Monday, August 19, 2019

Washington doesn’t restrict participants’ freedom to express views at US-sponsored event: Embassy

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2019-07-21 08:15:29 BdST

bdnews24

The United States does not restrict participants’ freedom to express their views at any US-sponsored event, the country’s embassy in Dhaka said on Priya Saha’s comments.

Saha, an organising secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, attended a ministerial meeting on advancing religious freedom at the White House in Washington on July 19.

After identifying herself as a Bangladeshi, she was seen telling President Donald Trump that 37 million people of minority groups have disappeared from Bangladesh. She also told the president that her land had been grabbed by Muslim fundamentalists and sought his help so that minority groups could live peacefully in Bangladesh.

A video of the meeting subsequently went viral on social media and sparked widespread outrage back home. The US Embassy in Dhaka sent her for the meeting hosted by the Department of State.

The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry later in a statement said: “It appears that there was an ulterior motive behind Ms. Saha’s absolutely false and concocted stories that were targeted to malign Bangladesh.”

It also raised the question on the organiser’s selection process. “The government of Bangladesh would expect that organisers of such a big international event would invite responsible individuals who would objectively contribute in promoting the true spirit and value of religious freedom.”

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Saha will be called to account for her controversial remarks about the alleged persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh.

President of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Rana Dasgupta also disavows her statement and said they did not send her.

How was she selected by the US Embassy in Dhaka for the event. Did the State Department know what she would tell President Trump?

bdnews24.com asked those questions to the US Embassy in Dhaka. They did not make any specific reply, but said the United States invited members of religious communities, civil society, and government officials from 106 countries to participate in the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held July 16 – 18 in Washington.

“The US invited eight Bangladeshi participants from Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist communities, along with government of Bangladesh representatives.”

“At the ministerial, participants were invited to speak about their experiences related to religious freedom issues.

“The United States is a strong supporter of both religious freedom and freedom of expression. The United States does not restrict participants’ freedom to express their views at any US-sponsored event,” the embassy said in a reply.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the government of Bangladesh, civil society, and faith communities to advance the cause of religious freedom.”

Ambassador Earl Miller has visited mosques, temples, churches and monasteries across Bangladesh. The embassy said: “In his wide-ranging travel across a remarkable nation whose constitution upholds religious freedom, he has seen how people of different faiths can and must work together to protect the rights we hold dear.”