PM opposes hasty steps against Preo Bala

Staff Correspondent | Published: 13:53, Jul 21,2019 | Updated: 00:05, Jul 22,2019


A screengrab shows Preo Bala Biswash shaking hands with president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. — UNB photo

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has asked that no hasty step should be taken against NGO official Preo Bala Biswas for her complaint to US president Donald Trump during a meeting at the latter’s office in Washington DC, said road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on Sunday.

Earlier on Saturday, the minister said that a process was underway to take actions against Preo.

‘Her remarks are blatant lies, fabricated and imaginary and ill-motivated. We strongly condemn and protest the remarks,’ Quader had said that day.

Meanwhile, at least six applications were filed with courts in Dhaka, Khulna, Sylhet and Jashore on Sunday morning alleging that Preo Bala Biswas had committed sedition.

But two courts in Dhaka rejected the two petitions filed with them in the afternoon.

‘The prime minister sent me a message yesterday night saying that no hurried action should be taken against Preo Bala Biswas before she makes a public statement about her remarks,’ the minister told reporters after attending the license handover ceremony of MRT Line 6 at the Bangabandhu International Convention Centre in the capital.

‘Her (Preo’s) motive should be investigated,’ Quader said.

Quader said that he had talked to the liberation war affairs minister so that she was not prosecuted, adding that he had also talked to the law minister to take necessary steps with regard to the prime minister’s instruction.

He disclosed that the home minister, too, was asked to ensure safety of the properties of Preo Bala Biswas, also known as Priya Saha.

Preo, executive director of the NGO Self-Help Association for Rural People through Education and Entrepreneurship, or SHAREE, met the US president at the latter’s office in Washington DC on July 17 during a global forum.

She was accompanied by 16 other representatives from different countries and of different faiths.

During the meeting, she alleged that Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh torched her house in Pirojpur and sought the US president’s assistance to prevent ‘disappearance’ of the members of the religious minority community in Bangladesh.

The video of the incident that went viral showed Preo meeting the US president and saying, ‘I am from Bangladesh. Here 37 million Hindus, Buddhists and Christians disappeared. Please help us ... We want to stay in our country. Still there is [sic] 18 million minority people.’

She went on: ‘Please help us. We do not want to leave our country. Just help up to stay. I have lost my home. They burnt my home and they have taken my land but there is no justice in sight.’

Meanwhile, Prime minister’s son and ICT affairs adviser Sajeeb Wazed on Sunday said that the US embassy in Dhaka was the one that had an ‘ulterior motive’, mentioning that they had picked Preo Bala Biswas because they knew she would make this outrageous statement.

He said that Priya Saha was a member of a delegation selected by the US embassy in Dhaka and the embassy stated that they did not restrict participants, United News of Bangladesh reported.

‘Which is fine, but why would they not refute an obviously false and outrageous statement made by one of their selected participants to their own Head of State? This tells me that the US embassy is the one that had an ulterior motive here,’ Sajeeb wrote in a message shared on his verified Facebook page.

He further said, ‘The only logical outcome of making such a claim to the US president is to build demand for a military intervention in the region on humanitarian grounds.’

Priya Saha made the ‘ridiculous claim’ to United States president Donald Trump and she asserted that 3 crore 70 lakh minorities, or almost 4 crore, have disappeared.

‘That is more than ten times the number of our martyrs in our Liberation War, or almost as many people as were killed in World War 2. Yet this happened without anyone even knowing about it? Did 37 million people just vanish without a trace?’ Sajeeb questioned as reported by the UNB.

He commented that it tied in with a US Congressman’s recent statement that Bangladesh should take over Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The petitions filed against Preo on Sunday morning included two each in Dhaka and Sylhet and one each in Khulna and Jashore, according to the relevant New Age correspondents.

In Dhaka, two metropolitan magistrates in the afternoon rejected the two petitions – one filed by Supreme Court lawyer and International Crimes Tribunal prosecutor Syed Sayedul Haque Suman and the other filed by Dhaka Bar Council executive committee member Ibrahim Khalil – on sedition charges against Preo.

Sayedul filed the petition with the court of Dhaka Metropolitan judge Ziaur Rahman and Ibrahim filed his petition with the court of Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Abu Sufian in the morning.

The New Age correspondent in Sylhet reported that two separate petitions – one by Sylhet city Juba League convening committee member Rimad Ahmad Rubel and the other by former Chhatra League leader Sarwar Mahmud – were lodged against Preo with the court of Sylhet additional chief metropolitan magistrate Muhtakim Billah in the morning.

The plaintiffs said that the court received the complaints and ordered them to submit approval from the home ministry and the foreign ministry within a month for taking the next steps regarding their petitions.

Our Correspondent in Khulna, quoting court officials, reported that Khulna district Awami League organising secretary Kamruzzaman Jamal filed a petition against Preo on charge of sedition to Khulna metropolitan magistrate Amirul Islam who, too, ordered the plaintiff to produce home ministry approval for further proceedings.

This paper’s correspondent in Jashore reported that a former leader of the district Chhatra League, Golam Mostafa Kamal, filed a petition with the court of Senior Judicial Magistrate Gautam Mallik in the morning.

The plaintiff’s lawyer Syed Kabir Hossain Jony said that the court accepted the petition but passed no order on the day.

In separate statements on Sunday, NGOs Sammilita Samajik Andolon, Bangladesh Nari Pragati Sangha and Sampriti Bangladesh condemned Preo Bala’s remarks.

Earlier on Saturday, Bangladesh foreign ministry formally protested against the allegations made by Preo Bala Biswas to Donald Trump and said, ‘It appears that there was an ulterior motive behind Ms. Saha’s absolutely false and concocted stories that were targeted to malign Bangladesh’.

‘Bangladesh is a beacon of religious freedom and communal harmony, where people of all faiths have been living in peace for ages,’ read the statement.

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