Thursday, February 21, 2019 | ePaper

Country paying price of govt's incompetence

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THE Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday said that the international donor agencies are increasingly losing their interest in providing food assistance for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The WFP high-up made this statement during his meeting with the Bangladesh PM at her hotel suite in Italy.

The fear was that the international donor agencies would become tired of the Rohingya issue at any moment and it was well anticipated in the beginning of the year. The point which should be noted is that since the future of the repatriation of the refugees is somewhat bleak, and since Myanmar is still reluctant to take them back - so for how long should donors continue to supply them with food, aid and medicine? If the supply of aid reduces the responsibility will undeniably fall on the government's shoulders. So far, the WFP has distributed food items worth $80 million among the Rohingyas in the last six months. And the reality is that it costs around $20-25 million to feed the refugees a month. At this rate the cost is likely to exceed $100 million if no progress is made in the next four months.

The PM has reportedly told her counterpart about the bilateral agreement signed with Myanmar and also requested the international community to continue to put pressure on Myanmar for successful implementation of the MoU. It is at this point where the questions mechanically arise: did the government involve the UN during the signing of MoU with Myanmar? Did it engage the international community in any capacity? And most importantly why didn't it leave the crisis to be solved multilaterally between Bangladesh, the UN and Myanmar?
Since the signing of the MoU the crisis had evidently lost its urgency - to such an extent that it has now become a bilateral issue. Had the agreement been signed between the UN and Myanmar, the WFP's Executive Director would perhaps have  held a special meeting with the UN Secretary General for putting more pressure on Myanmar. It's least likely that the international community, as a collective force, would put pressure on Myanmar just because of our PMs repeated requests. However, the country is once again paying the price of the government's incompetence and diplomacy of appeasement.

The government should cancel the ineffectual repatriation MoU with Myanmar and let the UN tackle the crisis or it should get ready to pay an even heavier price for its blunders.

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