People in support of fair polls have nothing to fear, Peter Haas says on new US visa policy
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Tuesday (May 30, 2023) said people who support free and fair election and work towards that end have nothing to fear regarding the new US visa policy. “I don’t see any disagreement at all,” he told reporters, noting that they in the US want the same what the people of Bangladesh want – a free and fair election. Ambassador Haas made the remarks while responding to questions on the new visa policy after a function in Dhaka. He said the US sees positive things rather than challenges. “We have a very strong partnership on trade, security relations, people to people ties, healthcare, and good conversation on the upcoming election.” Read more: Widened Dhaka-Washington relationship allows to freely debate on differences: Shahriar Haas said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made a clear commitment to hold a free and fair election in Bangladesh. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his announcement said the holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone—voters, political parties, the government, the security forces, civil society, and the media." The ambassador spoke at the inaugural ceremony of a photo exhibition titled “Roots of Friendship: 50 Years of U.S.- Bangladesh Relations” at Edward M. Kennedy Center. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam spoke as the chief guest. Read more: New US visa policy to curb money laundering: Momen
US providing $250,000 to assist Cyclone Mocha emergency relief efforts: Peter Haas
The United States is providing $250,000 to assist Cyclone Mocha emergency relief efforts in the most severely affected areas. “The people of the United States stand with the people of Bangladesh and the Rohingya refugees affected by the cyclone,” US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas said today. On May 14, Cyclone Mocha moved through the Bay of Bengal, making landfall in Myanmar and Bangladesh, affecting over nearly half a million Bangladeshis living in coastal areas and almost one million Rohingyas in refugee camps. Also read: US Congress introduces resolution on 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-US ties The storm was one of the strongest in recent years causing significant tidal surges, heavy rain, and wind speeds of up to 140 km per hour in Bangladesh, resulting in widespread wind damage, flooding, and landslides. The United States has worked closely with Bangladesh to improve disaster preparedness and response over the past five decades of partnership. Through the US Agency for International Development, the US government has built 900 multi-purpose disaster shelters in the most vulnerable areas of Bangladesh since 2001 and invested in early warning systems that keep hundreds of thousands of people safe from cyclones, flooding, and other emergencies. The United States is also the largest contributor to Rohingya refugee relief efforts, said the Embassy.
No point in complaining to foreigners, Bangladeshis will cast votes: Momen to BNP
Bangladesh's Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Sunday (April 16, 2023) said complaining to foreigners will bring no benefits to BNP and suggested that the opposition party reach out to voters at the grassroots and listen to them. “These are very unfortunate. They should go to voters at the grassroots level. Foreigners will not cast votes, rather the people of Bangladesh will do that,” he said when a reporter drew his attention to a BNP delegation meeting US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Sunday. Momen referred to his recent visit to his constituency in Sylhet and said political leaders' efforts should be focused on people’s welfare. “If you discuss with grassroots voters, you will understand what can be done for further development,” he said. Also Read: 3-member BNP delegation meets US envoy Responding to a question, Momen said the US wants “free and fair elections” and they (AL) want the same. “There is no difference in opinion (on the election issue).” He said the US wants to strengthen its relations with Bangladesh and the US ambassador is an expert on trade and investment issues. “We hope efforts on trade development will be expedited and the ambassador will emphasize on it.” Regarding his recent meeting with the US Secretary of State, Momen said the Bangladesh side answered the questions that the US had including a question on the Digital Security Act (DSA). Bangladesh is examining the issue as in some areas application of the DSA might not be done correctly. “We are examining it. If there is any weakness, we will take care of it,” said the foreign minister. Also Read: US urged to create “safe protection zone” in Myanmar to facilitate Rohingya repatriation Momen said the US is “pretty happy” with Bangladesh’s response as both sides want to avoid unnecessary harassment. He said Bangladesh fought for establishing democracy, justice, freedom of press and religion and Bangladesh which gave blood does not need to take any lesson from others. “We told them our story and shared our position.” Bangladesh has conveyed to the USA that the Digital Security Act (DSA) is not meant for restricting the freedom of press, noting that the government believes in freedom of press. “We said we enacted the Digital Security Act, but it is not to curb the freedom of press. Awami League believes in freedom of press,” Momen told the US side during his meeting with Blinken in Washington DC. Also