In a remarkable display of medical cooperation and humanitarianism, Bangladesh and Bhutan are forging a deeper bond through a unique healthcare initiative. The first country to officially recognize Bangladesh, Bhutan has long enjoyed a close diplomatic relationship with its neighbour, and now, the two nations are expanding their collaboration in the health sector, according to an official press release. As a testament to this growing partnership, 'Bangabandhu International Plastic Surgery Camp' is currently underway in Thimphu, Bhutan, coinciding with the 77th birth anniversary of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it said. A team of 12 doctors from the Sheikh Hasina Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, led by Dr Samanta Lal Sen, is conducting a special surgery camp at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital. These dedicated Bangladeshi doctors are performing complex operations related to burn injuries and plastic surgery, providing vital humanitarian services to the people of Bhutan, the release said. Prime Minister Hasina, in recent discussions with Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and prime minister, reaffirmed her commitment to expanding cooperation in the health sector. This surgical camp is a tangible demonstration of that commitment, aiming to improve healthcare services in Bhutan and eventually establish a burn unit in Thimphu. King Wangchuck expressed his deep gratitude to PM Hasina and her government for their unwavering support. He warmly welcomed this act of humanitarian cooperation and hoped it would lead to further milestones in the bilateral relationship, focusing on the welfare of both nations. The Embassy of Bangladesh in Thimphu played a pivotal role in organizing the event, hosting a special program on September 28 to celebrate the prime minister's birthday. Speaker of the National Assembly of Bhutan, Namgyel Wangchuck, attended as the chief guest. During his welcome address, Bangladesh Ambassador Shibnath Roy remarked, "Through this camp, a unique example of healthcare cooperation between Bhutan and Bangladesh has been set, marking a new chapter in our relations." The camp not only highlights the compassionate nature of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina but also underscores her personal initiative to provide healthcare services in Bhutan and establish a burn unit in Thimphu, as stated by Dr. Samanta Lal Sen. Embassy Counsellor Sujan Debnath further highlighted Sheikh Hasina's international contributions, emphasizing the noble initiative's significance.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said although Bangladesh has a large population in a small territory, it has sheltered Rohingyas on humanitarian ground. "We are discussing with Myanmar over the Rohingya issue and trying to convince them that they (Rohingyas) are their citizens, they should be taken back to their homeland," Prime Minister said in an interview with the Bangla service of Voice of America (VoA) aired on Saturday. Read: PM Hasina questions logic behind US visa sanction against Bangladesh Unfortunately, international assistance for Rohingya refugees has been greatly reduced since Covid-19 and the Ukraine-Russia war. "Now we have to carry this burden almost alone. But still, we are helping them in every way," she said responding to a question on the progress of Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar. “But we want them to go back to their country because children are being born and growing up today. They cannot get a healthy environment in this camp to grow up. Not only that, many of them are getting involved in various crimes, like drug peddling, arms trafficking, human trafficking. They have a future. So the sooner they can return to their land they will be able to lead a better life,” she added. Read: No way to return to caretaker government, PM Hasina in VoA interview “Since we have sheltered them, we are fulfilling our responsibility and we are doing our best for them," she said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the world community to take a minimum measure so that Rohingyas can go back to their own country. They can lead a life like human beings. The United Nations or other NGOs or aid organizations who are providing assistance can do that there as well. "As Myanmar is our neighboring country, we are trying to make them understand that you should take your citizens back," PM Hasina added. The prime minister responded to a number of questions on US Visa sanction, human rights, Khaleda’s treatment abroad, caretaker government, the constitution and other issues. Read: There are legal complications regarding allowing Khaleda to be taken abroad: Home Minister When asked about the steps to improve the security situation in Rohingya camps, she said “We are taking all security measures there. Our joint forces patrolling there, the police, the army, other law enforcement agencies, and the border guard are all active there." “We have significantly improved the Bhasanchar for the Rohingyas. Those who are living there are much better off. They are not facing such problems there. They are being given various training, livelihood arrangements are also being made, schools, medical centers are all there," she said.
