Rohingya Crisis: Hasina to seek global support

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who reached New York yesterday to attend the United Nations General Assembly, would plead for global support to cope with the ongoing Rohingya crisis, as the refugee deluge fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar tops 410,000.

Her priority at the 72nd UNGA is to make a formal proposal to find a long-lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis, which includes repatriation of over 800,000 Myanmar nationals through a peaceful manner.

Hasina, who is set to address the general debate on September 21, would highlight the root causes behind the Rohingya crisis and place specific proposals for an early solution to the longstanding humanitarian crisis.

Apart from addressing the UNGA, the PM would also take part in a variety of events on the sidelines and hold bilateral meetings with global leaders to mount pressure on Myanmar for halting the ethnic cleansing in Rakhine and taking back the Rohingyas.

Hasina is leading a 265-member delegation, including 173 businesspersons, 14 Awami League and alliance leaders, 15 top officials from the Prime Minister's Office, eight from the foreign ministry, 11 from other ministries, 22 security personnel and 16 media personnel.

LGRD Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed and State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze are accompanying the PM.

Bangladesh Ambassador in the US Mohammad Ziauddin and Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Masud Bin Momen received the prime minister at JFK International Airport in New York yesterday afternoon.

From the airport, she was taken to Hotel Grand Hyatt in New York where she would stay during her tour till September 21.

As part of her programme schedule, the PM would attend a high-level meeting today on “UN Reforms” to be hosted by US President Donald Trump.

She would also attend another high-level meeting on Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse at the UN Headquarters (UNHQ) and the high-level follow-up meeting of Global Deal for Decent Work and Inclusive Growth at Convene Conference Centre.

The prime minister along with other heads of state and government is set to join the official lunch tomorrow to be hosted by UN Secretary General António Guterres.

The lunch would be followed by a high-level roundtable of the UN secretary general's high-level panel on Women's Economic Empowerment for Leaving No One Behind, and another high-level meeting on “Pact for Environment” to be hosted by French president.

In the afternoon tomorrow, Hasina would join the crucial OIC Contact Group meeting on Rohingya minorities at the UNHQ. The PM would seek strong support from the OIC and its member countries for helping the Rohingyas.

Hasina would also take part in a reception for the Commonwealth heads of state and government to be hosted by British Prime Minister Theresa May and Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat, current Commonwealth chair-in-office, later tomorrow.

She would also join a welcome reception of US President Donald Trump in the evening at Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue.

Later, the PM would attend a reception to be hosted by the Bangladesh community at New York Marriot Marquis at 8:30pm.

On September 20, Hasina is set to attend the signing ceremony of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the UNHQ. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali would sign the treaty on behalf of Bangladesh.

She is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Kersti Kaljulaid, president of Estonia, at the UNHQ at 9:30am.

The PM would attend a side event titled “SDG Implementation, Financing and Monitoring: Sharing Innovations through South-South and Triangular Cooperation” to be organised by Bangladesh in partnership with UNDP and UN Office for South-South Cooperation at the UNHQ.

Hasina would also attend the opening segment of a high-level side event titled “Creating a Policy Vision for SDG Finance: Facilitating Private Sector Investment in the SDGs” to be organised by Bangladesh and Canada in partnership with UNDP at the UNHQ.

She is scheduled to attend a luncheon roundtable meeting to be arranged by Business Council for International Understanding. Later, Hasina would hold a bilateral meeting with Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the UN secretary general's special advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.

Hasina would also attend a high-level open debate on UN peacekeeping issues to be organised by Ethiopian delegation in its capacity as the president of UN Security Council for September 2017 at Security Council Chamber of the UNHQ.

She is scheduled to hold a meeting with secretary general of IOM and give an interview to Sadanand Dhume of Wall Street Journal.

On September 21, President of IBM Virginia Marie Rometty is going to meet Hasina before a bilateral meeting with Hashim Thaci, president of Kosovo, at her hotel.

Later, she would join the Fourth Meeting of the High-level Panel on Water at the UN head office. She would also meet Prof Claus Schwab, executive chairman of World Economic Forum.

Later, the PM would hold a bilateral meeting with her Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba.

She would brief the press on her UN visit in the evening on September 21 at the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh in New York.

Hasina would leave New York for Virginia by road on September 22. After staying in Virginia for a week, she is scheduled to fly for home on September 29 and return home on October 2 via London.

Making money so easy!

 

Bank balance of a customs department assistant commissioner has raised eyebrows at Anti Corruption Commission (ACC).

The officer, who joined the government service in 2013, deposited over Tk 6 crore to several accounts two years later, found an ACC inquiry.

