Dhaka Courier

Third time’s a charm

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Photo: PID

The new cabinet that was sworn in on January 7 represents a mixture of youth and experience, although most of the attention was drawn by the new members. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in this run of three consecutive terms, had already displayed a flair for choosing the right person for the job by the time of her second cabinet. Her third cabinet would seem to continue in that vein.

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said members of the new cabinet must deliver as per the election pledges of the party to retain their positions in the cabinet.

“Our Prime Minister is very serious about performances of the cabinet members. Her decision will be strict in this regard. Those who will fail to deliver will lose their positions,” he said while talking to reporters at the secretariat.

While forming the new cabinet, the Prime Minister gave emphasis on those districts from where there had been no minister for a long time and the new faces have been picked from those districts, he said.

“The people of the country have taken the new cabinet positively. The cabinet involving new and old ones will be more dynamic,” said the AL leader.

Responding to a question about the cabinet size, Quader said it might be expanded in the future.

Responding to another question about dropping senior leaders from the cabinet, the AL leader said, “It’s not a matter of exclusion as it can be seen as changes in responsibilities.”

The Prime Minister formed the new cabinet in that way so that the election promises could be implemented, Quader added.

Mentioning that the government and the party are two separate entities, he said senior leaders will work for making the party well-organised one.

A 47-member new cabinet, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was sworn in at Bangabhaban at 3 pm. Thirty-four members of the outgoing cabinet, including 23 ministers like Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed, Matia Chowdhury, Rashed Khan Menon and Hasanul Haq Inu, have been dropped from the upcoming cabinet.

There will be 24 ministers, 19 state ministers and three deputy ministers in the new cabinet to be constituted on Monday.  However, 23 ministers, nine state ministers and two deputy ministers of the present cabinet have not found their names in the new cabinet.

Besides, Public Administration Minister Syed Ashraful Islam passed away on January 3 while two technocrats minister Nurul Islam BSc (Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Minister) and (Religious Affairs Minister Matior Rahman) who resigned as per the Prime Minister’s directives before the 11th parliamentary election are also not part of the new cabinet.

The 23 ministers who have been left out of the new cabinet are Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Health and Family Welfare Minister Mohammed Nasim, Foreign Affairs Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, Social Welfare Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, Housing and Public Works Minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Water Resources Minister Anwar Hossain, Railways Minister Md Mazibul Hoque, Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman, Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, Land Minister Shamsur Rahman Sherif, Food Minister Qamrul Islam,  Fisheries and Livestock Minister Narayon Chandra Chanda, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister AKM Shahjahan Kamal and Textiles and Jute Minister Emaz Uddin Pramanik.

Of them, Muhith had earlier announced that he would retire from politics and he did not participate in the election, too. His brother AK Abdul Momen who won the election from Sylhet-1 constituency has been made Foreign Affairs Minister in the new cabinet.

Maya failed to get Awami League ticket for contesting the election.

The state ministers who did not find any place in the new cabinet are State Minister for Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu, State Minister for Textiles and Jute Mirza Azam, State Minister for Youth and Sports Dr Biren Sikder, State Minister for Public Administration Begum Ismat Ara Sadique, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Begum Meher Afroze, State Minister for Information Tarana Halim, State Minister for Water Resources Muhammad Nazrul Islam, State Minister for Rural Development and Cooperatives Mashiur Rahman, State Minister for Technical And Madrasha Education Kazi Keramat Ali.

The deputy ministers are Abdullah Al Islam Jakob (Environment, Forest and Climate Change) and Arif Khan Joy (Youth and Sports).

The 47-member new cabinet is going to have 31 new faces, including Md Tajul Islam, AK Abdul Momen, Tipu Munshi and SM Rezaul Karim. Of them, 12 will be inducted into the cabinet as ministers while 16 as state ministers and three as deputy ministers.  There will be 24 ministers, 19 state ministers and three deputy ministers in the new cabinet to be constituted under the leadership of Awami League President Sheikh Hasina.

The 12 new faces to be ministers are Md Abdur Razzaque (Agriculture), Mohammad Hasan Mahmud (Information), Md Tajul Islam (Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives), Dr Dipu Moni (Education), AK Abdul Momen (Foreign Affairs),  Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun (Industries), Golam Dastagir Gazi (Textiles and Jute), Sadhan Chandra Majumder (Food), Tipu Munshi (Commerce), SM Rezaul Karim (Housing and Public Works), Md Shahab Uddin (Environment, Forest and Climate Change) and Md Nurul Islam Sujan (Railways).

Of them, Md Abdur Razzaque, Mohammad Hasan Mahmud and Dr Dipu Moni were ministers after Awami League formed the government in 2009.

Besides, the portfolio of incumbent Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal Finance Minister will be changed to Finance Minister while four state ministers of the outgoing cabinet are set to be promoted as ministers.

The four incumbent state ministers are MA Mannan (Planning), Zahid Maleque (Health and Family Welfare), Nuruzzaman Ahmed (Social Welfare), Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing (Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs) and Saifuzzaman Chowdhury (Land).

Also two technocrat ministers -- Yeafesh Osman (Science and Technology-Technocrat), Mustafa Jabbar (Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology-Technocrat) -- who resigned before the December 30 general election will be kept in the new cabinet.

