HPM Sheikh Hasina expects Italy visit to mount pressure on Myanmar

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Published on February 19, 2018
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    HPM Sheikh Hasina at the press conference at Ganabhaban on Monday afternoon

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has described her recent visit to Italy and Vatican City as very successful particularly in mounting increased pressure on Myanmar for speedy repatriation of the Rohingyas. 

"In overall consideration, I think my visit to Italy and Vatican City is very successful and fruitful," she told a crowded press conference at Ganabhaban on Monday afternoon two days after her return home. 

The premier added: "It is expected that the pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of its forcibly displaced citizens from Bangladesh will be intensified further (with this visit)." 

She said during her engagements during the visit she drew the global Community's enhanced support for increased succor for the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals ahead of the monsoon alongside global cooperation for their relocation to an island designated as their makeshift abode.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, road transport minister Obaidul Quaderand Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu were present on the dais, while PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim moderated the press conference. 

The premier said the Rohingya relocation plan now witnessed construction of houses, cyclone shelters there and surge preventing embankment for their protection while the government intended to initially resettle at least one lakh Rohingyas in the island having the capacity to accommodate all the 10 lakh until Myanmar took them back. 

She said high risks of ecological disasters prompted the government to take the resettlement plan as trees and forest covers along the hilly areas where the Rohingyas took refuge by now nearly vanished exposing them to landslides in rainy season. 

"Myanmar is our neighbor and we don't want the relations between the two countries be deteriorated . . . but Myanmar has created the Rohingya crisis and it's their responsibility to solve it," the premier said.

But she accused Myanmar of dilly dallying in taking back their nationals as "it is their character" while Bangladesh awaited their actions as they promised. 

"A list of 8,000 families for their repatriation has been prepared (and) let them start taking back 8,000 families, once the process begins, the rest will go like a stream as everyone wants to get back to their home as we (Bangladesh people) did in 1971 for returning home from India," she said. 

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh reached an understanding with Myanmar on the crisis resulting in formation of a joint committee for their repatriation while home ministers of the two countries visited each other's capitals.

"We have also consulted five countries Myanmar has borders with . . . our foreign minister also talked to their ambassadors in Dhaka," she said. 

The prime minister said she allocated money from her relief fund for Rohingyas and appointed manpower for their biometric registration and provide them identify cards so Myanmar could not decline to accept them as their nationals.

The premier said the Rohingya crisis is not a new crisis. The trouble began in 1976 and influx of the Myanmar citizens started the following year while three to four lakh Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh in 1991 didn't return to their homeland.

Sheikh Hasina also mentioned her five-point proposal that she placed in the last UNGA in New York. "We've also demanded implementation of the Koffe Annan Commission report in this regard," she said.

The premier said the international community is putting huge pressure on Myanmar to take back its nationals from Bangladesh. Side by side with repatriation of the Rohingyas, the global community wants their security.

"We want their speedy repatriation . . . but we cannot push them away and if we do it in what situation they will be faced with . . . they are all human being and how we push them into an uncertain situations," she said. 

The premier said as she met Pope Francis in Vatican he urged the Myanmar to be more responsible in solving the Rohingya crisis called on the global community to mount enhanced pressure on them in this regard. 

She said the Pope lauded the role of Bangladesh in realizing the rights of the migrants and refugees. 

Vatican Cardinal Pietro Parolin, she said, specially thanked Dhaka and Bangladeshis for giving shelter to over one million Rohingyas and described Bangladesh as a bright example of world brotherhood and humanity to be followed by other countries. 

The premier said she joined the annual governing council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome on Feb 13 and presented the keynote speech. 

IFAD, an international financial institution and a specialised UN agency, is dedicated to eradicate rural poverty in developing countries since its 1977 launching as an international financial institution. 

The premier said the IFAD member countries shared their experience and held discussions about the steps to face the existing challenges in the agriculture sector, especially to improve the living standard of the small and medium farmers.

She said the meeting laid special emphasis on the cooperation based on investment and partnership for the youth development and more women empowerment. 

"I also pointed out the importance of investment to enhance the living standard of the poor and marginalized community as well as the role of the local government in empowering the rural people," she said. 

Sheikh Hasina said the IFAD has been taking various programmes for the last 40 years for empowerment, poverty alleviation as well as development of food and nutrition security of Bangladesh's rural people.

She recalled after its establishment IFAD took the very first project in Bangladesh and "so far provided grants of 782 million dollars and gave easy- term loans at low interest". 

Sheikh Hasina said she highlighted Bangladesh's achievements and successes in the agriculture sector and focused on various steps of the government for the development of the rural youth force.

"Side by side with giving highest importance to the agriculture in the national five-year plan, the sincere efforts of our government in implementing the SDG related to it were reflected in my speech," she said.

The prime minister said on the sidelines of the IFAD Governing Council Meeting, IFAD President Gilbert F Houngbo and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley separately called on her. 

Sheikh Hasina said she joined a mass reception in Rome organised by Italy chapter of Bangladesh Awami League. 

During her visit, she said, Bangladesh and the IFAD signed a loan agreement of 92.03 million US dollars for the uplift of the vulnerable rural people of six northeastern districts of the country.