Read: Digital Security Act not for restricting media freedom, Momen tells US Momen mentioned the presence of a huge number of newspapers and private television channels in Bangladesh which he described as “hyperactive”. At the meeting, Blinken expressed concerns about “violence against and intimidation of the media and civil society,” including under the Digital Security Act, according to Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel. Asked whether the government feels any pressure amid repeated calls for holding free and fair elections in Bangladesh, Momen said, “We are very happy.” “No pressure. We want free and fair elections. It’s our own commitment.” Read More: Investigate if BNP-Jamaat are behind recent fire incidents to cripple economy: PM Hasina asks authorities Since holding free and fair elections is a government’s commitment, Momen said, the repeated calls from the US helped them make their commitment afresh. He said the government and the Election Commission alone cannot ensure a free and fair election but it requires sincerity and commitment from all political parties. Momen said the government encouraged the US side to send election observers as many as they want. “We are open to observers.” “Of course, we’re looking – the world is looking – to Bangladesh for its next election, to make sure that they set a strong example of free and fair election for the region and for the world,” Secretary Blinken said during his meeting with Momen on April 10. Read More: The entire world with Bangladesh for credible polls, human rights, press freedom: BNP “I agree with Secretary Blinken. I am so happy that he also wants a model election which can be portrayed in the rest of the world. I want this, too and we seek support from all,” Momen said earlier.
Bangladesh can draw more investment if corruption remains less prevalent: Peter Haas
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas today (March 21, 2023) said his country is committed to working with Bangladesh to eliminate corruption – enabling Bangladeshis to enjoy lives of dignity and drawing more international trade and foreign investment. “If Bangladesh can assure citizens and investors that corruption is less prevalent here than in other markets, it will attract more investment and help the country continue on the path of economic growth,” he said. Ambassador Haas made the remarks at an event, titled “Call to Action Against Corruption Summit”, at a Dhaka hotel, organized by Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) and Center for International Private Enterprises. The US ambassador said corruption exists, to one degree or another, in every corner of the globe, and they are all too familiar with what it looks like. Read More: Excited to see more Bangladeshi students are choosing US: Peter Haas “It’s trying to get a driver’s license and having to pay ‘speed money’. It’s knowing that if you want a passport appointment, it’s going to cost you extra. It’s needing to bribe the right official to register a plot of land you just purchased,” Haas said. Corruption is a parasite that feeds on the resources of a society and drains it of its strength and can devastate every level of business and government, he said. “Sadly, some notorious scandals have occurred in my own country,” said the US ambassador. Yet, he said, exposing corruption and holding perpetrators accountable have catalyzed economic growth in the United States and elsewhere. Read More: New US Ambassador Peter Haas arrives in Dhaka “When societies exert such efforts, they prosper. I am confident this can be the case here in Bangladesh, as well, and the United States is eager to help,” he said. Under President Biden, the US government has established the fight against corruption as a core national security interest, he added. “We support initiatives that help Bangladeshi businesses meet international standards and regulations, making them more competitive in the global market,” said the envoy. “By promoting ethical business practices, we can create a more level playing field for businesses of all sizes and encourage more foreign investment,” he added. Read More: Peter Haas nominated next US Ambassador to Bangladesh The US Agency for International Development, USAID, has partnered with Bangladesh’s Registrar of Joint Stock Companies to launch an online registration process for new businesses. This makes registering new businesses more transparent, faster, and more affordable, Ambassador Haas said. USAID has also worked with the Bangladesh National Board of Revenue to establish authorized economic operators. This endeavour empowers the private sector, instead of the government, to release shipments at ports, he said. As a result, Haas said, the process has become more transparent and raised the level of trust between the private sector and the government. Read More: Prevent corruption in every sector: President to ACC The US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) works with the Private Public Partnership Authority Bangladesh to conduct workshops to improve the legal and business environment of Bangladesh. CLDP also works with Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) to improve municipal governance by improving fiscal transparency. Under this program, CLDP invited over a DNCC delegation, including the mayor, to Miami in January. The US Department of Justice trains investigators and attorneys in the Anti-Corruption Commission on topics such as how to investigate and prosecute money laundering, how to use electronic evidence, and