The physical progress of the Matarbari coal-fired power plant has reached 78.30 percent, while financial progress is 65.14 percent till August 2023. Japan is providing $1500 million more for the project. To this effect exchange of notes and ‘loan agreement’ for the 7th tranche of the Matarbari Ultra supercritical coal-fired power project under the 44th Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan package (2nd batch) was signed on Saturday ( September 30) between Bangladesh and Japan. Sharifa Khan, secretary of the Economic Relations Division (ERD), Ministry of Finance signed the ‘Exchange of Notes’ and the ‘Loan Agreement’ on behalf of Bangladesh. Iwama Kiminori, the Ambassador of Japan in Bangladesh has signed the ‘Exchange of Notes’ and Ichiguchi Tomohide, Chief Representative, JICA Bangladesh Office, Dhaka signed the ‘Loan Agreement’ on behalf of Japan. Japan provides 500 million yen for 4th Primary Education Development Programme The signing ceremony was held at the NEC-2 Conference Room of ERD, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka. Under this Japanese ODA loan, Japan government will provide 217,556 million Japanese Yen (JPY) or approximately $1,500 million for the project. The rate of interest of this loan will be 1.6 percent for construction, 0.10 percent for consultancy services, a front-end fee (at a time) of 0.2 percent, and a repayment period of 30 years which includes a 10-year grace period. This project is being implemented to meet growing electricity demand and to improve stable power supply by installing 1200 MW (600MWx2 units) Ultra Super Critical Coal-fired Power Plant at Matarbari, Maheshkhali Upazila of Cox’s Bazar district. Japan provides critical funding to WFP’s lifesaving food assistance for Rohingyas The total cost of the project is Tk51,854.88 Crore of which GOB provides Tk6,406.16 crore, JICA Tk43,921.03 crore, and CPGCBL Tk1,527.69 crore. The project implementation period is from July 2014 to December 2026. Japan is the single largest bilateral development partner of Bangladesh. Japan has been providing continuous support for the socio-economic development of Bangladesh since its independence. Japan provides $500,000 to Cyclone-affected Rohingyas, host communities through IOM The ODA commitment has exceeded USD $30.34 billion till now. Japanese loans and grants are being utilized in a wide range of areas including power, roads, bridges, telecommunication, agriculture, health, education, water supply and sanitation, rural development, environment, human resource development etc. The Japanese assistance contributed significantly to the overall development of the country.
In response to a letter from Mahfuz Anam, President of the Editors’ Council expressing concern over a recent remark about applying US visa policy on the media in Bangladesh, US Ambassador Peter Haas has reiterated his government’s commitment to staunchly defend press freedom and the “right of journalists and media outlets to exercise their right to freedom of expression.” “That includes views critical of any government, including the United States. In fact, we welcome public reflection on any element of our policy,” the ambassador said. Haas raises eyebrows by saying members of media may face visa restrictions Ambassador Haas said this in response to a letter from Mahfuz Anam, president of the Editors’ Council, Bangladesh, seeking clarification of the ambassador’s remarks during a recent interview with Channel 24 that media may also come under the purview of US visa policy. 'An affront to freedom of press’: Some academics, journalists denounce inclusion of media in US visa restrictions “We are applying the policy in a balanced way against anyone regardless of whether they are pro government, whether they are in the opposition, or whether they are law enforcement, whether they are in the judiciary, whether it's the media,” said Peter Haas during the interview aired on September 24. On May 24 this year, the US announced the visa policy for Bangladesh and on September 22, it was declared that steps were taken to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. Inclusion of media under US visa restrictions doesn’t seem to be ‘a right choice’: Shahriar Alam In the letter to Peter Haas on September 27, Mahfuz Anam said he was writing because some questions have arisen in his mind and in the minds of members of the Editors’ Council regarding the aforementioned comment on visa restrictions on media. “Frankly, this remark has created confusion among us and hence our request for a clarification,” wrote Anam in his email. He said given the fact that the US government and the ambassador personally have always been steadfast advocates of free and independent media, the remark has perturbed them. Referring to the US ambassador’s statement that visa restriction “is not based on anything else but their actions,” Anam pointed out that media’s “action” is writing or broadcasting, and asked if visa restriction will be based on what a journalist writes or broadcasts. US visa restrictions: State Dept spokesperson refrains from mentioning media “If so, then doesn’t it come under ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of press’? How will it be used in case of media? What are the factors being considered?” — Anam asked in his letter. Anam also said that the First Amendment of the US Constitution has always acted as a source of inspiration and emulation for him personally and for the media in Bangladesh. In that case, he wondered, how would the First Amendment values be reflected if the visa policy is used against the media. In response, Peter Haas wrote that the US will continue to support the freedom of the press and also speak out against, and apply US visa policy to those who seek to undermine the democratic election process in Bangladesh. Referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he said the holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone — voters, political parties, the government, the security forces, civil society, and the media. “Equally as important, each of these institutions must be allowed to play their respective roles in the democratic election process,” Haas said. Haas said Secretary Blinken’s statement was clear that the policy applies to “any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.” This includes anyone who takes measures to prevent the media from disseminating their views, US Ambassador Haas added.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has questioned the logic behind the visa sanction on Bangladesh by the United States even though her government has ensured all rights including the voting right of the people. “We have ensured a proper environment for elections through movement, struggle. People are conscious about their right to franchise. We’ve done this. Now I don’t see any logic behind this sudden sanction,” she said in an interview with the Bangla service of Voice of America (VoA) aired on Saturday. “Today they (US) are imposing sanctions, may impose more sanctions in future…it is up to them. The rights of our country’s people---their voting right, fundamental rights and rights to live--we have ensured all those,” she said responding to a question on the US sanction and Bangladesh government’s efforts to strengthen friendly relations with the US. Read: Khaleda has to return to jail first before taking treatment abroad, PM Hasina tells VOA The prime minister, now on a visit to the US, responded to a number of questions on US Visa sanction, human rights, Khaleda’s treatment abroad, caretaker government, the constitution and other issues. Hasina said there is no problem if the US prevents the people's entry to the country as there are sufficient employment opportunities in Bangladesh now. Pointing to human rights violation allegations she said members of law enforcement agencies whether it is RAB or police, are tried in Bangladesh according to the existing law if anyone does anything wrong. “No one is spared in the trial.” “If they talk about human rights or voting rights, we, the Awami League has fought for the right to vote, the people of our country shed blood to establish their right to vote. We have taken all the necessary measures to ensure a fair and free election,” she said. Read: Inclusion of media under US visa restrictions doesn’t seem to be ‘a right choice’: Shahriar Alam Narrating the development of the country, the prime minister said Bangladesh has now changed a lot in between 2099 and 2023.”It has not been in its previous state. There is no famine in Bangladesh. The unemployment rate has reduced, it now stands at 3 percent.” “People now can eat whatever they want. Bangladesh is now digitalised. People have internet access. The country has been brought under wifi connection. Electricity is available at each house, roads and other infrastructures have been developed so that people can earn their livelihood, prioritizing vocational education. We have been working for the country,” she said. Read: ‘US visa restriction on media’: BNP leaders, social media platforms attack some media outlets and journalists, hail Ambassador Haas “The people of our country are now more conscious about voting right. We had a demand for a fair and neutral election and we have established it through movements,” she added.
