Dhaka, Dec 27 (UNB) - Bangladesh maintained its “stronger presence” in international forums with much of its diplomacy remained focused on Rohingya issue “successfully” in the outgoing year 2018 compelling the international community to stay engaged with Bangladesh and mounting pressure on Myanmar.
Bangladesh could successfully keep the Rohingya issue “alive” through its “prudent diplomacy” throughout the year though many thought that it will be a “forgotten” issue, a diplomat told UNB.
He, however, said the Rohingya repatriation plan, as agreed by Bangladesh and Myanmar to begin in mid-November this year, failed.
Some were trying to give an impression that Bangladesh has taken the Rohingya issue as a “business venture” and Bangladesh does not want the repatriation of Rohingyas.
Bangladesh, however, through its diplomatic efforts – some visible and some invisible – could “successfully” remove such wrong perception through its seriousness about the beginning of repatriation, a senior official told UNB.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the 73rd UN General Assembly made three recommendations for solving the Rohingya crisis at its root, including the abolition of discriminatory laws, policies and practices of Myanmar against the minority group.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali kept highlighting the need for accelerating efforts to create a conducive environment in northern Rakhine State and build houses and villages for returnees to facilitate repatriation.
Minister Ali along with joint working group members on Rohingya repatriation in August this year visited the northern Rakhine State and saw the ‘trail of widespread devastation’ suffered by people there.
Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the joint working group (JWG) on December 2017 to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018. The JWG members from both sides visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar in October this year.
Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Ambassador Masud Bin Momen has said the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people remind them of the challenges the world as well as human rights defenders face today in realising human rights and fundamental freedom.
“As a committed, responsible, and responsive member of the international community, we’ve stood beside this helpless people and provided shelter to nearly 1.1 million of them fleeing persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The international community must come forward to put an end to the sufferings of the Rohingyas by ensuring their safe, voluntary, secured and dignified return to their homeland,” he said.
As the newly elected member of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council for the term 2019-21, Bangladesh has pledged to continue to play its contributing and responsive role towards realising the objectives of the global human rights instruments in the spirit of engagement and cooperation.
“It’s an important milestone for the country,” said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam adding that the achievement signifies international community's trust and confidence in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has so far won thrice - 2009-2012, 2015-2017 and 2019-2021 (election held in Oct, 2018 with 178 votes in favour of Bangladesh) during the tenures of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The UNHRC is active on Rohingya issue and an accountability mechanism is in the process through HRC. So, Shahriar said, Bangladesh's presence in the HRC is extremely important.
UN Chief’s Visit
On July 2, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim made a joint visit to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar district and applauded Bangladesh for giving a safe haven to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas driven from their homes in Myanmar by systematic and widespread violence.
“In a world where so many borders are closed, the people and government of Bangladesh have opened their borders and received their brothers and sisters coming from Myanmar and from the terrible events there,” said Guterres in the capital on July 1 before heading towards Cox’s Bazar.
The UN chief also praised the World Bank for its multi-million-dollar grant for Bangladesh to support both Rohingyas and the communities hosting them.
Heads of UN agencies also visited Rohingya camps round the year to see the situations on the ground and find ways for resolving the situation.
OIC CFM & Rohingyas
Bangladesh hosted the 45th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on May 5-6 with the theme ‘Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development’ which gave special focus on Rohingya issue.
A 53-member high-profile delegation of representatives of the OIC visited Rohingya camps prior to the CFM. There was a separate sideline session on the humanitarian challenges of the Muslim world with a special focus on the Rohingyas on May 6.
Though the OIC leaders pledged that OIC will play a strong role in resolving the protracted Rohingya crisis, little has been done.
Bangladesh in ICC Bureau
Bangladesh has been elected member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Bureau for the next two years (2019-2020).
The States Parties to the Rome Statute unanimously elected Bangladesh as a member of the Bureau at the seventeenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute held at The Hague, the Netherlands on December 5-12 this year.
Bangladesh for the first time is going to play its role as a member of the Bureau since Bangladesh’s journey with the ICC as a Member State in 2010, said Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammed Belal.
Bangladesh, for the first time, placed the idea of the ‘Global Compact for Migration (GCM) to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration before the international community in 2016.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her address at the UNGA in 2016 made the proposal on the Global Compact for Migration.
The Compact was adopted at a high-level conference from December 10 to 11 this year in Marrakesh, Morocco to which Bangladesh affirmed full support and to its implementation.
Bangladesh in OPCW Executive Council
In November this year, Bangladesh was elected member of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council for the tenure of 2019-2021.