how to investigate financial crimes. “It has also fostered a relationship between Bangladesh’s Financial Intelligence Unit and the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre,” Haas said. Read More: All-pervasive corruption by AL destroys economy: Fakhrul “The United States is committed to holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions. This can take various forms,” said the ambassador. Just as US laws hold American citizens and businesses accountable for corrupt practices, there are US laws and penalties that apply to non-citizens who use corrupt practices in violation of the laws. “What can the Bangladeshi government do to reduce corruption? It could think about ways to empower institutions to tackle corruption and promote transparency and accountability in governance and business,” he said. One idea is to reduce the amount of cash that officials handle by replacing cash-based financial transactions with the government with online transactions, Haas said. Read More: Power tariff being raised frequently to manage corruption: Fakhrul “Citizens could pay bills, fines, and taxes electronically. Such a process would minimize the opportunity for bureaucrats to overcharge or misplace public funds into their own pockets,” he said. Haas recognized the important role a vibrant civil society and free media play in investigating and exposing instances of corruption. Bangladesh has many advantages that potential investors would find attractive, he said. “But as American business leaders tell me: multi-national firms have options on where they invest.” They will choose whichever country has the lowest levels of corruption, the fewest bureaucratic obstacles, the greatest respect for rule of law, and the best logistics infrastructure for their business, he added. Read More: BNP's complaints about corruption 'laughable': Hasan Mahmud
Each country should have ‘Data Protection Act’: Law minister
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq said on Monday that every country should have the ‘Data Protection Act’. The minister came up with the reply a day after US Ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas said that many US organisations would have to leave Bangladesh once the draft law is passed. The Law Minister made his statement while replying to questions from journalists after inaugurating the ‘11th Orientation Course of Additional District and Sessions Judges’ at the auditorium of Justice Administration Training Institute in the capital. He said corrections will be made if any inconsistency is detected in the drafted law (Data Protection Act) after discussion with the stakeholders. The minister said the justice division is working to provide low cost and quick services despite being burdened with some 37 lakh pending cases. He said that reducing the huge gridlock of the pending cases is a big challenge. Read more: Law Minister in staunch defence of Digital Security Act He advised the additional district and sessions judges detailing how to reduce the huge number of pending cases by using their own experiences. The training institute Director General Justice Nazmun Ara Sultan chaired the function where Secretary to the Law and Justice division Md Golam Sarwar also spoke.
Ambassador Haas lauds success of Bangladeshi students on US campuses
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Tuesday lauded the success of Bangladeshi students on US campuses. “We’re thrilled by the increasing number of Bangladeshis who have chosen to study in the United States to improve their prospects and find their passion. These students make valuable contributions to Bangladesh and the United States,” he said. The Ambassador highlighted the increasing number of Bangladeshi students studying in the United States, with Bangladesh currently ranking 13th among the top sending countries of origin for students studying in the United States. Ambassador Haas inaugurated the largest US university fair in Bangladesh with prospective students and US institutions. Read more: Excited to see more Bangladeshi students are choosing US: Peter Haas
US envoy Haas praises Bangladesh’s development, eyes stronger future partnership
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Thursday said Bangladesh’s economic development over the last fifty years has been remarkable, and the United States has been a proud partner in that transformation. "We look forward to working with Bangladesh over the next fifty years and beyond," he said. The US Ambassador was delivering opening remarks at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum Infrastructure Panel titled “Mobilising Infrastructure Investment in Bangladesh and the Indo-Pacific.” For the past fifty years, Haas said, the United States has partnered with the governments and the people of Bangladesh by providing over $8 billion to tackle issues like public health, education, energy, environment, food security, natural disasters, and more. "We’re also working with the government through technical assistance programs to create more efficient logistics systems and unleash private investment in areas like clean energy, ports, and railways," said the US Ambassador. In Bangladesh, as in other low and middle-income countries across the region, infrastructure is critical to driving inclusive and sustainable development. Infrastructure connects workers to good jobs; allows businesses to grow and thrive, and creates opportunities for all segments of the society, including underserved communities. "But delivering high-quality infrastructure takes more than just financial investment. It also requires working to support the necessary institutional and policy frameworks, regulatory environment, and human capacity to structure projects to attract private investment," said the Ambassador. Read more: US envoy meets Momen, shares displeasure over embarrassment It requires strong engineering, environmental, social, governance, and labor standards to ensure positive impact, he said. Infrastructure comes in many forms and sizes, from the large-scale energy systems that power inclusive economies, to the local healthcare networks that contribute to global health security, to the cellular towers and undersea cables that move our data and enable a seamless, open worldwide exchange of information. Meeting infrastructure needs across the Indo-Pacific requires a wide range of public and private financing options. "No one country can go it alone. That’s why in June 2022, President Biden announced the United States aims to mobilise an additional $200 billion in investment as part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment," said the US envoy. The United States has always been a strong supporter of development finance through the multilateral system, Haas said. Investments from companies like Chevron, GE, and Excelerate create good jobs for Bangladeshi communities and help provide reliable power supply to the Bangladeshi people, he said. U.S. companies are also working to expand high-speed internet access to communities across Bangladesh, said the US envoy. For instance, U.S. company SubCom will build the next undersea communications cable from the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company, he said. Read more: US Ambassador visits residence of the coordinator of ‘Mayer Dak’ in city "Innovative products like SpaceX’s Starlink could also help provide reliable high-speed satellite internet access to the most remote areas in Bangladesh and across the Indo-Pacific, he said. These technologies can help support Bangladesh’s vast digital user base and expand Bangladesh’s digital economy, said the US envoy. The United States and Japan are committed to working together to foster sustainable and inclusive growth in Bangladesh and across the Indo-Pacific. The US Embassy co-hosted two panels for this year’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum with the Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh featuring Ambassador Haas, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Iwama Kiminori, Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Sharifa Khan. Panelists discussed how to ensure infrastructure investment benefits bring positive impact across society, and how connecting major corporations with women-owned businesses can foster women’s economic empowerment.
Shaheenbagh incident: Sajeeb Wazed’s post generates traction on social media
Amid criticism from Dhaka University Teachers’ Association over US ambassador’s “contradictory” approach towards family members of armed forces officers – many of whom were freedom fighters – executed during Gen Ziaur Rahman’s regime, Prime Minister’s ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy called out the “double standards” in a humorous tone. On Martyred Intellectuals Day (December 14, 2022), US Ambassador Peter Haas visited the residence of Sanjida Islam, coordinator of ‘Mayer Dak’, an organisation of families of victims of enforced disappearance, in Dhaka’s Shaheenbagh. Sanjida is the sister of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon, who is reportedly a victim of enforced disappearance that took place in 2013. Read more: DUTA slams US Ambassador for ‘contradictory’ behaviour Acting on information that the US ambassador was visiting a house in Shaheenbagh area, members of ‘Mayer Kanna’ – a platform of family members of victims of enforced disappearance during Gen Zia’s rule – showed up and tried to draw the attention of the ambassador. Awaiting justice for over four decades, the victim families sought intervention of the US ambassador for bringing the perpetrators to book. Gen Zia “unjustly executed around 1,156 army and air force personnel – by hanging or firing squad,” the ‘Mayer Kanna’ appeal reads. Terming the US ambassador’s behaviour “contradictory”, a Dhaka University Teachers’ Association statement said that the envoy went to the house of a disappeared person, but didn’t listen to what ‘Mayer Kanna’, an organisation seeking justice for those killed and disappeared during the regime of Ziaur Rahman, had to say. Read more: US envoy’s visit to Mayer Dak coordinator’s house won’t hurt ties: Info Minister Following the much-talked about incident, Sajeeb Wazed on his verified Facebook page wrote: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington, DC? Because, there is no US Embassy there!” The post gained traction on social media amid statement from BNP leaders raising concerns about diplomats’ security in the country. Many netizens pointed out the 2004 grenade attack on the then British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Anwar Choudhury, in Sylhet, when BNP was in office. Many also questioned the timing of the US ambassador’s visit on Martyred Intellectuals Day. The nation mourns the day by honouring the martyrs, going to memorials. During the Liberation War in 1971, Pakistan army with its local collaborators — many belonging to Jamaat — picked up over 1000 Bengali intellectuals and brutally killed them. The alliance between Jamaat and BNP dates back to the latter’s founding days under Gen Ziaur Rahman.
