Dhaka, Nov 13 (UNB) - Bangladesh is taking all the preparations in coordination with Myanmar to begin the first batch of Rohingya repatriation on Thursday though the ultimate success depends on "voluntariness" of their decision to return, says a senior official.
"We’re taking preparations to begin it on Thursday. This will continue until November 30 with 150 individuals each day from November 15," the official who is working on the ground told UNB on Tuesday.
He said the UNHCR will assess the voluntariness of Rohingyas's return to make sure no one is forced to leave camp.
Myanmar has given village-wise list of verified Rohingyas for the first batch return - November 15-30, officials said.
Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the first batch of repatriation on November 15 and a list of 2,260 Rohingyas, including 450 Hindus of 485 families, has been handed over to the Myanmar side.
Diplomatic sources said a total of 450 Hindus are willing to go back and 66 of them have valid documents who do not need any further verification.
Bangladesh also has handed over a new list of 22,432 Rohingyas to Myanmar side during the last joint working group meeting between the two countries.
"The list of 22,432 has not yet verified," an official said adding that both sides want to complete the return of 2,260 Rohingyas if they are willing to go back.
In the latest statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said his agency supports the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and in dignity to their places of origin or choice, and will work with all the parties towards this goal.
The High Commissioner said before making a choice of whether to return or not, the Rohingyas verified by Myanmar as having the right to return should be allowed to visit their places of origin in Rakhine State, or other places to which they might choose to return, so that they themselves can make an independent assessment of whether they feel they can return there in safety and dignity.
He emphasized that the responsibility to improve those conditions rests with Myanmar.
Although UNHCR does not believe the current conditions in Rakhine State are conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees from Bangladesh, the agency said it remains committed to supporting the government of Myanmar’s efforts to create such conditions, under the terms of the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
UNHCR also said it remains deeply grateful to the government of Bangladesh as it continues to generously host Rohingya refugees until they can voluntarily return to Myanmar in safety and dignity.
Officials said the first batch return will be a test case to know how Myanmar treats them after their return to the place of origin as Myanmar assured all of their safety and security with confidence-building measures.
An official involved in the repatriation process said Bangladesh and the international community need to know the “ground reality” and the repatriation needs to be started.
Another diplomatic source said some are trying to give an impression that Bangladesh has taken it as a “business venture” and Bangladesh does not want the repatriation of Rohingyas. “This is absolutely wrong.”
Bangladesh first handed over the list to Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka U Lwin Oo on October 28 and the UNHCR was also informed on the same day to take preparation.
Earlier, India welcomed the decision taken by Bangladesh and Myanmar to start the repatriation of Rohingyas, who belong to the Rakhine state, in mid-November.
“We welcome the agreement which was reached between the Foreign Secretaries of Bangladesh and Myanmar,” said spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Raveesh Kumar.
Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the Joint Working Group (JWG) in December 2017 to start the repatriation of around 900,000 Rohingyas who fled a brutal military crackdown in August 2017.
Permanent Secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myint Thu told reporters that they have verified about 5,000 Rohingyas.
A UN human rights expert has urged Bangladesh to shelve the plan to start repatriating Rohingya refugees to Rakhine this month, saying the Myanmar government has failed to provide guarantees they would not suffer the same persecution and horrific violence all over again.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of the government of Myanmar taking concrete and visible measures to create an environment where the Rohingya can return to their place of origin and live there safely with their fundamental rights guaranteed,” said Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Myanmar.
Bangladesh Foreign Ministry and the UN agencies on the matter of Rohingya repatriation saying they are coordinating their activities on the issue closely.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque earlier said Rohingyas need to decide on their own if they want to return to Myanmar. “It’s not Bangladesh’s decision. It’s not Myanmar’s decision and it’s not UNHCR’s decision. The return is a decision that must be taken by Rohingyas,” Haque said.
He said Bangladesh has welcomed Rohingyas and is doing what is necessary for them. "They have to go back to their own country," he said requesting all not to make it an issue for Bangladesh.
Dhaka, Nov 13 (UNB) - Customs, Excise and VAT Commissionerate (Dhaka East) of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has introduced a mobile application called 'VAT East' to simplify VAT services for taxpayers.
Using the app, common people, taxpayers and VAT officials can do their emergency work quickly and accurately without any cost.
VAT officials said as the app-based services are getting popular in the country, they have taken the move to introduce this app-based platform to create a pro-taxpaying and service-oriented environment.
