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F R Chowdhury:


The Russia-Ukraine war has been gaining momentum and getting out of control. There are reports of heavy bombing in residential areas destroying schools and hospitals. Some of the foreign merchant ships got stranded in Ukrainian ports as the channels are mined. There was a Bangladesh flagged bulk carrier “Banglar Samridhi” also got trapped in Southern Ukraine. The vessel was hit by a missile or rocket that destroyed the navigating bridge totally. One seafarer (third engineer) died as he was on the bridge trying to get a better reception for his mobile phone. This made Bangladesh the most badly affected country other than the two countries at war. Bangladesh became the innocent victim of the war. It had all the reasons to move to the IMO (International Maritime Organization) to discuss the matter. However, some other countries made the move and IMO called an Extra Ordinary meeting of its Council to discuss the matter. At this point I should make it clear that IMO is the Specialized Agency of the United Nations to look after maritime affairs i.e. safety and security of shipping, fishing, exploration and other recreational activities and protection of marine environment. In this particular case Bangladesh is the only country that has suffered so badly and everybody expected Bangladesh to take the platform and initiate the discussion. This was a golden opportunity for Bangladesh to make it absolutely clear as to how it condemns attack on foreign ships and seafarers. It should have made it clear that seafarers remain away from home and from near and dear ones to promote international trade and commerce and foster closer relationship amongst all nationalities. It is sacred duty of every nation to give them full protection. It is a matter of shame that they have been attacked. Bangladesh should have called the house to condemn such attack and ask for parties at war to grant safe passage to foreign ships and seafarers. Bangladesh would have drawn attention of all parties and received the appreciation of the world maritime community. Bangladesh lost that once in a life time opportunity because Bangladesh did not even bother to attend the meeting.

Bangladesh by now should understand why it failed to get a seat in the Council. Have we ever done anything good? – Perhaps not. It is time we identify our failures and take remedial action. Otherwise our efforts to have one day a Bangladeshi as the secretary general will bring no result. Getting elected to Council will require full participation in IMO activities to gain the confidence of the member states. I request the Prime Minister to see why appointment of an officer for IMO desk in our London mission that she has approved cannot be materialized.

I understand our High Commissioner to UK is also concurrently accredited to IMO as our ambassador. Has she done her duty? What could have been more important than attending the Extra Ordinary meeting of IMO Council? Our diplomats got to understand our interest and our priorities. This particular omission shows our failure to pay respect to the departed soul of Hadisur and it may turn out to be one of the worst diplomatic blunders. Let there be no more such omissions.

London, 12-March 2022      [email protected]