Giving an impression that one cannot proceed with business as usual, foreign affairs experts on Thursday felt the importance of engaging more deeply with Myanmar’s friends -- China, Japan, India and Russia -- taking advantage of the top UN court’s ruling on Myanmar without losing focus on the repatriation issue.
Terming it a huge victory for all the genocide victims, including Rohingyas, the experts emphasised that Myanmar’s friends should understand the situation and put more pressure on Myanmar to have a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis.
“I urge the international community to keep the credible evidence of ongoing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide front of mind in its relations with Myanmar. In the face of this, one cannot proceed with business as usual,” said Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar on Thursday before leaving Dhaka.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said Bangladesh will definitely enhance its engagement with Russia, China, India and Japan and hoped that they will help find a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis using their leverage on Myanmar.
He said the full implementation of the ICJ ruling will help create a conducive environment for the repatriation of Rohingyas and guarantee their safety and security in the Rakhine State.
“We believe the ICJ ruling on provisional measures, as sought by The Gambia, will generate confidence among Rohingyas living at camps in Bangladesh and encourage them to return to their homeland in Myanmar,” said the Foreign Secretary terming the ruling a victory for all the victims of genocide.
He said Bangladesh will remain engaged with Myanmar in its efforts to expedite a “safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation” of Rohingyas back to their homeland in the Northern Rakhine State with active engagement of the international community.
The Foreign Secretary said this ruling will automatically go to the Security Council, and the Security Council will have the responsibility to act.
“Lobbying with our friends will have to be redoubled so that Myanmar feels the pinch that it’s not only under legal obligation, but there’s a huge international outcry,” Masud Momen said.
Professor of International Relations and Director, Centre for Genocide Studies, Dhaka University Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed said it is a big victory for Rohingyas and for the entire humanity; and there has to be an all-out effort to further internationalise the issue.
Addressing a panel discussion at a city hotel on ‘ICJ Ruling on the Provisional Measures on Rohingya Genocide’ on Thursday night, Prof Imtiaz suggested taking the issue to the friends of Myanmar -- China, Japan and India.
He laid emphasis on engaging with the friends of Myanmar more deeply in multiple ways so that they also understand and put pressure on Myanmar.
Prof Imtiaz said it is also important for them to make great efforts to ensure greater participation of Rohingyas, not just for Rohingyas at the camps but throughout the world.
Former Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the victory goes to the collective humanity and recognition of Rohingya and appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership to take up the accountability issue on global stage.
Like Bangladesh, he said, other countries will have to revisit their foreign policy.
Head of Development Assistance, High Commission of Canada Phedra Moon Morris said this is a victory of the rule of law.
She laid emphasis on taking active measures to halt the rights abuses and appreciated Bangladesh for demonstrating the courage.
UN human rights expert Lee said as grave allegations of international crimes remain to be effectively addressed by the authorities in Myanmar.
“I’ve lost my optimism -- how could I be optimistic with the ongoing credible allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide having been committed in Myanmar, and with justice and accountability still not yet within reach?,” she said while wrapping up her Thailand and Bangladesh.
“But I still hold out hope that the promised democratic transition will proceed, as it is not too late for the government to change the course it is currently set to. The Myanmar government must face up to its responsibilities, obligations and duties.”
Lee’s mandate finishes this year. She took up her mandate in 2014, when Myanmar’s burgeoning democratic transition, promising reforms and encouraging progress were a source of “great optimism”. She has been barred from entering the country since December 2017.
“Refugees I spoke to were firm about their deep desire to return home. However, I was informed of ongoing violence, continuing restrictions on movement, forced imposition of National Verification Cards, and people being killed and injured by landmines in northern Rakhine. Conditions remain unsuitable for their return.
In a sweeping legal victory for members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the United Nations' top court on Thursday ordered Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya people.
The court's president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the International Court of Justice "is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable."
The court added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding "and creates international legal obligations" on Myanmar.
At the end of an hour-long sitting in the court's wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice, judges also ordered Myanmar to report to them in four months on what measures the country has taken to comply with the order and then to report every six months as the case moves slowly through the world court.
Rights activists immediately welcomed the unanimous decision.
Campaigning has peaked with just over a week left for the elections to two Dhaka city corporations as candidates are doing everything to woo voters in the final days.
One of the most popular canvassing tools is loudspeakers that are playing parodied songs praising the candidates in desperate bids to reach out to voters.
But continuous canvassing and the use of loudspeakers have turned out to be a nuisance for residents of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
One of the key issues is sound pollution.
According to City Corporation (Election Code of Conduct) Rules 2016, no candidate can use loudspeakers to campaign before 2pm and after 8pm.
