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Minister Mannan, Momen in spat appear to resolve feud

Planning Minister MA Mannan and Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen yesterday talked about resolving a spat between them over the route selection for a prospective railway in Sunamganj.

Momen on June 9 sent a demi official (DO) letter to Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, supporting the stand of five other MPs of the district, including a Jatiya Party MP, over the route, leaving Mannan irked.

After facing criticism for opposing the planning minister and widespread rumour of a rift between the two, the foreign minister on June 14 on his Facebook account claimed to have 50 years’ friendship with Mannan and said there is no feud between them.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, the planning minister, however, expressed his surprise over the foreign minister’s “hasty” move and said Momen should have discussed the matter with him before taking sides on this issue.

Yesterday, both the ministers talked about resolving the matter.

Talking to the media after a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), the planning minister said, “I’m thankful to Momen as he has mentioned about our friendship of 50 years. But his sending the DO letter without even discussing it took me by surprise.

“There are some ongoing issues between me and five other parliamentarians of Sunamganj. Those will be resolved soon.”

Mannan said what Momen did was “unnecessary” and added, “It wasn’t a government decision and no serious harm was done. It was rather a misinformation and it will be taken care of. We are friends and will remain so.”

Speaking to journalists on his return from the US, the foreign minister said he would talk to his “old friend” to discuss how he came to support the idea of a railway connecting Chhatak with Sunamganj and Mohanganj.

Momen, a parliamentarian from Sylhet-1, said he wrote a letter to the railways minister “with an open mind” after five lawmakers from Sunamganj requested him to back their proposal.

“I should have talked to him [Mannan]. Now I will have to look at it. I have no conflict with him. I shall speak to him. I feel sorry about it,” Momen told reporters at his foreign ministry office.

He said he was surprised at the discussion on social media over his letter to the railways minister. He said he had no information about “internal politics” of Sunamganj, but he only favoured connectivity.

For decades, Sunamganj has been waiting to get connected through rail as only the district’s Chhatak upazila has been connected to Sylhet since 1954 due to industrial importance.

The railways ministry in 2015 assessed three possible routes to connect Sunamganj town with Chhatak, which will connect with Dhaka via Sunamganj’s Dharmapasha and Netrakona’s Mohanganj upazilas.

However, the planning minister recently asked the railways ministry to revise the assessment by skipping Chhatak and including Dakshin Sunamganj upazila, which is his home and constituency.

An assessment project considering the request is under progress now.

As this demand will eventually increase cost and time, all five other MPs of Sunamganj opposed it and sent DO letters to the railways minister on June 7.

The foreign minister then backed the five.