Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday hoped that the relations between Bangladesh and the United States would reach a new height under President Joe Biden.
"Recently, a new administration has taken over in the US and I hope that under the new administration, our relationship with the USA will reach a new height," he said at the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) Frontline Journalism Award presentation ceremony where he attended as chief guest.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller and AmCham President Syed Ershad Ahmed, among others, spoke.
Dr Momen said the AmCham is a prominent trade body to promote economic cooperation between the US and Bangladesh.
He said AmCham can play substantial role for boosting export of Bangladesh to USA and attract Foreign Direct Investment and incubation of technology.
"I must reiterate that the developmental vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the welfare view of the new administration in the US closely match lockstep," said the Foreign Minister adding that they have already got few indications.
The new Administration rejoined the Paris Agreement and currently thinking of exploring whether genocide took place in Myanmar.
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
"We welcome the new administration and thank them for their initiatives," he said.
During the last 12 years, Bangladesh achieved tremendous success in its efforts to develop its economy and to provide improved living standard to its people, said the Foreign Minister.
"In all social indicators, its achievement is significant. While it increased its GDP growth rate nearly 7% during the decade, it also reduced its poverty by more than half," he said.
"In addition, our life span has increased to nearly 74 years, we increased our electricity to reach every household, and achieve self-sufficiency in food production."
Dr Momen said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken a vow to provide accommodation and houses to all homeless people of the country. He noted that the government plans to provide nearly 900,000 houses to the homeless in this Mujib Barsho.
Bangladesh needs new narrative
He said the government has taken many notable decisions and achieved many successes and hoped that friends from the media and press will explore those remarkable works of the government and create a narrative so that they all could be proud of.
"We’re no longer a bottomless basket but a land of opportunity, a vibrant economy," he said.
But unfortunately, Dr Momen said, till today if any one opens up Google search he or she would be surprised to notice new narrative has not reached the global audience.
"The common perception is - it’s a land prone to natural disasters, Bangladesh migrants are drowning in the sea or caught red handed by coastal guards in a foreign country. Although there’s political stability, the international media selectively reports political crisis and human rights violations, rapes, etc," he said.
As per Odikar, in 2019 and 2020 only 18 and 17 were killed extra judicially in Bangladesh. But the US saw 996 and 1,004 deaths in the last two years respectively at the hands of police without due process of law, Dr Momen said.
There were around 9,000 rapes in Bangladesh last year compared to 84,767 in USA according to a report title “Rape Statistics by country 2020” published by world population review.com.
"But if you do a Google search, Bangladesh gets the headlines. Although Bangladesh in now using mechanisation, our narrative shows poor farmers carrying plows, directing the bulls, practicing primitive agriculture. While there are 4 million women working in green factories, our narrative generally depicts poor women with children involved in brick-breaking in unhealthy environment," the foreign minister said.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said they do not want to see any more the movement like “Black life Matters” or uprooting of 1.1 million Rohingyas due to the spread of venom of hatred and intolerance as Bangladesh promotes the culture of peace.
"In this world of violence and terror that emanate from a mindset of intolerance, ignorance and disrespect towards others, we hope to promote the culture of peace,” he said.
The Foreign Minister said promoting the culture of peace will help create a mindset of respect and tolerance towards others irrespective of religion, ethnicity, race and colour for a sustainable world of peace and stability across nations.
He was addressing the presentation ceremony of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) Frontline Journalism Award.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller and AmCham President Syed Ershad Ahmed, among others, spoke at the programme.
Dr Momen thanked AmCham for organising the event to recognise and honour the gallant journalists working as the front liners in the current Covid-19 pandemic.
"I hope this award will encourage journalists to maintain high moral value and publish news for the sake of people and the country," he said.
Dr Momen conveyed his deepest condolence at the death of Larry King, an icon in journalism whom he used to know.
"We travelled together a few times when I was working for Mike Dukakis, Democratic President Candidate in 1988. We normally sat next to each other’s and once he is on the flight, he would start typing. When I asked him to do it in his hotel room in comfort, he said, when he is on the ground he collects information and once he is on the flight he jolt downs important issues/ comments before he forgets," Dr Momen said, adding that information is key to journalism.
He said journalism needs to be as transparent as possible so that the audience can make their own assessment and inferences of the information. "Reporting must not be loaded with subjective analyses."
He said the journalist’s loyalty is a two-fold one – the discovery of facts and the welfare of the masses irrespective of cast, creed, religion, ethnicity, and nationality.
"It’s the people for whom the news and information are published, and the credibility towards people builds a broad and loyal audience," Dr Momen said.
He said journalists should also attempt to fairly represent varied viewpoints and interests in society and to place them in context rather than highlight only the conflicting peripheries of debate. "Convergence of divergent views and viewpoints onto a syncretic milieu could be a worthy target to be fulfilled."
In an age of post-fact truth and sensationalising news and even analytics, Dr Momen said journalism presents both an opportunity and a challenge.
He said Bangladesh is celebrating the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and this year it will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of independence.
"These two occasions are our greatest national events so far and the government has taken many initiatives to commemorate the events," Dr Momen said.
Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki on Sunday hoped that the people-to-people exchange between Bangladesh and Japan will increase in parallel to economic partnership.
"I hope to make the most of anniversary years of 2021, 50th anniversary of independence of Bangladesh, as well as 2022, 50th anniversary of Japan-Bangladesh relations, to elevate our partnership to a new height," he said.
He said over the past decade, partnership between Bangladesh and Japan progressed well and added its depth.
