Industry Desk:Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has demandedintensified global actions with “real urgency” to repatriate Rohingyas,saying major international powers inaction over the crisis shocked Bangladeshas it extended them makeshift refuge on humanitarian grounds, straining thecountry’s resources.
“As I repeatedly said they (Rohingyas) are Myanmar nationals and hence,they must go back to their homeland, Myanmar, in safety and dignity,” shetold a high-level interaction of global stakeholders on the sidelines of theUN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York on Tuesday afternoon(Bangladesh Time early today).
Sheikh Hasina insisted that the issue was a matter of regional and globalsecurity concerns and therefore it needed urgent resolution while “I wouldlike to emphasize that whatever we are doing in Bangladesh is purely on atemporary basis”.
She said the international community “must do everything possible to makesure the Rohingyas return to their homeland as they themselves also wish toreturn to their home”.
Simultaneously, the premier put her weight towards the campaign to exposeto justice the people responsible for persecution of the minority Rohingyacommunity for the sake of justice and infusing a sense of confidence amongthe victim population in returning their home.
The virtual meeting titled “High-Level Side Event on Forcibly DisplacedMyanmar Nationals (Rohingya) crisis: Imperatives for a Sustainable Solution”was held under Bangladesh auspices ahead of the premier’s scheduled UNGA address today (September 24).
Officials concerned said Bangladesh organized the meeting as part ofDhaka’s efforts to highlight the crisis in the main UNGA general debate whilethe country’s permanent representative to the United Nations Rabab Fatimamoderated the event.
The meeting was cosponsored by eight cross-regional countries andorganisations including United Kingdom (UK), Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey,Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and European Union (EU).
The premier said since that mass exodus in 2017, at all the successiveUNGAs, she placed specific proposals for a sustainable solution to the crisiswhile “my government has maintained bilateral engagements with Myanmar”.
“At the regional front, we have tried to take on board the major powers,including China and India. We have all along tried to have more activeinvolvement of the ASEAN,” Sheikh Hasina said.
“At the multilateral front, we kept the issue on the table by UNresolutions engaging important countries and the UN agencies but sadly ourefforts for the hapless, uprooted Myanmar Nationals returning home to Myanmarhas not generated any tangible outcome yet,” she said.
“Till today, not a single one of them could go back to their homeland,” sheadded.
Sheikh Hasina said for the last four years, Bangladesh awaited with highhopes that these displaced people could go back to their own homes in theirmotherland Myanmar in safety, security and dignity, reposing “our trust inthe global assembly and community for their repatriation”.
“However, our calls have remained unheeded and our hopes unfulfilled. Weare now in the fifth year of the crisis. Yet, we still hold the hope for adurable solution to this crisis,” she said.
The premier said resolving this humanitarian crisis appeared a collectiveresponsibility as its implication goes beyond borders and warned that anyfailure in doing so immediately would “jeopardize our collective security”.
“The growing frustration over the lack of progress in repatriation enticesmany to get involved in criminal activities, and they are easy prey toextremist ideologies. This could potentially destabilize the entire region,”she said.
The prime minister suggested a five-point international course of actionto resolve the crisis with the first one being investment of “all ourefforts” as the top priority.
Secondly, she said, the changed political scenario in Myanmar createduncertainty in the repatriation process, requiring a revision ininternational efforts to find a resolution of this crisis.
Sheikh Hasina sought enhanced efforts of ASEAN in the current perspectiveas “we believe the ASEAN has an important responsibility” when its actionswould largely influence Myanmar in view of the present situation.
“Fourthly, we must remember humanitarian assistance is essential but in noway a permanent solution. The UN and the partners must undertake tangibleactions and projects in Myanmar to create an environment conducive forrepatriation and their sustainability,” she said.
The premier added: “So far, we have not seen any such progress”.
Sheikh Hasina said accountability for the persecution committed againstthe Rohingyas was important to create confidence among this forciblydisplaced population.
“Impunity for such heinous crime should not be allowed on all accounts,”she said, adding Bangladesh extended its support to the ongoing internationalefforts to ensure the persecutors accountability particularly in theInternational Court of Justice (ICJ).
The premier also sought louder global supports to other internationalmechanisms created by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
She said at the start of the Rohingya exodus in 2017 to evade persecutionat Myanmar’s Rakhine Province bordering Bangladesh “our choice was to savetheir lives or to close the border and let them face ethnic cleansing”.
“We chose to save their lives for the sake of humanity,” Sheikh Hasinasaid.
This humane decision, she said, was based on Bangladesh peoples ownpainful experience during the 1971 Liberation War and inspired by the guidingprinciple laid out by the country’s Father of the Nation Bangabandhu SheikhMujibur Rahman.
“The very struggle of Bangladesh symbolized the universal struggle forpeace and justice. It was, therefore, only natural that Bangladesh, from itsvery inception, should stand firmly by the side of the oppressed people ofthe world,” she quoted Bangabandhu.
Turning to pending repatriation, she said, Bangladesh ensured allnecessary arrangements to make Rohingyas temporary stay safe and secure,despite resource and land constraints.
“The prolong stay of such a large population in a congested area is alsohaving serious impacts on the surrounding environment and ecology. Hills andforest lands have been cut down to provide shelters,” she said.
Even in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic challenges, “we have notforgotten to ensure the safety and welfare of the Rohingyas. We have remainedfaithful to our conviction that no one is safe until each one of us is safe.We have included this population in our national vaccination program,” sheadded.
The prime minister said Bangladesh developed an island called Bhasan Charcovering an area of 13,000 acres in the South of the country to de-congestthe over-crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“We spent over US$ 350 million from our own budget to develop thissettlement,” she said.
OIC secretary general, foreign ministers of Gambia, Indonesia and Turkey,British junior foreign minister on South Asia, UN secretary general’s specialenvoy on Myanmar and permanent representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN,among others, addressed the event.
In a media briefing later foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said highprofile representatives including foreign ministers of 23 cross-regionalcountries and organizations strongly extended their supports to the premier’sstatement.
Momen said according to their statements the Afghan crisis or any otherdevelopments must not side track the Rohingya issue.
He said Dhaka managed to engage China as a major mediator to ensure safeand dignified Rohingya repatriation while they awaited the new militaryregime there to stabilize, ahead of proceeding with the issue with Burma.
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