A debate was held on Bangladesh and its future in the Westminster Hall of the UK Parliament on June 17, 2015. The debate was addressed among others by members of the UK All Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh. This report showcases the positives about Bangladesh which came up during the debate from the various speakers.
Conservative MP Ann Main, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, referred to a recent report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which showed that poverty levels in Bangladesh have fallen to under 45% as a result of steady growth, industrialisation and greater access to finance, which has led to improvements in a range of social indicators, such as adult literacy, child malnutrition and infant mortality.
Mrs. Main also noted that Bangladesh has made “good progress” to achieve its millennium goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowerment of women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal healthcare; and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Talking of growing radicalization of youths in UK, Mrs. Main termed Bangladesh an independent and secular country acting as a bulwark against religious fundamentalism.
Reference was made specifically to the role of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in this regard, who on her recent visit to London reaffirmed her government’s commitment to upholding secularism and tackling terrorism.
Labour MP Christian Matheson specifically talked of the leadership of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He stated that he strongly supported the efforts of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, “in difficult circumstances, to introduce a civil society based on secularism”. He also voiced his support for the work of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and stated that he knew that the Bangladeshi community in Britain supports her too.
Mr. Matheson in particular raised the point about British companies and corporation involved in the garments industries in Bangladesh have a duty to the people of Bangladesh and the government of Sheikh Hasina to treat their workers decently.
Conservative MP Mark Field highlighted the attacks on religious minorities by Jamaat-E-Islami since the International Crimes Tribunal started awarding verdicts for war crimes since February 2013. He mentioned that members of Jamaat have destroyed many places of worship, murdered and attacked innocent people for their religious views. Jonathan Reynolds MP mentioned the 120 killed in the recent political violence unleashed by BNP-Jamaat alliance from January 2015 onward.
MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Jonathan Reynolds highlighted the impressive growth of over 6% Bangladesh has consistently attained over the last few years and commented that this is something the UK itself can aspire to. Mr. Reynolds specifically showcased the importance of good relations with Bangladesh as being beneficial to UK itself given that the former features in the Next 11 list of countries.
With praises for Bangladesh’s advances in social and human development indicators, Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, specifically welcomed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s commitment at the Girl Summit last year to end marriage for under-15s by 2021 and for under-18s by 2041. Mr. Swire also mentioned that Bangladesh has taken significant steps to improve building safety and working conditions in the wake of the Rana Plaza incident in 2013. Furthermore, he welcomed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to eradicating terrorism.
Bangladesh’s strengthening relations with India was also highlighted, with the signing of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Bangladesh, was especially mentioned as a historically positive development.