Cox’s Bazar, Aug 21 (UNB) – “The Myanmar government has betrayed us many times in the past. We don’t trust it anymore” – this is how Joynab Begum, one of the 3,450 Rohingyas set to be repatriated on Thursday, reacted after learning that she is on the list.
Distrust of the Myanmar government runs deep among the Rohingyas, who have been forced to flee their homeland in Rakhine State over the years and live in cramped camps in Bangladesh.
Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed a deal in 2017 to send back Rohingyas but there has been very little progress. A 2018 repatriation attempt was halted after protests by the refugees.
The Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Myanmar and Bangladesh to suspend the latest plan “until the returns are safe, voluntary, and dignified”.
“Myanmar has yet to address the systematic persecution and violence against the Rohingya. So, refugees have every reason to fear for their safety if they return,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director.
Some of the Rohingyas included in the repatriation list reportedly demonstrated in front of camp 26 on Tuesday afternoon but the camp’s in-charge M Khalid Hossain insisted that there had been no protests.
Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas. Most of them came here after Myanmar military launched a brutal offensive targeting the minority on August 25, 2017.
The refugees and rights groups have accused the army and its local collaborators of killing, rape, torture, arson and loot – charges Naypyidaw denies. The then top UN human rights official described Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingyas as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
State-sponsored discrimination against the Rohingyas stretches back decades and they are denied citizenship. The HRW says the remaining Rohingyas in Rakhine State are confined to camps and villages with no basic freedoms.
Refugees on the repatriation list have raised a few demands before they willingly return. Some of them told UNB that their demands include granting them citizenship, giving back their belongings and houses, releasing imprisoned Rohingyas, trials for killing and rape, and assurance of free movement and security.
The UNHCR interviewed Rohingyas on the final list at camps 24, 26 and 27 on Tuesday morning. Leaflets were also distributed in the camps on behalf of UNHCR and the government containing information about the repatriation.
M Zubair, a resident of A block of Shalbon camp told UNB that an UNHCR team came looking for family data card. “I didn’t know anything about repatriation but later learned that my name was on the list,” he said.
When asked if he was willing to return, the Buchidong resident said: “I’ll go back only when citizenship is granted, and security as well as rights to free movement are ensured. My land and belongings must be returned. Otherwise, we’ll surely be killed. In that case, it’ll be better to die here.”
Hasina Begum, who is also on the list, echoed Zubair.
The HRW said conditions in Rakhine State are not conducive for voluntary, safe, or dignified repatriation of Rohingya and accused Myanmar of doing nothing to improve conditions or address the root causes of the crisis.
Meanwhile, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said preparations for sending back the Rohingyas are complete. “We’re optimistic about Thursday’s repatriation programme,” he said.
Dhaka, Aug 21 (UNB) – Some 120,000 prepaid gas metres are likely to be added to the ongoing project of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd (Tas Gas T&D) to install those in the southern part of capital Dhaka.
According to official sources at the Titas Gas, a proposal now remains pending with the Japanese financing agency JICA for their final consent.
“We hope, JICA will give its clearance within a month in this regard,” a top official at Titas Gas told UNB.
Titas Gas T&D, entrusted with the responsibility of natural gas transmission and distribution across Dhaka city and adjoining areas, has taken a project to install 200,000 prepaid metres for the household consumers to check gas pilferage and its misuse.
As per Titas Gas official data, it has about 2.783 million consumers in its command area of which 2.764 are household consumers.
As the oldest and largest gas distribution company, Titas started installing the prepaid gas metres in September 2017 in some areas of Dhaka under a JICA-funded project to complete those within December 2018. But, Titas has so far been able to install about 160,000 units of metres.
“We hope the remaining 40,000 metres will be installed by December 2019,” said Faizur Rahman, project director of the Titas Gas’s prepaid metre scheme.
He admitted that JICA is considering financing installation of the 120,000 more prepaid metres under the same project with the extension of both funding and timeframe.
said there is a proposal from Titas Gas to repeat the order to existing Japanese contractor Toyokeiki Co Ltd under the same terms and condition and price of the metres.
Faizur Rahman said the new 120,000 units of prepaid metres will be installed in areas under Dhaka South City Corporation, mostly located in old part of the city.
Under the existing project, prepaid metres were installed in areas mainly under Dhaka North City Corporation which include Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Bashundhara, Badda, Tejgaon, Cantonment, Kafrul, Khilkhet, Uttara, and Mirpur.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the project involving Tk 712 crore setting the project completion period between January 2015 and December 2018.
Officials said when Titas moved for physical works, it found many of its service lines, laid underground from main gas lines in the streets to the consumers' houses, faulty. It also found the house lines, installed from gas connection raising points to house-ovens, leaked.
“Such problems have caused the delay in the project,” said a Titas official.
A top official at Titas Gas Prepaid Metre project said prepaid gas metres are very sensitive. “These won’t work if there’s any leak either in service line or in household connection. So, we’ve to suspend the installation of prepaid metres if any faulty connection is detected.”