Using the app, anyone can check the accuracy of Business Identification Number (BIN) and lodge complaint against any VAT official or VAT office. Besides, information about the VAT evasion can be given through this app.
The VAT officials said this innovative step has made their service quicker and simpler apart from reducing the physical communication of taxpayers with the VAT offices and minimising their business cost.
"Anyone can take VAT-related services across the country using this app," a senior official at the NBR VAT wing said.
He mentioned that usually an enlisted person has to submit his/her papers a month before the 15th of the next month every month to the respective VAT office.
This app will remind that person through notification by 10th of the respective month as well as notify punitive measures in case of failure to submit the VAT.
Anyone can check the BIN numbers through this app, the official said.
Addresses and phone numbers of all VAT, Customs and Income Tax offices are available in this app apart from details of the Dhaka East Commissionerate.
After submitting the VAT and documents, the app will notify the respective person through its notification button.
The VAT officials will be able to upload the survey report by this app. This will include the name and picture of the VAT payers, name of the organisation, address, nature of business and information of tax payment.
The VAT officials will also be able to upgrade the system while they are in the inspection.
They can make the spot assessment through using the 'spot assessment' button of the app. The VAT Calculator of the app can be used for flawless VAT counting.
According to the officials, this application is now available for the android platform while this will be available very soon for iOS and Windows platform also.
Dhaka, Nov 12 (UNB) – Abuzz with party activists and leaders after a long time, BNP’s Nayapaltan central office sold 1,336 nomination papers on the first day on Monday among those who want to contest the 11th parliamentary elections with its tickets.
BNP nomination hopefuls from across the country started gathering in front of the office since early morning along with their thousands of supporters to collect nomination papers.
Even before the formal start of the nomination paper sale, the BNP office and its surrounding areas wore a festive look as hundreds of leaders and supporters flocked to the areas following the party’s decision to join the national election after long 10 years.
Holding posters, banners and portraits of party chairperson Khaleda Zia, acting chairman Tarique Rahman and nomination aspirants, the party activists chanted slogans in favour of their respective nomination seekers in a bid to demonstrate their popularity.
They also raised slogans demanding the release of Khaleda Zia who has been in jail since February 8 last as she was convicted in a graft case.
BNP nomination hopefuls from across the country started gathering in front of the office since early morning. Photo: UNB
The huge gathering of the BNP leaders and activists in the capital’s busy area triggered huge tailback, causing immense sufferings to commuters.
The sale of nomination forms began at 10:45 am with the purchase of two nomination papers for its jailed chairperson Khaleda Zia and it continued until 8pm.
Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir purchased a nomination form for Khaleda Zia to contest the polls from Feni-1 constituency while BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan collected another for her for Bogura-6 parliamentary seat.
Later, BNP leader Mirza Abbas bought another form for Khaleda Zia to contest the polls from Bogura-7 constituency.
Though the nomination papers were bought for her, it is still not clear whether the BNP chief can contest the election as she was convicted in two corruption cases.
Mirza Fakhrul also bought a form for himself around 11:30am to contest the election from Thakurgaon-1 constituency.
Singer Baby Nazneen and film actor Helal Khan collected BNP nomination forms for contesting the polls from Nilphamari-4 and Sylhet-6 seats respectively.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said a total of 1,326 forms were sold on the first day. Each nomination seekers paid Tk 5,000 to buy the form.
Rizvi said aspirants can collect the nomination forms until November 16 as the deadline has been extended by two more days.
Many nomination seekers said they were happy to collect the forms but they were not sure of being able to contest the polls as the party will share many seats with the partners of its two alliances.
A substantial number of fresh faces collected forms on the first day to get parry tickets in their respective seats.
As the party did not disclose the list of the aspirants who collected the nomination forms, it could not be known from which seats the high-profile party candidates’ may contest the polls.
According to a party source, BNP standing committee member Barrister Moudud Ahmed is not going to contest the polls from his original home constituency Noakhal-5 to avoid facing archrival and Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader.
He may contest the election from any seat in Feni. Former Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal leader Bazlur Rashid Chowdhury Abed collected nomination paper to contest the election from Noakhali-5 following the party high-ups’ directives.
Meanwhile, hours after collecting three party nomination papers for their chairperson, BNP senior leaders, led by Fakhrul, met Khaleda Zia in jail and took her blessings.
