Dhaka, Sept 25 (UNB) –Bangladesh has said peace and security in Asia can be achieved through dialogue and cooperation leading to a common indivisible area of security in Asia where all the states coexist peacefully and their people live in peace, freedom and prosperity.
“We should carry forward the solidarity and cooperative spirit of helping each other in difficult times and strengthen mutual trust to make Asia a harmonious region of lasting peace and common prosperity,” said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam.
He was addressing at the informal meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Ministers of Foreign Affairs during the 73rd UNGA in New York on Monday.
The State Minister said the need to formulate a collective response to common challenges is more important than ever.
“Though facing more risk and challenges, Asia today is still the most promising region in the world. Peace, development and win-win cooperation are the main trend in the region,” he said.
Bangladesh proposed enhancing the institutional capacity of CICA, deepening exchanges and cooperation in various fields; strengthen inclusiveness and openness of CICA.
“Bangladesh will continue to work with other CICA members to implement the consensus grounded on mutual trust and dialogue,” Shahriar said.
He said Bangladesh will promote a peaceful, stable and cooperative new Asia as the common goal of members for CICA’s third decade.
The State Minister said Bangladesh has been actively participating in most CICA activities since its joining in 2014.
“It’s encouraging to note that CICA has gained a foothold as a platform for trustful dialogue, mutual understanding and equal partnership between member states,” he said.
Dhaka, Sept 25 (UNB) - A European Union grant of €1 million (US$1.2 million) is helping the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen health services for the nearly one million vulnerable Rohingyas and their host communities in Cox’s Bazar, who remain at risk of disease outbreaks, said WHO on Tuesday.
“The funds are being used to strengthen life-saving primary healthcare services and enhance capacities to minimise the number of deaths and cases in the event of an outbreak,” said Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO’s Representative to Bangladesh.
Committed to working with the Bangladesh government to address the huge health needs of this vulnerable population, WHO is coordinating the work of over 100 national and international health partners in the Rohingya camps and adjoining areas, he said.
WHO has also distributed nearly 200 metric tonnes of medicines, supplies and equipment to health facilities and partners, said a press release.
“The EU grant will enable WHO to sustain and build on a number of essential services,” said Dr Khalid El Tahir, WHO’s Incident Manager, who is heading the emergency operations for WHO in Cox’s Bazar.
The grant will also be used to strengthen disease surveillance to guard against and reinforce WHO’s coordination capacity to respond to disease outbreaks, Dr Khalid said.
“WHO welcomes and is very appreciative of the much needed support which comes at a time when the health risks and needs of this vulnerable population is growing, and the underfunded health sector is struggling to sustain essential services,” Dr Rana said.
The European Union with its Member States is a leading global donor of humanitarian aid.
Through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), the EU helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters every year.
With its headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, ECHO provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs, without discrimination of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.
Dhaka, Sep 25 (UNB) – A joint technical team of Dhaka and New Delhi will now review the feasibility report of the Indian proposed “765 kV East-West Power Interconnector” project instead of its immediate implementation.
The decision was made at the meeting of the Bangladesh-India Joint Steering Committee on Power Sector Cooperation held in north-eastern city of Sylhet on Tuesday, said officials who attended the two nations’ bilateral talks.
Bangladesh Power Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus and Indian Power Secretary Shri Ajay Kumar Bhalla led their respective sides in the 15th meeting of the committee.
Such meeting takes place in every six month in alternative venue in the two countries.
Officials said the neighbouring India planned the East-West Interconnector Project to take electricity through Bangladesh to its Bihar province in the west from eastern Province of Arunachal by setting up hydro power projects.
As part of the plan, New Delhi offered Dhaka to install the portion of the long high voltage grid transmission line to be crossed through Bangladesh corridor by its own cost while India will control the whole grid system.
But while discussing the agenda Bangladesh officials disagreed with the Indian plan and offered to implement such project as a regional power grid by participation of all involving nations like Nepal and Bhutan as well, officials said.
They also mentioned that Dhaka offered to keep control the grid system in a joint mechanism instead of any single country authority over the line.
Dhaka also raised serious objection about the New Delhi’s recent arbitrary decision for not allowing any cross border electricity trade through India unless there is any Indian company is involved.
Such decision put Bangladesh’s move into a great dilemma to import electricity from Nepal and Bhutan through Indian border.
Officials said the Indian side took the Bangladesh concerns into cognizance and informed that the Indian central government has softened the decision by bringing some changes.
They informed that the copy of the latest version of Indian government’s decision will be sent to Dhaka soon for understanding of Bangladesh government.