'An affront to freedom of press’: Some academics, journalists denounce inclusion of media in US visa restrictions
A number of academics and senior journalists have criticized US Ambassador Peter Haas for his public announcement on inclusion of media under the visa restriction policy ahead of the upcoming national election, calling it “an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression by a foreign diplomat in the country.” While US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller refrained from mentioning “media” in response to a question specifically on the issue, Ambassador Haas, appearing on a TV interview, went on record saying that media could fall under the new visa restrictions. This remark involving the media by the ambassador has been described by some senior journalists as an “affront to the freedom of press.” They also blasted Mushfiq Fazal Ansari, a former press official of Khaleda Zia, for his projection of “independent media outlets” as “pro government machinery” at a US State Department briefing, which they said was intended to further intimidate media outlet owners and journalists to “favor the opposition” ahead of the election. “The statement of the ambassador to expand visa restrictions on journalists can be seen as an attempt to silence the voices of the people, and impose unseen censorship on the media, which contradicts the principles of freedom of expression and press freedom, the main pillars of democracy and governance,” a statement issued by Editors Guild reads. Read: Freedom of press is vital in any democracy: CDA Helen Referring to the earlier US call that stated “actors interrupting or intimidating media” from performing independently would face visa restrictions, Professor Dulal Chandra Biswas, of Mass Communication and Journalism department at Rajshahi University, said that Haas’ remark demonstrates a striking shift form earlier stance. “While earlier they said troublemakers for the media would be punished, now we are seeing a complete U-turn from earlier stance. If implemented, this will become the biggest roadblock to independent journalism,” he added. A senior journalist who has worked with international media for decades, choosing to remain anonymous, put the spotlight on the inconsistency, pointing out that the US State Department spokesperson did not include media while speaking on the issue. “As the US claims to prioritize press freedom, the potential impact of Haas’ announcement on media and journalists remains to be seen,” he added. “How can you lecture others on press freedom and include the media in visa restrictions?” — questioned Tabiur Rahman Prodhan, associate professor of Mass Communication and Journalism department at Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur. Read: Govt firmly believes in freedom of press: PM Meanwhile, eminent rights activist Sultana Kamal, while speaking to a TV reporter, remarked: “A country has the right to deny visa, but serious questions arise on the motive behind a series of pre-announcements that they will not issue visa. “Does such a move of issuing announcements really uphold diplomatic etiquette?” — she wondered. “Unless all political parties remain committed, no one can make elections free and fair,” the former adviser to a caretaker government said. Following the US ambassador’s announcement, a number of pro BNP and Jamaat social media activists and leaders lashed out at certain media outlets and named a number of journalists for their critical reportage on the parties. Read more: Freedom of media needed to build equity-based society: Info Minister In videos, circulated on social media and shared by supporters, they hailed the US ambassador’s recent remark on including media in the visa restrictions and named a number of private television channels that BNP has boycotted. Basherkella, a pro-Jamaat-e-Islami X (Twitter) account, also tweeted that Haas “is a true friend of Bangladesh.” This particular social media account made news for running what the minority Ahmadiyya community called a “hate campaign” against them.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has extended his heartfelt condolences, on the demise of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, to the bereaved family members and the people of Feinstein's constituency. Read: Foreign Minister condoles Serajul Alam Khan's death Senator Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the history of the US Senate, was an institution herself who served the people of her constituency for the past 30 years. Read: President condoles Bir Uttam Sultan Mahmud’s demise Her trailblazing work in legislative actions on global warming, violence against women, outlawing enhanced interrogation techniques, and banning or limiting sales of assault weapons for public safety will be remembered as her contributions to society, Dr. Momen said. Recalling his interaction with Senator Feinstein, Dr. Momen said, "I found her to be passionate about defending what she believed in. Bangladesh found a friend in her during difficult times. May her soul rest in peace." Read more: President condoles deaths of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra singer Bulbul, organiser Ashfaqur
A discussion meeting on ‘Prophet of Islam (sm.)Axis of Islamic Unity’ was held in the city. Cultural Centre of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Dhaka organized on the occasion of holy Eid-e-Miladunnabi at Kabi Sufia Kamal Auditorium of Bangladesh National Museum. Additional secretary of religious affairs ministry Awual Howladar was present as Chief Guest while ambassador of Iran in Bangladesh Mansour Chavoshi and Professor Dr. Muhammad Abul Kalam Azad Pro-Vice Chancellor, Islamic Arabic University, Dhaka were present as special guests. Read: Top 12 Most Anticipated South Indian Films Releasing in October 2023 Hujjatul Islam wal muslimeen Shahabuddin Mashaekhi Raad, Bangladesh representative of Al-Mustafa international university of Iran and Maulana Mufti Muhammad Saiful Kabir, Khatib, Bangabhaban Jame Mosque, President’s Office, Dhaka was present as guest of honor. Seyed Reza Mirmohammadi, Cultural Counsellor, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Bangladesh presided over the meeting.
