Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bangladesh government's decision on matters of the Rohingya people is criminal and deserves change

Muslim Aid, a UK-based non-government organization, is going to close down its Rohingya project in Teknaf in phases, as the European Union has stopped funding it after being requested to do so by the Bangladesh Government.

I am simply shocked to learn of the decision. The current government in its zeal to eradicate Jamat-e-Islam and Muslims religious groups which had opposed its rule seems not concerned about ramifications of its actions which not only punish the Rohingya refugees living in makeshift camps but also show a total abhorrence to simple acts of mercy and compassion -- virtues that are universally cherished. One wonders how low would the government step down to alienate itself from the general public who are sympathetic to the Rohingya cause and would welcome finding an honorable solution to end their plight.

As to the reason of why the UK based NGO was blacklisted, we are told that it was at one time headed by a Jamat (JIB) leader who was accused of and recently convicted in Bangladesh for his alleged involvement with the killings of Bengali intellectuals in 1971 civil war.

Thus, according to a senior Bangladeshi official of the Foreign Ministry, “The NGO has dubious operations in Teknaf, and the government has requested the EU not to fund it.” “We do not want them to operate in Teknaf as the government has no knowledge of where and how they spend their fund,” said another foreign ministry official. The European Union embassy in Dhaka also confirmed that, from February this year, their contract with Muslim Aid has expired. Last year, the EU alone provided 2.857 million Euros to Muslim Aid. The NGO also receives funds from other donors.

So, the Hasina administration in its zeal to eliminate JIB has chosen to punish the Rohingya people by cutting off its aid that came from an NGO that was at one time chaired by a Jamati leader. Such a decision is stupid and irrational for surely if such criteria are chosen many of the political organizations of our time including the ruling Awami League lack legitimacy to operate inside the country.

The Bangladesh government in 2008 allowed Muslim Aid to manage a make-shift camp for undocumented Rohingyas in Teknaf. The government scrapped its permission in 2012 but did not force the NGO to leave Teknaf. As such, the NGO was still managing the camp where over 15,000 undocumented Rohingyas are residing. Nearly 30,000 Rohingya refugees are residing in two camps in Cox’s Bazar, whereas about three to five hundred thousand undocumented Rohingyas, whom the government does not recognize as refugees, are residing in Cox’s Bazar, Teknaf, Chittagong, and other adjacent districts.

I pray and hope that  common sense and human decency dictate Bangladesh government actions, and that the prime minister is not advised by some brain-dead pundits who are increasingly alienating her from the public.

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