Dhaka Courier

Saving face, on humanity’s behalf

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Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen speaks as chief guest at a seminar titled Bangladesh and Human Rights on 10 February in Dhaka. UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo is sitting on his left. (photo - MoFA)

Momentum growing behind ‘safe zones’ for Rohingyas

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of their gender, nationality, place of residence, sex, ethnicity, religion, colour and/or any other categorization. Human rights are inalienable rights and these include the rights to life, liberty and security; rights to protection of the law and equality before the law; rights to development, rights to work, and to receive equal pay; rights to education and right to participate in cultural and religious activities or festivities, and right to self-determination. And more importantly, there cannot be any discrimination and deprivation.

Bangladesh has been trying its best to guarantee these inalienable rights to all its citizens. These are the core values of our country and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Father of the Nation fought for years to secure the basic rights that the Bengali nation had been deprived of. Bangladesh is pledged-bound to uplift human rights of every citizen in providing a better life, food, shelter, security, employment, education, free mobility, and rights to enjoy their inalienable rights.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, while addressing a seminar titled ‘Bangladesh and Human Rights’ at the Inter Continental Hotel in Dhaka on February 10, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has saved the face of the global leaders from “ignominy and disgrace” by sheltering the persecuted people of Rakhine province of Myanmar.

“If she hadn’t given them shelter, it would have ended up as the gravest and worst genocide of the century since WWII,” he said urging the world leaders to show genuine commitment to human rights values by sending them back to their place of origin with safety and dignity.

Terming Bangladesh a big example of valuing human rights by sheltering Rohingyas, he said allowing Rohingyas to go back to their place of origin in Myanmar with freedom of movement and other basic human rights would be the be the best way of showing respect to human rights.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo, former Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, among others, spoke. Members of the diplomatic core and civil society were also present.

Foreign Minister Dr Momen said there are nearly 1.2 million Rohingyas or ‘displaced residents’ of Rakhine province being sheltered in Bangladesh now.

“They need to be repatriated with safely and security at the earliest.  Their exodus was created by Myanmar and it is their responsibility to solve it,” he said.

These Rohingyas, Dr Momen said, are stateless people, they lived in Myanmar for centuries and Myanmar itself, a State - is failing to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities towards its own people.

“My fear is that, if this problem lingers for a longer time, it may encourage creating pockets of radicalism and that may create problems of uncertainty and instability not only for Myanmar and Bangladesh but for the entire region,” he said.

Therefore, Dr Momen said, Rohingya must go back to their homes, earliest the better and the global leadership must come forward to resolve this crisis at its root, not in Bangladesh. “Bangladesh seeks your proactive cooperation in resolving this matter of grave concern.”

He reminded that unless Bangladesh stands like a solid-rock to end atrocities and the worst form of human rights violation termed by UN High Commissioner of Human Rights as ‘classic example of ethnic cleansing’ and by others as ‘genocide’ in Myanmar, their efforts will never be of much value.

He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through sheltering these persecuted people has become a ‘role model of humanity’, and a ‘leader of the world in protecting human rights and values’.

“No wonder, the UN members overwhelmingly voted Bangladesh again into its Human Rights Commission,” he mentioned.

Talking to reporters after the inaugural session, the Foreign Minister noted Bangladesh’s achievement in the areas of core HR issues and said many people in Bangladesh have relatively very much weak conception about the human rights which needs to be changed.

On safe zone for Rohingyas, he said they are giving the proposal of creating safe zone in Rakhine for Rohingyas originally floated by the Prime Minister.

He said though there is a trust deficit, Myanmar could agree on the proposal of creating safe zone if other countries ask them.

The Foreign Minister said the safe zone for Rohingyas in Rakhine can be created under the supervision of India, China and members Asean countries as Myanmar has much confidence on these countries.

Bangladesh and India agreed on the need to expedite “safe and sustainable” repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assured Bangladesh Foreign Minister of India’s continued support for safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced people to Myanmar.