“Madam (Khaleda) blessed us. She hopes we’ll be able to move ahead with the people’s unity we’ve forged,” Fakhrul told reporters.
Earlier, he said the country still lacks the minimum election atmosphere while their leaders and activists are being arrested continuously.
Fakhrul warned that their party may review its decision to join the election if the proper atmosphere is not created and the arrest of its leaders and activists does not stop.
Earlier on Sunday, BNP’s two alliances --Jatiya Oikyafront and 20-praty-- announced to participate in the upcoming 11th parliamentary elections as part of their movement to restore democracy, and demanded the election be deferred by one month.
The Election Commission on Monday deferred the 11th national election to December 30 from December 23.
Dhaka, Nov 12 (UNB – BNP’s decision to contest the 11th general election with two alliances in its fold, one spearheaded by Dr Kamal Hossain, is seen by political analysts as its real political revival at a time when its chairperson Khaleda Zia is in jail with her election fate hanging in the balance.
“Though it’s not still clear how long it can go, BNP’s decision is highly positive unlike the past which had left it out of parliament. For any political party, it’s always better to remain in the election process, no matter how it’s held,” Dhaka University ex-VC Prof Emajuddin Ahmed told UNB.
He said BNP has taken the right decision as political parties must join election no matter whether it wins or loses. “If the party wins, it will form the government and if it loses it’ll remain as a strong opposition in parliament.”
Dr Emajuddin said politics will be benefited from BNP’s positive decision on joining the election. “I also hope to see a change in politics and political culture through the next general election.”
He said now the government and the Election Commission (EC) should play a responsible role so that BNP and its allies can remain in the election race.
Emajuddin said the government should immediately stop arresting opposition leaders and activists and free the political prisoners to ensure a level-playing field and restore voters’ confidence in the election process.
Dhaka University’s another ex-VC Pro AK Azad Chowdhury said BNP’s decision to take part in the election is very good news for a participatory election and it may pave a new journey for democracy and politics.
TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, “That all parties are stepping in to take part in the elections is the news that everyone has been looking forward to. It’ll be viewed as a relief at least for the short term.”
He said this can also be viewed as a new opening for BNP to have itself politically rehabilitated as a party represented in parliament after nearly a decade -- first by a state of self-denial by their boycott of sessions throughout almost the whole period of the 9th and by the boycott of the debatable election for the 10th Jatiya Sangsad.
“Since the taste of pudding is in eating, much will, however, depend on how the key stakeholders behave in complying with the rules of the game to ensure the level-playing field,” the TIB Executive Director said.
He said the burden is mainly on the Election Commission, but not only. “People will watch how law-enforcement agencies behave and how the administration plays its role. Above all, the crucial factor is whether the political parties, especially the ruling ones, genuinely want people to have their say to determine who’re eventually elected.”
“If the EC shows lack of courage to be neutral, if the administration and law-enforcement agencies play a partisan role, and if political parties play the game deciding by themselves that they’re the ones to be in power whatever may the people's choice, and to that end involve in preventing the scope of fair completion, then it’ll be anything but election,” Iftekhar added.
He said the good news that came as relief today will turn sour and one would then call it a game of selection at best, not an election.
Secretary of Shusashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) Badiul Alam Majumdar said BNP and its alliance partners have taken a very good decision which is also a good sign for the country’s politics.
“BNP should join the election and they’ve taken the right decision. As BNP has no alternative to joining the election, now Awami League has no alternative to ensuring a credible election,” he said.
With joining the election race, Majumdar also thinks BNP has staged a fresh comeback in politics. “BNP was out of parliament as it boycotted the last parliamentary elections due to its wrong decision. On the other hand, the party couldn’t carry out political activities freely due to repressive acts. So, now the party has got a fresh chance to do politics both in parliament and outside of it as a strong party. I think they should use the chance properly.”
He said now the Election Commission and the government must create a level-playing field for ensuring a credible election.
Election expert Dr Tofail Ahmed said BNP has taken the decision as per people’s hopes and aspirations. “It’s news of great relief and comfort for the nation.”
He said now the ball is in the court of the government and the EC to ensure a credible participatory election. “The government and the EC should show respect the BNP’s decision by taking positive steps for creating a level-playing field.
Tofail also said the EC should now defer the election by a reasonable period of time to give BNP and its alliances proper space for contesting the election.