The Executive Council consists of 41 OPCW Member States that are elected by the Conference of the States Parties and rotate every two years.
“It places us in the driving seat of peace diplomacy,” said Ambassador Belal, who was elected member of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) for next three years.
He told UNB that his election in the International Criminal Court (ICC) shall remain a challenging assignment.
The 17th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the ICC in The Hague, elected him in a vote by 123 nations.
Bagerhat, Dec 27 (UNB) – Sheikh Sarhan Naser Tonmoy, one of Awami League’s youngest candidates of the December 30 national election, wants to ride the turbulent waves of the polls on his youth-centric agenda.
“I’m a candidate of the young generation,” said Tonmoy, an AL’s pick for Bagerhat-2 constituency.
He has been at the centre of attention ever since he was picked to run for the constituency. The handsome looks and oratory of Bangabandhu’s grandson have captivated the hearts and minds of local people.
Sheikh Tonmoy has earned a huge fan following in real life – and his photos often go viral on the social media. He is at the centre of talks in his constituency.
Many voters say they will put faith in this young man who has promised to free Bagerhat of corruption, terrorism and drugs, and work with everybody to continue the trend of development.
“Bangladesh has 50 million young people and I’m one of them,” Tonmoy said in an interview with UNB. “This generation doesn’t want blood, war or violence. This generation wants transparency and honesty.”
The new voters in the constituency appear to be very enthusiastic about the December 30 election. They have told UNB that they dream of seeing Bangladesh joining the ranks of developed nations in near future and playing an important role in the global arena.
“With millions of youths, I share the dream of a beautiful Bangladesh with unlimited potentials,” Tonmoy said, hoping that more young people will join politics in the future.
Many new voters appeared to be swept off their feet. “He has secured a place in our hearts,” one of them said while some voters told UNB that the young candidate had reignited hopes in them.
“We can feel his passion and dedication for the country from his speeches,” one voter said. “He has appeared as a blessing for us.”
Tonmoy says he has high hopes for the young generation. “They won’t be used as a political weapon in this election. I hope this generation will stand beside us.”
‘Dreaming Hasina’s dream’
Tonmoy, a third-generation politician from his family, has seen his father Sheikh Helal and auntie Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina up close.
He says his aunt Hasina, Bangladesh’s longest-serving prime minister, has inspired him heavily. He has been saying that he felt particularly encouraged to join politics seeing her dedication, hard work and determination to take Bangladesh forward.
“We inherited the vision of a prosperous Bangladesh from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. I’m dreaming of her dream with millions of young Bangladeshis,” he said.
Tonmoy says it is up to the youth to choose ‘Boat’ – AL’s electoral symbol – to carve out a place for themselves in politics. He says he is getting overwhelming response from people.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sent me here to serve people, not to be a leader, and people understand that,” Tonmoy said.
Dhaka, Dec 26 (UNB) – Though they had a plan to carry out spirited electioneering after the army deployment, Jatiya Oikyafront has apparently failed to intensify its polls campaign, especially in the capital, creating a sense of frustration among its rank and file as the election approaches fast.
The beleaguered alliance also suffered a blow as the Dhaka Metropolitan Police did not permit it to hold a scheduled rally in the capital on December 27. Oikyafront leaders had planned to rejuvenate their leaders and activists with a massive showdown through the rally two days before the voting.
Some Oikyafront mid-level leaders think the alliance is failing to demonstrate its strength and create election excitement among the grassroots for lack of an effective strategy and strong leadership.
Jatiya Oikyafront leaders, led by Dr Kamal Hossain, walk out of a meeting with the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday, December 25, 2018. Photo: UNB
They also voiced worry over the possible election results of Dhaka’s most seats as the alliance candidates could not reach out to voters and create election euphoria among their activists for lack of adequate electioneering.
However, senior leaders of the alliance said they are carrying out campaign on a limited scale as much as they can with a serious caution to avoid violence and arrest of their leaders and activists as they do not want to lose their strength before the December 30 election day.
The top Oikyafront leaders said they are now not giving importance to election campaign as they are confident that their alliance will come out successful if they can show their real strength on December 30 mobilising people.
“The ruling party is trying provoking us to indulge in violence with their attacks and obstruction to our polls campaigns. So, we’re sending out messages to our leaders and activists not to get involved in any fight and conserve their strength for the voting day. If we try to resist them now, it will only invite danger for us,” a BNP standing committee member wishing anonymity told UNB.
But, Osman Gani Tutul, a Dhaka city unit BNP ex-office secretary, said the alliance leaders should take proper strategy to accelerate the election campaign immediately to boost the morale of their grassroots.
