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Dhaka Tribune

US asst secretary praises RAB’s progress

The United States is committed to continued cooperation with Bangladesh in its efforts to improve labour rights, says Donald Lu

Update : 15 Jan 2023, 10:51 PM

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu has appreciated the significant progress made by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in respecting human rights while performing its duties.

Lu said he had a good discussion on RAB with senior officials of the Bangladesh government, and he referred to the recent statement by Human Rights Watch that recognized "tremendous progress" in reducing extrajudicial killings. 

"We recognize this. This is amazing work. It shows that RAB is able to carry out its counterterrorism efforts and important functions while respecting human rights," he said.

Responding to a question on Indo-Pacific Strategy, Lu said that it is “not a club” and it is a matter of joining or not joining.

The senior US official made the remarks while briefing reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday afternoon.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen also spoke on the occasion.

“We had a very honest and open discussion,” Lu said.

US to cooperate with Bangladesh to improve labour rights

At a meeting with Bangladeshi labour leaders, Lu listened to their experiences and concerns.

The United States is committed to continued cooperation with Bangladesh in its efforts to improve labour rights, he said after the meeting.

Earlier in the morning, he had a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs had a meeting over dinner with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at his residence on Saturday night.

Focus Bangla

Key issues of bilateral relations were discussed during Lu's over one-hour stay at the foreign minister's official residence, a diplomatic source told UNB.

Lu, who arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening, directly went to the foreign minister's residence accompanied by US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas.

He was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of his second day's engagement with Bangladesh officials.

The US senior official is visiting Bangladesh to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relationship, expand economic engagement, and go over the labour and human rights situation.

A range of priorities, including energy, trade, security cooperation, religious freedom, labour, and human rights, Indo-Pacific strategy, and withdrawal of sanctions on RAB were discussed between the two sides on Sunday.

Momen: We want fair, credible election

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh had conveyed to the US that its government wants a free, fair, transparent, and credible election.

"No country is perfect, not even the USA. We are trying hard to improve," he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adding that Awami League always came to power through the democratic process.

Earlier, visiting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu had meetings with Foreign Minister Momen, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss strengthening Bangladesh-US relations and the importance of human rights for all.

Momen said they will accept if they get any good suggestions and Bangladesh has shown signs to that effect already.

"We want the people's welfare. We will definitely take care of any areas where we find weakness," he added.

Focus Bangla

"They [The US] are our good friends. Among friends, we can talk about issues very openly without any reservations. That's what we did," Momen further said.

The foreign minister said the country now has transparent ballot boxes and a stronger and independent Election Commission.

"We want peace across the world. We had very good discussions on many issues,” he added.

Participatory polls, CHT discussed over lunch at FSA

A participatory election, the overall election process and Chittagong Hill Tracts issues were briefly discussed at a meeting over lunch with US Assistant Secretary of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu held at Foreign Service Academy on Sunday.

Awami League International Affairs Secretary Dr Shammi Ahmed, Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, Dr Lailufar Yasmin, Dr Delwar Hossain and Chief Executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Syeda Rizwana Hasan, among others, were present.

"They (US side) said, we don't speak on behalf of any political party; we talk about certain processes and the rights of the people," said Syeda Rizwana while talking to the reporters after the meeting.

She said only participation of the BNP and other parties and the election process were discussed, and there was no further discussion on any other aspects of the election scenario in Bangladesh.

She mentioned that no BNP leader was present at the meeting.

Focus Bangla

According to a meeting source, two of the participants expressed optimism about the BNP's participation in the next election.

"There was no conclusive discussion about human rights issues, but the Chittagong Hill Tracts issue was discussed during the meeting," said Syeda Rizwana in response to another question.

The US senior official is visiting Bangladesh to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relationships, expand economic engagement, and go over the labor and human rights situation.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen hosted the lunch in honour of Donald Lu and his delegation members.

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