Cox’s Bazar, Dec 28 (UNB) – Though the Election Commission has asked Rohingyas not to venture out of their camps here for a certain period, locals fear that the refugees may spell trouble during the national election on Sunday.
Md Ayub Majhi (leader) of Ukhiya’s Kutupalang Camp 5, said Rohingyas are coming out of their camps and going to various nearby places. “I’m not sure where they’re going or whether they’re joining any political campaign,” he said.
On December 21, the Election Commission issued a circular restricting the movement of Rohingya people staying in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar during the election.
A circular, signed by EC deputy secretary Atiar Rahman, states that Rohingya people may be used in the 11th parliamentary polls for creating anarchy in favour of different candidates.
To restrict their movements, the commission asked the authorities concerned to work so that they cannot come out from the camps from 7:00 pm on December 29 to 8:00 am on December 31.
There was no such embargo on Rohingyas’ movement during the 2014 and 2008 elections, said Palangkhali Union Parishad Chairman Gafur Uddin Chowdhury.
“During those times, the Rohingyas had influenced the polls in many ways,” he said adding, “This year, after the polls schedule announcement, many Rohingyas went out of the camps in groups and some of them even got involved in campaigns.”
The ruling Awami League and BNP have been accusing each other of using the refugees for political gains ahead of the December 30 election.
The local unit of Awami League claims that BNP and its allies are using Rohingyas in their campaigns. “Rohingyas have been seen in the processions of BNP candidates,” said Jahangir Kabir Chowdhury, the party’s Ukhiya Upazila unit general secretary.
He said they (Rohingyas) may cause problems during the election, a claim turned down by BNP leaders.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury, BNP’s Ukhiya Upazila unit chief, claimed that the ruling party is using the Rohingyas in many ways. “They may even try to mobilise the Rohingyas on the voting day and use them against their rivals,” he said.
The smell of money, and blood
Rohingyas are using the election season to earn some extra cash. But their involvement in the election process may lead to unrest, locals fear.
Advocate Ayachur Rahman, general secretary of Save Cox’s Bazar Movement, said a number of Rohingyas, who came to Bangladesh during 1978-79, had managed to enlist as voters.
“Those Rohingyas and the new arrivals might get involved in the election and sabotage the polling booths,” he said.
“Rohingyas have been ordered not to leave the camps from 7pm of December 29 to 8am of December 31,” said Cox’s Bazar Returning Officer and Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain.
During this period, NGO workers and volunteers will also be barred from entering or leaving the camps in cars. However, they will be allowed to use cars to deliver food and emergency medical help.
Many locals say they feel the EC embargo should have been longer.
“This short-time ban has given Rohingyas the opportunity to take part in polls campaigns. We fear that they can cause large scale violence,” said Gafur, also general secretary of Rohingya Repatriation Committee.
Law enforcement and security agencies are on alert.
Cox’s Bazar police chief AKM Iqbal Hossain has said the law enforcement agencies have been cautiously taking position around Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf while police, RAB, BGB, and Ansar members are patrolling the sites.
“It (the EC order) is to make sure that nobody can use the Rohingyas for political mileage or to cause disorder,” said Kamal.
Dhaka, Dec 28 (UNB) – Bangladesh lost many illustrious figures in the cultural arena in 2018 who served the country with their creativity, talent and intellect till their death.
But they have been kept alive through various homages and tributes at every level from the state to the personal, while the social media are filled with posts, comments and sharing of contents about them. Cultural organisations paid their homage organising different programmes to remember their work.
In 2018, the country lost many talented artistes like Ferdousi Priyabhashini, rock star Ayub Bachchu, dance guru Bazlur Rahman Badal and many others who were the brightest stars of their respective areas.
The list of lost gems was from the world of literature, dance, rock music, acting and movies, filmmaker, journalism and poets.
In January, Bangladesh lost actor Siraj Haider, playwright-writer Begum Momtaj Hossain, artist of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra Khademul Islam Basunia, writer ShawkatAli, singer Shammi Akhter.
Noted sculptor and freedom fighter Ferdousi Priyabhashini breathed her last on March 6 suffering from multiple health complications who was an example of courage for the womenfolk who are struggling in society in different sectors. She used to raise her voice about women's rights.
Ekushey Padak winner eminent poet Belal Chowdhury, who will ever be remembered for his contributions to Bangla literature, passed away on April 25.
Known by many names like poet, journalist, columnist and translator, Belal Chowdhury was awarded the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1984, Mazharul Islam Poetry Award in 2013. Belal had served as the editor of Bharat Bichitra, a magazine published from the Indian Embassy in Dhaka.
In May, the country saw the death of Prof Dr Mustafa Nurul Islam, young actress Tajin Ahmed and poet, novelist and translator Mostafa Mir.
The untimely death of the young actor Tazin, who worked in multiple areas, such as a theatre performer, TV actress and anchor, playwright and journalist -- shocked the nation very much.
The actress, hailing from Noakhali, made a foray into the small screen in 1996 with the air of drama ‘Shesh Dekha Noy’ in BTV.
Pranab Saha, a permanent member of the Jatiya Press Club and joint editor of Channel I, died of old-age complications at 66 on June 7.
On the other hand, the country lost the renowned actress Rani Sarkar on July 7, language movement fighter Dr Halima Khatun, adventure writer Jafar Ahmed Choudhury in the month of July.
Rani Sarkar, the national film award winner, acted in almost 250 films whose acting career began as a stage performer in 1958 with the first break in AJ Kardar's film 'Dur Hai Shukh Kagaon'.
In August, the people of the country witnessed the death prominent dancer Bazlur Rahman Badal and two veteran editors – Golam Sarwar and A H M Moazzem Hossain.
Veteran journalist Golam Sarwar, the editor of Bangla daily Samakal, who had been suffering from heart problems and respiratory complications, passed away on August 14 while AHM Moazzem Hossain, editor of The Financial Express, on August 2.
Golam Sarwar served journalism for more than five decades with accomplishments and professionalism while Moazzem Hossain starting his career in journalism with the now-defunct Bangladesh Observer as a reporter worked for The New Nation, United News of Bangladesh (UNB), The Dhaka Courier, and The Daily Star.
On September 3, people saw the demise of writer and birangana of Bangladesh Liberation War Rama Chowdhury.
She authored around 20 books, including poetry, novels and memoirs alongside the best-known autobiographical work "Ekattorer Jononi" ("Mother of 71") which describes the torture perpetrated by Pakistani military during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Bangladesh also lost rock star Ayub Bachchu, prominent face on silver screen and jatra artistes Sheikh Abdul Aziz, and artist of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra Rangalal Dev Chowdhury this year.
The death of guitarist Aiyub Bachchu is a huge loss to the music industry of Bangladesh.
The brightest star of rock world of Bangladesh, Bachchu, mostly known as ‘’AB”, died on October 13.
He popularised rock music in Bangladesh along with his band LRB (Love Runs Blind), had been an integral part of the Bangladeshi rock music scene for more than 25 years.
The month of December saw the loss of photographer Anwar Hossain, musician Amzad Hossain and filmmaker Saidul AnamTutul.
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.”