From the Editor-in-Chief: Prime Minister’s robust defence of Rampal

Enayetullah Khan
Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s emphatic response to the concerns expressed by former US Vice President Al Gore and other leading global environmentalists on Rampal at the World Economic Forum at Davos speaks of her decisiveness when dealing with issues of national significance. To be sure, there are always questions about big issues such as the Rampal plant, but for people in the country and outside to suggest that Rampal is a deliberate move by the government to destroy the Sundarbans is not only mischievous but a clear move to browbeat Bangladesh into retreat. The fact that the plant is being built at a place far removed from the spot designated as a World Heritage site has conveniently been ignored by critics of the Rampal venture. That is unfortunate.


We recall the enormous pressure brought to bear on the government in the recent past on the Grameen Bank issue. What will rankle long for us is the unsolicited manner in which people abroad tried to embarrass the government on the issue. We recall as well the rather abrasive phone call made by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. In the course of her conversation with the Bangladesh leader, Mrs. Clinton chose to ignore the fact that no country has the right, in these post-modern times, to try browbeating the leader of another sovereign country.


Historically, moves to undermine Bangladesh go back to the days immediately following the emergence of the country. In 1974, the administration of President Gerald Ford forced a shipload of food headed for Bangladesh to turn back when it emerged that Dhaka was engaging in jute trade with Havana. That was an insensitive act, but it could not affect the self-esteem of the government led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, even though it was embattled on a number of fronts. After it gained independence, Bangladesh’s attempts to enter the United Nations were twice vetoed by China. Despite that, Bangabandhu’s government was perspicacious enough to maintain a correct position vis-à-vis China. The policy paid off. Today China and Bangladesh enjoy relations of a most healthy kind.


It is against such a historical background that we appreciate Sheikh Hasina’s robust response to the questions raised about the Rampal power plant by Al Gore and his friends at Davos. She has invited Gore to visit Bangladesh and experience for himself the ground realities.


As for the government, it will be doing itself a favour if it agrees to hear out those who in the country have been vocal in their reservations about Rampal. They too must be given the facts by the Prime Minister and her colleagues on the issue and in the same way as Sheikh Hasina did at Davos.

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