tatement By Hon’ble Foreign Minister at the Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) on 24 September 2020.
Assalamu alaikum, peace be on you
It is indeed a pleasure to take part in this CICA Ministerial Meeting. I would like to join other distinguished delegates in conveying our sincere appreciation to the Chair, and the CICA Secretariat for the excellent arrangements made for the virtual meeting even during this pandemic situation. We also welcome the new Executive Director of CICA.
Year 2020 marks the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bangali of all times. It is a difficult year for all of us. But the entire humanity has come under the same umbrella in the fight against an invisible enemy Covid-19 that defies frontiers. The wave of Covid-19 has also affected Bangladesh like all other countries of the world. Thanks to Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking timely actions. We have successfully managed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 infection and the fatality rate. As of today, the death toll is only 5044. We were concerned that the Covid-19 might badly affect 1.1 million Rohingyas, the displaced people of Myanmar, that live in a highly congested area inside Bangladesh. Fortunately, minimal got affected due to multiple targeted initiatives.
Despite the threat to our economy, ecology, and overall societal impact, Bangladesh gave shelter, on a humanitarian ground, to nearly 1.1 million persecuted people fleeing massacre in Myanmar, their homeland. Bangladesh is keen on solving the crisis through constructive diplomacy with good neighbourly spirit. Myanmar is our friendly country and, therefore, Bangladesh signed 3 instruments with Myanmar for repatriation. Myanmar agreed to take them back after verification. They also agreed to create a conducive environment for their voluntary repatriation and they agreed to ensure safety and security of the displaced people. But unfortunately till today, none went back and instead of creating conducive environment, fighting and shelling is ongoing in the Rakhine state. Our fear is that, if this problem persists, it may lead to pockets of radicalism and since terrorists have no borders, no faith, there’s a high possibility of creation of uncertainty in the region which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure and stable region.
Because of lack of confidence buildings and trust deficits between persecuted Rohingya and Myanmar government not a single Rohingya went back to Myanmar. To improve confidence buildings, we suggested many options to Myanmar, for example, ’go and visit’, Myanmar would allow Rohingya leaders to visit Rakhine province or allowing non- military civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries like ASEAN+, or China, Russia or India or any country of their choice so that Rohingya feel assured of their safety and security. Alternately, we requested Myanmar officials to come and talk to their displaced Rohingya for confidence building, unfortunately Myanmar is yet to respond to our suggestions.
In this confidence buildings conference of CICA, you will agree with me that it is time for Myanmar to interacted with their displaced people for confidence building measures for meaningful and durable solution.
Secondly, Myanmar’s stability and economic growth could be negatively affected if Rohingya problem is not resolved. This problem has been created by Myanmar and solution also lies with Myanmar.
This pandemic proves us that it is neither stockpiles of weapons nor building up of walls can save human life. Therefore, it is time to direct resources to health and social sectors. COVID comes with its multifaceted impacts on our lives, including severe disruptions to societies and economies. The crisis, however, has manifested devastating but differentiated impacts on segments of the population, as it would hit hardest the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
In Bangladesh, under the dynamic and determined leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, our government took full preventive measures from the very early stage of the pandemic. She announced the largest ever financial and social safety assistance package in Bangladesh’s history covering our industrial workers, agriculture sector as well as frontline key workers including doctors, nurses, health professionals, law enforcement agencies and field level people who are risking their lives to fight the pandemic. This is not only for maintaining our own macroeconomic stability – but also that the global supply chain does not break down.