impression about the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Since 2017, Switzerland has committed more than US$30 million in humanitarian aid to alleviate the sufferings of the Rohingyas as well as the host communities.
EU envoys for action to improve ease of doing business in Bangladesh
European Union (EU) Ambassadors urged the government to take practical action with a view to improve the ease of doing business in Bangladesh.
The Heads of Mission of the European Union, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom made the call while participating in the 5th plenary of the EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue held at the Commerce Ministry on April 28.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi chaired the dialogue while Commerce European Union Ambassador Rensje Teerinkco was present.
Senior officials from relevant Ministries and agencies as well as by the Heads of Diplomatic Missions of the EU Member States and representatives of the EU private sector in Bangladesh were also present.
The Heads of Mission underlined that the Business Climate Dialogue is a good opportunity for Bangladesh to seek feedback from important EU stakeholders on improving the business environment and, by doing so, attract more EU trade and investment to the country.
This would be beneficial both to Bangladesh and the EU, said the EU Embassy in Dhaka.
They noted that the policy reform process in Bangladesh has proved to be lengthy and complex.
Regulatory unpredictability, uncertainty, and the lack of coherence in policy implementation are major barriers to doing business, as highlighted in recent international and domestic reports.
They called on the dialogue to be used by both sides as a vehicle to deliver improvements.
They said that there is a need for action in favor of reform at all levels within the Ministries.
Political declarations should be accompanied with corresponding actions aimed at improving the modus operandi within the administrations.
The Heads of Mission further suggested the government to take steps to make doing business easy and fair for all.
They expressed a desire that the Government will carry out in a timely manner necessary policy reforms in favor of a transparent, accountable and predictable regulatory regime in order to encourage more trade and investment from Europe.
Among other issues, they stressed that reducing any uncertainty in the current tax regime is crucial.
EU as Bangladesh’s largest trade, development and humanitarian partner will continue to work constructively with the Government of Bangladesh towards better trade and investment relations.
The next meeting of the EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue with the Commerce Minister will be held in six months' time.
The envoys hoped that significant progress in terms of policy reforms will have been achieved by then.
Riva Ganguly for boosting Bangladesh-India ties
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das reaffirmed her willingness for further strengthening bilateral cooperation in every sector of Bangladesh and India.
“India’s humanitarian assistance for the displaced Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar will be continued,” she said.
Riva Ganguly Das came up with the remarks while talking to the journalists after holding her first meeting after assuming office here, with Foreign affairs minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on April 3.
“It was my first meeting with the foreign affairs minister. We are mutual neighboring countries. We have deep and wonderful relation among us,” she added.
The meeting discussed various matters of bilateral interests including connectivity, power sector and Line of Credit (LOC), said Riva Ganguly.
Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen echoed the same.
In reply to a question, Foreign Minister said
the Bangladesh-India ties will remain the same solid no matter whether India changes the government in the upcoming elections.
BRI fits Bangladesh’s priorities: Gowher Rizvi
Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi said Bangladesh welcomes China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as it fits Bangladesh’s national priorities.
“Bangladesh is proud to be part of this initiative,” he said while addressing the launching ceremony of the first magazine in Bangladesh, “The Belt and Road” exclusively covering the highlights of the vision of “The Belt and Road Initiative” held at the auditorium of Institute of Modern Languages at Dhaka University on April 20.
Charge d'Affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka Chen Wei, former Ambassador Muhammad Azizul Haque and Prof Dr Delwar Hossain of the Department of International Relations, Dhaka University addressed the launching program chaired and moderated by former ambassador Selina Mohsin.
In fact, Dr Gowher said, long before the BRI was announced they had their own BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) Economic Corridor which is essentially a reduced version of the Belt and Road Initiative.
He said the creation of BRI along with other initiatives is an important opportunity for development of the region. “Bangladesh is extremely successful in managing its foreign relations,” he added.
The BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping. This mega initiative emerged when President Xi came to power in 2013.
During Xi’s historic visit to Dhaka in 2016, Bangladesh formally joined the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, a drive which has already drawn the close attention of the world.
The Centre for East Asia Foundation (CEAF), a non-profit and non-political independent study circle launched the magazine.
Along with the publication, a website dedicated to “The Belt and Road Initiative’ – bri-ceafbd.com - was also launched. The publication will have Bengali and English sections for wider audience.
Executive Director of the Foundation Nasim Mahmud said the traditional friendship between China and Bangladesh by land across the Himalayas and along the silk routes date back to over 2000 years.
The BRI initiative aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade and investment links between China and more than 65 other countries.
The Centre for East Asia Foundation has decided to highlight and popularize the great vision of China, “The Belt and Road Initiative”, among policymakers and stakeholders as well as general populace of Bangladesh.
PM criticizes US for issuing alert
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 5, sharply criticized the USA for issuing an alert on Bangladesh without citing any reason or giving any explanation.
“I saw the USA issued an alert. They didn’t inform us why they issued the alert and gave no explanation either,” she said in her introductory speech at Awami League Central Working Committee (ALCWC) meeting at Ganobhaban.
Sheikh Hasina said she has already asked the authorities concerned to look into the matter and find out why the US issued the alert or whether they have any information.
"If they've any information about any incident that can happen in the coming days, then it’s their responsibility to inform us,” the prime minister said. “They could inform our intelligence agencies so that we could take steps.”
Hasina said terrorism is a problem for the whole world.
“Bangladesh contained terrorism and militancy successfully. After one incident we're very much alert and our intelligence agencies are working round the clock. If they (the US) have any information, they should inform the appropriate authority,” she said.
The US Embassy on April 3, issued a fresh alert for its citizens living in Bangladesh. “In light of calls for revenge in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attack against on mosques in New Zealand, we encourage US citizens to exercise heightened awareness of the ongoing threat posed by transnational terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al-Qa’ida,” it said in a statement.
