ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
B'desh PM takes along biggest ever entourage to NY
Publication Date : 23-09-2013
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday left for the US to attend the 68th UN General Assembly with a 134-member delegation, the biggest entourage since her taking office in January 2009.
During her six-day visit, Hasina will participate in a variety of UN related meetings and side events, significantly a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for 30 minutes, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for 15 minutes and with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, for 15 minutes.
But no appointment has been fixed with any American dignitaries.
Taking such a big entourage on a trip at the expense of taxpayers’ money raises questions as most of the delegates do not at all match with UN events.
“There is no justification of such a huge delegation spending huge hard-earned money of poor people by way of comfortable air travels and staying in luxurious hotels because only a few officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, foreign ministry and Bangladesh missions in USA have the engagement with UN,” said a senior official at the foreign ministry.
“A vast majority of her delegation members will have no work in UN and they have nothing but to enjoy a pleasure trip, shopping, sight seeing etc during the six days’ visit to the United States.”
The foreign ministry sources said the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to UN in New York booked 61 luxurious rooms in expensive Hotel Grand Hyatt and seven rooms at Hotel Hampton Inn in Manhattan for six days.
Most delegate members will stay in single rooms while media and some eminent personalities and junior officials will stay on twin share basis, according to the programme book published by the foreign ministry yesterday.
They said the cost for each entourage member would be between 300,000 taka (US$3,900) and 600,000 taka ($7,700) including air travel, hotel room rent, daily allowance, local transportation and other charges.
Usually the hotel cost is very high during the UNGA and the hotels booked for the PM’s entourage members are located in a posh area.
In the past nearly five years since she took office Sheikh Hasina paid 47 visits overseas taking along with her large entourage of officials, personal staff and her party’s supporters on missions that apparently brought little diplomatic gains for the country.
In this tenure, all her four visits to US was to attend the UNGA, and her government miserably failed to arrange a single bilateral meeting with US President Obama at the White House.
This time the number of delegation members is higher than previous years as the numbers were 81, 102, 87 and 89 in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.
The delegation includes Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Ambassador-At-Large Mohammad Ziauddin and Prime Minister’s Information Affairs Adviser Iqbal Siddique.
There are nine MPs drawn from the grand alliance: Tofail Ahmed, Amir Hossain Amu, Rashed Khan Menon, Anisul Islam Mahmud, Moinuddin Khan Badal, Mujibul Haq, Atiur Rahman Atik, Iqbalur Rahim and Shah Zikrul Ahmed.
Fifteen officials from the PMO, including Principal Secretary Sheikh Md Wahid Uz-Zaman and Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad, are travelling with Hasina.
The delegation includes 18 “eminent personalities”, mostly from various front organisations of Awami League like Juba Mohila League, Chhatra League, Mohila Awami League and Krishak League and grand alliance components like Jatiya Sramik Jote and Ganatantri Party.
One upazila chairman, one municipality chairman, leaders of Peshajibi Nari Samaj, director of BIRDEM, and president and secretary general of Bangladesh non-government primary school teachers’ association are among the “eminent personalities”.
The PM has chosen five “eminent media personalities” – Munni Saha, head of news of ATN News; Moniur Rahman, chief reporter of ATN Bangla; Alamgir Kabir, senior cameraman of ATN Bangla; Ali Asgar, chief cameraman of Channel-i, and Mahmudul Haq Nayon, staff reporter of The Daily Janakantha at Bogra.
There are 15 delegation members from the foreign ministry and they include Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, Director General (UN) Saida Muna Tasneem, Director General (Economic Affairs) Riaz Hamidullah and Chief of Protocol Khandakar Mohammad Talha.
ERD Secretary Abul Kalam Azad, Social Welfare Ministry Secretary Suraiya Begum, Planning Commission Member Shamsul Alam and Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation Chairman Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Bangladesh Permanent Representative in New York AK Abdul Momen and Ambassador in Washington DC Akramul Qader are also in the delegation.
An 18-member security team, nine media men from the Prime Minister’s Press Wing and a 41-member business delegation are in the entourage list. The businessmen usually travel at their own expense.