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Rohingyas must go back: PM

UNB . Dhaka
29 Sep 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 28 Sep 2022 22:56:39
Rohingyas must go back: PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talks to Satarupa Barua of Voice of America’s Bengali service in an interview on Tuesday – VOA Photo

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Bangladesh is not in a position to take any more people from Myanmar emphasising on repatriation of the Rohingyas who took shelter temporarily in Bangladesh to their own country.

In an interview with the Bengali service of Voice of America (VoA) aired on Tuesday, she said the Rohingyas should go back to their own country.

"It is not possible for us to take any more people," said PM Hasina describing the burden amid Covid-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war and subsequent sanctions due to which the whole world is suffering.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char and not a single person was repatriated over the last five years.

The prime minister described how the prolonged stray of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh destroyed forests in Cox's Bazar area, sufferings of the locals and how the Rohingyas got involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, human trafficking apart from getting involved in internal conflicts inside the camps.

"They (Rohingyas) need to go back to their own country," she said referring to Bangladesh's repeated calls to the international community for their safe return. "Everybody needs to realize (the situation)."

PM Hasina said Bangladesh is a densely populated country and a prolonged stay of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh is like turning into a burden.

She described the sufferings of the Bengalis in 1971 and how people from Bangladesh took shelter to India amid Pakistani military's brutality.

"We saw people's sufferings (in 1971) in our own eyes," PM Hasina said, sharing her conversation with her sister Sheikh Rehana before allowing the Rohingyas temporarily in Bangladesh amid brutality against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Bangladesh has recently sought support and necessary steps from the international community to stop the violence in Myanmar so that Myanmar cannot take advantage creating instability in the region and thus avoid the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

'We told the diplomats that we seek your help so that Myanmar can't take advantage creating instability in the region refraining from taking back the Rohingyas,' acting foreign secretary Rear Admiral (Retd) Md Khurshed Alam told reporters at state guesthouse Padma after briefing the diplomats recently.

Bangladesh conveyed its deep concerns on the recent incidents of mortar shells from Myanmar falling and exploding inside Bangladesh territory, indiscriminate aerial firings, human fatalities and serious injuries, damages to the properties and livelihood of the people in the bordering areas to the ASEAN envoys.

EC free to hold fair polls

She said the Election Commission is completely "free and independent" and a system has been established through independent EC to hold "free and fair" elections in Bangladesh.

"Now the Election Commission is completely free. We have made the EC independent completely," she said.

She said Bangladesh has progressed much during her three consecutive tenures. "The country didn't see the downtrend; rather the country witnessed the advancement (during our three consecutive terms)."

The prime minister said the rate of poverty has been decreased; people are getting food, education and healthcare. "We're fulfilling their all basic needs."

Responding to a question, PM Hasina described how political parties like BNP and Jatiya Party were born under the leadership of military dictators and how the military dictators seized the power illegally.

She said the parties which are born under military dictators' leadership are not used to develop relations with the common people going close to the people; rather they are used to snatch votes and clinch to power by force or at gunpoint. "They might not like the democratic trend."

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, during her visit to Bangladesh, encouraged the government to create an "independent, specialised mechanism" that works closely with victims, families and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

When asked about it, the PM said there is National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh which always takes steps. "They look into it if there is any allegation."

She said after the repeated requests, a list of around 70 people was received and there were seven cases of death.

Hasina said wherever any injustice takes place; steps are taken immediately as per the law which was not seen in the past.

"Not abusing human rights, we are protecting human rights," she said, adding that her government has made the people aware of their rights and made it sure that people can enjoy their rights.

The prime minister referred to killings and disappearances of hundreds of army, air force, Awami League leaders and activists during military dictator Ziaur Rahman and their families did not even get the bodies and had not been able to know their faults.

Media free to criticise government

The prime minister said that Bangladesh's growing media during her tenures has the freedom to say whatever they wish to say.

"After speaking all, if someone says that he/she's not allowed to speak, what would be the answer? That's my question," she said.

She said that Bangladesh had only a few TV and radio stations before she came to power in 1996 and those were controlled by the government.

PM Hasina said once she came to power, she made an opening for the private sector to run media houses freely.

She said there are around 32 private television channels that are now operational among the approved 44 TV channels.

The prime minister said people are taking part in television talk shows and they keep talking freely - true or false - and keep criticising the government.

She said there was no freedom of speech or movement when there was a military dictator in power.