US envoy’s visit to Mayer Dak coordinator’s house won’t hurt ties: Info Minister
The controversy over the visit of US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas to the residence of ‘Mayer Dak’ coordinator will not harm the relationship between Bangladesh and the United States, said Information Minister Hasan Mahmud on Thursday. “Of course, the United States is our development partner. They also have a great role in our development journey,” said the minister while talking to reporters at the secretariat. “I would urge the US Ambassador to stay alert about any wrong advice or attempt to make him biased like this,” he said. Those who advised Haas to visit the residence of the coordinator of Mayer Dak made him controversial, he said. Read more: Families of armed forces officers executed during Zia regime seek US ambassador’s intervention for justice “I don't know who advised him to go to the residence yesterday. Whoever gave him the advice did not give the right advice,” the minister added. “But I think the decision was up to the envoy and he also needed to focus on our special days”, he said. The minister said it would have been great if Haas had visited Martyred Intellectuals’ Memorial, marking the Martyred Intellectuals Day on Wednesday. Ambassador Haas visited the residence of Sanjida Islam, coordinator of Mayer Dak, a platform of the relatives of the victims of enforced disappearance, at Shaheenbagh in the city on Wednesday morning. Sanjida is the sister of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon, reportedly a victim of enforced disappearance that took place in 2013. The minister said the Foreign Affairs Ministry was not aware of the matter and Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has already said so. “Mayer Dak was formed by those who are reported to have been made victims of enforced disappearance. Many of them are being found again. Many are accused involving murder cases, many are accused of drug cases and many are fugitive convicts,” he said. BNP keeps telling them that their leaders and activists have been victims of enforced disappearance, he added. Read more: US envoy meets Momen, shares displeasure over embarrassment Following the envoy’s visit to Mayer Dak coordinator’s residence, around 50 people from another organisation ‘Mayer Kanna’ a platform of family members of the victims of enforced disappearance during Gen Ziaur Rahman’s regime, went there to give a memorandum to the US Ambassador, said the minister. But those who were in charge of security of the US envoy did not let ‘Mayer Kanna’ to do that due to his security concern. “I think if the US Ambassador received their memorandum and had a talk with them, then he will not face the bitter criticism now," said the information minister said.
US envoy meets Momen, shares displeasure over embarrassment
Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday (December 14, 2022) said his ministry did not have prior information regarding the US Ambassador's visit to a particular residence where many people gathered outside the gate. Momen said US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas met him on an emergency basis at his office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I told him that it is our responsibility to ensure security for you and your people. I asked him (Haas) whether anybody attacked him or on his people. He replied, no,” the foreign minister told reporters, adding that they will provide the Ambassador additional security if he wants. Momen said the Ambassador did not inform his ministry beforehand about the visit and wanted to know from the Ambassador how people came to know that he was going there. “We don’t know anything about it," he added. Read more: US Ambassador hosts reception for DCAB The foreign minister also advised the US envoy to look into how the information regarding his visit was leaked, adding that his (Ambassador) people may also do that. Ambassador Haas visited the residence of Sanjida Islam, coordinator of Mayer Dak, an organisation of the relatives of the victims of enforced disappearance, at Shaheenbagh in the city on Wednesday morning. Sanjida is the sister of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon, who is reportedly a victim of enforced disappearance that took place in 2013. The Ambassador's security escort asked him to leave the place as soon as possible fearing blockade by people there. Read More: US keen to work with Bangladesh, other partners to ensure an open Indo-Pacific “Due to security reasons he left quickly. He is very unhappy with that incident. He is a bit worried,” Momen said. The US Ambassador and embassy staff ended the meeting due to "security concerns", said a spokesperson at the US Embassy in Dhaka. "We are raising this matter at the highest levels of the Bangladesh government," he said. “We cannot bar our journalists from performing their duties. They are very vocal and have the freedom and they run after events,” said the Foreign Minister while responding to a question. Read More: US to be bold in promoting its vision of a free, secure, and prosperous world: Haas The foreign minister said it is a country of free speech and people convey their messages freely and there is freedom of mobility. But, he said, people can be arrested as per the law if public and private property are damaged.