“He opened three Fixed Deposit [Receipt] accounts with a total of Tk 2.3 crore in just 20 days in 2015,” Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, public relations officer of ACC, told The Daily Star, quoting the inquiry report.

The inquiry report concluded that the money could be acquired through graft.

The commission has decided to file a case accusing the assistant commissioner, currently serving the Customs, Excise and VAT Commissionerate, Sylhet, of amassing the wealth illegally and his wife and nine others of abetting him in laundering the money.

According to the report, the officer joined the service on January 15, 2013 as assistant commissioner (customs). He opened an FDR with Sonali Bank's Dhaka University branch with TK 80 lakh on October 27, 2015.

A week later he opened another FDR in his mother's name with Tk 75 lakh. On November 16, the assistant commissioner opened a third FDR in his sister's name with Tk 75 lakh. He was the nominee of both FDRs.

“Through illegal means and corruption, he acquired Tk 6,26,11,222. He deposited the money under his and others' names,” reads the report.

“ACC could freeze only Tk 1,74,48,317,” Pranab said, adding that Tk 4,12,51,000 was already taken off the banks.

Besides moveable property, he has a car worth Tk 37,33,000, the report said.

ACC has also decided to file a case against an inspector of police and his wife for amassing wealth illegally and laundering over Tk 3.09 crore.

The ACC, in an inquiry, found the inspector and wife owning four flats worth Tk83.98 lakh, a car and having over Tk 1 crore in bank accounts.

According to the report, they have laundered a big chunk of the money.

Army to deal with relief for Rohingyas


Bangladesh Army will be dealing with the aid and relief materials for the Rohingya refugees . File photo

 

Bangladesh Army will be dealing with the aid and relief materials for the Rohingya refugees who have fled into Bangladesh to escape persecution in Myanmar.

The army will receive all foreign aids and take those to Cox’s Bazar, Lt Col Rashidul Hassan, director of Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR), told The Daily Star.

The army has already started lending their hands to deal with the relief materials, Hassan added.

When asked whether the military will distribute the aid among the refugees, he said no such directive was issued in this regard. “Army will only receive and carry the aid.”

Meanwhile, India today sent its second consignment of aid and emergency relief materials for the refugees – 50 tonnes of aid and emergency support materials. 

An aircraft of Indian Air Force landed at Chittagong’s Shah Amanat International Airport with the aid materials today.

Earlier yesterday, India handed over its first tranche of aid – 53 tonnes for three lakh Rohingya refugees.

7 more Rohingya bodies recovered from Naf river

Bangladesh's border guards stand guard at a check post at the banks of Naf River. Star file photo

 

Police recovered seven more bodies of Rohingya people, who tried to enter Bangladesh to escape persecution in Myanmar, after another boat capsized in Naf river last night.

Informed by locals around 7:00am, the law enforcers recovered the bodies of two men, two women and three children from Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar around 7:00am, reports our Cox’s Bazar correspondent.

Four of the bodies were recovered from Shah Pori Dwip and three from Jaliapara in the Teknaf upazila, the correspondent reports quoting Mohammad Main Uddin Khan, officer-in-charge (OC) of Teknaf Police Station.

With these, total death toll from Rohingya boat capsize incidents rose to 84. 

According to latest UN estimates, 370,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since August to escape the spate of crackdown by Myanmar’s military forces in the Rakhine state.

 

On their way across the Bay of Bengal, incidents of boat capsize have taken on multiple occasions including the latest one.

STOP ATROCITIES

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana comfort a Rohingya child at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia upazila of Cox's Bazar yesterday. The PM visited the camp to see the condition of the Myanmar nationals who fled the recent violence in Rakhine State. Photo: PMO

 

Denouncing the atrocities unleashed by the military in Rakhine State as “acts against humanity and violation of human rights”, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said Myanmar must take back its citizens now sheltered in Bangladesh. 

"Myanmar has to take back its nationals and give them a safe place to live in their homeland. The international community should put pressure on Myanmar as it is committing such atrocities against Rohingya people ... this has to be stopped," she added.

Bangladesh wants to maintain peace and good relations with its neighbouring countries, but it cannot accept the “unjust acts” the Myanmar government is committing, she said, urging Naypyidaw to end the persecution of Rohingya minorities. 

The prime minister made the remarks while visiting a registered Rohingya camp and distributing relief among the refugees at Kutupalong Bazar in Ukhia, Cox's Bazar.

"Still, the fire is burning there ... people can't find their family members ... the bodies of infants and women are floating on the Naf River -- these go completely against humanity and are violation of human rights. What sin and crimes have these innocent children, women and people committed? We can't tolerate such activities."

