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Kennedy Jr hopes US-Bangladesh relation will continue to thrive

Visiting Edward M Kennedy Jr, son of late US Senator Edward M Kennedy and nephew of late US President John F Kennedy, said on Monday that he hopes the relationship between Bangladesh and the United States will continue to grow.

Referring to a banyan tree planted by his father on the Dhaka University campus in 1972, he said the banyan tree is the symbol of a strong relationship between the two countries.

“I just visited the banyan tree at the University of Dhaka, which was planted by my father after the independence war in 1972 as a symbol of the USA-Bangladesh relationship,” he told a gathering on the campus.

“The tree has been still growing up and so is the relationship between the two countries since the last 50 years,” said Kennedy Jr., also known as Ted Kennedy.

He made the statement when he spoke at an event organised by the US Embassy to commemorate the 50 years of US-Bangladesh relationship at Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate building of the Dhaka University.

“As a symbol of the US-Bangladesh diplomatic relationship, my father planted the banyan tree…he replaced the tree, which was blown by the Pakistani army as underneath the tree was a big gathering point of students and many rebellious movements started from there,” he said.

He planted the tree as a symbol of restoring democracy so that the students could gather and make political discourse again, he said.

“My father told us stories of this great nation while we were growing up… he told us about the rampage of the Pakistani Army in Dhaka University in 1971 where the Pakistani army randomly shot thousands of teachers and Students,” he said.

He recalled that thousands of students of the university had welcomed his father when he visited the campus on February 14, 1972.

Late US Senator Edward M Kennedy, who was a Massachusetts senator in 1971, supported Bangladesh’s War of Liberation going against the Nixon-Kissinger administration’s policy on absolute support to Pakistan.

Bangladesh awarded late senator with ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his contribution towards Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.

Now, Kennedy Jr is on a weeklong visit to Bangladesh along with his family members.

Kennedy Jr in his speech appreciated Bangladesh’s gesture for hosting more than 1 million Rohingya people from Myanmar. He also praised Bangladesh for its contribution in the UN peacekeeping mission.

US Ambassador to Dhaka, Peter Haas, said though the Nixon administration stood against Bangladesh during the war in 1971, many Americans, consulates and Senators opposed the administration for helping the Pakistani Army during the war.

Senator Kennedy was one of them and he criticised the policies of the Nixon administration, the envoy said.

“He also called on the Pakistani government to treat Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with respect while he was in prison during the war of 1971,” he said.

DU Vice Chancellor Professor Mohamamd Akhtaruzzaman said that they were delighted to have Ted Kennedy and his family members.

“Bangladesh has a kinship with the United States of America and we hope it will develop more in the future,” said the VC.

Later, Ted Kennedy gifted an original copy of a book ‘Crisis In South Asia’ to the Library of Dhaka University, which has been authored by his late father.

Earlier, Ted Kennedy and his family members visited the banyan tree at the university’s ‘Bot Tola’