Dhaka, Apr 7 (UNB) - British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field has reiterated his government’s position not to comment on individual cases though Bangladesh seeks the UK support to bring back convicted BNP leader Tarique Rahman from London.
“It’s the policy of the UK government not to comment on individual immigration cases,” he said on Sunday when asked about the progress of sending back Tarique to Bangladesh.
While talking to a small group of journalists at a city hotel, Minister Field said there has been an application and it will be dealt with according to the UK law if a request is submitted.
He also mentioned that it is not the politicians to decide saying their courts and police are independent on this matter.
On March 27, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said the government wants to bring back all the convicted criminals from abroad and implement the court verdicts as per the law of the land.
“Efforts are going on,” he told reporters when asked about the progress over bringing back convicted BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman from the UK and Noor Chowdhury, one of Bangabandhu’s convicted killers, from Canada.
Tarique Rahman has been living in London for the last 10 years.
The British Minister also said the strength for the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and the UK is fair and many eyes look upon it to be further strengthened.
“There’re increasing role in trade and commerce of both the countries. The bubble also I see is in education which can be an important connection between our two countries,” he said.
The British Minister of State said he is very much hopeful to see an opening of education cooperation between the two countries.
Field arrived in Dhaka on Friday evening on a two-day visit to discuss how the UK can support and develop the higher education sector in Bangladesh.
Dhaka, Apr 7 (UNB) - As a close friend of Bangladesh, the United Kingdom (UK) wants to see a confident Bangladesh with “strong, transparent and accountable” democratic institutions, said a visiting British Minister here on Sunday.
"We want to see a lively debate, a vibrant civil society, and competitive elections," said British Minister of State for the Asia and the Pacific Mark Field while delivering keynote address at a seminar in a city hotel.
PM’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam spoke as the chief guest while PM’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman as the guest of honour at the seminar.
Policy Research Institute (PRI) of Bangladesh organised the seminar titled ‘Governance and Development- the Way Forward for Bangladesh’ moderated by PRI Executive Director Dr Ahsan H Mansur.
The UK Minister said they want to see this flourishing democratic landscape carefully scrutinised and held to account by a free and vibrant media.
"That would be a wonderful vision for Bangladesh in its second half century, and it would also be the best way for it to realise its undoubted potential," said the British Minister of State adding that the UK stands ready to help Bangladesh achieve that potential, in whatever way they can.
Minister Field said the bonds of history and kinship between the two countries make the relationship particularly strong and deep.
"As a longstanding friend, the UK welcomes the great strides that Bangladesh has made over the last half century, and recognises the great potential it has to achieve still more in the next," said Field who is in Dhaka for the third time. He will leave here for London on Monday.
The British Minister mentioned that Bangladesh is looking forward to its 50th anniversary in two years’ time, and to celebrating many achievements, from bringing over 50 million people out of extreme poverty since 1990, to increasing the life expectancy and reducing infant mortality, to boosting economy to one of the fastest growing in the world.
“We’ll be celebrating with you, remembering the part our country played in your liberation struggle,” he said adding that he himself remembers the momentous days of the “Stop Genocide, Recognise Bangladesh” rally in Trafalagar Square; George Harrison’s benefit concert in New York; and reports in the British papers about Bangabandhu’s return via London to a newly independent Bangladesh.
He said Bangladesh, today, can be proud of the huge progress it has made against the Sustainable Development Goals.
Highlighting elections and democracy, Field said that means holding elections that are fair, and that present voters with a free choice. “Again, as a friend of Bangladesh it gives me no pleasure to say this, but I fear the parliamentary elections which took place here in December did not meet this standard – as I said at the time.”
He, at the time, also pressed for a full, credible and transparent resolution of all complaints.
“I think we all recognise that the notion of choice is crucial in any healthy democracy. Without it, there’s a risk that voters might seek other ways of achieving the changes they want,” Field said.
Ultimately, he said, that could pose a much greater threat to stability than allowing them to express their views through democratic channels.
“That’s why it’s so important to have a political opposition in place, one that’s able and willing to hold the government to account and offer an alternate view,” said the British Minister.