"Looking into the next 50 years, my strong wish is to see an increasing number of capable and promising students of Bangladesh apply for the opportunity to study in Japan to be the bridges between our two countries in the future," he said.
The Ambassador made the remarks while addressing a virtual seminar titled "Study in Japan Seminar 2021”.
The Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh and Department of Japanese Studies, University of Dhaka jointly organised the seminar.
The seminar provided information on pursuing higher education in Japan, the Japanese government scholarship (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; MEXT Scholarship), study and life in Japan as well as its advantages.
More than 2,000 people, including students and faculty members of Dhaka University, participated in this online seminar live, said the Japanese Ambassador in Dhaka.
Two speakers who completed their degrees in Japan on this MEXT scholarship programme shared their study experiences and daily lives as foreign students in Japan.
Dr Abdullah-AL-Mamun, Chairman of Department of Japanese Studies said they see continuous growth in FDI flow from Japan to Bangladesh and these people really need skilled human resources.
"Students who have Japanese degrees or those who go to Japan for studying will have great opportunity to work for companies coming to Bangladesh from Japan with investment. This investment will contribute to our overall economic development," he said.
Over five decades, Japan has been providing government scholarships to more than 4,300 Bangladeshis.
In 2020 alone, more than 130 Bangladeshi students newly received this government-funded scholarship and are now studying in Japan in various academic fields.
The scholarship application opens twice a year in mid-April (Embassy recommendation) and October (University recommendation).
Bangladesh High Commissioner in New Delhi Muhammad Imran on Sunday accorded a reception to a 122-member tri-service contingent from Bangladesh which will participate in India’s Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26.
Muhammad Imran spoke at the reception and described the participation of Bangladesh as demonstration of strong partnership and friendship between the two countries.
"It's a matter of pride," said the High Commissioner mentioning the importance of the year 2021 which sees celebrations of birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 50 years of Bangladesh's Independence and 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The contingent is being led by Col Md Mohtasim Haider Chowdhury.
Defence Adviser Brig Gen Abul Kalam Azad and the team leader also spoke at the programme.
A contingent of 122 proud soldiers of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, earlier reached India in a specially sent IAF C-17 aircraft.
The Bangladesh Armed Forces contingent comprises soldiers of the Bangladesh Army, members Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Air Force.
This is only the third time in India’s history that any foreign military contingent has been invited to participate in this National Parade at Rajpath in Central Delhi.
It is especially significant as the year 2021 marks 50 years of the Liberation War, through which Bangladesh emerged as a vibrant nation, free from the yoke of tyranny and oppression, said the High Commissioner.
The Forces which fought and bled together 50 years ago will now proudly march down the Rajpath.
The Bangladesh contingent will carry forward the legacy of the brave freedom fighters who fought for freedom, justice and their people.
A majority of soldiers in Bangladesh contingent come from the most distinguished units of the Bangladesh Army, comprising of 1,2,3,4,8,9,10 & 11 East Bengal Regiments and 1,2 and 3 Field Artillery Regiments, who have the distinct honour of fighting and winning the 1971 Liberation War, according to Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
The Parade will be broadcast live, worldwide, on January 26.
Bangladesh has sought an effective and proactive support from the international community to find a solution to Rohingya crisis apart from management of huge displacement.
“We need effective and proactive support from the international community to manage this huge displacement,” said Foreign Minister DR AK Abdul Momen.
He said the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) provides a voluntary, non-binding and government-led process to discuss all possible solutions.
The Foreign Minister said they have the firsthand experience as Bangladesh is hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral home and a good number of Bangladesh population is regularly displaced due to erratic climate changes every year.
Dr Momen made the remarks during his intervention at the ongoing 13th GFMD Summit - Future of Human Mobility: Innovative Partnerships for Sustainable Development - being held virtually from January 18-26.
He thanked the current chair UAE for its excellent leadership in organising the first-ever virtual GFMD Summit amidst the covid-19 pandemic successfully.
Dr Momen said migration now is a defining issue of their time, a natural global demographic phenomenon and no country can deal with it alone.
“Shared responsibility, cooperation and inclusiveness are critical in addressing challenges to effective migration governance,” he said.
The Foreign Minister said they should take all measures keeping the ultimate interest of the migrants at the centre of all of their activities.
“Of late, we see that migration and displacements are increasingly taking place for reasons beyond the capacity of the migrants like climate change, sudden natural disasters and forced displacement,” he observed.
Dr Momen said the responsibility to decide the future of GFMD lies with them, the participating member states.
“We need to reaffirm our ownership to the GFMD at all levels as it has given us two distinct opportunities. First, it’s outside of UN’s strict discipline and politics and second, it’s the only forum where States can informally interact with civil societies and the private sector,” he said.
During Covid-19, the Foreign Minister said, they have witnessed that the migrant workers are the most vulnerable.
To address the gaps to protect migrants during both normal and crisis times, he said, GFMD should promote more right-based approach.
“We need to ensure migrants’ rights from the early stage of ethical recruitment to wage, health, job protection and ultimate safe return. For that to happen, international community and all local, regional and global stakeholders should play key role through platforms like GFMD,” said the Foreign Minister.
He said the GFMD can also substantially contribute towards the achievement of SDGs as the issue of migration is strongly interlinked with other vital issues.
“Moreover, I firmly believe that GFMD can play a crucial role in effective implementation of the Global Compact on Migration which is landmark initiative for migrants’ protection,” he said.
Dr Momen said they support IOM’s interim support proposal to provide only the essential services to the Chair-in-Office, the Troika, the Steering Group, and the GFMD Working Groups until a suitable alternative is found.