Muhith reacts against rice import from Myanmar

PM for maintaining good relation to resolve Rohingya crisis

Mustafizur Rahman | Published: 00:05, Oct 24,2017 | Updated: 01:06, Oct 24,2017

 
 

Finance minister AMA Muhith on Monday reacted against the recent government move to procure rice from Myanmar that continued forcing Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh to save life.
Terming Myanmar regime barbaric and uncivilised, he told the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office that the government should not maintain trade relations with such a country in the present situation when Bangladesh was struggling to manage over a million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, said a minister.
Muhith’s outburst came as the meeting with prime minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair was informed about the September 7-8 Myanmar visit of a Bangladesh delegation led by food minister Qamrul Islam for food procurement deal between the two governments.
Citing India-Pakistan trade link as an example of working relations between two arch-rivals, Hasina, however, cooled down Muhith and said that Bangladesh should rather maintain ‘good relations’ with its next door neighbour to send back Rohingyas to their homeland for a sustainable solution to the crisis, the minister told New Age.
She underlined the need for strengthening diplomatic relations between the two neighbouring countries to resolve the crisis through dialogue.
Rohigyas now taking shelter in Cox’s Bazar camp would be shifted to Thengar Char, a remote island in Noakhali, the minister quoted Hasina as telling the cabinet.
‘Bangladesh wants to send back Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine state of Myanmar through dialogue. We want to maintain good relations with our next door neighbour,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said at a briefing.
He was responding to a question whether the cabinet passed any message to the home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, who left the meeting halfway through to fly for Myanmar on an official visit.
Shafiul said that a memorandum of understanding was supposed to be signed with Myanmar during the home minister’s visit as the modus operandi was required to return the Rohingay, now facing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state, to their homeland.
The cabinet committee on national purchase on October 11 approved the import of one lakh tonnes of non-boiled rice from Myanmar that had already forced over six lakh Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh since August 25.
Chaired by commerce minister Tofail Ahmed at the secretariat in the absence of finance minister AMA Muhith, the committee approved the proposal placed by the food ministry to import the rice at a cost of Tk 366.86 crore.
Earlier, food minister Qamrul Islam’s visit to Myanmar for the rice import in early September was criticised by many quarters amid the ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State by Myanmar forces.
According to the UN estimation on Sunday, 6,03,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh in the past 59 days in the new influx what the United Nations called the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency.
The cabinet secretary also said the cabinet was informed that state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited had discovered a new gas field with a prospective reservoir of 700 billion cubic feet at Shahbazpur in Bhola.
The cabinet approved the draft of Sheikh National Youth Development Institute Bill 2017 incorporating a provision for 21-member academic council with its director general as the head to run the institute established earlier, Shafiul said.
About the soaring price of rice, Qamrul told the meeting that there was no shortage of food at present as the government had recently relaxed imports of the staple. Traders were rather manipulating the market for profiteering, he alleged. 

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