Panchagarh, Aug 20 (UNB) – The sickening odour from an unplanned waste-dumping station has made the life of the residents of Jwalasi area in Panchagarh municipality unbearable.
Besides, commuters and pedestrians using the Panchagarh-Haribhasha and Panchagarh-Tunirhat roads are suffering badly due to the pollution as well as bad odour from the waste depot.
People are compelled to move through the roads by covering their noses and faces to get rid of the bad odour, locals pointed out, alleging that the municipality authorities have not yet taken any step to relocate it even after they were informed repeatedly.
Around 50,000 people of several unions, including Haribhasha, Chaklahat, Kamat Kajol Dighi, Omarkhana, Hafizabad and Kaliganj, in Sadar upazila, use the roads every day for their travel to and from the district town.
They are being affected by the pollution due to the bad odour coming out from the waste depot set up at Jwalasi of the municipality without considering its effect on the locals.
The environment of the locality is also severely polluted as carcasses of various animals, including cows and goats, are also being dumped into the waste depot, locals alleged.
They said Panchagarh municipality established the dumping station acquiring a one-acre pond.
Wastes are being dumped into the pond for years together and at present the pond has become filled with wastes, the locals said, alleging that the municipality has now started dumping the wastes on the road.
There are educational institutions, an amusement park, many business houses and industrial enterprises near the dumping station. Several thousand students have to endure sickening odour from it every day.
Thousands of people are in health hazards due to the pollution and even many have fallen sick. Many were seen vomiting on the road after failing to withstand the bad odour.
Manik Khan, a betel-leaf trader of Haribhasha union, said he comes to the district town almost every day for business purpose. “However, I have to endure the bad odour coming out from the waste depot.”
Abu Taher of Tunirjhat said he has to come to the town every day on job purpose. “I feel nausea while passing by the dumping station.”
Shah Alam Sarker, a teacher of Chaklahat KP High School, said he fell sick one day failing to bear the bad odour.
Sourav, a student, said the waste depot must be managed through modern environment-friendly system or else everyone would be affected by pollution.
Contacted, Panel Mayor of Panchagarh municipality Ashraful Alam said about 3 acres of land have been acquired at Jwalasi to set up an environment-friendly waste depot. “Tender has already been floated for construction of the waste-dumping station. Work will begin soon. Once it’s constructed, there’ll be no problem.”
Dhaka, Aug 19 (UNB) — Russell Domingo, the 44-year-old South African, has been named as the new head coach of Bangladesh national cricket team. As per the initial contract, he will be working with the Bangladesh team for two years. One day after after getting the job, Domingo (RD) granted his first wide-ranging interview with the Bangladeshi media to UNB Sports Writer Saif Hasnat (SH) on Sunday, over the phone from his home in South Africa:
SH: I want to start with the question— what prompted you to be the coach of Bangladesh? As we know you were working with the junior level cricketers in South Africa.
RD: Working with the South African A team, which is just under the national team, where we have quite a few national players as well, was really good. And look, Bangladesh is probably the side who have improved most in the last five years. They have improved their performances as well. So the time is very exciting for me (to take the role of the head coach).
SH: BCB parted ways with the coach (Steve Rhodes) who was in charge during Bangladesh’s World Cup assault due to not meeting the expectations in the mega event. It is always tough to take over a side at such a moment. How will you handle this challenge?
RD: Nowadays, every international coach works under pressure. But we have to keep thinking about developing the players for the future, which is very important. No matter where are you coaching, whether it is in England, in Australia or Pakistan, you will always have to take the pressure. It is unfortunate for coaching but this is the way things work.
SH: Right after taking the role, you have to face the new Test nation Afghanistan in a one-off Test and then Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in a tri-series T20. How are you viewing your first assignment as Bangladesh coach?
RD: I am flying to Bangladesh tomorrow (August 19) and we will have a practice camp for ten days. That will give more clarity about what we have in our team. But yes, it is quite a challenge to play against Afghanistan. We cannot take them for granted because they have some world-class players in their side. I am looking forward to that series.
SH: It is always tough to coach a team from the subcontinent because of the fans’ expectations. This creates a lot of pressure on the players. As a coach, it is really tough to keep the players calm and confident. What are your thoughts on this aspect?
RD: Look, when I became the coach of South Africa the success was very important for our team. The losses created pressure on us. No international coach prepares his team for losing. As a coach, I will try to keep the boys positive on their job, keep them focused on their game. At the same time, public support is very important for a team to succeed.
SH: You are appointed at a time when Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, one of the best cricketers that Bangladesh has ever produced, is close to retiring. He is a good leader. After his retirement, the dressing room will surely miss him. My question is, what kinds of steps will you take to create more leaders in the team?
RD: It is important to have a senior leadership group. It is not just the captain who will make the decisions. It is for sure that the captain will take most of the decisions but the leadership group is equally important. Once I get there I will try to understand how things are going there and plan accordingly on and off the field.
SH: Despite the fact you have never played international cricket, you have been doing very well as a coach. You were the coach of South Africa Under-19 team, after that you coached the national side, you coached the Warriors (domestic team)- what was the inspiration that guided you to become a coach at the early age of 25?
