The heads of 13 foreign missions met with senior officials from the foreign ministry following the government’s summons on Wednesday (yesterday).
The foreign ministry of Bangladesh convened a crucial meeting with 13 heads of foreign missions in response to a joint statement issued by the envoys expressing concern over an attack on Ashraful Hossen, also known as Hero Alom, during the Dhaka-17 by-election. The meeting was called to address the envoys’ violation of diplomatic norms by releasing the statement in the media. State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam, expressed the government’s displeasure, emphasizing the importance of maintaining diplomatic decency in such matters.
“We had called ambassadors who issued a joint statement in the media violating diplomatic norms and practices over an undesirable incident on July 17 involving independent candidate (of by-election) in Dhaka 17 constituency”State minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam told reporters.
He added, “We have expressed our dissatisfaction with their behavior going beyond diplomatic decency.”
Rear Admiral (retd) Khurshed Alam, the secretary of the maritime affairs unit at the foreign ministry, had disclosed earlier that a crucial meeting was set to convene at the state guesthouse Padma. The meeting aimed to address the recent joint statement issued by 13 foreign missions concerning the attack on Ashraful Hossen, more commonly known as Hero Alom, during the Dhaka-17 by-election. The scheduled time for the meeting was 3:00pm and it lasted for around 50 minutes.
You can also read: SDSN Report: Bangladesh’s Journey to SDG Success Under PM Hasina applauded
Who were invited?
The Head of 13 missions are
- United States of America,
- United Kingdom,
- The Netherlands,
- Switzerland and
- The European Union.
Why Diplomats were invited?
On July 17, independent candidate Alom was physically assaulted outside a polling center in Banani, during the Dhaka-17 by-polls.
Several foreign missions, including the US embassy in Dhaka, issued a joint statement following the incident on July 19. The statement called upon the government to carry out an investigation and pursue legal measures against those responsible for the attack on Alom.
“Violence has no place in the democratic process. We call for a full investigation and accountability for the perpetrators. Everyone involved in the upcoming elections should ensure that they are free, fair, and peaceful,” the statement read.
In the aftermath of the incident, On July 20, the government had called the acting UN resident coordinator Sheldon Yett to discuss a Twitter post expressing concern over the attack on Alom. The government’s response highlights its commitment to addressing international statements concerning the incident and underscores the significance of maintaining peace and security during electoral proceedings.
Recently, all the offenders involved of the Dhaka 17 by poll incident were detained. Following the arrest, Hero Alam had stated that “Haroon sir (Harun-or-Rashid, Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police) and his special team from DB, have arrested the right people after looking into video footage”, adding that their arrest has “brought back the trust those who break the law will be brought to justice”.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry stands firm on joint statement concerns
Amidst Dhaka’s expression of dissatisfaction with a joint statement issued by foreign diplomats, Bangladesh’s junior foreign minister shed light on their efforts to clarify the statement’s intent as an earnest endeavor to cooperate with Bangladesh’s electoral process without any ulterior motives on Wednesday’s meeting. During the interaction, four or five envoys elaborated on the statement, emphasizing its purpose as part of their continued engagement with Bangladesh.
“We countered their logic saying the Vienna Convention (on diplomatic relations) clearly stated that the first point of contact of any ambassador should be the ministry of foreign affairs,” Alam said. He added: “We always appreciate their contacts with the media, but they should contact us first regarding making any comment on any (such) issue.”
In response, the foreign ministry provided the envoys with copies of Dhaka’s written reaction to the joint statement, while simultaneously ensuring that the concerned 13 countries receive the copies through diplomatic channels. Despite concerns, the junior minister firmly rejected the idea that Dhaka’s reaction might sour relations with the countries involved, stating that Bangladesh maintains strong ties with all 13 nations through business, people-to-people interactions, and think-tank engagements and “in no way this issue will disrupt our relations with the countries concerned”.
However, the state minister pointed out several “fundamental flaws” in the joint statement, noting the omission of crucial information that two of the attackers were already arrested before the statement’s release. He further highlighted the diplomats’ failure to acknowledge the daylong peaceful atmosphere during the polls and their focus on an isolated incident at the polls’ conclusion.
Nonetheless, he acknowledged that certain groups might attempt to complicate matters ahead of the upcoming elections, which could have influenced the diplomats’ joint statement. He recalled a past instance when a statement by an ambassador did not align with the official stance of the envoy’s home country’s capital.
This incident marks a rare occurrence where Bangladesh’s foreign ministry has simultaneously summoned a high number of foreign ambassadors to protest. Despite this, it is not unprecedented for envoys to be called upon previously to express discontent on specific issues.