Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmed, Chairman, BIISS,
Major General A K M Abdur Rahman,ndc, psc, Director General, BIISS,
Professor Dr. Syed Anwar Husain, Department of History, Dhaka University,
Mr. Shahriar Kabir, President, Ekattor Ghatak Dalal Nirmool Committee,
Mr. Julian Francis, Social Worker and our Friend,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As-salamu Alaikum, Adab and a very good morning to you all.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your presence here this morning. My sincere gratitude goes to BIISS for organizing this seminar commemorating 25 March, Gonohottaya Dibosh/ Genocide Day at short time notice.
In this month of March- I recall with deep reverence the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who declared our Independence and led the nation to our ultimate victory. I pay my heartiest thanks and gratitude to Bangabandhu’s daughter and Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and my fellow colleagues in the National Parliament who on 11 March 2017 unanimously adopted the resolution to commemorate 25 March as ‘Genocide day’. This event today is part of our effort to bring to the world stage the horrific genocide against the Bangladesh people in 1971 and create awareness against this heinous crime.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The 25th of March 1971 marked the beginning of our nine-month long Liberation War against the Pakistan occupation Army. The long and heroic struggle of Bangalees culminated in victory on 16 December 1971 and gave birth to independent Bangladesh.
In our nine month long war of liberation, 3 million people lost other lives, nearly a quarter million women and girls were raped and 10 million people took refuge in India. The atrocities committed by the Pakistani occupation Army and their local collaborators left a deep scar in the newly born nation.
Soon after Liberation, Bangabandhu returned to his free Bangladesh and started the process of re-building war-ravaged country. As Bangabandhu continued his work and had also started his work on translating his dream of golden Bengal, the assassins struck and Bangabandhu and most members of his family were brutally killed in the early hours of 15 August 1975. Their plan was to upset the journey of the newly independent country towards freedom and development. The events that unfolded after the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, saw Bangladesh moving backwards. All the ideals and goals of freedom were thrown aside.
Bangabandhu’s daughter and our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came in as the saviour of the country. She restored in the right of the people to vote and to food when she came to power in 1996 for the first time. People brought her to power for the second time in 2008 and Bangladesh started to gain its lost pride and started to move towards Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal). During her second consecutive term since 2014, Bangladesh is now marching confidently to attain a middle-income country status by 2021 and become a modern, developed and knowledge-based country by 2041.
Bangladesh has since been acclaimed as a ‘role model’ for development achieving successes in women empowerment, disaster management, peacekeeping and peace building, gender equality, maternal health, child health and so on. Our engaging role at various forums has positioned us as a responsible and forward-looking member of the international community.
The memory of the massacre and mass killing committed by the Pakistani occupation forces during our liberation war has always inspired us to support international efforts to prevent the commission of genocide anywhere in the world, and promote accountability for such crimes if they occur.
We have committed our armed forces and police as peacekeepers for the protection of civilians on the ground, and aligned ourselves with the UN’s norm-setting and practical initiatives to address the factors and processes that may lead to the commission of genocide. We also consider it a foreign policy priority to promote women’s role in conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding, including in addressing the warning signs and potential triggers of genocide. Our Government, during our previous tenure, ratified the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. On the domestic front, the Government of Bangladesh has enacted the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, for investigation of offence and detention, prosecution and punishment of persons for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law.
Unfortunately even after 46 years of independence, we still observe that some vested quarters are trying both domestically and internationally to question the genocide committed against the Bengalees in 1971. We have seen repeated efforts by the defeated forces to undermine our sacrifice by questioning the number of casualties during the Liberation War. During the last four decades, there had been efforts by anti liberation forces to re-write history by distorting facts. People have risen against these machinations. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reversed these attempts and set the record straight.
It therefore is high time we took necessary initiatives to claim recognition of the sacrifice of the people of this country – both nationally and internationally.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In our journey towards peace and prosperity we always recall the Martyrs and the women and girls whose supreme sacrifices have earned us the independence. We firmly believe that the recognition of genocide day would add on the homage to the solemn sacrifices of our martyrs and act as a deterrent against genocide and other atrocities throughout the world.
This seminar has given us a good opportunity to have a discussion as to how we can disseminate the facts of the genocide that started on 25 March 1971 and atrocities committed thereafter till the day of independence to the future generations as well as to the world.
With these words, I declare the seminar open. I wish the seminar all success.
Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu.