"We fully agree that the causes and solutions to the crisis lie in Myanmar, and this is why we’re using all tools at our disposal to help," said Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Préfontaine.
The High Commissioner was addressing a symposium titled “Bangladesh-Canada Relations: Prognosis for Partnership” at a city hotel organised by Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cosmos Group, as part of its Ambassador’s Lecture Series.
Foreign Secretary (Senior Secretary) Md Shahidul Haque, who spoke at the event as the chief guest, termed Bangladesh-Canada relation a trouble-free one which is growing on all fronts and also highlighted Canada’s supports over the Rohingya issue.
Chairman of the Cosmos Foundation Enayetullah Khan delivered the welcome speech at the symposium chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, the Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and former Foreign Affairs Adviser to Bangladesh’s previous caretaker government.
High Commissioner Préfontaine said Canada has a long history of helping and welcoming refugees and their citizens deeply care about what the Rohingya and Cox's Bazar host communities are going through.
He said Canada recognises the immense generosity that the people and government of Bangladesh have demonstrated in welcoming Rohingya refugees and in keeping their borders open to those seeking refuge.
The High Commissioner said Canada was one of the first countries to respond to the crisis, and continues to be a top humanitarian donor.
"We place crucial importance on addressing the urgent needs of crisis-affected populations in Cox’s Bazar, both refugees and those living in the affected host communities," said Préfontaine.
Canada is engaged in “extensive advocacy” and continues to work with the international community to find a way to bring to justice those responsible for gross human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar.
Appreciating Canada’s support on the Rohingya issue, Foreign Secretary Haque said it has been an “exceptional relationship” not only in terms of helping Rohingyas and their basic needs, but also in terms of the whole issue of “accountability track”.
He said Canada acted “very decisively” including passing a very strong resolution in the Senate, and subsequently Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, was stripped of her honorary Canadian citizenship over her inaction on military violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.
“That’s a very decisive, very significant, and very encouraging decision,” said the Foreign Secretary adding that it was beyond the lip service.
In October 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Bob Rae as Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar and he released his report in April 2018, outlining the underlying causes of the Rohingya crisis.
“Bob Rae has been very instrumental on the accountability track,” said the Foreign Secretary mentioning that Bangladesh and Canada are working very closely and trying to find out how best the two countries can collaborate in the coming days in The Hague.
Dr Iftekhar also recognised Canada’s support over the Rohingya issue since the beginning of the crisis that affected Bangladesh largely.
On November 11, Gambia filed a case at the United Nations’ highest court, accusing Myanmar of “genocide” in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
Gambia, which filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately.”
Gambia Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambadou and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will lead the lawyers on behalf of their respective countries during the December 10-12 hearing at the court in The Hague.
On November 14, the pre-trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her investigation will seek to uncover the truth. “My office will now focus on ensuring the success of its independent and impartial investigation."
Meanwhile, Suu Kyi is among several top Myanmar officials named in a case filed in Argentina for crimes against Rohingya Muslims and it shows the Nobel Laureate, for the first time, has been legally targeted over the crisis.
Diplomats stationed in Dhaka, former ambassadors and experts shared their views on global, regional, and bilateral issues, including the Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar since August 25, 2017 amid military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine State.
Not a single Rohingya was repatriated over the last two years due to Myanmar’s “failure” to build confidence among Rohingyas and lack of a conducive environment in Rakhine State, officials here said.
Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1 lakh Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently is expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from Bangladesh, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.