 

Hasina said Bangladesh protests the inhumane attitude towards the Rohingya people in Myanmar. “They are its [Myanmar's] citizens ... it will have to ensure security of these people so that they can stay safe in their country.”

Also condemning the terror attacks on Myanmar's police posts and a military base on August 25, the prime minister said her government will never allow any insurgent to use Bangladesh soil against its neighbours, reports UNB.

"I'll ask the Myanmar government to find out the real culprits, and as a neighbouring country, we'll help them in this regard," she said.

Blasting the Myanmar insurgents, the PM said it is their misdeeds that led to the current crisis.

"Let the [insurgent] elements see how an abnormal situation has been created ... how their near and dear ones are becoming victims of torture and how the children and women are suffering," she asked and called for steps to stop recurrence of such incidents.

She, however, said her government cannot accept intimidation of women and children in the name of a clampdown on terrorists.

The prime minister called for creating a “safe zone”, if necessary, inside Myanmar under the UN supervision to protect the innocents. "The full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission may help in this regard," she said.

An exhausted Rohingya refugee woman escaping the atrocities at home touches the soil after landing from a boat at Shah Porir Dwip in Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Earlier, on her arrival at the Kutupalong refugee camp, the prime minister saw for herself the condition of the Myanmar nationals staying there.

She talked to the refugees who escaped torture, shooting and torching of villages in Myanmar over the last two weeks. They burst into tears before her while narrating their sufferings.

About 3,70,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh as attacks by an insurgent group in the north of Rakhine last month provoked a military counter-offensive that refugees say is aimed at pushing the minorities out.

The UN human rights chief on Monday castigated the "cruel military operation" against Rohingyas, branding it "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

LOOK AFTER THEM

The prime minister also distributed relief among the Myanmar nationals and assured them of her government's continued humanitarian assistance. She said the government will keep providing them with food and medical treatment and there will be no problem in this regard.

"We must stand by the Myanmar refugees and extend all kinds of support ... as long as they don't return to their country, we will be with them," she said.

"Bangladesh is a country of 16 crore people and we've ensured their basic needs. We have also the capability of providing all kinds of help, including food and healthcare services, to the Myanmarese refugees."

The PM renewed her call upon the international community to mount pressure on Myanmar authorities to stop torture on the ethnic minority population and take back the Myanmar refugees from Bangladesh, reports BSS.

"They [Rakhine refugees] are human beings and they will live as human beings ... Why will they sustain such miseries?" she said.

Hasina drew Myanmar's attention to the fact that the massive exodus of its own population was tarnishing its image, saying this is not a matter of honour for any country.

Bangladesh was faced with protracted insurgency problems in its southeastern hills, she said, mentioning that its 64,000 refugees from India returned after the landmark 1996 peace agreement. "We hope Myanmar will take steps ensuring the return of its nationals," she said.

"My personal message is very clear, that they should consider this situation with the eyes of humanity," the premier told the BBC.

"Because these people, innocent people, the children, women, they are suffering. So these people, they belong to Myanmar. Hundreds of years they are staying there. How they [Myanmar] can deny that they are not their citizens?"

During the visit, the prime minister requested locals to look after the refugees.

"The people in this area, especially the youths, may not recall the Liberation War but we the elderly people still remember it. So we expect you to look after them," she said, apparently in reference to the massive refugee outflow from Bangladesh in 1971.

The prime minister mentioned that many international organisations extended their helping hands to the refugees while "we have constituted relief committees who are providing relief materials to the refugees".

Besides, the PM said, the ruling Awami League, local administration, army and law enforcement agencies were providing humanitarian services to the refugees.

Hasina said the government was collecting name, address and identity of the Myanmar refugees. "We understand their problems and it's our responsibility to look after them," she said.

Prime minister's younger sister Sheikh Rehana, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Housing and Public Works Minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Chief Whip ASM Firoz and Army Chief General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq were present.

ENSURE COORDINATION

The prime minister directed the officials of civil administration, army, navy, coastguards and other agencies to ensure coordination while dealing with the Myanmar refugees.

She asked the cabinet secretary to work on it in consultation with the Prime Minister's Office so that the entire relief operation and refugee management could be handled in a planned way.

The prime minister issued the directives while exchanging views with public representatives, civil and military officials and local leaders of Cox's Bazar at the district circuit house.

She also asked the army to strengthen its patrol and monitoring in the region alongside BGB, Rab, police and coastguards so that no one can engage in any terrorist acts.

About the ongoing registration process of the Myanmar nationals, Hasina instructed the authorities concerned to prepare ID cards for the refugees.

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