Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today insisted immediate and effective implementation of a UN agreement with Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis accusing the country of disregarding its
commitment for their safe repatriation alongside denouncing the atrocities on the ethnic minority population there.
“We want to see immediate effectiveness of the UN deal with Myanmar since the crisis erupted in Myanmar it has to be solved in Myanmar,” she said while delivering her statement in the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA) at UN Headquarters.
Sheikh Hasina added: “As a fellow human, we can neither ignore nor remain silent about the plight of the Rohingyas.”
The premier said the shocking UN report describing the atrocities and crimes against humanity against Rohingyas “dumfounded us” but she expected the international community and UN in particular to seriously look into the matter.
“The Myanmar situation repeatedly reminds us of the genocide committed by the Pakistan occupation forces against our people in 1971. During the nine months of our Liberation War, the Pakistanis had killed three million innocent Bengalis,” Sheikh Hasina said.
The premier said despite more than one agreement it reached with Bangladesh, Naypyidaw took no tangible step to resolve the crisis.All the time Myanmar made verbal commitments to take back the Rohingyas, but in reality the Myanmar authorities are taking no role,” she said.
The neighbouring country’s attitude upset Dhaka since “so far the process for permanent and sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas could not be started despite our (Bangladesh’s) sincere efforts ,Bangladesh, she said, from the very outset of the crisis was trying to find its peaceful solution through bilateral consultations and so far, reached more than one bilateral arrangements with Myanmar for Rohingya repatriation.
She said some 1.1 million Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh were living in their makeshift camps in an uncertain situation though “to the best of its ability, Bangladesh has made arrangements for their food, clothing, healthcare, child-care and security”.
Sheikh Hasina said she could feel the pain and suffering of countless people around the world, persecuted and expelled from their homes like the Rohingyas and added “it is impossible to build peaceful, just and sustainable societies by ignoring such situations”.
She simultaneously recalled a five-point proposal she presented in the last year’s UNGA session with a view to finding a durable and peaceful solution to the sufferings of the forcibly displaced and hapless Rohingyas.
Sheikh Hasina, however, said until the Rohingyas could return home, they would be provided makeshift abode in Bangladesh in a healthy condition and towards that end she said, “We are taking steps to relocate them in suitable areas with facilities of education, health care and other needs”.
Sheikh Hasina extended thanks to the countries and organizations including the UN, the Commonwealth, and the OIC for showing solidarity with the Rohingyas and providing support and assistance for them.She called upon international organizations to join hands with her
government seeking assistance to help relocate the Rohingyas in a better place.
In her statement, the prime minister also highlighted the socioeconomic progress of Bangladesh with her stead position for international peace andsecurity, women empowerment and commitment to the UN goals.Sheikh Hasina congratulated Maria Fernanda Espinosa for being elected as the president of the 73rd UNGA and fourth female President of the UNGA and
assured her of giving Bangladesh’s full support in upholding her commitment
to the UN.
She also felicitated UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his firm and courageous leadership in promoting global peace, security and sustainable development.
Appreciating the theme of the 73rd UNGA “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies”, the prime minister said the theme brings back some personal memories for her.
Forty-four years ago, Sheikh Hasina said, her father and Father of the Bangladesh Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman envisaged the United Nations to be a centre of hope for the future of the people. Following the Independence, Bangabandhu directed his strength to rebuild a war-ravaged country with a ruined economy. The people got back a sense of
relief. Bangladesh set on its journey ahead as an LDC.
“Yet, what a misfortune for our people, Bangabandhu could lead the country only for three years and a half. He was brutally gunned down by assassins with 18 family members on 15 August 1975,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said she is shocked by the continued violation of the rights of the brotherly people of Palestine. This must come to an end. As the Chair of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, Bangladesh will continue to work with the international community for resolution of the Palestine question.
The prime minister said peace, humanity and development are most three critical elements for advancing human civilization. “For the well-being of human societies, we must continue to strive for humanity,” she said.
“Our main objective must be to serve the people and ensure their well- being. It is humanity and goodwill that would take us forward on the pathway to sustainable development,” she said.
“In a world faced with myriad of challenges, our common interest, shared responsibility and sustainable partnership would be our best bet for preserving the human civilization,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina said in last 30 years, Bangladesh has contributed to international peace by deploying over 158,000 peacekeepers in 54 missions. Around 145 peacekeepers from Bangladesh have made their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, she added.
Currently, the prime minister said, more than 7,000 Bangladeshi peacekeepers, including 144 women, are deployed in 10 different missions where they have been acclaimed for their professionalism, courage and success.
“As the original proponent, Bangladesh expected to see a more robust and human rights centric Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration,” she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh stands firm against terrorism and all organised crimes. “We shall not allow our territory to be used for any terrorist acts or any activity detrimental to the interest of our neighbours.
“Our ‘zero tolerance’ policy in countering terrorism will continue…our whole of society’ approach has served us well in preventing violent extremism, human trafficking and flow of illicit drugs. Bangladesh has aligned itself with the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem mooted by the United States,” she said.
Highlighting her government’s development policies, Sheikh Hasina said since 2009, her government has been implementing inclusive and people-centric development policies. In the last nine years and a half, she said, Bangladesh has achieved a remarkable progress in different socioeconomic areas.
“On our way to realising Shonar Bangla as envisioned by our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, we remain committed to fulfilling our people’s aspirations.”
