Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina along with SL PM Raja Paksa and Sheikh Rehana PHOTO: COURTESY
"We are pledge-bound to enlighten all with education and ensure food, housing, clothes and healthcare for them." - Sheikh Hasina
The success of Bangladesh and its people is the best honour to the name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said.
"Bangladesh continues to flourish … It is an economic powerhouse in South Asia. That's the best honour to the name of Bangabandhu," he said at the twin celebrations of Mujib Borsho and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence at the National Parade Ground yesterday.
He joined the event as the guest of honour, after arriving in Dhaka earlier in the day on a two-day visit.
Rajapaksa said Bangabandhu was a person of principle who dedicated his whole life for the people of this land. He was determined to establish an independent nation, but unfortunately, his and most of his family members' lives were cut short.
"Today, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, Bangladesh is flourishing," he said yesterday, which was the third day of the 10-day celebrations.
Hasina presided over the discussion part of the event which was also addressed by State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid. Dhaka University English department's Prof Dr Syed Manzoorul Islam presented the keynote speech on yesterday's topic "As long as the Padma, Jamuna flow on", while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivered a recorded video message.
Yesterday's celebrations began with the national anthem performed by students of Govt School of Hearing Impaired in sign language. It was followed by recitation from the holy books, screening of an animated film on the life and struggles of Bangabandhu, a theme song performed by noted singers and an audio-visual titled "Jotokal Robe Padma, Jamuna".
Rajapaksa is the second world leader to have joined the celebrations after the Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Rajapaksa landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 10:00am and was welcomed by PM Hasina.
A smartly turned-out contingent drawn from the army, the navy and the air force gave him a guard of honour.
He then paid respect to the memories of freedom fighters at the National Martyrs' Memorial in Savar. Rajapaksa signed the visitor's book at the memorial and planted saplings of jasmine on its premises.
Later, he joined the celebration at the parade ground that began at 4:30pm.
Addressing the event, he said he was delighted to have joined the occasion that has historic significance and thanked Prime Minister Hasina for the cordial invitation and welcome. He said he brings the message of solidarity from the Sri Lankans.
Stressing that the people of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have a long historic tie through maritime routes, he said the tie has now become even stronger. Sri Lanka is also one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relationship with Bangladesh.
Referring to the incomparable sacrifices of Bangabandhu, Rajapaksa said, "Our generation need to remember the sacrifices of the forefathers."
He said Sri Lanka stands by Bangladesh. Both the countries are striving to eradicate poverty, improve blue economy, trade and commerce.
The Sri Lankan PM said Bangladesh has made great strides in agriculture and has even provided training through Saarc Agriculture Centre to the neighbours. "Bangladesh's journey of eradicating poverty is inspiring."
Hasina expressed gratitude to the Sri Lankan PM for joining the programme, saying this reflects the friendship the two countries have.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka take similar position on issues in the international forums and support each other. "We hope this friendship will continue."
The PM also recalled the contribution of Russia in the Liberation War and in the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.
In his video message, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov termed Bangabandhu an outstanding leader and said he had visited Russia only two months after becoming prime minister in 1972 -- something that reflects his deep relationship with Russia.
He said Russia offered political support to Bangladesh's Liberation War and is now happy to see the country making considerable progress, while improving its reputation in the global arena by the efforts of resolving conflicts through multilateral mechanisms.
Russia is helping develop the country's first nuclear power plant in Rooppur, which could be operational in 2023-24, Lavrov said, adding: "Bangladesh is Russia's important partner in South Asia. Russia will continue to provide political and economic support to Bangladesh."
Lavrov said on request of the government of Bangladesh, in April 1972, the 12th special-purpose company of the USSR Navy was dispatched to Bangladesh to perform mine and shipwreck clearance of the port of Chittagong.
"Soviet navy sailors lived up to their task," he recalled.
"It is heartening that our Bangladeshi friends have carried the memory of this feat through half a century… such a careful attitude towards our common history is highly commendable."
Terming Bangladesh as Russia's important economic partner in South Asia, he said, "Last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the turnover between our two states saw a nearly 15 percent increase, exceeding an all-time record mark of US 2.4 billon [dollars]."
PM Hasina also thanked the Chinese and the Maldives presidents, prime ministers of Canada and Japan for their messages on the occasion on March 17.
She became emotional as she spoke of the brutal killings of her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, her mother, younger brothers and other relatives on August 15, 1975.
She said the peoples' right was snatched through the assassination and conspirators tried to erase the name of Bangabandhu from the history.
Describing how Bangabandhu felt the sufferings of the people and loved them and spent his whole life fighting for peoples' causes, PM Hasina said, "My mother always inspired him to do what his heart spoke. That's why my father could work so much for people."
The conspirators did not allow Bangabandhu to see his dreams come true, she said, adding that she is thankful to the people who elected and allowed her to work for establishing Bangladesh as a prosperous country.
"On the 101st year of Bangabandhu's birth, we are pledge-bound to enlighten all with education and ensure food, housing, clothes and healthcare for them," she said.
Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam said how Bangabandhu, who grew up in a rural and remote part of the country, became a globally-acclaimed leader is a matter of research. There were numerous efforts to erase his name from history, but he is a part of global history today.
"In-depth studies of Bangabandhu's political and historical thoughts can help us all better implement his ideas," he said.
Apart from leading the Liberation War, Bangabandhu tackled some of the major issues after independence. Those include repatriation of refugees from India, reconstruction of war-ravaged infrastructure and economy and establishing Bangladesh's position in the international arena.
Also, Bangabandhu gifted the nation a constitution based on equity and democracy, established Bangladesh as part of a Non-Aligned Movement and gave frameworks for agriculture revolution and education policy.
"That was possible only for Bangabandhu. He accomplished the impossible. Bangladesh will go ahead, tackling any challenges on the way," Prof Manzoorul added at the event, moderated by Nobonita Chowdhury.
BSS adds: the nation will celebrate the fourth day of the 10-day programme with the theme "Tarunner Alokshikha" today.
Television channels, including the state-run BTV, alongside their streaming online and social media will telecast the programme live from the National Parade Square in the city, said a press release.