Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her grave concerns over the holdup in Rohingya repatriation as the international attention is gradually shifting from the issue to newer global and internal conflicts in Myanmar, calling upon the UN and global community to take effective measures for their sustainable repatriation to their motherland.
“The UN and international partners need to undertake tangible actions and projects to create an environment conducive to sustainable repatriation,” she said while addressing a high-level side event on the Rohingya issue at her place of residence in New York on Thursday.
In another event in New York the same day, the Prime Minister called upon the US businesses to make investments in sectors like renewable energy, shipbuilding, automobile and pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh saying that Bangladesh is pleased to offer a special economic zone for them.
Speaking at the Rohingya-related event, the Prime Minister urged the global community to support the Rohingya politically and financially alongside intervening in the proceedings before the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and national courts, including supporting the Gambia in the ICJ, in order to enforce international law and to strengthen the fight against human rights violations in Myanmar for a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis.
She also stressed the need for creating pressure on Myanmar to stop the continued repression of ethnic and religious minorities alongside strongly asking for Myanmar’s adherence to its commitments under ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, and make efforts so that Myanmar agrees for unhindered humanitarian access.
The Prime Minister, who is now in New York to attend the 77th UNGA, said that the ASEAN, as a regional body, and individual member countries, with their deeper historic relationship with Myanmar, can take the lead role in such comprehensive engagement.
They should undertake elaborate efforts to fully implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including the core one of creating a pathway for citizenship for the Rohingya, she observed.
Their meaningful presence as civilian observers will boost the confidence of the Rohingya for voluntary return, she added.
The premier reiterated that Bangladesh is against any form of impunity from justice and will support any initiative to ensure justice.
While the current focus of the international community, UN and ASEAN, is to bring back normalcy in Myanmar, she said, Bangladesh looks forward to their stronger role to ensure sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya to their homeland; and to bring peace and justice to the Myanmar people.
The Prime Minister said the world is now witnessing new conflicts arising around the globe, and unfortunately attention is gradually shifting from the Rohingya crisis – both in finding its political solution and in meeting the growing humanitarian needs.
She added: “As of August 2022, only 48 % of the appealed amount of USD 881 million under JRP 2022 has been funded. At the same time, the spill-over adverse impact of the internal conflicts in Myanmar in recent times keeps us deeply concerned, as this might create further obstacles for the prospect of commencing their repatriation.”
Sheikh Hasina told the global community that Bangladesh has stepped into the sixth year of the prolonged Rohingya crisis, without seeing a single of them return to their homes.
“The current crisis originated in Myanmar, and its solution lies there. Systematic exclusion and indiscriminate persecutions against Rohingyas by successive governments of Myanmar since the 1960s led to their continued influx into Bangladesh,” she said.
Today, the accumulated number of the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs) sheltered in Bangladesh is about 1.2 million, she said.
Expressing her grave concern, she said the protracted stay of Rohingyas in Bangladesh poses enormous challenges to their development aspirations.
PM seeks US investment
While delivering her speech at the high-level policy roundtable organised by the US-Bangladesh Business Council in New York, the Prime Minister urged the US businesses to make investments in Bangladesh.
“I would like to invite US investors to invest in renewable energy, shipbuilding, automobile, pharmaceuticals, heavy machineries, chemical fertilizers, ICT, marine resources, shipbuilding, medical equipment, and COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Bangladesh,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina added that Bangladesh has liberal investment policy, which included foreign investment protection, tax holiday, remittances of royalty, unrestricted exit policy, full repatriation of dividends, and capital on exit.
She said Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones (SEZs) and several hi-tech parks in different parts of the country, adding that having more than 600,000 freelancing IT professionals, Bangladesh is the right destination for IT investments.
“Moreover, skilled human resources at a competitive wage are an added advantage in Bangladesh. Even if required, we would be happy to offer a dedicated ‘Special Economic Zone’ for the US investors. I believe the US-Bangladesh Business Council can play a significant role in this direction,” she said.
The Prime Minister said Bangladesh is a pioneer in South Asia for regional connectivity and the strategic location of Bangladesh offers tremendous potential to be the economic hub of the region.
“Having India, China, and Southeast Asia; Bangladesh is in the middle of a combined market of 4 billion people,” she told the gathering of business leaders from Bangladesh and the USA. Noting that technology and innovation are the keys for fast-track economic growth, she said thus, Bangladesh has become the 2nd largest RMG exporter, 3rd largest producer of vegetables; 4th largest producer of rice; and 5th largest producer of inland fisheries in the world.
“Bangladesh would consistently pursue economic diplomacy with its neighbours and global players, including the United States. We are continuously improving our physical, legal, and financial infrastructures and enhanced connectivity in the country,” she said.
The completion of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge has enhanced both the domestic and regional connectivity, while Dhaka Metro-rail Project is expected to open in December 2022, which would add faster domestic mobility, she said.
Mentioning that Bangladesh is set to graduate from the LDC status by 2026, therefore, she said they need adequate support to enhance our global competitiveness and export basket.
“I am sure that the United States can be our most robust partner in this challenging endeavour,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the Bangladesh government recognizes the necessity of ensuring labour rights in the country. ILO Roadmap provides a clear plan of actions and timeline to address the concerns and suggests remedies in the labour sector.
“My government is adequately engaged with the United States and other development partners for continuous improvements in this sector. The US government is actively represented in the 3+5+1 mechanism on labour issues,” she said.
Meeting with dignitaries
Meanwhile several dignitaries had bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the place of residence in New York on Thursday.
In her meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen on Thursday night, the two sides agreed to sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for further expanding the area of trade cooperation.
In her meeting with International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Director General António Vitorino, she said IOM can assist the migrant sending countries by making effective recommendations to address the challenges, which they are being faced due to Covid pandemic and Ukraine war.
The IOM director general appreciated the steps taken by Bangladesh for the welfare of migrants and expressed hope that the areas of cooperation between Bangladesh and IOM will expand in the future.
The Prime Minister held bilateral meetings also with President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu and leaders of Bangladesh Hindu- Buddhist-Christian Unity Council.