Dhaka Courier

UN not against Bhasan Char, says Shahriar

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State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam (3rd from left) attends a seminar titled “Rohingya Crisis: International Role for Tangible Solutions in Rakhine” at the auditorium of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies in Dhaka on April 28, 2019. Photo: UNB

‘Bangladesh needs to change body language while dealing with Myanmar’

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam has said the United Nations is not against the government’s Bhasan Char Island plan where it wants to accommodate some 1,00,000 Rohingyas.

“UN isn’t against Bhasan Char…we don’t think anyone from the UN is against Bhasan Char,” he said adding that it has absolutely become clear after the visit of top three UN officials.

The State Minister was addressing a seminar titled “Rohingya Crisis: International Role for Tangible Solutions in Rakhine” organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the auditorium of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in the city on April 28.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s International Relations department, UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss and DCAB General Secretary Nurul Islam Hasib were also present at the seminar chaired by DCAB President Raheed Ejaz.

Bangladesh said the relocation of Rohingya people to Bhasan Char Island will help address the congestion problem in Cox's Bazar Rohingya camps.

Bangladesh also informed it to the Heads of three UN agencies -- Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Vitorino, Director General of International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Mark Lowcock, Head of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya people in Cox's Bazar district and most of them arrived here since August 25, 2017.

Prof Imtiaz said climate conditions can make nearly 100,000 Rohingyas vulnerable. “If the international community is so eager to protect their lives they should come up with workable options.”

The UN said its position is to engage constructively with the government on Bhasan Char. The UN is discussing with the government the critical protection and operational issues that “should be considered before any relocations take place”, in order to ensure that refugees would be able to live in safe and sustainable living conditions on Bhasan Char.

The State Minister expressed displeasure over the “premature” reporting of two international media outlets on Bhasan Char Island that created some confusion as they jumped into a conclusion without having proper information.

He also said the report submitted by a representative of the UN in the UN Security Council does contain no negative remarks or anything critical on Bhasan Char issue.

The State Minister suggested the international media to play a constructive role over the Rohingya issue so that Bangladesh’s planned initiative is not made questionable without any valid reason.

In an optimistic note, he said no country in the world at the present time can be spared for forcibly sending their over 1.1 million people to another country amid torture and violence.

“Time is an issue. We need to have patience to solve the complicated problem. Solution will surely be there,” he added.

UNHCR Representative Corliss said Rohingya people want to go back but they want to make sure that their fundamental rights are there in place before their return to Myanmar. “People need to have the confidence.”

He also said they are better prepared to protect Rohingyas in the camps now as monsoon approaches.

Corliss highly appreciated the role Bangladesh government and the host community is playing and mentioned that this is an incredible demonstration.

Keeping constant gaze on Myanmar

The government needs to change its body language while dealing with Myanmar over Rohingya issue as the government has a five-year mandate, says Prof Imtiaz putting much emphasis on internationalisation of the issue in a bigger way.

“The body language must change when we’re negotiating with Myanmar. This is very important,” he said mentioning that they (Myanmar) are the people who committed genocide, not anyone from Bangladesh.

The expert has advised the government of Bangladesh to study how Indira Gandhi tackled Pakistan in 1971 and deal with Myanmar accordingly to address the Rohingya crisis.

Bangladesh wants a “peaceful” solution to the crisis and remains engaged bilaterally with Myanmar and internationally.

Prof Imtiaz, also director at Centre for Genocide Studies, University of Dhaka, said it would be easier to act on internationalisation of the Rohingya issue in a bigger way now.

“International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) should be geared up to the maximum, particularly by supporting them with evidence of all kinds,” he said adding that this is going to put tremendous pressure on Myanmar, particularly when they will come to know that initiatives are in full swing.

Prof Imtiaz said it is high time for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit China and India promoting solutions, stretching from repatriation to formation of safe zones inside Myanmar for Rohingyas. “It’s urgently required.”

He said competent teams should visit important capitals around the world to impress the policymakers and other stakeholders regularly and repetitively.

The expert said Bangladesh is not only a country where Rohingya people are living but there are over 19 countries where they live in.

He suggested holding an international conference on Rohingya crisis inviting all 19 countries, including members of the media, human rights organisations, researchers and other civil and political stakeholders.

“This should be done in every six months -- one in Bangladesh and one outside Bangladesh,” Prof Imtiaz said adding that the publication and dissemination of reports and visual footages from conferences would add to the knowledge on the Rohingyas and put pressure on Myanmar.

The expert laid emphasis on internationalising the Myanmar genocide of its minorities, including the Rohingyas, as Myanmar committed genocide against other minorities.

He suggested keeping a “constant gaze” on Myanmar and media has a bigger role to play.

Prof Imtiaz said climate conditions can make nearly 100,000 Rohingyas vulnerable. “If the international community is so eager to protect their lives they should come up with workable options.”

He said a bigger socio-economic net is required for maintaining cordial relationship between them and suggested thinking beyond the box for raising fund as US$ 950 million plus support needs to be ensured by the international community.

  • UN not against Bhasan Char, says Shahriar

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