Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the Commonwealth countries to exert pressure on the Myanmar government to stop persecution on its Rohingya citizens and take them back from Bangladesh at the earliest.
The Prime Minister said this while inaugurating 63rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) at a function at South Plaza of the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban on Sunday.
(Watch the full speech here: https://youtu.be/Ed_DR0FVsyM)
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has given temporary shelter to a huge number of Rohingyas on humanitarian ground. Her government is maintaining relations with foreign countries on the policy 'friendship to all, malice to none'.
Especially, her government is eager to maintain good relations with neighbors, Sheikh Hasina said adding that her government has resolved many outstanding issues with India and Myanmar.
"But inhuman persecution meted out on the Rohingya population in the Rakhine state of Myanmar and their forceful expulsion from their homeland have created instability in the region and beyond," she said.
"I would like to request you all to discuss the Rohingya issue with utmost importance and exert pressure on the Myanmar government to stop persecution of its citizens and take them back at the earliest," Sheikh Hasina said.
Over 6.22 hundred thousand Myanmar nationals have fled to Bangladesh to escape persecution. After 1978, another five hundred thousands of Rohingyas came to Bangladesh at different times, she added.
Reiterating her call to Commonwealth countries to be united to get rid of militancy and terrorism the Prime Minister said thoughtless acts of a section of people are claiming innocent lives. Recent terror attack in New York claimed eight precious lives. Militancy is not a problem of a particular country, rather it became a global phenomenon, she said.
Chairperson of CPA and Speaker of Jayita Sangsad of Bangladesh Dr Shirin Sharmin Choudhury gave welcome address while Secretary-General of the CPA Akbar Khan, Commonwealth youth representative Aiman Sadique and treasurer of CPA Vicki Dunn spoke, among others, on the occasion.
Messages of Queen Elizabeth (II) and Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat Patricia Scotland were read out on the occasion.
The magnificent inauguration of the 63rd CPA Conference was marked by presenting of a number of documentaries on Bangladesh's history, nature and livelihood of the people as well as brilliant performances by artists of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and dance troupe 'Nrithanchan'.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expected immediate implementation of the promises made at different times to offset the adverse impacts of climate change. Bangladesh as one of the worst victims of the climate change is experiencing its colossal effects. Excessive precipitation and recurrence of flooding washed away vast localities and damaged standing crops in recent times, she pointed out.
Sheikh Hasina said she was deeply honoured to have the opportunity to inaugurate the 63rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) in this historic city of Dhaka.
Welcoming the distinguished guests on behalf of the people of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, also the vice patron of the 63rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference said she was confident that CPA conference would give the countries a clearer insight into democratic values and practices.
"We Parliamentarians, being the people's representatives, have the first and foremost obligations to preserve and maintain the faith of the people in democracy and parliamentary institutions," she said.
The CPA and Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad are jointly hosting the conference with the theme: Continuing to enhance the high standards of performance of parliamentarians. More than 550 delegates from 144 national and provincial parliaments of 44 countries joined the conference.
Sheikh Hasina said it was the pragmatic and far-reaching decision of the Father of the Nation Bangabhandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to join the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in 1973. And, Bangladesh was proud of having first woman Chairperson of the CPA in 2014, now a forum of total of 52 countries which once were territories of British Empire.
"This is a testimony by the honorable members of the parliament across the Commonwealth towards our commitment to democratic practices and values," she noted.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has become a sovereign and an independent democratic country through huge sacrifices as a cherished desire of the people of this land. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had led the struggle from the forefront.
Highlighting Bangladesh's topsy-turvy democratic journey since independence the Prime Minister said the reactionary defeated forces of 1971 assassinated Bangabandhu along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975 when he was engaged in reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-ravaged country.
But, she and her sister Sheikh Rehana survived the incident as they were abroad on that fateful night. Later, they were barred from returning home. With the killing of Bangabandhu, she recalled, democracy in Bangladesh was assailed and the era of military dictatorship started.
Sheikh Hasina said she engaged herself in the struggle for restoration of democracy in Bangladesh while she was in exile. Ending six years in exile, she returned home in 1981. Since then she had to endure huge sufferings while struggling for establishing people's rule.
She said repeated attempts were made on her life along with house-arrest and internment and thousands of workers and leaders became victims of massive repression of the rulers after 1975. But none could restrain her from the struggle for the restoration of democracy as she thought that only a democratic polity can ensure uplift of people's living standard through fulfilling their basic needs.
The Prime Minister said after long 21 years, her party Awami League returned to state power in 1996 and engaged in fulfilling the basic needs of people not as a ruler but as a public servant.
Sheikh Hasina said the foremost aim of her government is to build a hunger and poverty free Bangladesh through strengthening the foundation of democratic rule. To fulfill the goal, she said, the government has framed 'Vision- 2021'. The government is working to achieve the visions with specific plans, she said.
The Prime Minister said her government has strengthened various democratic institutions, including national parliament and local government bodies.
Elected representatives are leading the local government bodies. Bangladesh is now at the top of the countries in South Asia in terms of women empowerment and achieving gender parity, she said.
Sheikh Hasina said her government has ensured the freedom of mass media and people's right to information as independent and strong mass media are the vigilant watchdog of democracy. In the past few years Bangladesh have witnessed huge expansion of mass media, she said.
Underlining the socio-economic development of Bangladesh the Prime Minister said her government is implementing the SDGs in continuation of the successes of the MDGs. The subjects of SDGs have been incorporated in our 7th 5-year plan.
"Bangladesh has been in a journey through the roads of peace, democracy, development and prosperity." she said adding that Bangladesh will emerge as a middle incoming country by 2021 when it will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of its Independence. Bangladesh will be a developed one by 2041, she optimistically said.
She urged the Commonwealth leaders to work together to make the planet a peaceful, happy and prosperous abode for the entire humanity and hoped that stay of the CPA dignitaries in Bangladesh would be joyful and memorable one.
Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol