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9 July, 2019 12:25:35 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 July, 2019 04:27:45 PM

PM slams US congressman’s proposal to annex Rakhine

People should accept gas price hike for development: Hasina
Agencies, Dhaka
PM slams US congressman’s proposal to annex Rakhine

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday came down heavily on US Congressman and Chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee Brad Sherman for his proposal to incorporate Rakhine State of Myanmar into Bangladesh, terming it ‘flagitious’ and ‘unjust’.

“This is a flagitious and unjustified proposal. It is never acceptable... we are happy with our 54,000 square mile or 1,47, 000 square kilometer territory,” she told a press conference on the outcomes of her just-concluded visit to China when asked for comments on Sherman’s proposal during US congress’s hearing on State Department’s budget for South Asia last month. Sheikh Hasina added that Bangladesh offered makeshift refuge to the ethnic minority Muslim Rohongyas in its territory on humanitarian grounds which “does not mean, it wants to annex the Rakhine state”.

The premier reminded US Congressman Sherman, of the civil war of his country in the past and said Bangladesh would not do anything which would affect regional stability and peace.

“They may be a big country, but how a Congressman of the country forgot the past of their civil war and how they think that those days (civil war) will not come back again,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said, moreover, Rakhine appeared to be exposed to frequent unrest and “knowing and understanding that, why we will

attach a troubled area to our territory,” she questioned. “We will never do it,” she said.

The premier said Bangladesh honored Myanmar’s sovereignty while Rakhine was part of its territory and what Dhaka wanted was the safe return of the Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine state.

“Giving shelter to the Rohingyas does not mean that we will attach a part of the state. We’ve not such a mentality and we don’t want it. We want every state will remain with its sovereignty,” she said.

She said instead of floating such proposals, the US congressmen should do something so “Myanmar takes back their citizens from Bangladesh and that will be their humanitarian gesture”.

Sheikh Hasina said they should see the violation of human rights, rather refrain from creating trouble inside a country. “Fire was engulfed wherever they gave hand … peace didn’t come anywhere and militancy and unrest were created,” she said.

“We are trying to maintain peace in the region but there are efforts by them to light fire … it’s never acceptable,” she added.

According to media reports, US Congressman Brad Sherman, during a budget hearing on June 13, said if the Myanmar government is reluctant about establish good governance to save its Rohingya community and if they do not want to provide security to the Rohingya people living at the northern parts of Rakhine state or unable to do so, then the Rohingya majority area of the state should be incorporated with Bangladesh.

He also said the US should support the proposal to annex Rakhine to Bangladesh that is also a demand for the people of the area.

The UN called the atrocities as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing while rights groups described it as genocide.

The premier’s press conference came two days after her return from China after a five-day official visit largely to draw Beijing’s effective support to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

She told the press that Chinese leaders assured Dhaka of pursuing their crucial ally Myanmar to end the crisis by taking back the Rohingyas.

“China assured us it will remain beside Bangladesh in the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Is it not good news for us? Hasina said.

Mentioning that the external debt is only around 14 percent of the country’s GDP, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is alert enough so that it does fall into any debt trap.

“We’re careful enough about the debt trap. Our foreign debt burden is not a very heavy one. Our debt is only around 14 percent of our GDP. We’re paying the (foreign loan) installments timely without any default,” she said.

She said Bangladesh implemented 90 percent of the annual development programme (ADP) with own finances and the Padma Bridge is also being constructed with own fund.

In reply to a question from a reporter whether the relations of Bangladesh with the USA or other countries will be affected if Bangladesh-China ties get deeper amid the US-China trade war, Sheikh Hasina said this is not her job to see who engages in conflict, war or trade war with whom. “Economic development of our country is my only concern,” she said.

Replying to another question during her briefing as Ganabhaban, Sheikh Hasina said people should accept the gas price hike for the sake of the country’s economic progress as the government has to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) at a higher cost.

“If you truly want economic development, it’ll [gas-price hike] have to be accepted,” she said.

