Militancy is not a critical challenge for Bangladesh yet: Moni

March 26, 2009

Leaves for KL to discuss labour issue
BSS, Dhaka
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni on Wednesday said, militancy or terrorism was not a critical challenge for Bangladesh’s image abroad yet as she called it an issue worldwide concern.
“I don’t think it is a critical challenge for Bangladesh’s image yet,” she told newsmen in her first formal press conference after the installation of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government with the landmark December 29, 2008 general election.
“It (militancy) is not a problem for Bangladesh alone, rather it is a worldwide concern and as soon as we can overcome it, it is good for all.”
The foreign minister said, Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, but the landmark polls in December last year installed a “non communal government” to power.
“The issue of militancy cannot surpass this crucial fact to damage the country’s image,” she said.
In the crowded press conference, Moni reviewed the developments of Bangla desh’s diplomatic and economic relations with countries considered strategically important by Dhaka while she said, issue of expatriate Bangladeshi workers particularly in Malaysia currently topped her agenda.
She said, Bangladesh has several outstanding issues with India that included trade gap and maritime boundary while since the last month’s Dhaka visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the two neighbours were progressing towards resolving the issues.
She said, Dhaka-New Delhi ties witnessed a major development in the past one month with India agreeing to fix the maritime boundary on the basis of “equitable distance”, the principle being pursued by Bangladesh.
Moni said, India also sought a list of Bangladeshi products which Dhaka wanted to export there at zero tariff cost. “We are now preparing the list.”
Replying to a question on Tipaimukh Dam reportedly being constructed near the northeastern Sylhet borders raising concerns about its impact on Bangladesh’s ecology and economy, the foreign minister said, “New Delhi assured us they won’t do anything (Tipaimukh) which would affect us”.
Moni said, her office was now exploring ways to promote and protect the manpower market abroad against the backdrop of global recession while hectic diplomatic efforts in formal and informal manner were now underway to Bangladeshi workers debacle in Malaysia.
“I assure you, we are now attaching highest importance on the manpower issue in Myanmar,” Moni said adding that she was set to visit Kuala Lumpur along with Expatriate Welfare Minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossain to discuss the issue with Malaysian leaders.
Moni said they would join the general assembly of the ruling party of Malaysia ahead of the general election in that country as representatives of Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and talk with Malaysian leaders on the Bangladeshi workers issue on the sidelines of the conference.
“In the past two years, Kula Lumpur imposed bans on overseas workers for four times, every time the ban was lifted . . . we hope the ban on Bangladeshi workers will also be lifted shortly . . . the sectors where the Bangladeshis were mainly engaged still have demands for overseas workers,” Moni said.
Replying to a question, she, however, acknowledged that comments by a Bangladeshi diplomat in Malaysian media might have prompted the Malaysian decision ahead of the elections amid the backdrop of job cuts of their own nationals in view of the recession.
She said, the Bangladeshi labour attache there reportedly and repeatedly said Dhaka was not freighted about the situation and “some 70,000 Bangladeshis are coming to Malaysia shortly”.
“You understand such comments ahead of the elections of a country where its own citizens are exposed to joblessness can turn dangerous,” Moni said.
Staff Correspondent adds: Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Wednesday said ‘a politically sensitive’ comment made by Bangladesh labour counselor in Kuala Lumpur might be the reason of cancellation of thousands of Malaysian visas of Bangladeshi workers.
In her maiden press briefing at foreign ministry before leaving the country for a three day long visit to Malaysia, Dipu Moni said the labour counselor had told a local TV channel and a state run news agency that his country had no problem even amid severe economic slowdown in Malaysia as 70 thousands more Bangladeshi workers were coming to the country soon.
Terming the statement made by the counselor ‘politically sensitive’, foreign minister apprehended that it might have led to cancellation of 55000 visas for Bangladeshi workers.
She said, “I am going to represent the Prime Minister to the general assembly of the ruling party of the country. We must discuss the labour issue with the leaders of different political parties there informally. But it does not mean that the problems will be resolved this time.”
“We will also discuss different bilateral issues including labour one to boost the relationship between two Muslim nations”, Dipu Moni said.
Responding to a query, “Despite the current global recession that has hit country’s manpower export severely, there is also some good news that Kuwait permitted Bangladeshi workers to change their workplace as per their wishes. Besides, Oman lifted restrictions on semi-skilled Bangladeshi workers and Bahrain withdrew ban on Bangladeshi skilled workers.”
She also informed that new employment opportunities are being created in different countries including Jordan, Egypt and Sudan.
“If the existing crisis is not solved soon, I will visit Malaysia again,” the first ever country’s female foreign minister said.

Courtesy of The Bangladesh Today

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