He said it is so vital to allow space for a vibrant civil society, through which people – and especially young people – can channel their energies, and indeed their frustrations, within the law. “That means upholding Bangladesh’s fine tradition of allowing people to voice dissent and express themselves freely.”
The British Minister said allowing the media to do its job of holding the powerful to account, which as they all know is so crucial in upholding the transparency and credibility of institutions, and bearing down on corruption.
“This really matters, because the strength and accountability of our institutions, and the confidence that they inspire in investors, are also crucial to our democracies – and to our economies,” he added.
Highlighting the shared future of the two countries, Minister Field said he is confident that the two countries can achieve the ambitions, if they stay true to democratic values.
“And as a friend of Bangladesh I profoundly hope that, as Bangladesh graduates to middle-income status, it’ll remain true to its democratic values,” he said.
The British Minister said there are few places in the world where those links are stronger than here in South Asia, thanks to the thousands of personal connections.
“There’re now some 600,000 British citizens of Bangladeshi heritage, many of them in my own constituency in London. We greatly value their contributions to all walks of British life,” he said.
About education sector cooperation, Field said the UK stands ready to help invest in young people which is another crucial element in the future success of this country.
“Every time I come here, I’m struck by the energy and talent of the people. I would very much like more of them to have the opportunity to benefit from the UK’s world class educational institutions,” he said.
He said it will be a win-win situation for Bangladesh – good for Bangladeshi talented young people, and good for the country.
HT Imam said he took the British Minister’s comment on elections as friendly comment.
He said the current government maintains strong relations with the British parliament and both the conservative and liberal parties.
The Adviser also said their major challenge is to provide good governance and also maintain steady and speedy growth for development. "We have twin goals.”
He said good governance is not just maintain law and order, its also controlling the militants and also adhering the policy of zero tolerance against militancy and drugs.
Dr Mashiur Rahman said Bangladesh faces a choice between the two - a democratic secular government and political system and a Sharia-based Jihadi force. “We got the better,” he said.
Dhaka, Apr 6 (UNB) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged all to show the world that they are ready to bridge the gap in health coverage worldwide and deliver health for all.
“Health is a human right. Political commitment and partnerships will be crucial in bringing it to life,” said the Secretary-General spotlighting importance of universal health coverage to achieving development targets in a message marking the World Health Day that falls on April 7.
He said this World Health Day focuses on universal health coverage and the crucial role primary health care plays in making such coverage a reality.
Half the world’s population is still unable to obtain the essential health services they need, Guterres said adding that universal health coverage is about changing this and ensuring equitable access to health services for all, without people experiencing financial hardship as a result.
“This is central to building healthy societies and economies and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the UN chief.
He said it is not just about improving health services but it is about policies and action across many sectors.
“We need to address the broader determinants of health, including social, economic and environmental factors,” he said.
The UN chief said they must invest in people and they need highly trained and skilled health workers who can educate and advocate for their patients.
“We need empowered individuals who know how to take care of their health and that of their families. And we need communities to have access to health care when and where they need it. We must also highlight the importance of mental health, so often stigmatised and forgotten.”
Guterres said primary healthcare is the key to achieving these goals and universal health coverage. “Last year’s Astana Declaration has paved the way for the world to prioritize the investments we need. Now it’s time to implement the commitments made.”
Dhaka, Apr 6 (UNB) - Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammed Belal, in his capacity as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), has urged governments as well as philanthropic organisations and individuals to contribute to the trust fund at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
He made the appeal to help heal the wounds and repair the harm suffered by the victims of most heinous crimes known to humanity: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression in the Asia-Pacific regional meeting held recently at the Embassy of Bangladesh in The Hague, the Netherlands.
States Parties of the ICC as well as other States from the Asia-Pacific Region attended the meeting, said a press release on Saturday.
Thanking the Asia-Pacific States Parties for supporting him in the election at the Board of Directors of the TFV to represent Asia-Pacific States, Ambassador Belal expected more engagements from the Asia-Pacific States with the Trust Fund for the sole cause of the victims to help alleviate their sufferings by setting them on a path of healing and recovery within their families and communities.