The 16 new faces who will be made state ministers are Kamal Ahmed Majumder (Industries), Imran Ahmad (Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment), Md Zahid Ahsan Russel (Youth and Sports), Md Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru (Fisheries and Livestock), Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury (Shipping), Begum Monnuzan Sufian (Labour and Employment), Md Zakir Hossain (Primary and Mass Education), Farhad Hossain (Public Administration), Shawpan Bhattacharjee (LGRD and Cooperatives), Jahid Faruk (Water Resources), Md Murad Hasan (Health and Family Welfare), Sharif Ahmed (Social Welfare), KM Khalid (Cultural Affairs), Md Enamur Rahman (Disaster Management and Relief), Md Mahbub Ali (Civil Aviation and Tourism) and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (Religious Affairs-Technocrat).

Among them, Begum Monnuzan Sufian was also state minister for Labour and Employment during the 2009-2014 tenure of the Awami League government.

Besides, all the three would-be deputy ministers are new faces. The deputy ministers are Begum Habibun Nahar (Environment, Forest and Climate Change), AKM Enamul Haque Shamim (Water Resources) and Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury (Education).

The official gazette on the new cabinet will be published immediately after the oath-taking ceremony, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam while briefing reporters on Sunday afternoon. With the publication of the gazette, the outgoing cabinet will be abolished, he said.

External priorities

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina picked Dr Abdul Momen, a globally well-connected man, as the new Foreign Minister in her cabinet replacing former AH Mahmood Ali amid Bangladesh’s growing importance in global arena. State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam is continuing with the same portfolio for a second consecutive term.

With the oath taking of new ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers, the country gets an all-AL cabinet after 1973.

On his first day at his office on January 8, Foreign Minister Dr Momen sought active collaboration and partnership from all to achieve the core foreign policy goals with the solid base in place - trust and sovereignty – with focus on economic diplomacy and regional relations.

"We need active collaboration, cooperation and partnership from all. We need support from all. We need active initiatives. We need cooperation from friendly countries, too," he told diplomatic correspondents at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The newly-appointed Foreign Minister, who served as Ambassador and Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN in New York with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of Chile and the Republic of Peru, said they want to work as a team as there are many challenges ahead mentioning that partnership is very important.

Highlighting development initiatives of the government, minister Momen said they would seek cooperation and partnership from all friendly countries on the basis of solid base “trust and sovereignty.”

He referred to the foreign policy goal – “friendship to all and malice to none” as defined by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman saying, “We believe in this policy.”

The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh has advanced much following Bangabandhu’s foreign policy and the government will continue to follow this keeping friendship with all countries.

For having such a foreign policy in place, he said, Bangladesh did not lose any election in the United Nations.

On Bangladesh’s growing regional cooperation, minister Momen said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has always talked about enhancing regional relations. “We’ll continue to walk on that route.”

He said Bangladesh wants to give a boost to its “economic diplomacy” as it is very important globally. “Economic diplomacy will be prioritised. That’s what I can tell you," Dr Momen told UNB over phone after taking oath as Foreign Minister at Bangabhaban on January 7.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said, will play a supportive role in getting more foreign investment in the country.

Dr Momen said expectations from people, due to massive development over the last 10 years, have increased and all need to work together to fulfill those expectations.

He mentioned that the government is working to achieve higher middle-income country by 2021, achieve global goals - Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and build Bangabandhu’s Sonar Bangla – a developed, prosperous, stable and non-communal country with equal opportunity for all citizens. “No one will be left out.”

Terming Bangladesh a victorious nation, he said these challenging goals can be achieved if they work together from their respective positions with cooperation from all.

The Foreign Minister sought cooperation from all, including journalists, academicians, philanthropists and businesspeople, in government’s journey on the highway of development saying everyone wants to build Sonar Bangla. “My door will remain open always for any recommendations.”

When a journalist asked about the status of his US citizenship, the minister said he has surrendered it and explained on what ground he had to take the US citizenship.

He also recalled the support of the US government during his difficult time abroad and mentioned what the US judge told him, “You could be stateless but you can’t be homeless and jobless.”

Dr Momen, younger brother of former Finance Minister AMA Muhith, was elected MP from Sylhet 1 constituency in the December-30 national election.

Momen, who has a PhD in economics and an MBA in business administration from the Northeastern University (Boston), came out successful contesting any election for the first time and subsequently made his way to the cabinet.

He has an MPA in public administration, public policy and international economics from the Harvard University (Cambridge), an LLB, an MA in development economics and a BA (Honors) from the University of Dhaka.

Following the formation of the all-party election-time government on November 21, 2013, Mahmood Ali was appointed as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ali was reappointed the Minister for Foreign Affairs on February 26, 2014 following his election as a Member of Parliament in the 10th parliamentary election in 2014.

Resolving Rohingya issue

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam on Tuesday said the government will continue to take effective steps to address the pending issues, including solution to the Rohingya crisis.

“Everything is our priority," he said giving importance to economic diplomacy and other core areas.

The State Minister hoped that the repatriation process of Rohingya based on agreed list of verified Rohingyas will soon begin.

The State Minister, reappointed for the second consecutive term, said they did not deliberately push the repatriation issue that much before the election as the repatriation could not take place as agreed by the two countries though the two countries were very close to commencing the repatriation.

“Our efforts will be expedited in the coming days, I can say that with confidence,” Shahriar said keeping focus on the listed and verified Rohingyas.

Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to begin the repetition of the first batch of Rohingyas by mid-November, last year.

Responding to a question, he said the efforts will continue to bring convicted BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman back from London since the government believes in the rule of law.

“Definitely, it’s a priority issue. We want to ensure the rule of law in Bangladesh,” he said referring to the government’s firm stance with regards to establishing the rule of law.

The State Minister said such “elements” who are tarnishing the image of the country abroad through continuous falsehood will be brought to justice.

Additional reporting by AKM Moinuddin

  • Third time’s a charm
  • Issue 27
  • AKM Moinuddin
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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