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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  January, 2004  Crowley worried by extremist presence
Crowley worried by extremist presence

The Daily Star
Vol. 4 Num 228Thu. January 15, 2004

Front Page

Crowley worried by extremist presence
Staff Correspondent

US Congressman Joseph Crowley is concerned about the presence of extremist groups in Bangladesh, but sees it as the country’s own responsibility to deal with them, the visiting American told journalists yesterday following a close-door meeting with newspaper editors.

Although extremism in Bangladesh concerns him, Crowley said the problem is more acute in other countries.

The congressman, at the end of a four-day visit to Bangladesh, told journalists at Hotel Sonargaon that he wants to see closer co-ordination between Bangladesh and the United States. “Bangladesh has been a strong supporter of the US from the outset on the war on terror, as it progresses we hope to continue the relationship we have with Bangladesh.”

Crowley said he hasn’t yet formulated the recommendations about Bangladesh that he will present to the Congressional Committee on International Affairs, on which he serves.

But, he added, “This country deserves the attention of the United States, and it already has it.”

Earlier in his visit, the Democratic Congressman unleashed a series of criticisms of the ruling government’s “wrong” and “unfortunate” decision to ban Ahmediya publications. He also stressed that the government must reign in endemic corruption if it hopes to brighten its negative image abroad.

Participating editors, after the meeting with Crowley, said the issues discussed included the treatment of minorities, the economy, good governance, political instability and the negative impression held by the American public of Bangladesh.

The congressman expressed dismay over Bangladesh topping the global corruption rankings for three years running. “Even if we work very hard, it’s very difficult to sell a country if it remains at the top of the corruption index for three consecutive years,” he said, suggesting the nation needs to overhaul its police force.

Greater political consensus and tolerance of minorities are also required to attract increased foreign investment, Crowley said. Investors are discouraged by the government’s practice of suspending contracts following regime changes in Bangladesh, he added.

However, Crowley stressed that Americans do sympathize with the challenges Bangladesh is trying to overcome, and that the country can benefit from this sympathy.

Crowley said he will continue to champion free market access to the US for Bangladesh, similar to the access of Caribbean and sub-Saharan countries after 2004.

After the meeting, Abdul Awal Mintoo, President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “We are trying to sign TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) with the USA. It’s the first step towards a sustainable relationship that may lead to the signing of a trade agreement.”

During his stay, congressman Crowley and his entourage called on both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, and met with various religious, business and non-profit groups, including the UNFPA-assisted Adolescent Reproductive Health Project at Sonargaon.

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