Power Cell director general Mohammad Hossain, who participated in the meeting, however, said discussion was held in a very cordial manner and the outcomes are very positives.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, said fruitful discussion was held in the steering committee meeting on various issues including giving all kinds of tax exemption on import of electricity from India, giving waiver to any financial involvement in power import due to change in Indian law or in political situation and export of electricity from Bangladesh to India.
The meeting also discussed participation of Indian corporate companies in Bangladesh power sector, setting up Dhaka–New Delhi joint venture project in India, import of electricity from Nepal and Bhutan and cooperation in renewable energy sector.
Dhaka, Sept 25 (UNB) – The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the Digital Security Act passed by parliament in Bangladesh last week, despite opposition from the country’s journalists, ‘strikes a blow to freedom of speech’.
The law, which replaces the much-criticised Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), retains the most ‘problematic’ provisions of that law and adds more provisions criminalising ‘peaceful’ speech, says the New York-based global rights body.
“The new Digital Security Act is a tool ripe for abuse and a clear violation of the country’s obligations under international law to protect free speech,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “With at least five provisions criminalising vaguely defined types of speech, the law is a license for wide-ranging suppression of critical voices.”
Several provisions violate international standards on free expression.
The HRW says Section 21 authorises sentences of up to 14 years in prison for spreading “propaganda and campaign against liberation war of Bangladesh or spirit of the liberation war or Father of the Nation.”
The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bangladesh is a party, has expressly stated laws that penalise the expression of opinions about historical facts are incompatible with a country’s obligations to respect freedom of opinion and expression, it says.
Section 25(a) authorises sentences of up to three years for publishing information that is “aggressive or frightening” – broad terms not defined in the law, according to the HRW.
The use of such vague terms violates the requirement that laws restricting speech be formulated with sufficient precision to make clear what speech would violate the law.
The vagueness, combined with the harsh potential penalty, increases the likelihood of self-censorship.
Section 31 imposes sentences of up to 10 years for posting information that “ruins communal harmony or creates instability or disorder or disturbs or is about to disturb the law and order situation.”
The HRW said the government should not be able to punish criticism on the grounds that it may “disturb the law-and-order situation.”
Section 31 also covers speech that “creates animosity, hatred, or antipathy among the various classes and communities.”
UN human rights experts have stated that restrictions on public debate in the name of racial harmony must not be imposed to the “detriment of human rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”
The law’s overly broad definition of “hate speech” opens the door for arbitrary and abusive application of the law and creates an unacceptable chill on the discussion of issues relating to race and religion, the rights body says.
Section 29, like the much-abused section 57 of ICT Act, criminalizes online defamation, the HRW says.
It says while section 29, unlike the ICT Act, limits defamation charges to those that meet the requirements of criminal defamation in the penal code, it is nevertheless contrary to a growing recognition that defamation should be considered a civil matter, not a crime punishable with imprisonment.
Section 28 authorises sentences of up to five years in prison for speech that “injures religious values or sentiments.”
The rights body says journalists in Bangladesh also opposed section 32 of the law, which authorises up to 14 years for gathering, sending, or preserving classified information of any government using a computer or other digital device, noting that doing so is a means to expose wrongful actions by officials.
Dhaka, Sept 25 (UNB) – Visiting World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer on Tuesday said Rohingyas, living in Cox’s Bazar camps, want an identity and dignity saying he has seen a human tragedy over there.
“What I’ve seen over the day is human tragedy,” Schafer who visited Rohingya camps on Monday and Tuesday said in a message from Kutupalong camp, the largest refugee camp in the world.
He said Bangladesh opened border to the Rohingyas who came here with nothing and fled homes across the border.
“They want dignity. They want an identity. They’re enormously resilient. They’ve started small businesses,” said the WB Vice President in a video message.
Schafer said Rohingyas want to send their children school to get good education and they want to make sure they get good healthcare. “I would hope there’s a brighter future for those people.”
The WB Vice President thanked the people of Bangladesh and the government for sheltering Rohingyas.
He said the World Bank has made available over US$ 480 million to support Bangladesh to help them with the cost of serving these people.
Despite its own challenges, Bangladesh has shown great generosity by sheltering nearly one million Rohingya people, said the WB Vice President in an earlier message.
"The World Bank is working closely with the government to help address the needs of the Rohingya until their safe return to Myanmar and help build the country’s capacity to deal with the crisis.”
It has approved the first two operations—totalling about $75 million in grants—to provide health services and education to the Rohingya, many of whom are children, youths or women.
“Bangladesh has a remarkable story of cutting extreme poverty to half in record time. Other countries can learn from Bangladesh’s many development innovations and successes. I look forward to meeting our partners and seeing firsthand the country’s journey to economic growth,” said Schafer.