Noakhali, Oct 28 (UNB) – Every year, after completion of their HSC examinations, students wishing to go on to higher education are forced to endure a most distressing experience.
It is hoped that technological advance and knowledge-sharing will soon one day help Bangladesh simplify and modernize its university admissions process.
For the time being though, visiting any number of campuses around the country to sit their individual entrance tests, and dealing with the collective headache of arranging transport, accommodation and food in the process, all for the sake of getting into a university of their liking, is established practice.
It is therefore usual to find towns and cities flooded by arrivals of students, often accompanied by one or even two guardians, on and prior to the date of the admission test at institutes they host. Many will look to stay with relatives or acquaintances in the area, but of course that would cover a very limited number. Hotels and other forms of rented accommodation must bear the brunt of it. Wherever the hospitality industry is not well-developed, this can put a severe strain on the local economy’s ability to cope with the influx.
Yet even in those places, such as Noakhali, we now have an example that shows a big heart and generous spirit can go a long way.
Over the weekend, in unprecedented scenes, locals of Noakhali opened their doors and arranged food and shelter for over 100,000 students and guardians from all over the country who came to attend the admission tests at Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) campus on Friday.
The Union Parishad and municipal bodies also played their part, opening their offices and schools and other government buildings to accommodate the total of 70,298 candidates competing for just 1320 seats across 30 subjects, plus their guardians, that pushed the total past six figures.
But all the hotels, motels and guest houses in the city combined are able to accommodate just a fraction of that figure – around 1500, which obviously worried many people who know of the growing reputation for academic excellence NSTU is gathering as a new public university.
So the locals came forward to help the admission seekers and their guardians by opening access to the Upazila Parishad office, local mosques, madrasas and by setting up temporary accommodation using tents.
Locals are not just providing shelter, they have also been supplying food for three days starting Thursday night. The exams across different faculties started on Friday, and end today (Sunday).
Noakhali Sadar Upazila Chairman Shihab Uddin Selim told UNB students and guardians here for the NSTU entrance exam will get their ‘services’ for free till Sunday.
He said the arrangement they came up with not only made the admission-seeking students and their guardians happy, it also felt secure to them. Members of Bangladesh Red Crescent and scouts are found working day and night to ensure safety.
"Maybe all of these students will not be able to get admission here. But it proved the hospitality of Noakhali’s people. We hope to do it again in future,” the chairman proudly proclaimed.
Expressing his appreciation and gratitude, Sujon, a student who came from Sylhet to sit for the test said, “We are overwhelmed with their support. We will remember their hospitality throughout our life.”
Fatema Hossain, another student keen to express her gratitude, said, “The arrangements by the Noakhali people have changed our perception about them. It will never be forgotten.”
Gradually with more and more incidents such as this, the pejorative use of the word ‘Noakhailla,’ still prevalent in the country, can hopefully be erased forever.
Dhaka, Oct 28 (UNB) – As the party has got two coalitions --Jatiya Oikyafront and 20-party alliance, BNP is likely to face a serious hurdle over sharing parliamentary seats if it joins the next national election, fear party leaders and alliance partners.
They said BNP high-ups will have to deal with the issue very tactfully and effectively to avoid any split in the alliance and rebellion within the party as it has more than one competent and dedicated candidates in most seats it will share with the alliance partners.
Talking to UNB, BNP senior leaders said they are ready to make a big sacrifice to keep their alliance partners happy over the seat sharing and hope their allies will be also judicious in this regard.
They, however, said their party will not talk about seat sharing with their partners until the announcement of the election schedule for strategic reason as the party is not yet decided to take part in the polls.
BNP’s 20-party alliance partners want BNP to settle the seat sharing issue as soon as possible so that they can take preparations for the election properly.
Oikyafront leaders are, however, now little bothered about seat sharing as they think ensuring a congenial atmosphere for credible polls is now their main concern.
A number of senior BNP leaders said they may give 20-party alliance partners maximum 50- 60 seats while Oikyafront leaders and professionals 30-40 seats.
Of the 20-praty partners, Jamaat wants 50-60 seats while LDP and Khelafat Majlish, 30, BJP 3, Jatiya Party (Zafar) 15, Kalyan Party 5, Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam 6, NAP and NDP 4, Jagpa and NPP 4, Democratic League and Samyabadi Dal 4, Muslim League 2 and Labour party 2. Four other parties want nomination of their party’s top most leaders.
A BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity, said they are now giving the main focus on various programmes of the Jatiya Oikyafront to push for their seven-point demand for holding a credible national election.
“If we now talk about seat sharing with our alliance partners it’ll demonstrate that we’re going to polls under any circumstances. But we’re still undecided about joining polls,” he said.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said it is not the suitable time for discussing about seat sharing with their partners as they are now on a movement to restore democracy, ensure a proper election atmosphere and release of their chairperson Khaleda Zia.
If their party decides to join the polls after realising their demands, he said they will then take an inclusive decision regarding the seat sharing thinking of the interests of all the alliance partners. “We’ll properly evaluate our alliance partners.”
BNP standing committee member and 20-party coordinator Nazrul Islam Khan said they neither make any list of their party’s probable candidates nor seek any such list from their alliance partners as their party’s participation in the polls is not certain.
“If we decide to join polls, we will be able to settle the issue with our partners after the announcement of the election schedule as we know which party has how many potential candidates,” he added.
Gono Forum executive president Subrata Chowdhury said they are not thinking of seat sharing issue as their now main target is to force the government to hold a fair and credible election. “We’ll talk about it at the right time.”
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna and JSD general secretary Abdul Malek Ratan also echoed Subrata Chowdhury, and said they will think about it once their demands are realised.
BNP has already suffered a split in the 20-party alliance as Jebel Rahman Gani-led National Awami Party (NAP) and Khandaker Golam Mortuza-led National Democratic Party (NDP) quit the coalition on October 16 as they became certain that they would not get nomination from the alliance in the next polls.
Four alliance leaders, wishing anonymity, said their coalition may face another split after the announcement of the election schedule if BNP fails to evaluate its partners.
BNP insiders, however, said party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and other senior leaders are in touch with the alliance partners giving them various assurances.
Talking to UNB, LDP joint general secretary Shahadat Hossain Selim said they did not have any formal discussion over seat sharing with BNP as it is not still clear whether the 20-party alliance will join the polls keeping Khaleda Zia in jail.
He, however, said they have informal discussion and assurance about the number of seat they may get.
Bangladesh Kalyan Party Chairman Maj Gen (retd) Syed Mohammad Ibrahim also said they have informal discussion with BNP over seat sharing. “I hope, the issue will be settled at the right time.”
A leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they are taking necessary preparations to contest the election and they will seek 50-60 seats from BNP.
BNP leaders said they have already made a plan over sharing seats with their 20-party alliance partners, but there has been no discussion with Oikyafront leaders in this regard.
They, however, said they will evaluate properly Gono Forum, JSD and Nagorik Oikya regarding seat sharing so that their all suitable and competent candidates can contest the polls under the banner of the alliance.
Dhaka, Oct 27 (UNB) - The government wants to work in a more focused way to detect rumours and ensure the credible flow of information to mass people, says State Minister for Information Tarana Halim.
“It [keeping people away from rumours] has now become a demand of the time,” she told UNB in an interview recently explaining how mere a rumour sometimes appears as ‘credible’ information to mass people causing a big harm to society.
The State Minister said they will work in a more organised way through recently formed social media rumour detection and monitoring cell to help people stay away from rumours.
Responding to a question, she said a process had started before she joined the Information Ministry over registration of online newspapers.
The applications for registration of online portals have been sent to the Home Ministry for further evaluation and the government will give the approval after proper evaluation.
“Once the registration process is done, we can say these are the approved online newspapers,” Tarana said adding that it will be individual’s matter if she or he believes the news of unapproved online newspapers.
In response to another question, the State Minister said the full digitisation of state-owned television BTV is underway to further improve the quality of programmes and contents.
“We’re trying to look at BTV in a holistic approach,” Tarana said adding that BTV will emerge as a better platform with quality programmes through required changes.
The State Minister said they are trying to be more “brief but informative” while disseminating information to mass people through BTV in a faster way.
Talking about her election plan, Tarana said she will contest the upcoming national election but prefer party decision rather than coming up with her personal one.
“I’ll contest. I’m working….but I’m ready to work for party election symbol under the directive of the Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina),” she said adding that she has been working honestly for the last nine years.
The State Minister wished a great 2019 for Bangladesh, for the pro-liberation forces and for a country to be fully free from militancy.
Tarana who got involved in politics in student life said student leaders have many positive roles to play beyond politics. “It’ll be good if there’s cohesion between social activities and politics.”
The State Minister said the values, she maintains, are the best achievements in her life. “I want to walk straight way. I get hurt if anybody wants to buy my principles.”
Tarana, a former actress, said she had to leave acting while setting priorities from multiple areas of engagement.
Earlier, she served as the state minister of the Post and Telecommunications Division under the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology.
Bagerhat, Oct 27 (UNB) – Fishermen in coastal districts are taking preparation to go to the Bay of Bengal to catch hilsa as the 22-day government ban on fishing the delicious fish comes to an end on Monday.
The government imposed a ban on catching, selling, hoarding and transportation of hilsa in different rivers for 22 days from October 7 to 28 to boost Hilsa output through protection of the mother fish during its peak breeding season.
During a visit to KB Bazar Ghat adjacent to Doratana River on Friday, the UNB correspondent saw the fishermen preparing their trawlers and fishing nets to go to the Bay of Bengal to catch hilsa.
Trawlers were being towed to rivers from the dockyard. Fishing nets, fuel and daily essentials were being loaded in the trawlers.
Thousands of fishermen are waiting to start their journeys to the sea.
Local fishermen alleged that fishermen from India enter Bangladesh water territories illegally to catch hilsa during the ban.
They demanded government steps so that the Indian fishermen cannot enter Bangladesh territory.