Besides, he said, the EC should take strong steps to stop the arrest and harassment of political activists by exerting its power on the administration.
Earlier in the day, BNP and its two alliances --Jatiya Oikyafront and 20-party -- announced to participate in the upcoming 11th parliamentary elections as part of their movement to restore democracy, and demanded the election be deferred by one month.
Dhaka, Nov 10 (UNB) – Tilda Swinton was asked a question which perhaps been echoed a 100 times before in the Abdul Karim Shahitya Bisharad Auditorium.
In response, when asked about her frequent visits to Bangladesh – it’s her second time at DLF - she in her trademark voice asked the hosts to turn up the lights and the hall got illuminated.
Swinton then answered by saying, “I just put light on the reason. You audience are the reason for my returning to Bangladesh every year!”
Cheers and applauds filled the hall as the 8th Dhaka Lit Fest (DLF), the much-anticipated annual literature festival, came to a close on Saturday.
As the day passed on the number of visitors got a boost with a noticeable amount of youth in the audiences thronging to all the different attractions.
The AKSB Auditorium was filled to the brim when Tilda Swinton, Oscar winning Hollywood actress and a sincere friend of Bangladesh took the stage with Ahsan Akbar, event co-director to partake in a dialogue session titled ‘On Drumduan Hill’.
Since the session’s beginning Swinton engaged the crowd in a thoughtful discussion regarding the definition of Education. She asked them to express their opinions about education.
Eventually she discussed Drumduan School, that follows an alternative Steiner- based curriculum in the Scottish Highlands, where Swinton hails from.
At one point she strongly condemned today’s generations’ overdependence on technology and said “Technology can disrupt the rhythm of a child’s curiosity.”
She even argued about how the Steiner-based education model could work in cities like Dhaka after the dialogue in a Question and Answer Session.
With Swinton’s final individual session completed, numerous other sessions were due attention.
The poet Shamsur Rahman Seminar Room hosted a dialogue session with the title ‘Rights in the age of fake news’ which engaged several key figures of modern media and literature including Zafar Sobhan, Afsan Chowdhury, Hugo Restall, Annie Zaidi and Asif Islam.
Several discussions and cultural performances were acted out on the final day of DLF all over Bangla Academy Premises.
Locations like Bangla Academy Lawn, the Cosmic Tent, the Nazrul Stage and other halls were filled with art and literature loving crowd enjoying different segments of DLF.
Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith adorned the AKSB auditorium as the chief guest of the event in the penultimate session which marked the closing of 8th Dhaka Lit Fest 2018.
Before his finishing speech, English novelist Phillip Hensher and Actress Tilda Swinton spoke along with event co-director Sadaf Saaz, all of whom thanked everyone related to the festival and appreciated the crowd.
The Minister expressed his delight saying “It’s a matter of particular pleasure to me to stand here.”
He mentioned that all the ruling parties kept the art and cultural sectors of the country secure.
The Minister expressed his hope that the guests would return further to join in DLF in the upcoming years.
He concluded his speech by giving his best wishes to the participating speakers, authors, poets and likely the audience.
Much to the crowd’s surprise and joy, a highly anticipated dialogue session with enigmatic west Bengal author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay took place after the closing ceremony with noted Bangladeshi Writer Imdadul Haq Milon.
The 83-year-old author graced the stage in the final dialogue session of the fest titled ‘Kathopokothone Shirshendur Shathe’.
The almost one-and-half-hour long dialogue session ranged between various topics related to Bangla literature and the author’s life and works.
Shirshendu mentioned about his first novel, ‘Ghunpoka’ and how the mass rejected it upon publication.
“I never have any idea about the ending of a work be it story or novel when I write,” he said.
He termed himself as an ‘unscientific’ writer nevertheless stating “I write for myself until I’m satisfied.”
The author also recollected past memories regarding his two late friends, prominent author Shunil Gangopadhyay and noted poet Shakti Chattopadhyay.
On a serious note, he remarked about our language saying “We need more research on Bangla language to improve its further impact on world literature.”
He also said that the current culture of Bangla short stories is being judged differently as with the passage of time, the readers’ perspectives have changed.
Following the insightful dialogue session, a Question and Answer session was held engaging the audience with several enquiries to their favourite author.
With the merriments of Dhaka Lit Fest being over on Saturday evening, the vitalizing literature carnival leaves us with more expectation from it for the upcoming year.