Over 220 people, 25 organizations worldwide face reprisals for cooperating with UN on human rights: new report
Over 220 individuals and 25 organizations in 40 countries* across the world faced threats and retaliation from State and non-State actors for cooperating with the UN on human rights. The information is in the UN Secretary-General’s report on reprisals** presented today, which covers the period from 1 May 2022 to 30 April 2023. Human rights defenders and other civil society actors are increasingly under surveillance and continue to face legal proceedings, travel bans and threats, and be given prison sentences for cooperating with the UN and the UN’s human mechanisms. “A global context of shrinking civic space is making it increasingly difficult to properly document, report and respond to cases of reprisals, which means that the number is likely much higher,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris in her presentation today to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Among the growing trends noted in the report is the increase in people either choosing not to cooperate with the UN due to concerns for their safety, or only doing so if kept anonymous. Victims and witnesses in two-thirds of the States listed in the report requested anonymous reporting of reprisals, compared with one-third in last year’s report. And most people who reported facing reprisals for their cooperation with the Security Council and its peace operations, as well as with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues did so on the condition of anonymity. Read: Washington values its relationship with Dhaka: State Department A second trend was the increasing surveillance of those who cooperate or attempt to cooperate with the UN, being reported in half of the countries named in the report. An increase in physical surveillance by State actors was also noted, likely linked to the return to in-person forms of engagement with the UN. Third, almost forty-five per cent of the countries in the report continued to apply or enact new laws and regulations concerning civil society, counter-terrorism and national security, which punish, deter or hinder cooperation with the UN and its human rights mechanism.These legislative frameworks represent severe obstacles to long-standing human rights partners of the UN worldwide, and were used to outlaw some of them, raid their offices, and question, threaten or try their staff. Finally, the specificity and severity of acts of reprisals against women and girls, which constitute half of the victims in this year’s report, was once again identified with concern. Most of them are human rights defenders and civil society representatives targeted for their cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms and peace operations, but there is also a significant number of judicial officers and lawyers subjected to reprisals for their cooperation with the UN in search of accountability and remedy. Read: UNDP's Digital Khichuri Challenge (DKC) 2023 in Rajshahi empowers youth for a smarter, inclusive Bangladesh “We have a duty to those who put their trust in us,” said Brands Kehris. “That is why at the UN, we are determined to live up to our collective responsibility to prevent and address intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the organization and its human rights mechanisms.” The 40 States referred to in the report are: Algeria, Afghanistan, Andorra, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, the Russian Federation, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen, and the State of Palestine. The full report, entitled ‘Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights’ (A/HRC/54/61), including extensive annexes detailing cases country by country, can be accessed online.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has visited Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC. The prime minister laid the foundation stone of the Chancery Building in 1997, and inaugurated it in 2000. On her arrival at the embassy on Wednesday, the PM was received by Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA Muhammad Imran with a flower bouquet, said a message from the mission. Also read: Bangladesh will return to darkness unless AL remains in power: PM Hasina warns She first paid deep homage to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing a wreath at his bust at the Bangabandhu Corner of the embassy. She stood in solemn silence there for sometimes as a mark of profound respect to the Father of the Nation.