Oona King Visits Bangladesh

Ms Oona King, Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green & Bow visited Bangladesh at the invitation of the Bangladesh Parliament from the 8th February to the 14th February 2004.

Ms King visited Dhaka and Sylhet. Meetings included the Speaker Barrister Jamiruddin Sircar, the Government’s Finance Minister Saifur Rahman, and Opposition Leader Sheikh Hasina.

Oona King raised the case of Mr Surat Miah with the Home Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury, and underlined the grave concerns held by Bangladeshi ex-patriots regarding the circumstances of Mr Surat Miah’s death, and the release of the murder suspects. The Minister promised to provide her with an update on the situation, and increased effort on the part of the Bangladeshi Government to secure justice for Surat Miah’s family. The case is currently awaiting a hearing at the High Court.

Ms King also took the opportunity to discuss the likely impact of the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement(MFA) in 2005 with the Commerce Minister Amir Khasru Mahmud Choudhury. Oona King is Private Secretary to the British Trade Minister, and hopes that the Government of Bangladesh will take urgent steps to help the Bangladeshi Garment & Textile industry survive this difficult time. Another issue Ms King raised was improving the Chittagong Port, to enable Bangladesh industry to compete with its regional neighbours.

Asked about her impressions of Bangladesh, Ms King said:

“I don’t think there is any other country in the world where the ordinary people work so hard. Despite all the problems facing Bangladesh, it has done remarkably well in development areas like the reduction of infant mortality, the increase of literacy rates, the supply of pure drinking water, and the success of the immunization programme. I have continued to lobby the British Government to increase its multi-million pound aid programme to Bangladesh, so that children in Bangladesh get the quality of education they deserve.

“But although I am always keen to stress the positive side of Bangladesh, the single biggest problem – as everyone told me – is that the law and order situation has deteriorated dramatically. In the last two years foreign investment has fallen to almost nothing. The politicians have a responsibility to end the cycle of violence that cripples Bangladesh. That means making parliament effective and meaningful, and ensuring that both Government and Oppostion parties get a fair hearing. If the political violence continues, all the other violence will continue, and Bangladesh will exist without the rule of law.

I hope the politicians will act in the interests of the country. If they did, Bangladesh would have an amazing future ahead, similar to other Asian ‘Tigars’ where living standards have risen dramatically. That is what I want to see happen in Bangladesh.”