Turning down the allegation of hiring any lobbyist in the USA, BNP on Thursday categorically said it is Awami League that spent huge public money by appointing lobbyists abroad to hush up its “misdeeds and repressive acts”.
Addressing a press conference, BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain demanded a transparent investigation to dig out how much money taxpayers have spent on lobbying firms by the ruling party and its sources.
BNP standing committee arranged the press conference at BNP Chairperson’s Gulshan office to give the party’s formal reaction to the government’s allegation of recruiting lobbyists abroad to campaign against Bangladesh.
Mosharraf said State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam claimed that they did not appoint any lobbyist but engaged a company purely on the media front in 2015. “But the evidence doesn’t support it.”
On behalf of US chapter Awami League, he said Sajeeb Wazed Joy hired Alcalde & Fay lobbyist firm in the United States on November 29, 2004 with effect from January 1, 2005.
As a signatory to the contract, the BNP leader said he (Joy) paid $12.5 lakh, $30,000 each month, to the lobbyist firm in between 2005 and 2007.
"It is a bad luck of people that this illegal repressive regime has been spending the money of oppressed people on lobbyist firms to cover up the crimes it has committed by resorting to brutal repression, killing, enforced disappearance and snatching human and democratic rights,” he said.
Mosharraf said it is necessary to present a report before people on how much money the public have spent in the name of engaging lobbyists.
The BNP leader also presented some documents on Sajeeb Wazed Joy’s agreement with two US firms Alcade & Fay and Friedlander.
He said Joy has been working with another lobbyist firm, BGR, on a regular basis for many years. “Friedlander, another lobbyist firm, was hired in September last year for a fee of 40,000 for a month to arrange a high-level meeting and exchange visits between the two countries. “If you go to dig worms in this regard, bigger snakes will come out.”
On Tuesday, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam alleged that BNP spent at least US$ 3.75 million on lobbyists to campaign against Bangladesh, and he shared relevant documents with the media which are also available in the public domain.
He also claimed that the Awami League government never appointed any lobbyist in its last three tenures but engaged a company purely on the media front in 2015 to help the world know Bangladesh based on facts and counter-propaganda against the country and its people.
“It’s unethical for the government to hire a separate lobbyist, despite having the country’s embassies and missions in countries all over the world,” the BNP leader observed.
Mosharraf said the government presented ‘fictitious’ information on engaging lobbyists by BNP in the USA only to mislead people.
He said the state minister for foreign affairs told the media that BNP signed agreements with eight lobbyist firms and paid $ 10 lakh to one of the firms.
“He said they (govt) have information about seven other firms, but he couldn’t give anything. The truth is that the BNP has neither decided to hire a lobbyist nor has it felt the need to hire it. The allegations made by the state minister are baseless."
The two ministers of the government made contradictory comments and gave ‘fictitious’ information about the number of ‘imaginary’ lobbyist firms and the amount of money spent by BNP.
Mosharraf said the government questioned how BNP sent money abroad to hire lobbyists. "We want the central bank to look into it. Let them inquire. We want to make it clear that we have not hired any lobbyist and sent money from Bangladesh for it.”
He said Bangladeshi expatriates can inform the authorities and representatives of the countries they are living in about the human-rights situation of their own country and the Awami League government’s repressive acts.