US slams threat by local leader of Bangladesh ruling party to ambassador

A local leader of the Awami League has threatened to physically assault US Ambassador Peter Haas

Published : 9 Nov 2023, 06:55 PM
Updated : 9 Nov 2023, 06:55 PM

The US has condemned the comments of a local leader of the Awami League threatening to physically assault Ambassador Peter Haas amid Western pressure on Bangladesh to hold free and fair elections.

The US Department of State also stressed the importance of protecting diplomats and diplomatic missions.

"Safety and security of our diplomatic personnel and our diplomatic facilities is of utmost importance,” its spokesperson Vedant Patel said at a briefing in Washington on Wednesday.

He deemed such kind of violent rhetoric “deeply unhelpful”.

Mujibul Haque Chowdhury, the chairman of Chambal Union in Chattogram’s Banshkhali Upazila and convenor of the Awami League’s local unit, threatened to physically assault the US ambassador to Dhaka during a meeting against BNP’s anti-government movement on Monday.

"I'm not just worried about my safety," Ambassador Haas said in a recent interview on private television.

“Also, I am worried about the security of those who work there, including the embassy.”

When asked at a press conference on Oct 6 about such concerns by the ambassador, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the issue came up in a recent meeting with US National Security Advisor Jake Sulivan.

Hasina said she discussed with Sulivan about the security of Haas and the US sanction on the Rapid Action Battalion and its officials.

“I asked how it can be that they [US] will impose sanctions on our force and then seek security from them [RAB],” she said.

The prime minister said she asked Muhammad Imran, the Bangladesh ambassador to the US, who was present in the meeting with Sulivan, what kind of security he gets there.

“He [Imran] doesn’t get any type of personal security. Only the embassy has some sort of security,” she said, adding that Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen mentioned in the meeting that Bangladesh had deployed 158 police officers for the security of the US Embassy in Dhaka.

“And the ambassador has a gunman in plainclothes. So, there is no lack of security here.”

Haas questioned security measures after Bangladesh had withdrawn some extra personnel used for the safety of the diplomats from some countries, including the US.

The government took the measure after other countries had started demanding extra security personnel, Hasina explained.

The prime minister alleged a lack of security in the US, not in Bangladesh.

“Shootings occur in schools, shopping malls, restaurants, homes [in the US] everyday. We fear for the safety of our citizens there. Many Bangladeshis also died. They [Americans] should solve their own problems first.”

Patel said the State Department expects the host government of any country to take appropriate measures to maintain the safety and security of US personnel and facilities in line with the country’s obligations under the Vienna Convention and other diplomatic conventions.

The US believes that the people of Bangladesh share the same desire as the United States, which is to have free and fair elections held peacefully, he said, responding to a question about Bangladesh’s polls.

“We are working with the government, opposition candidates, civil society, and other stakeholders to encourage them to collaborate for the betterment of the Bangladeshi people,” he added.

In another question, Patel said the US does not support any political candidate or party in Bangladesh.

The opposition BNP has also condemned the Awami League leader’s comments.

The ruling party ministers and leaders are constantly giving bad messages, while an ambassador has been threatened with physical abuse, BNP Senior Joint Secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said.

They keep saying bad things about not only their opponents in Bangladesh, but also the United Nations, human rights groups, and people and organisations, he added.