Pieter de Baan, TFV Executive Director briefed the participants about the activities of the Trust Fund for implementing the reparations orders of the Court as well as assistance programmes targeted for the victims of atrocity crimes in the situation countries under different assistance programmes, including physical and psychological rehabilitation and material support to victims, their families as well as affected communities.
Baan reminded the uniqueness of the ICC’s reparations scheme, as for the first time in the history of international criminal justice, victims can seek reparations for harm suffered.
For the first time it has been recognised that justice is not only about punishing perpetrators, but also restoring dignity to victims of the gravest crimes.
Felipe Michelini, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims, also spoke on the occasion.
Elaborating the need for predictable resources for undertaking comprehensive programmes for the victims’ psychological healing and meaningful living, Felipe Michelini also urged States, whether Party of the ICC or not, to actively consider supporting the Trust Fund for Victims as members of one humanity.
Ambassadors and diplomats from Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, among others, participated in the event.
Dhaka, Apr 6 (UNB) - UK universities want to get into Bangladesh’s higher education market to help the country develop its human capital, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Dickson has said.
“Bangladesh’s human capital is probably its strongest asset … It has an enormous potential. But the key to unlocking that potential and making the most of it is education,” he said while delivering keynote speech at Cosmos Dialogue at a city hotel on Thursday.
He hoped that young Bangladeshis will benefit from the world-class education Britain can offer in this country.
It will be a real contribution to the development of human capital in the South Asian country, he observed.
“In an increasing globalised and competitive world, the key to education is making sure that young Bangladeshis have the ability to draw on the very best higher education available,” the High Commissioner said.
Dickson noted that they have made it clear to the government that it will be possible to open up Bangladeshi higher education market in a way that will enable the British universities to operate here.
“They (UK universities) are banging on the door but the door is closed. We’d like that door to be opened,” he said on Thursday at ‘Bangladesh-UK Relations: Prognosis for the Future’ symposium, the second edition of Cosmos’ Ambassador Lecture Series.
At the programme, Mohammadi Group Managing Director Rubana Huq urged the UK to extend cooperation to enhance the quality of Bangladesh’s primary education.
“That’s key for us,” she said, noting how Estonia is now a star performer only because of math and coding are taken up from grade one.
Huq said reskilling is something the British government can help Bangladesh by focusing on its primary education.
Dickson agreed that tertiary education is crucial observing that there are 44 million children in school.
AK Khan Foundation Trustee Secretary Salahuddin Kasem Khan said Bangladesh needs to invest in tertiary education.
He said the country’s education quality has dropped and offshore campuses of leading British universities can help it improve.
The High Commissioner said there are British universities who are very interested in setting up offshore campuses here. “But at the moment, they aren’t allowed to do that.”
Letting UK universities in will benefit both the universities and young Bangladeshis, he observed.
He said the British Council, operating here since 1951, has been making an exceptional contribution to education, English language teaching and culture in Bangladesh.
‘Maximum use of Commonwealth platform’
Former Ambassador Prof Selina Mohsin pointed out little funding has turned the once vibrant Commonwealth secretariat small.
“I don’t know why the Commonwealth, which is loved by the British Queen, has become such a thin organisation. The British government should prioritise to revamp it,” she said.
Prof Selina said it can play a strong role in improving Bangladesh’s education quality to meet its requirement of the labour market by providing more scholarships for tertiary and secondary students and sending teachers here.
Lt Gen (retd) ATM Zahirul Alam suggested the UK to increase its support in technical, vocational and primary education to contribute to Bangladesh’s development.
He recommended making the Commonwealth and the UK relationship more relevant to provide facilities to the young generation. “You can provide more scholarships for undergraduate students that will help enhance our education quality,” he said.
High Commissioner Dickson said the UK is trying to revive the institution and make it relevant to young people, adding that they are doing everything they can in Bangladesh to try and open it up to the new audience.
“We recognise that Britain and Bangladesh are equal partners in this enterprise and that it needs to be driven from both sides,” he said.
“It’s not a unique responsibility for the UK. It’s for everybody to make the maximum use of this wonderful platform that the Commonwealth provides.”