* Ansar Ahmed Ullah *
The event was held on 5 September at the Long Gallery, Parliament Building, Belfast, with guests Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly members Mairtin-O-Muilleoir MLA, Mike Nesbitt MLA and Chris Lyttle MLA. Syed Mozammel Ali, Chair of the Study Circle presided the proceedings. Chief guest at the event was Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, Panel speaker was Deputy High Commissioner of the Bangladesh High Commission in London, Zulqar Nain, other guests included former Justice Shamsuddin Choudhury Mank, Bangladesh Awami League’s International Affairs Secretary Dr Shammi Ahmed and Jim Welsh M.L.A. Mairtin O-Muilleoir MLA, a member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly who was speaking at a seminar titled ‘Bangladesh: A Golden Journey to Development’, organised by the UK based research organisation Study Circle, said that Northern Ireland will work with Bangladesh in its journey to development. He praised Bangladesh for showing a rare example of humanity by providing shelter to nearly a million Rohingyas. He also added that Bangladesh’s success in the index of development was unprecedented.
Jim Welsh MLA, Member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, commended the organisers of the study, and said that Bangladesh is now the shining star globally for economic development in South Asia. But he added that it will be more helpful to know about other development plans and journeys of Bangladesh.
Study Circle researcher Shajia Snigdha highlighted Bangladesh’s success in empowering women and gender equality as well as promoting women empowerment, enhancing women’s economic achievement, and Bangladesh government & especially Sheikh Hasina, the head of the Bangladesh government steps to create an environment for women’s development.
Chief Guest, Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury said Bangladesh is working tirelessly to achieve sustainable development goals. Bangladesh is now a nation of confidence. Just as Father of the Nation Bangabandhu has brought independence to Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh has brought economic liberation to the Bengali nation. In addition to achieving many of the ‘Millennium Development Goals’, Bangladesh has been working for decades to move the economy from the poorest to the most advanced. The present government started its journey in 20 years with the goal of achieving the ‘vision-2021’, planned by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to create a poverty-free, discriminatory and prosperous Bangladesh.
Deputy High Commissioner, Muhammad Zulqar Nain, outlined the steps taken by Bangladesh to tackle climate change. Former Supreme Court judge AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik said that the judicial system of Bangladesh is working independently, while referring to the current working system of the judiciary.
Bangladesh Awami League International Affairs Secretary Dr. Shammi Ahmed talked about Rohingya crisis and solution. Shammi Ahmed said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed a rare example of humanity in the world, sheltering millions of horrified Rohingya who fled their homes in the face of violence in Myanmar. The mountainous forests have been made open to create the largest refugee camp in the world. There is a lot of talk in the international arena, but she urged the international community to be more focused on initiatives.
In addition, Syed Mozammel Ali Highlighting the overall development activities of the current government mentioned the increased average life expectancy of the people of Bangladesh, GDP growth, delivering free books to school students on the first day of the year, generating 25,000 megawatts of electricity, establishing thirteen thousand community clinics, mega projects like Padma bridge with its own financing.
The last part of the programme was a question & session. The participants present put various questions to panel members about Bangladesh and the UK. Among them, the status of Northern Ireland after Brexit, the success of the MDG, SDG planning in Bangladesh, the activities of the international community in relation Rohingya crisis and the scope of work of the study circle. Vote of thanks were given by Study Circle’s Jamal Khan, Salim Khan and Ala Uddin.
At the end of the programme, the publication of the Study Circle ‘Bangladesh A Golden Journey to Development’, English version of the unfinished autobiography of Bangabandhu and the souvenirs of the Study Circle in jute bags were given to guests.
The seminar was attended by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, including British-Bangladeshi educators, politicians, journalists, development activists, diplomats, businessmen from Northern Ireland including Claire Hannah MLA, John Dallat MLA, Pat Catney MLA, Conan Vejr SU President Queens University Belfast, Annie Torley Head of International Relations Executive Office, Professor Sinclair Stockman Honorary Counsel for New Zealand, Patrick U Secretary Northern Ireland NI Council Race Equality, Bangladesh High Commission London’s Commercial Counsellor Jakaria Huq, Collet Fitzgerald, Head of EU Commission, Jonathan Stuart Northern Ireland Director British Council, Jacqueline Erin CEO Community Relations Council, Gina McIntyre CEO Special EU Program Body, Glenn McMahon Belfast Metropolitan College, Douglas Adams CEO Health, Nisha Tendon, Brian Oakley US Consulate representative, Chris Brown, Niall Fields, Rosa & Farrell, Sultan Mahmood Shariff, Sajedur Rahman Faruk, Dr Wasif Naeem, Suyeb Miah, Abdul Ahad Chowdhury, Misbah Sadat, Rekha Faruk, Salma Alauddin, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Rajib Hassan and others.
Facilitated by UK-based research organisation Study Circle, the visit was the latest event to take place in Northern Ireland as part of its international engagement programme, with similar events having already been held in Westminster, Brussels and Cardiff. This was the largest Bangladeshi delegation to visit Northern Ireland with a reception at Stormont Castle.
One of the sponsors of the Stormont event, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA said, “I am looking forward to strengthening our ties with one of Asia’s fastest growing economies. The visit was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about one of the most populous countries in the world and engage with some of Bangladesh’s key officials and policy-makers.”