Claiming the ongoing war crimes trial thoroughly independent, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday voiced her concern to finish the daunting task of bringing the perpetrators to book after more than four decades of crimes against humanity, and sought support from foreign friends to this end.
“The process is thoroughly independent. We’re confident that the process would help us close an unpleasant chapter in our history and allow us to proceed with a greater clarity on our respective roles and responsibilities,” she said.
The Prime Minister was addressing a function marking the handing over of the 7th phase of ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honor’ and ‘Friends of Liberation War Honor’ at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the afternoon.
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni and State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Capt (retd) AB Tajul Islam also spoke at the function organized jointly by the Cabinet Division, Ministry of Liberation War Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan read out the citations while Shri Pranabranjan Ray, an intellectual and social worker of India, spoke on behalf of the award recipients.
The state accolades were given in two categories - ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honor’ and ‘Friends of Liberation War Honor - to 59 foreign friends from different countries, and an international organization (Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization) for their outstanding contributions to the 1971 Liberation War.
Former Indian president late Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and ex-prime minister late Gulzarilal Nanda were posthumously honored with the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honor’.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over medals, crests and citations to the awardees or their representatives.
Of the awardees 44 are from India, four each from Pakistan and the USA, two each from the UK and Japan, one each from Egypt, Sri Lanka and Turkey, and Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity.
Sheikh Hasina alleged that after the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, the country’s history was distorted while the war criminals were patronized and brought to power.
She said that after assuming office in 2009, her government “amended the constitution to ensure people’s rights so that no one could play ducks and drakes with the fate of the country’s people in the future.”
The Prime Minister also urged all to work in light with the spirit of the War of Liberation and reach its benefits to the common people.
She said Bangladesh has been able to initiate a process to bring an end to the culture of impunity the perpetrators imposed upon the nation and moved from denial of justice to the process of ensuring justice through fair trial of the people responsible.
Hasina said while the valiant Bangalee soldiers and freedom fighters fought the war in the battlefield, the journalists, littérateurs, filmmakers, cultural activists, international civil servants and diplomats, among the foreign friends, lent their unflinching support from their respective fields.
“You extended all possible help that included food, humanitarian relief, medical facilities, military training, access to global media, generation of public opinion and mobilization of financial assistance.”
She said that by honoring the foreign friends, Bangladesh is actually reaffirming its faith in the principles that it stood for - equity, democracy, social justice, rule of law and an enabling environment - for all citizens.
The Prime Minister also sought good wishes in Bangladesh’s journey to transform it into a middle-income country by the year 2021, the Golden Jubilee year of Bangladesh’s independence.
She said the mass killing in 1971 is considered as one of the most concentrated acts of genocide in human history. “At that crucial juncture, we drew strength from our high moral standing to triumph over insurmountable adversities.”
Recalling with deep gratitude the greatest Bangalee of all time, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina said Bangladesh’s Liberation War was the finest moment in the annals of nationhood, when the peace-loving and unarmed Bangalees, through indomitable spirit and courage, fought and achieved freedom from oppressive rule, responding to the clarion call given by the Father of the Nation.
“The greatest occasion for such valorous response arose when the Pakistani occupation forces launched a coordinated attack on the people of Bangladesh on the night of 25th March 1971 to quell their rightful demand for inclusive democracy and equitable development.”
Mentioning that Bangladesh has made its mark within the domestic framework in the realms of socio-economic developments, she said: “Today, Bangladesh is a success story and role model for the developing world.”
The Prime Minister said that her government has been relentless in its efforts to utilize the potential and talent of the people to turn Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘Sonar Bangla’ (Golden Bengal) into reality.
“We continue to uphold the fundamental principles behind our war of liberation and draw inspiration from there to usher Bangladesh into an era of unprecedented growth and prosperity,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Indian intellectual Shri Pranabranjan Ray highly praised the role of Bangladesh in maintaining over 6 percent GDP growth and also a good performance in its human development index.
Noting that his country could have lent more support towards Bangladesh, he said: “I’m ashamed. We were unable to lend much support to Bangladesh that we could have… we hope this situation would change.”