Officials at the Fisheries Department, Bangladesh Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, district and upazila administration, police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) conducted drives to prevent hilsa fishing during the period.
Besides, executive magistrates conducted mobile courts and punished a good number of fishermen who violated the ban.
Haque Islam, a fisher of ‘FB Sabbir’ trawler of Khulna district, said that they returned to the ghat from the Bay on October 6 obeying the government ban. Now, they are taking preparations to go again for catching hilsa. Their trawlers and nets are prepared to resume fishing.
Sheikh Idris Sheikh, president of Bagerhat Coastal Fishermen Association, sought government steps so that foreign fishermen could not enter Bangladesh territory to catch fish.
Zia Haider Chowdhury, district fisheries officer, said, "Now we've to save Hilsa fry (under 10 inches). The authorities will impose a ban on catching Hilsa fry from November 1 to June 30 in coastal areas."
According to the information of the Department of Fisheries, there are 16.20lakh registered fishermen in the country. Among them, a total 39,103 fishermen are in Bagerhat district. The production of hilsa in 2017-18 fiscal year was 5.09lakh metric tons.
Dhaka, Oct 27 (UNB) - Bangladesh and Myanmar will sit together on Tuesday to discuss the Rohingya repatriation issues as there is “intensive efforts” to begin the repatriation, at least completion of the first batch of verified Rohingya repatriation before the next national election, officials indicate.
The joint working group meeting between Bangladesh and Myanmar on Rohingya repatriation will be held here on October 30 which will discuss how the repartition will start, a senior official told UNB.
There is a chance to complete the first batch of repatriation of the verified Rohingyas before the next national election though it is difficult to predict about such a complex issue, said a diplomatic source adding that China is pushing for quick implementation of repatriation agreements between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Visiting Chinese Minister and Party Committee Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security Zhao Kezhi and his Bangladesh counterpart also discussed the Rohingya issue on Friday.
The Bangladesh side sought China's role in repatriating Rohingya people from Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar.
“There’ll be a tripartite meeting among Bangladesh Foreign Minister (AH Mahmood Ali) and his Chinese and Myanmar counterparts where they will discuss the issue further,” said Minister Asaduzzaman Khan.
But the Home Minister did not elaborate when and where this meeting will be held.
Similar meetings were held in New York and Beijing on the sidelines in the past months that indicate pressure on Myanmar is mounting.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said China always believes that the international community should play a constructive role in the Rakhine State issue, and its actions should be conducive to promoting consultation and cooperation between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Foreign Ministry officials said the Bangladesh side of joint working group is likely to discuss the broad issues on Sunday before the joint working group meeting that will be held on Tuesday in the capital city.
The joint working group members from both sides will visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on October 31. “They'll have interactions Rohingyas,” an official told UNB.
He said Bangladesh will seek updates on what steps are taken for the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh wants to make sure that the Rohingyas who are expected to return to Myanmar in the first batch of repatriation may have houses and other facilities to live in their own villages.
“We’ve completed the village-wise verification of 8,000 Rohingyas to know who came from which village. We want to make sure they can start living in houses in their own villages,” said Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on October 15.
The Foreign Minister mentioned that India has built 250 houses while China is building 1,000 more. “The returnees will first stay at reception centres n Myanmar and then will go to their villages.”
Myanmar has so far failed to take steps to ensure the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
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.
According to her second recommendation, Myanmar must create an acceptable environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights and pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas. If needed, it should create a “safe zone” inside the country to protect all civilians.
Her third recommendation says atrocious crimes against Rohingyas in Myanmar should be prevented by bringing accountability and justice, particularly in the light of recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council.
Foreign Minister Ali has emphasised 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 in August this year visited the northern Rakhine State and saw the ‘trail of widespread devastation’ suffered by people there, said the Foreign Ministry officials.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister also visited Shwe Zar village where around 148 prefabricated houses for returnees are being built with assistance from the government of India.
Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the Joint Working Group (JWG) on December 2017 to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018.
Meanwhile, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Chairperson Charles Santiago (MP, Malaysia) said the Rohingya community has suffered decades of state-sponsored oppression, discrimination, and violence in Myanmar.
“It's abundantly clear that the conditions for the Rohingyas' safe and dignified return to their homeland are far from being met. Any initiatives to return the refugees to Myanmar must be transparent and meet international human rights standards,” Santiago said in a statement on Friday.
There has been an announcement that a team of ASEAN foreign ministers will visit Myanmar in November to assist in the repatriation process of Rohingya in Bangladesh to Myanmar:
Santiago said the Rohingya have suffered unspeakable abuses and must have a seat at the table to determine their own futures.
“Repatriation must not begin until a safe and secure environment for the voluntary return of Rohingya is put in place. This should include Myanmar's government abolishing discriminatory state policies and practices, and guarantees that returnees will not be settled indefinitely in internally displaced persons camps,” reads the statement.
Santiago said Rohingya must also be allowed to worship freely, access education, be compensated for their loss of land and livelihood, and receive a degree of international protection so they are not left at the mercy of the Myanmar security forces.