Bangladesh High Commission in London has launched the ‘Bangabandhu-Edward Heath Friendship Award’ on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s maiden visit to the UK.
Bangladeshi High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem said that alongside commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bangabandhu’s maiden visit, the award was launched also to honour the value-based friendship between Bangladesh and the UK. The award will be given to those who would make extraordinary contributions in promoting Bangladesh-UK friendship, she said.
The high commissioner also announced the formation of an ‘8 January Foundation’ in order to promote the significance of the day.
The Bangladesh High Commission in London launched the ‘Bangabandhu-Edward Heath Friendship Award’ at a high-profile event titled ‘Bangabandhu in Britain: The Historic 8 January’ on January 11.
British ministers, cross-party senior parliamentarians, diplomats, academics and eminent members of the British-Bangladeshi community paid rich tributes to Bangabandhu and highlighted the diplomatic and geopolitical significance of this historic visit at the event.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen attended the event as the chief guest, while Chairman of UK Conservative Party and Minister Oliver Dowden was the guest of honour and Minister of State and Economic Secretary to Treasury Department John Glen, MP, was the special guest.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Director for India and Indian Ocean Directorate at the UK FCDO Ben Mellor and High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom Gaitri Issar Kumar also spoke as special guests. Eminent British-Bangladeshi Community member Syed Sajidur Rahman Faruk also spoke at the event.
Chairman of Labour Party Anneliese Dodds, Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the House of Lords Lord Newby, Vice-Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh Bob Blackman, MP, and Chair of House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat, MP, spoke, representing Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democratic parties.
In his speech, Dr AK Abdul Momen said, “Bangabandhu’s maiden visit to the UK on January 8 in 1972 as the President of Bangladesh bears an unparallel historic, geo-strategic and diplomatic significance in the robust Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations of 2022 and beyond.”
The Bangladeshi foreign minister thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for recognising Bangabandhu’s historic January 8 visit to London and Downing Street as instrumental in forging a friendship between Bangladesh and the UK.
Conservative Party Chairman and Minister Oliver Dowden called Bangabandhu's January 8 visit to the UK and meeting with Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath a milestone in establishing diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and the UK. “It was a powerful symbol of the deep and enduring bonds between the UK and Bangladesh bound by kinship, culture, and shared prosperity,” said the British minister.
Minister of State and Economic Secretary to Treasury Department John Glen, MP, said that the Sheikh Mujib’s maiden visit to the UK had paved the way for a value-based relationship between the two countries.
Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds, MP, said that Labour Prime Minister Sir Herold Wilson met Bangabandhu during his maiden UK visit and later when he came to London and maintained a close relationship with him until his assassination in 1975. She mentioned that Herold Wilson described Bangabandhu’s killing as a personal loss.
Lord Newby, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, praised Bangladesh’s astounding socio-economic progress and said future relations between the UK and Bangladesh should be based on shared prosperity.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, Tom Tugendhat, MP, said that the meeting between Edward Heath and Bangabandhu marked the beginning of a close relationship between the two countries.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said that the Commonwealth was the first major international organisation that independent Bangladesh joined, and Bangabandhu’s values matched those of the Commonwealth.
High Commissioner of India Gaitri Issar Kumar said that Bangabandhu continues to be regarded by the people of India as a charismatic and visionary leader, and it is in this spirit that we honour his legacy. “Today, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is admirably leading the nation in realising his vision of a democratic and secular Bangladesh.”