Foreign Minister AK Momen has said he will be more careful while speaking on the record after his ‘living in heaven’ comment last week, which sparked outrage and became a trending topic on social media.
“The comment was taken out of context and you guys [journalists] chewed me up. And you complain that Bangladesh’s media doesn’t enjoy enough freedom,” he said while addressing journalists after a meeting with visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the State Guesthouse Padma.
Conceding that he needs to be more careful in the future, Momen said: “After all, I am a public figure. You are entitled to criticise me.”
People in Bangladesh are “living a life as if in heaven”, compared to the rest of the world hit by the economic crisis, Momen had said at an event in Sylhet on Friday.
He lauded Bangladesh’s economic resilience and denounced those who drew a parallel with Sri Lanka, a South Asian neighbour roiled by the economic crisis.
As the Sylhet-1 MP’s comments sparked anger on social media, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader warned members of the ruling party against “flaunting” powers, asking them to conduct themselves judiciously amid the ongoing economic crisis.
At a programme in Dhaka on Saturday, he said: "Everyone must speak and act responsibly. It is not appropriate to make irresponsible comments or to flaunt powers. Stand by the people with cool heads. We have to work for the people -- that is our main message today.”
On the very same day, Momen claimed at a programme in his hometown Sylhet that the media “tried to twist” his remarks and “published the opposite” of what he had said.
“I said ‘in comparison to other countries, and you [journalists] wrote everywhere that [people are] ‘living in heaven’. It was an attempt to twist my words. You didn’t say that inflation in Bangladesh is lower than in other countries.”
A reporter then defended the coverage of Momen’s remarks. Nothing other than his comments were reported, the journalist said.
The foreign minister said: “Inflation is rising at a rate of 12 percent in England, 67 percent in Turkey, 37 percent in Turkey and 150 percent in Sri Lanka while it is 7 percent here.
“I said we’re in a better condition than other countries. If you compare our position with theirs, it’ll look like we’re in heaven. But you published the opposite.”