Bangladesh has achieved 8.1 percent GDP growth, said Sheikh Hasina adding, “It was possible as we paid enough attention to energy, and we’ve been able to boost power generation, too. But, we’re to import gas, and the import cost of LNG is huge. Energy is most important for economic development.”

The PM said the import cost of per cubic feet LNG is Tk 61.12, but it is being sold at Tk 9.80/cf by providing huge subsidy. “Even after the gas price hike, over Tk 10,000 crore has to be given as subsidy.”

Hasina said there are two ways remain open — either to refrain from increasing economic growth by reducing LNG import or accepting the price hike in the interest of economic development. “Gas prices are also adjusted in all countries in line with energy or gas import, she added.

Referring to gas prices in neighbouring India, the Prime Minister said its prices are still much less than in India. The gas prices are adjusted in India twice a year - first in April and then in October.

“It’s said the gas prices were decreased [in India]. [In India} the price of household gas is Tk 30-37/cubic feet, whereas that is only Tk 12.60 in Bangladesh,” she mentioned.

The gas prices for industrial purpose is only Tk 10.70/cf in Bangladesh against Tk 40-42/cf in India, the CNG price is Tk 43/cf in Bangladesh, which is Tk 44/cf in India, and the gas price for commercial purpose is Tk 23/cf against Tk 58-65/cf in India, Hasina said.

Taking a swipe at protestors, the Prime Minister said leftist and rightist parties raised the same voice over it. “They forgot what the situation was 8-9 years ago.”

In 2004-2005, India had wanted to take gas from Myanmar installing pipeline through Bangladesh, but Khaleda Zia government didn’t allow it.

Had she (Sheikh Hasina) been in the power at that time, she would have allowed the pipeline ensuring Bangladesh’s share from the gas, Hasina said.

She said had Bangladesh taken the share and used it for economic development it would not require to import LNG now.

Responding to another query, the Prime Minister apparently ruled out the possibility to extend the age limit to enter the government job, placing a number of logics in support of keeping the current age limit unchanged.

She said a student can complete his or her post-graduation degree at the age of 23 years and the success rate of the BCS applicants aged 23-25 is higher than that of examinees aged 25-27 and much higher than that of BCS candidates aged above 29.

In the 35th BCS examination, 40.7 percent of the candidates who came out successful were aged 23-25 while 30.29 percent aged 25-27 and 13.17 percent aged 27-29 years and 3.45 percent candidates were aged above 29, the Prime Minister said.

The rate successful candidates in the 36th BCS examination was 37.45 percent, 34.78 percent, 14.89 percent and 3.23 percent respectively while it was 43.65 percent, 23.35 percent, 7.20 percent, 27-29 years and 0.61 percent respectively in the 37th BCS examination, she said.

“If the age limit is extended to 35 years, what will be the situation? There’s a certain age to do work,” Sheikh Hasina said.

“What will be the consequences if anyone joins job at the age 35? He or she will have to be imparted training till 37 years,” she added.

The Prime Minister said any government job holder will have to fulfill 25 years in service to get the full pension benefit.

Referring to incidents of rape across the country, Sheikh Hasina issued a strong warning, saying that her government will do whatever necessary to contain such offences.

“Those who are committing such heinous crimes are not human beings. So we will take whatever punitive action is required,” she said.

The prime minister’s warning came when she responded to a question at a press conference about rise in the incidents of rape of women and children in recent time.

Road Transport and Bridges Minister and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader and Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen were present on the dais along with the prime minister, while PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim moderated it.

Sheikh Hasina said the police are tracking down and arresting the rapists. “The criminals also confess their offences,” she said.

The prime minister said now the victims can disclose it. “But there was a time in our country when many could not say it due to social shame,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina urged males alongside the females to raise their voice against such crimes.

Responding to another question over Bangladesh cricket team’s performance in the ICC World Cup, she said the team improved much. “I would like to thank them (cricket players) as they showed bravery and confidence. I didn’t see any lack of their confidence,” she said.

Hasina returned home on Saturday wrapping up her five-day official visit to China.




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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