“The non-stop high pitched sound from canvassing convoys, vans and rickshaws keeps coming day and night. At times, it keeps on buzzing even after 10pm … this has been causing discomfort to everyone in the locality,” Zinat Raihana, a housewife in Rampura, told UNB.
She said the loud noise generated by campaigners is causing more trouble to the students and sick elders.
Dr Shahriar Hossain, Director General of Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) said these are direct violations of the electoral code of conduct.
“All the candidates are violating the rules set by Election Commission. They can’t use hydraulic horns or showdown in motorcades for campaigning … This is a sad thing because those who are violating the rules and polluting environments will become the key stakeholders in running the city,” he told UNB.
Concern Over Laminated Posters
Another byproduct of the DSCC and DNCC electioneering is the plethora of laminated posters strewn across the capital. According to data provided by the mayoral and councilor candidates, nearly five million posters were printed in total.
They have mostly been hung across the roads while the loose ones litter the streets.
The High Court banned the use of laminated posters on Wednesday but the sheer number of posters published is still a looming threat to the environment.
Dr Shahriar said the use of laminated posters, which use a type of plastic, will subsequently affect the environment. He noted that the court had also directed removing the posters after the polls.
“What’ll actually happen to these lots? Where will they end up? They’ll obviously be dumped in water-bodies which will clog the city drainage system,” he told UNB.
He also mentioned about the hazards from the excessive use of laminated posters which will eventually cause waterlogging turn into breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
He told UNB that the careless acts in electioneering by the candidates raise concern as they will be running the city eventually.
Visiting various spots across the city, it was observed that the situation was mostly the same with laminated posters sprawling at every corner while loudspeakers were booming everywhere preaching about respective party candidates.
Read Also: DNCC, DSCC Polls: HC bans laminated posters
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) General Secretary MA Matin told UNB although the candidates and their supporters can justify their acts in the name of election festivity, it could have been done otherwise.
“Politicians don’t prioritise environment. They violate the environment act for electioneering,” Matin said, praising the High Court for banning the use of laminated posters but expressed skepticism about its proper implementation.
BAPA General Secretary mentioned that the organisation will start a campaign soon to reach politicians and make them aware of the environment.
Matin said the politicians have set a bad trend which might continue in future polls. “You cannot campaign in ways that can hamper the environment, that can clog drainage, that cause public disturbance,” he said.
Dr Shahriar agreed.
“We have created a situation that could have been avoided easily had all the campaigners acted sensibly,” he said.
The first phase of the 'Capital Dredging on 53 Important Inland Waterways’ project is unlikely to end by the deadline with officials blaming a resistance from locals, disputes over demarcation, leasing out of sand fields as well as inadequate space for dumping dredged materials for the delay.
Sources at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the first phase of the project, being implemented for 24 important inland rivers at a cost of Tk 1923 crore, began in July 2012 and it is scheduled to end by 2021.
But, it might need another year to complete the work as 70 percent work has so far been completed, BIWTA officials said.
They, however, said the project cost might be reduced instead of any rise even though the time is extended.
The main object of the project is to develop the navigability of dead and dying inland waterways of 53 rivers to keep those navigable round the year for smooth and safe plying of cargo and passenger vessels.
Under the first phase of the project, capital dredging is carried out on 2,386 kms of waterways under 24 river routes while the 2nd phase covering the remaining important river routes will start on completion of the first one, said BIWTA officials.
Many rivers have been facing the navigability problem. Many of those have lost their capacity of containing water because of heavy siltation and construction of illegal structures on riverbeds.
Asked about the delay in the work, Saidur Rahman, additional chief engineer (dredging) of BIWTA, said they are facing various problems in implementing the project. “Reluctance of the local administration to extend cooperation, disputes over demarcation, leasing out of sand fields and shortage of space for dumping dredged materials are the main reasons behind the delay,” he said.
Facing all the obstacles, around 1,180 kms of waterways have already been restored spending Tk 1,057 crore in the last seven and half years, he added.
“We’ve already completed 70 percent work on the 1st phase project. The project might need to be extended by one more year but it won’t increase the cost. Rather, the project might be implemented with a reduced cost,” said Saidur.
The rivers under the 1st phase of the project are Mongla Ghashiakhali Channel (MG Channel), Khogdon, Laukathi, Bhola Nala, Kirtankhola, Titas, Surma, Baulai, Natun Nadi, Rakti, Raksha Nala, Mogra, Kangsha, Bhogai-Kangsha, Buri, Ichamati, Karnatali, Palrodi, Dhaleswari, Kaliganga, Madhumati, Bhairab, Atrai, Dudhkumar, Old Brahmaputra and Arial Kha.
Replying to a query, the BIWTA official said 570.44 lakh cubic metres of silt have already been removed under the first phase project. Of them, 474.74 lakh cubic metres were removed by private dredgers while 70.70 lakh cubic metres by BIWTA’s own dredgers and 25 lakh cubic metres with the help of excavators.
