Hillary decries political violenceShahidul Islam Chowdhury
Wants independent probes into disappearances
The visiting US secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on Saturday called for independent investigation of forced disappearances and putting an end to threat to civil society and intimidation of the press in Bangladesh.
Hillary also urged the Bangladesh government to launch a ‘thorough and independent investigation’ into the disappearance of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Ilyas Ali and killing of garment workers’ leader Amirul Islam.
She referred to the ‘loss of five lives’ during the opposition-enforced hartals saying that it was ‘exactly a heavy toll’.
Hillary urged all political parties in Bangladesh to sit for a dialogue for resolving ‘all problems’ for a ‘sustained democratic process.’
‘Any disappearance, any violence by political activists, any threat to civil society, any intimidation of the press is just not required in the 21st century,’ the US secretary of state said at a joint press conference with her Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni in Dhaka.
‘We continue to support democracy and freedom of speech and expression that every Bangladeshi is entitled to and their right to peacefully assemble,’ she told a questioner, a US journalist on her media entourage.
On Bangladesh politics, Hillary said, ‘We strongly urge all sides to construct a political dialogue, including parliamentary debate…All parties, not only the government, [need] to do everything necessary to support
democracy, to plan for another free, fair and credible election.’
‘We do not want to see any faltering [in democracy], Hillary said.
Violent demonstrations, she said, [send] a ‘signal to the international community about the investment climate here.’
Hillary stressed the need for taking ‘hard decisions’ for rule of law and transparency.
‘It is not so easy. A lot of countries have given up or did not try,’ she said, adding that the strength of Bangladesh people was that they ‘have never given up and never stopped trying’.
To a question over the alleged US efforts to bring Bangladesh into the US-India ‘axis’ in the context of recent ITLOS judgement settling Bangladesh’s maritime boundary with Myanmar, she said a peaceful legal outcome on the maritime boundary ‘creates room for cooperation’ in the region ‘for protection of resources and trade’ in the context of ‘increasing piracy’.
Hillary hoped that the Bangladesh government would expedite the process to appoint ‘an independent and respected managing director’ for Grameen Bank for carrying out the ‘good work’ of the bank.
Supporting the Bangladesh government’s ‘efforts’ to offer transit to neighbouring countries, she said Bangladesh ‘is geographically ideally situated for land bridging’ for exploring economic potential in South Asia.
She hoped Bangladesh would be able to resolve the issues of Rohingya refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals as Myanmar ‘is, perhaps, going through reforms’.
Hillary and Dipu Moni also referred to the official talks between them that lasted for around an hour starting from about 6:00pm.
Hillary led a seven-member US delegation and Dipu Moni a 10-member Bangladesh delegation to the talks.
Foreign minister Dipu Moni said the two sides had discussed at the talks duty- and quota-free access of Bangladesh products to the US market, extending GSP facilities, Bangladesh’s enrolment in the Millenium Challenge Account led by the US and repatriation of one of the self-confessed killers of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the US.
The US raised issues of military cooperation, an official said.
The US secretary of state said Washington would provide $30 million for Climate Change Resilience Fund in four years to support Bangladesh’s efforts to face adverse impacts of climate change.
Hillary called on the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, at her office after the press conference.
Hillary Clinton and Dipu Moni signed a joint declaration on Bangladesh-US partnership dialogue on behalf of their respective countries.
In a meeting with the leader of the opposition in parliament, Khaleda Zia at her Gulshan office in the evening, Hillary also stressed the need for dialogues between political parties and the government.
Hillary arrived in Dhaka at about 4:30pm by a special plane on a two-day official visit at the invitation of her Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni.
She alighted from the plane after an hour-long meeting with the US embassy officials in Dhaka.
Dipu Moni received her at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Foreign secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes, chief of protocol Khondker M Talha and directors general Muhammad A Muhith and Syed Masud Mahmud Khundker were present at the airport.
She is scheduled to leave Dhaka for India around midday today.
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