Your Excellency Ambassador Bernicat,
My Cabinet Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen.
As-salamuAlaikum, Adab and good evening.
Eid Mubarak once again!
On this joyous occasion of the 241st Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, on behalf of the Government and the people of Bangladesh, I convey heartiest felicitations to the Government and the friendly people of the United States of America.
You have aptly referred to the 4th of July as a reminder of your journey as a nation to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens. This year, you have chosen to showcase California, your 31st state. California, indeed, represents the diversity of America’s landscape as also its people. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley—people from all over the world have found their places including many from Bangladesh. You have rightly said that the California dream is evidence of the wisdom of your founding principles: the notion that all people are created equal and when given the opportunity and freedom to think, invent and express themselves, the potential has no limits. These principles indeed connect Americans and Bangladeshis.
From Washington, D.C. last week came a whiff of fresh air: Bangabandhu’s daughter and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was featured distinctively in a book titled “Women Presidents and Prime Ministers” unveiled there last Tuesday. Author Richard O’Brien, a leading human rights activist and educator, in his book prominently presented the Bangladesh Prime Minister as one of the 18 current women national leaders of the world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s photo was printed on the cover-page of the book along with six other world leaders. The author dedicated three pages to characterize Sheikh Hasina’s dedication and long struggle for restoration of democracy and voting rights, attempts on her life as well as historic achievements as the three-time Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
The author quoted Sheikh Hasina as saying, “When I have been able to establish Bangladesh as a poverty-free country, a hunger-free country, perhaps then I may say I am proud.”
Richard O’Brien praised the Prime Minister for dedicating herself to making Bangladesh “more stable, more democratic and less violent.”
He writes “her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the founding father of the modern Bangladesh state and its first President.” Only Sheikh Hasina and her sister (Sheikh Rehana) survived the August 15, 1975 massacre when Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most members of his family were assassinated.
Mr. O’Brien says Hasina returned home in 1981 from exile when she stood against election fraud and oppression. She was elected to lead the Awami League party but faced torture and repression and was put under house arrest in the mid-‘80s. The author says despite being repressed by the then regime, Sheikh Hasina remained so powerful that in 1990 a coup leader (Gen. Ershad) stepped down at her insistence. Well, Gen. Ershad is our ally now. Is he here by any chance?
In 2004, the author says she was targeted in an assassination attempt in Dhaka that killed so many people. In 2007 she was arrested but released in time to stand for election in 2008.
Today, Bangladesh is determinedly poised to become the ‘Sonar Bangla’ or the Golden Bengal of Bangabandhu’s dream. Sheikh Hasina has added the dimension of technology to her father’s dream. Bangladesh has already become a lower middle-income country with middle-income status coming by 2021- the 50th Anniversary or Golden Jubilee of our Independence.
Bangladesh is coming up as a country where people of all religions have equal rights, Sheikh Hasina’s slogan, “To each his or her religion but festival belongs to all” has really caught on. Bangladesh is playing an important role at the UN and with unwavering resolve in contributing to the UN peacekeeping operations and is working with the international community to ensure world peace, security and development.
During the last four and a half decades, our bilateral relationship has grown in depth and dimension. During the tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, our bilateral relationship has been institutionalized through formally established platforms of dialogues. Our multifaceted relationship now encompass a wide range of issues - ranging from shared values of freedom, democracy, justice, human dignity, empowerment of women to our joint endeavors for development, promotion of international peace and security and many more. Our partnership embraces still new areas such as eradicating terrorism and violent extremism.
Bangladesh deeply appreciates the significant contribution and consistent support of the US Government through USAID in our development efforts since independence. We are so happy that the annual bilateral trade between Bangladesh and the USA has now reached USD 6.8 billion. New items in Bangladesh- US trade such as pharmaceuticals have been introduced.
You have referred to Senator Edward Kennedy’s visit to Bangladesh in 1972, when he said at Dhaka University, “I have come here to say that America cares. I have come to learn from the father of your country, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." He acknowledged the struggle of the people of Bangladesh, which, in his words, “… has deeply touched the conscience of America". He further said, "… the people of the world do recognize you, and they recognize all you have accomplished here in the name of freedom from tyranny and oppression."
I am happy to join you when you say that “...these universal rights and principles that, in many ways, connect our two countries and serve the common welfare of our citizens and the world...”. I am happy to celebrate with you these rights.
Let us continue to pursue the rights to a secure, better and dignified life for our two peoples as well as for the entire humanity.
I thank you.
Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu.
Long live Bangladesh- U.S. friendship.