“Our leaders said the situation would be improved after the army deployment, but it worsened instead. Our leaders and activists are being arrested regularly. So, we shouldn’t fear the arrest and obstruction,” he added.
A Dhaka south city unit leader, Shamsul Alam, said this is the fact that the situation is in no way favourable to their party and alliance leaders and activists to go out on the election field. “But had our chairperson Khaleda Zia been out of the jail, the situation would have been different. There’s now no leader in our party and alliance matches her.”
He said Dr Kamal Hossain has been playing an outstanding role, but he cannot carry out election campaign due to his fragile health condition. “Now our party should work out plans so that we can demonstrate our strength even for day as it will rejuvenate our activists and followers.”
Gano Forum training affairs secretary Rafiqul Islam Pathik said their alliance candidates, mainly the ones in the capital, cannot accelerate their electioneering due to serious repressive acts and obstructions by police and law enforcers. “People are ready to cast their votes for Sheaf of Paddy across the country. Now our main goal is to encourage people to go to the polling stations on December 30.”
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said they had an expectation that the situation would improve with the army deployment and their candidates would be able to carry out hectic electioneering a few days before the election. “But the situation rather worsened.”
He alleged that their party leaders and activists were attacked by ruling party men and police in 28 constituencies, injuring over a hundred people, including 19 candidates, on Monday, the first day of the army development.
Rizvi said police continued to arrest their leaders and activists and file ‘false’ cases against them “A total of our 7,021 leaders and activists have been arrested till Monday since the announcement of the election schedule.”
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said there is a little bit of frustration among their grassroots workers due to the prevailing situation. “But we’re trying to keep up their spirit with regular contact and motivation.”
Gono Forum executive president Subrata Chowdhury said they are peacefully carrying out campaign as much as they can. “We’ve asked our activists to avoid violence as we believe people will come up with a befitting reply to all repressive acts on December 30 through the ballot.”
Dhaka, Dec 26 (UNB) – Though only three days are left before the curtain falls on electioneering, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, who is contesting the December-30 election from two seats, could not yet join the campaign either for him or his party candidates, demoralising his party leaders and activists.
Party senior leaders said their chairman will return home from Singapore on Wednesday evening after receiving treatment for over two weeks, but he will not be able to carry out that much of campaign as his physical condition is not good.
Talking to UNB, a number of mid-level party leaders said they are virtually now without the guardian in absence of Ershad as they are not getting any directive about the election from their senior leaders, including senior co-chairman Raushon Ershad, co-chairman GM Quader, Ershad’s special assistant Ruhul Amin Hawlader and secretary general Moshiur Rahman Ranga.
They also said they are not clear about the reasons behind their chairman’s absence from all sorts of election activities, changing the party secretary general, making Hawlader party’s second-in-command and fielding 145 party candidates to run the election independently out of the Grand Alliance.
The Jatiya Party leaders said they have strong doubt about their chairman’s illness as he had been admitted to the hospital before the 2014 national election as well.
Amid various speculations, Ershad was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka on November 27 and since then, remained inactive in the party’s election-related activities.
On December 3, he made party presidium member Moshiur Rahman Ranga its secretary general removing Ruhul Amin Hawlader from the post.
Five days later, the Jatiya Party chief appointed removed Hawlader as his special assistant and party’s second-in-command to discharge all the organisational responsibilities of the party chairman in his absence.
On December 10, Ershad along with party presidium member Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu and his APS Manjurul Islam went to Singapore for treatment.
The Jatiya Party chief is contesting the 11th parliamentary elections from Dhaka-17 and Rangpur-3 seats.
“We’re now guardian-less as we have no contact with party senior leaders in absence of our chairman. Our most senior leaders are busy carrying out their election campaign. Though Ruhul Amin Hawlader was supposed to discharge our chairman’s responsibilities, he is not active. Now, we’re not getting any instruction from party high command during the crucial election,” a Jatiya Party independent candidate from a Rajshahi seat told UNB wishing anonymity.
Contacted, Jatiya Party presidium member SM Faisal Chisti said Ershad is returning home on Wednesday evening and will carry out campaign in Dhaka-17 seat, but he may not go to Rangpur due to his physical condition.
He said there is worry and frustration among their party leaders and activists across the country as their chairman still could not carry out any electioneering either in favour of him or for any other party candidate. “It’s true that our leaders and activists could have been more spirited had our chairman been there in the country.”
Once returns home, Chisti said, Ershad will take steps to warm up party rank and file removing all kinds of confusion and frustration among them.