RD: I always love to work with people and make great relationships. As a coach, I get the chance to learn from other people and as a coach, I can understand what a player needs to go to the next level. I believe this has always prompted me to be a coach. I am hopeful this experience will help me to work with the Bangladesh team and the management.
SH: You are a specialist in uncovering new talents as you have worked for a long time to develop young players for the senior side. Apart from being the national head coach, will you look after the Bangladeshi junior sides as well?
RD: I will definitely spend some time with the junior level game development manager, and establish the connection with the best players who are coming through the system. I think it is always good to have an understanding of how the next team looks like. I will become more hands-on (about working with the junior players).
SH: The Dhaka Premier League is the most important domestic competition in Bangladesh. Do you plan to follow that closely to find out the new talents?
RD: Definitely, I will spend time at the grounds to see the new players playing in the biggest leagues in the country. I suppose the teams are under good coaches and support staff. I know the competition is great in the league.
SH: You will get some players in the Bangladesh side who have been playing for a long time in international cricket. They will surely be your strongest assets to drive Bangladesh cricket to the next level- what are your thoughts on them?
RD: Yes, there are some exciting guys who have been around for a long time now. I will have Mahmudullah (Riyad), Tamim Iqbal, Shakib (Al Hasan), Mushfiqur (Rahim) and more. They have been playing international cricket together for a long time. They are moving in the right direction. I have to make sure that they will continue improving themselves, and also that the team will go to the next level.
SH: It must be the most lovely question for you that your support staff in the dressing room will be your countrymen (Charl Langeveldt, Neil McKenzie). It will obviously help you to create a good support team. What are your thoughts on that?
RD: (Laughing..) Yes, I have worked with them for a long time in South Africa. So I am looking forward to working with them again in Bangladesh. They are great coaches. It will make our job easier. The important thing is we know what to expect from each other. I believe it will benefit the Bangladesh team.
SH: Daniel Vettori was appointed as the spin bowling coach before your appointment as the head coach. What kind of pairing are you expecting with the New Zealander?
RD: I’ve met him a couple of times previously. We will try to provide the best assistance to the players. If he spends much time with the younger players, they will get to learn many things from him.
SH: As per the initial contract, you will be working with BCB for two years which is also extendable. Where you do you expect Bangladesh team will go in these two years?
RD: I think we should definitely go to the top four-five. Especially in ODIs, we should be able to crack the top four, and it is a realistic goal for us. I know it is hard and we have to do a lot of work to achieve that. I am up to (the task of) guiding Bangladesh to the next level.
SH: My last question- after you were interviewed by BCB, they said you were excellent with your plan about developing Bangladesh cricket during the interview. What was it do you think that persuaded BCB to hand you the role?
RD: Look, I think I have much coaching experience in international cricket. I have coached the international side for seven years. Before that, I worked with the youth development system. I understand what it takes to be an international cricketer. I was lucky to share some of those ideas with BCB.
Dhaka, Aug 19 (UNB) – Norway has laid emphasis on working together to make sure that things are improving on Myanmar side and expediting the global efforts to ensure the “voluntary and safe” return of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State.
“We’ll have to work together to make sure that things are improving on Myanmar side. I’m working very closely with the Norwegian Embassy in Yangon,” Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken told UNB in an interview.
Ambassador Bleken, now in Oslo to attend the annual meeting of ambassadors on Monday, said she will have talks with the envoys of the neighbouring countries and Asean member states to find ways how they can do together in the region.
Responding to a question, she said the role Norway can play is to be part of the international community’s dialogue with Myanmar authorities, support the UN efforts and have dialogue with a number of other countries in the region that may have greater influence in the region.
Bangladesh and Myanmar are trying to go for the second attempt to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas this month with a tentative date -- August 22.
The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but it was halted amid unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for lack of a congenial environment in Rakhine.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen hoped that the repatriation of Rohingyas will begin this month on a small scale. “I’m very positive…I’m expecting that we can start this month.”
Asked whether the repatriation will begin on Thursday, a senior official involved in repatriation process told UNB that nothing is confirmed yet regarding date.
Talking about the likelihood of resuming repatriation, Ambassador Bleken echoed what the United Nations and many other countries have said before - repatriation must be “voluntary and safe.”
The envoy said she would love to see the repatriation takes place but reminded that there are three parties -- Myanmar, Bangladesh and Rohingyas themselves.
“Based on what I’ve seen and heard, they (Rohingya) really want to go back, but they don’t want to go back before they’re feeling safe,” she added.
On July 29, Bangladesh handed a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas from around 6,000 families to Myanmar for verification before their repatriation to Rakhine State.
With the latest list, Bangladesh has so far handed the names of around 55,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities and around 8,000 of them have been verified.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered the country since August 25, 2017. Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.
On January 16, 2018 Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
The “Physical Arrangement” stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.
ICOE Team to Visit Camp
The delegation of Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) which arrived here on Saturday, is likely to visit Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps on Monday (Aug 19), an official told UNB.
The delegation will also have meetings with government officials and the officials of UN agencies in Cox’s Bazar.
Former Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima is leading the delegation.