Sheikh Hasina said the World Bank has recognised Bangladesh as a middle- income country in 2015 while Bangladesh is the 43rd largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP. “Bangladesh’s per capita income has increased from US$ 543 in 2006 to US$ 1,752 in 2018.”
Noting that Bangladesh is now recognised as a global development model, she said: “We’ve commenced our journey from being an LDC to the status of a developing country. The pathway for graduation is inextricably linked with our SDG implementation strategy, which is integrated in our Seventh Five Year Plan. We remain fully committed to implementing the SDGs”.
The prime minister said her government has taken a plan to set up 100 Special Economic Zones to create 10 million job opportunities. In the backdrop of the current economic growth, she said, there are now immense and large-scale business opportunities in Bangladesh.
Foreign investors are being offered various financial incentives like tax holiday, avoidance of double taxation and exemption of duties, she said.
Reiterating her commitment to the implementation of the outcome of the High- level Panel on Water, which was formed under the joint initiative of the UN Secretary General and the World Bank President, Sheikh Hasina urged the global leaders to take urgent actions on proper assessment and management of water and investment in water.
She said under the social safety-net programmes, about 6.5 million elderly men and women, widows, destitute women and persons with disabilities are getting regular allowances in Bangladesh.
The prime minister said since 2010, students are receiving free textbooks from pre-primary to secondary levels in school. “About 354.92 million books were distributed among 43.76 million students in 2018 academic year.”
Mentioning that vision impaired students are receiving braile books, she said children from ethnic minorities are being given books in their mother languages.
Sheikh Hasina said around 20.03 million students from primary to graduate level are getting stipends while the stipend money for 14 million students is being sent directly to their mothers through mobile phones.
“We have ensured 100 percent enrollment at primary level. Literacy rate has increased from 45 percent to 72.9 percent in the last nine and half years,” she said.
Observing that women empowerment and participation is a major factor in Bangladesh’s outstanding development, the prime minister said the government has promoted women’s empowerment through enhancing their education opportunities and facilitating their political and economic emancipation.
“We’ve created opportunities for girls to pursue their education free of cost till 12th grade in public educational institutions,” she said, adding that the ratio of girls and boys now is 53:47 at secondary level, which was
35:65 in 2009.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is perhaps the world’s only country where the Speaker, the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in its National Parliament are all women.
In the present parliament, she said, there are 72 elected female members and 33 percent seats are earmarked for women in local government bodies to promote women’s political empowerment at the grassroots.
The prime minister said around 20 million women are employed in agriculture, service and industrial sectors while women constitute 80 percentof 4.5 million workers engaged in the largest export earning garments sector.
She said women entrepreneurs are offered collateral free bank loans with 5 percent service charge. “About 10 percent of Small Entrepreneurs’ Fund and 10 percent of industrial plots are earmarked for women entrepreneurs.”
The maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh has decreased to 170 per 100,000live births and child mortality rate under the age of five has gone down to 28 per 1,000, she said, adding that life expectancy has increased to 72 years from 64 in 2009.
In the last fiscal, the prime minister said Bangladesh spent 5.9 percent of its national budget in the public health sector. “This year, investment in health has been increased by 17 percent. With around 18,000 community healthclinics and Union Health Centres operating, healthcare services have been reached to our people’s doorsteps.”
She said thirty different types of medicines are being distributed among people free of cost. “Tuberculosis prevention and control efforts have been intensified to achieve the 2030 SDG target. As a result, TB related deaths have reduced by 19 percent in the last two years,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has been playing a pioneering role in raising awareness about the needs of children affected by autism and other neuro-developmental disorders.
“To further consolidate our efforts, a specialised cell is being created in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare…a National Steering Committee and a National Advisory Committee have already been set up and Saima HossainWazed, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee and a member of the WHO expert advisory panel on mental health, has been named as Goodwill Ambassador onthis issue for South Asia,” she said.
Welcoming the formation of the Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, the prime minister said the underlying principle of thevision for a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ is to promote people’s wellbeing.
“Widespread introduction of Internet-based public service delivery has led to growth in job creation at grassroots level. The idea of a DigitalBangladesh has become a reality,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has made its foray into the world of spacetechnology by launching its own satellite- Bangabandhu-1, becoming the 57th country in the world, which sent satellite into the space.
“The launching of this satellite helped us realise the aspiration and dream of our Father of the Nation to reach the outer space,” she said, “Bangabandhu had instilled the dream by setting up the first satellite ground-station of the country on 14 June 1975”.
About the climate vulnerability of Bangladesh, the prime minister said: “We’ve integrated our development programmes and our efforts to build capacity for combating climate change,” she said, adding that a mega project
titled ‘Delta Plan 2100’ has been developed considering the local geomorphology and global climate change impacts.
In this regard, the prime minister reiterated her government’s commitment to Paris Agreement saying Bangladesh is spending over one percent of its GDPin addressing climate change impacts with promoting climate-resilientagriculture.
She said initiatives have been taken to increase forest coverage from 22 percent to 24 percent in the next five years and a project worth US$ 50 million is being implemented for the conservation of the Sundarbans, theworld’s largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has now surpassed its neighbours in the South Asia on a number of development indicators. “But, our journey has not reached to its end. Our journey will continue till the day we can build a ‘Sonar Bangla’, which will be free from hunger, poverty, illiteracy and exploitation,” she said.