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August 25 Rohingya rally: Contradictory findings out of two inquiries

  • Published at 01:09 am September 10th, 2019
Rohingyas leave after attending a massive rally at a refugee camp in Ukhiya, COx Bazar on August 25 Tanjir Rahman

A third inquiry team formed by Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief is due to visit Cox’s Bazar today 

Two different probes into the mass rally held by Rohingya refugees on August 25, at Kutupalong camp in Ukhiya upazila, Cox’s Bazar, have presented contradictory findings regarding the hows and whys behind the rally. 

One of the inquiry teams, formed by former refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Abul Kalam on August 27, did not find any involvement of non-government organizations (NGOs), operating in the Rohingya refugee camps, in instigating the Rohingyas to hold the rally, senior officials concerned told Dhaka Tribune. 

This inquiry report was submitted to Abul Kalam prior to his abrupt removal on September 2 and he forwarded it to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, under which the RRRC operates, they said. 

Another three-member probe committee formed by the district administration of Cox’s Bazar, however, named – some NGOs, local Rohingya leaders, anumber of lawyers, teachers, RRRC officials, and police members who allegedly instigated in mobilizing the Rohingyas to hold the rally.

The second report, signed by Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain, was submitted to the NGO Affairs Bureau on September 3. 

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has decided to conduct a fresh inquiry, and has formed a high-level committee in this regard. 

The team, led by Additional Secretary (Planning and Development) Faizur Rahman, will travel to Cox’s Bazar today to begin the inquiry.

About 100,000 Rohingyas attended the rally, held at Kutupalong’s Modhurchhara camp on August 25, the second anniversary of the beginning of the latest Rohingya exodus into Bangladesh, causing a stir among the locals and the government itself.

Many NGOs were blamed for helping the Rohingyas in organizing such a big gathering. They were also blamed for provoking the displaced people not to return to Rakhine.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on August 31 said 41 NGOs that had been working at the Rohingya refugee camps had been withdrawn from Cox’s Bazar following the rally.

How do the findings contradict each other?

There has been controversy regarding the Rohingya rally – mainly due to differences in the statements coming from different officials of the government.

For instance, the foreign minister said the government had not known about the rally, while there are documents that say the Cox’s Bazar district administration were fully aware of the event.

Regarding the RRRC findings, a senior official told Dhaka Tribune: “The organizers informed the authorities earlier. People organized in a disciplined manner under the watch of the law enforcement officials. They dispersed in a disciplined manner as well. There was no incident of violence on that day.”

About the allegation against NGOs that they instigated the Rohingyas, the official, who sought anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media, said: “This was one of the main areas where our team worked a lot. But not a single NGO was found to have instigated the Rohingyas to hold the rally. The rally was spontaneous.”

He further said: “I still cannot understand how the rally has harmed Bangladesh. Not a single provocative word against Bangladesh was uttered at the rally. All of their [the Rohingyas’] attacking words were against their own [Myanmar] government, and all of their demands were to their own government.” 

The official also mentioned that protest rallies had been held in 2018, too, but there had not been such a reaction then.

The report by the other probe committee said the rally was orchestrated by a group of local Rohingya leaders together with the RRRC, Voice of Rohingya, Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Humanity Rights (ARSPH) and and NGO named ADRA, without seeking any prior approval from the district administration.

ADRA officials held meetingswith Rohingya leaders on August 19 and August 21 at Kolatoli’s Shalik Restaurant, where controversial Rohingya leader Md Mohibullah received a donation of Tk2.5 lakh for the rally, the report said. 

Separate rallies were also held by different organizations on the football field at Block D-5 of Modhurchhara camp, for which Rohingya Refugee Committee (RRC) Chairman Sirajul Islam received Tk25,000 in donations, while,the organization’s Secretary Saiful Haq received donations from his relatives from abroad.

Two NGOs – ADRA and AL Markajul Islami Sangstha – provided T-shirts and banners for the rally. 

The individuals and entities who were named in the second report are: ARSPH Chairman Md Mohibullah, Co-Chairman Master Abdur Rahman, General Secretary and Ukhiya Degree College Provost Nurul Masud Bhuiyan, the organization’s adviser and Supreme Court lawyer Dulal Mollik, Rajshahi University researchers Dr Faridul Alam and Maulana Yousuf, Cox’s Bazar District Sessions’ Judges Court’sPublic Prosecutor Mahbubur Rahman, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s  Cox’s BazarPublic Prosecutor Md Abdur Rahim, and Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of police Borhanuddin.

When contacted, Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said the rally was organized without prior approval from the district administration, and it caused concern among the host community. 

But the senior official at the RRRC said the district administration had, in fact, been aware of the rally. 

Mentioning that there are no specific guidelines from the government regarding such rallies, the RRRC inquiry report recommended that the government should set guidelines regarding rallies by the displaced people to avoid problems and controversy in the future.