She expressed appreciation for the humanitarian gesture of Bangladesh in supporting a large number of displaced people from the Rakhine region of Myanmar.

Culture of Peace

To enhance human rights, and to achieve sustainable peace and stability, the Foreign Minister said, Bangladesh proposes to promote a ‘culture of peace’, an action agenda that proposes to inculcate a mindset of tolerance, a mindset of respect for others irrespective of ethnicity, color, religion and background.

“If we can do that, we can surely help achieve sustainable peace, stability and human rights for all,” he said.

Minister Dr Momen requested the members of civil society, national and international bureaucrats and professionals, academia, media and the scholars to discuss about the challenges that Bangladesh faces in promoting and protecting human rights with a special focus on promoting a ‘culture of peace; and a ‘culture of human rights’ away from violence, hate mongering, and wars.

He said Bangladesh will take initiatives to develop national policies and strategies aiming at realization of the fundamental rights and principles as enshrined in the Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments to which it is a Party.

“Democratic values and consciousness will be upheld, and the Constitution will be the highest document for running the government,” Dr Momen said mentioning that ensuring universal human rights, any attempts to violate human rights will be prevented.

The Foreign Minister Bangladesh takes pride in upholding its Constitution that guarantees equal rights and honor for all citizens including religious minorities, small ethnic communities and under-privileged people.

HR action must lead to real changes

UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo has said human rights action must lead to real, tangible changes in the lives of people in Bangladesh.

“If we all work on it jointly in partnership, it can be done. Because that’s what human rights for all is all about: progress through action, impact and change,” she said.

As trusted partners of the government of Bangladesh, Seppo said, UN agencies remain committed to working with all stakeholders in society who contribute to good faith to effective human rights action at global, regional, national and local levels.

The UN Resident Coordinator said the United Nations in Bangladesh will always welcome renewed public commitment to respect for human rights at seminars such as these.

She said without anticipating the outcome of the event they also look forward to supporting concrete action by all partners in this country.

“We’ll support continuing engagement in areas where there’s a commendable track record, and new leadership by Bangladesh on critical human rights issues. This may include national action by the recently-constituted Government, and international action, as a recently-elected member of the Human Rights Council,” said Seppo.

She said the new government has clearly committed itself to preventing any attempts to violate human rights, which is in line with its obligations under the human rights treaties.

“There’s also a supported Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendation relating to investigations into alleged extrajudicial executions, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture or ill-treatment,” said the UN Resident Coordinator.

Mia Seppo said any impunity must be overcome, and any such serious human rights violations prevented.

The seminar ended on a promising note - a commitment to an action plan on UPR and treaty body follow up, Mia Seppo tweeted saying, “We welcome this commitment and stand ready to support.”

In the closing session, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque reflected on state behaviour and geopolitics in a post-human rights and post-fact world, another tweet reads.

PM begins her Germany, UAE tour

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina left Dhaka for Munich, Germany on Thursday morning to attend the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2019 scheduled for February 15-17.

Officials said the current excellent Bangladesh-Germany bilateral relationship is an outcome of the inter-personal intimacy between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Prime Minister also attended Munich Security Conference in 2017.

Numerous heads of state and government, including Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi, Member of the 19th Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party Yang Jiechi, President of Ukraine Petro Poroschenko, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani are scheduled to attend the security conference this year.

The MSC 2019 is also anticipating the largest US delegation of all time. From the United States, according to the website of the host, Vice President Mike Pence and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan have confirmed their participation.

High on agenda of the MSC 2019 are themes such as the European Union's self-assertion, transatlantic cooperation, as well as possible consequences of a renewed era of great power competition.

Besides, experts from across the globe are scheduled to discuss the future of arms control and cooperation in defence policy.

From Germany, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates on February 16 to attend the International Defence Exhibition and Conference 2019 to be held in Abu Dhabi.

In the UAE, the Prime Minister is scheduled to hold bilateral meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. The Prime Minister is scheduled to return home on February 20.

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