PM seeks Italy’s support for leather sector development
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought cooperation from Italy to develop Bangladesh's leather sector.
"We need your cooperation in leather sector. Italian leather goods are good, Italians are very much careful about their leather goods," she said when the newly appointed Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh Enrico Nunziata called on her at her office on April 7.
PM's press secretary Ihsanul Karim said that the Prime Minister put emphasis on increasing the trade relations with Italy.
She welcomed the newly appointed ambassador and assured government's all out cooperation in discharging his duties.
Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh Enrico Nunziata said that he has chosen Bangladesh for his work and he will work for promoting further the bilateral relations as well enhancing economic cooperation.
"Bangladesh has huge potential, we have to increase our trade relations," he said.
He also mentioned that Italy has formed a parliamentary group to promote relations and cooperation with Bangladesh.
Enrico Nunziata expressed his country's interest to set up training centers in Bangladesh for textile and other technologies.
UAE to continue support over Rohingya issue
UAE assured Bangladesh to continue its support over the Rohingya issue.
UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's humanitarian attitude to help over one million Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh with all possible facilities.
The minister came up with this assurance when she met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganobhaban on April 19.
PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed media after the meeting.
He said the Prime Minister briefly described the present state of the Rohingya issue, saying the Bangladesh government along with many international agencies is helping Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
She said Bangladesh and Myanmar had talks over the issue and inked agreements for the repatriation of Rohingyas to their homeland. "But their repatriation is yet to start," she added.
The UAE minister said the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the UAE are good and she will work to strengthen the ties further.
She urged the Prime Minister to allow more frequency of Emirates Airlines in Bangladesh.
The minister also visited a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar district and saw the situation on the ground.
She also met Rohingyas and UAE-sponsored Malaysian Field Hospital in Ukhiya of the district, said the UAE Embassy in Dhaka.
The UAE state minister called on UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corlliss and Senior Advisor to the Representative of World Food Program, Naila Sattar.
They discussed the severity of Rohingya situation and assessed the humanitarian needs of the refugees.
The UAE has extended its support to emergency food relief for Rohingya women and children in Bangladesh through the UNHCR, Sharjah Media Corporation (SMC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Big Heart Foundation, Hope Foundation, Kuwait Society for Relief, Khalifa Foundation and Red Crescent, UAE etc.
The UAE state minister visited Bangladesh on April 19-20.
UN urges int’l help for 1.2m Rohingyas
UN under-secretary general, IOM, UNHCR chiefs asked the international community to continue supporting the critical needs of 1.2 million Rohingya refugees and their local host communities, in south-eastern Bangladesh.
In a joint statement issued on April 26, the heads of UN agencies reiterated their commitment to keep working towards safe and sustainable solutions for the Rohingya refugee crisis and noted the UN efforts in Myanmar to help create conditions conducive to their return.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) António Vitorino, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi made the commitment at the end of their three-day visit to Bangladesh.
The heads of OCHA, IOM and UNHCR arrived in Dhaka on April 24 to highlight the need for humanitarian support.
On April 24, the delegation held talks with senior government officials, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam and then travelled Cox’s Bazar on April 25-26 to assess preparations in refugee camps for the monsoon and cyclone seasons.
After visiting the camps in Cox’s Bazar, the UN officials highlighted the importance of supporting the Rohingyas during their time in exile, especially in expanding opportunities for learning and skills training.
They noted that almost half of the 5.4 lakh refugee children under the age of 12 were missing out on education altogether. The other half only has access to very limited schooling. Only a handful of teenagers had access to any form of education or training.
The UN leaders discussed with government officials’ ways the international community can further support preparedness and response efforts for the cyclone and monsoon seasons.
At the camps, they assessed ongoing work to address weather-related risks, including strengthening of shelters, improvement of infrastructure, and the training of volunteers. They recognized the critical role the refugees themselves were playing in these efforts.
Russia expresses solidarity with Bangladesh on Rohingya issue
Russia expressed solidarity with Bangladesh on Rohingya issues and reiterated to continue its support including humanitarian assistance. It also welcomed the idea of involving ASEAN in the Rohingya repatriation process.
The issue was discussed in detail during the bilateral talks between Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held in Moscow on April 29.
During the meeting, Dr Momen briefed his Russian counterpart on the status of 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, the Rohingyas, who have taken temporary shelter in Bangladesh.
Dr. Momen sought active support of the Russian Federation in expediting the process of repatriation of these displaced people by encouraging Myanmar to create a conducive environment in the Rakhine state for return of the Rohingya, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This was the first official visit of the present Bangladesh Foreign Minister to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian Foreign Minister.
The two Foreign Ministers took stock of the various aspects of bilateral ties and discussed important regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
Both the foreign ministers expressed deep satisfaction over the current progress of bilateral engagements between the two friendly countries.
Dr Momen put emphasis on the initiatives of the two countries to boost the volume of bilateral trade to the expected level.
He urged the Russian investors and companies to enter into joint ventures or 100 percent owned business ventures in the 100 special economic zones, which are currently being set up in Bangladesh as well as in High-Tech Parks.
Lavrov informed that the Economic forum in Saint Petersburg would be the ideal platform for Bangladesh to attract Russian and foreign investors.
Both the Foreign Ministers have expressed deep satisfaction on the pace of progress of the project for implementing the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
Both the Foreign Ministers expressed their satisfaction over the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation Commission which was held in Moscow in October 2018.
They also expressed satisfaction over the ongoing defense cooperation between the two countries.
They also exchanged opinions and experiences on cooperation in different international and regional fora between Bangladesh and Russia.
At the end of the bilateral official talks, both the Foreign Ministers took part at a joint press conference.