A total of 1,175 kms of waterways have already been made navigable under the project, he said.
Though the MG Channel had become totally inoperative in 2011, it was opened for operation in 2015 on completion of dredging, the BIWTA additional chief engineer said, adding that vessels of 8–14 feet draft are frequently operating in the channel.
Sources at the BIWTA said about 220 colleges, schools and madrasas, dwelling units for the poor and a stadium have been built in Sunamganj, Cumilla, Netrakona and Mymensingh districts with the dredged materials.
The stadium was built on 12 acres of government land by filling the land with dredged materials in Phulpur upazila in Mymensingh district.
Over 2,000 families have benefited from the project as they got the height of their houses increased. “This will protect the dwellings from flood water,” Saidur said, adding that the production of crops, ducks and fish as well as trading on waterways will get a boost on completion of the dredging work.
A newborn girl, who was found to be alive after being pronounced dead by doctors, has finally died after 33 hours.
The baby girl who was named Jannatul after the birth breathed her last around 1:30pm on Tuesday.
As the death news spread around, villagers rushed to her house to have a last glimpse of the newborn.
Locals blamed negligence on the part of doctors and nurses of private clinic ‘Uposhom Nursing Home’ for the newborn’s death.
Zinia Khatun, wife of grocery shop owner Abdul Halim of Hajrabati village in Sadar upazila, was taken to the clinic in the district town on Sunday after she went into labour.
Though doctors suggested a cesarean section, she gave birth to the baby girl early Monday normally.
However, nurses at the clinic informed Zinia’s family that she had a stillbirth.
When the family members were taking preparations for bringing the newborn home for burial, Zinia wanted to see her daughter for one last time.
At this point, a nurse of the clinic, pressing the newborn’s throat, said, “See, she is dead.”
However, the mother was adamant to take the child on her lap. And to her surprise, the girl started moving on her lap.
As the family members started screaming, nurses gave the newborn oxygen support and suggested that she be taken to Sadar Hospital for better treatment.
Later, they took her to the district hospital on Monday morning.
Dr Asadur Rahman Malik Khokon, a pediatrician at the Sadar Hospital, said the newborn was born prematurely with pneumonia.
He said they kept her in an incubator. “We tried our best but her condition was not improving. So, we suggested that her family take her to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.”
However, the family members took her home on Tuesday noon instead of the hospital due to financial constraints, said Jannatul’s uncle Barkat Ali. “When we were trying to manage money for the treatment, Jannatul breathed her last on her mother’s lap around 1:30pm,” he said.
Zinia blamed the negligence of doctors and nurses of the private clinic for the death of her daughter.
She also alleged that Jannatul was left on the floor after she was pronounced dead.
A school built with a personal initiative at remote Raghurampur village in Jhikargachha upazila is doing a wonderful job as it is working to groom children with special needs with education and improve the quality of their lives.
Abdul Alim and his siblings established ‘Babar Ali Sarder School’ for children with disability and autism after their father’s name with only 10 students in 2004.
The school, which now has about 400 students, has drawn the attention of many for its contributions towards helping special children to grow well but failed to pursue the authorities to provide it some support or enlist it under Monthly Pay Order (MPO).
Talking to UNB, school managing committee president Abdul Alim said a tin-roofed school-house was set up in 2004 on 33 decimals of land owned by his wife.
He started collecting children with special needs growing in their families amid negligence from the upazila and nearby areas.
“In its journey, the school has passed a long way. Now, 18 teachers are providing voluntary services for the mental and physical development of the children alongside conducting regular academic activities in nine rooms of a one-storey building,” Alim said.
He also said the school is providing books, papers and snacks to the children.
Towhiduzzaman, headmaster of the school, told UNB that these children are learning sports and getting involved in cultural activities alongside general education at the school.
“The exciting thing is that two of our students joined Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi 2019 and won medals,” he said.
Shahida Khatun, born without legs, completed her Honors and Master’s degrees from Jashore Michael Madhusudhan College, and later joined the institution as its teacher.
“I myself is a handicapped and underprivileged person. I feel proud of being a teacher here. What could be better than this?” Shahida said, adding, “If the government nationalises the school, teachers like me with physical disability would be able to live a better life.”
Sabina Yasmin, mother of a child with autism, said: “My daughter used to sit alone at home all day long, but now she remains engaged in painting and joins sports and cultural activities. There’s no alternative to such school for grooming special children with education.”
Md Wahiduzzaman, upazila social welfare officer, said it is really tough to establish such a school for children with special needs but this school is doing a very good job.
“We’ve visited the school and saw its activities, he said adding, “We’ll soon send a report to the authorities concerned for bringing it under MPO facility.”