Jatiya Party presidium member Maj (retd) Khaled Akter said their party leaders and activists are little worried as their chairman has been missing since the beginning of the electioneering. “When the chief of a major party is sick and can’t take part in the election is a matter of some worry for its leaders and activists. But they’re not disappointed.”
Khaled said Ershad could not have carried out election campaign for the party candidates that much even had he been there in the country as his physical condition is not good. “But, he could have campaigned in the two seats where he has been contesting the election.”
In absence of their party chairman, he said, its senior leaders are carrying out campaign in favour of him.
He said their leaders and activists are unitedly working hard to ensure the victory of party’s other candidates at different parts of the country.
Khaled, a Jatiya Party candidate for Lalmonirhat-1 seat, said he is getting huge response from voters though his not a Grand Alliance candidate.
Jatiya Party senior joint secretary general Advocate Rezaul Islam Bhuiyan said their party leaders and activists have got demoralised to some extent as Ershad has been staying abroad for nearly two weeks during the national election. “But there’s no impact of it in my constituency as I’m a Grand Alliance candidate.”
He said he is getting support from both the party leaders and activists and also from their alliance partners in his area.
Bhuiyan hoped that their party leaders and activists will be rejuvenated as their chairman is coming home on Wednesday.
Rangpur city mayor and city unit Jatiya Party president Mostafizur Rahman Mostafa along with party leaders and activist are carrying out electioneering in favour of Ershad in Rangpur-3 seat.
Mostafa said they are carrying out hectic campaign in fabour of Ershad and getting huge response from voters. “Though sir (Ershad) can’t go to voters, there’s no impact of it as all know he is sick. People of Rangpur love him very much. Even, he was elected from jail in the past and got elected.”
Dhaka, Dec 25 (UNB) – The country’s available power generation increased by about 2,200 MW in the last one year while installed production capacity saw a rise by around 4,000 MW, according to statistics of state-owned Power Development Board (PDB).
The PDB data placed in its website’s generation archive show that the country’s installed capacity reached 17,685 MW in December 2018 from 13,846 MW in the corresponding period in 2017.
The derated or actual capacity was increased by 3,995 MW to 17,142 MW from 13,147 during the same period.
However, the overall power generation is now 10,000-10,800 MW against 8,600-9,200 MW in 2017.
The statistics show that the country witnessed highest generation of 11,623 MW at 7:30 am on September 19 last while highest 9507 MW was recorded at 7:30 am on October in 2017, showing a rise by 2,116 MW in the highest production benchmark.
Officials said if the non-grid captive power generation of about 3,000 MW and 250 MW of renewable energy are included in statistics, the total generation will go up to 20,343 MW of which 11,057 MW came from private sector producers while 9,286 MW from public entities.
They said the generation was 5000-7000 MW less from their actual capacity because of various reasons.
“It happened either for capacity drop on the ground of old-age or gas shortage in gas-fired plants, or fall in water level hydropower plants or shortage of coal in coal-fired plants or shutdown of plants for rehabilitation or maintenance purpose,” said Power Cell director general Mohammad Hossain.
The power generation normally drops in the winter because due to lesser demand.
The country witnessed the evening peak generation at 8296 MW on December 22 while it was 7064 MW on the same day in 2017.
The statistics also show that the country’s total number of power generation plants in public and private sectors has increased by 17 to 127 in December 2018 from 110 in same month of last year.
Of this, only six plants came into operation in the public sector while the remaining 11 came in the private sector.
Power Division officials said the private sector power generation witnessed a substantial growth for a friendlier investment policy offered by the government over the last one decade.
The private sector has started dominating Bangladesh’s power generation, contributing 54.35 percent of the total electricity against 45.65 percent produced by state-owned power plants.
Private sector investors also appreciated the government's supportive role in achieving the progress and demanded continuation of such state policy to promote private investment in the power sector.
Imran Karim, vice-president of Bangladesh Independent Power Producers Association (BIPPA), said, "Without a strong support from the state, it had not been possible for the private sector producers to reach the milestone."
As per the latest Power System Master Plan 2016, he said, the government envisioned to take the power generation to 40,000 MW by 2030, which requires huge investments. "If the current policy of the government continues, the private sector will be able to play a very important role in attaining the target," he added.
According to BIPPA, the private sector has invested about $12 billion over the last 10 years by setting up over 50 power plants.
BIPPA leaders said they have now planned to invest $50 billion in the next 12 years to keep up the private sector's participation in the power sector development.
The private investors want to invest as independent power producers (IPPs) as well as private partners via the public-private partnership (PPP) initiative to set up at least 55 plants to generate some 12,000 MW of power or more.