Dhaka, 28 April 2010. Today, on day of inauguration of the 16th SAARC summit in Bhutan, the People’s SAARC Bangladesh Chapter, a coalition of civil society groups in Dhaka, demanded visa free South Asia on the way forward to People’s Union in the region. They also circulated a written statement with sixteen point demands, which includes- immediate operation and revision of SAARC food bank aiming to feed all hungry people of the region; turning the SAARC Development Bank as alternative to World Bank and ADB; no imposition of uniformity and to uphold diversity of the nations; condemning militarism and terrorism as both are peoples’ enemy etc.
The alliance comprises with different rights organization raised demand through organizing a human chain and rally in front of national press club. They termed SAARC a mere talk shop as this regional association has failed to fulfill the aspiration of common people of South Asia. They demanded changes in SAARC Charters to accommodate dialogue on crucial bilateral and multilateral issues. Representatives of rights organizations who delivered speech from the human chain includes Mustafa Kamal Akanda of Jubilee South, Noman Ahmed Khan of IED, Omar Tarek Chowdhury and Shamsul Alam Sajjan of BNPS, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury and Shamsuddoha of EquityBD, Monju Rani Pramanik of SUPRO, Faisal Bin Majid of SAAPE, Abdul Quader Hazari of Arpon and Nazrul Islam Dali of Soha.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury condemned Bhutan Government, host of the 16th SAARC Summit, for not allowing civil society to organize Peoples’ SAARC and other peoples’ activities in Thimpu. He called the Bhutanese Government to declare and respect repatriation rights of 80,000 Bhutanese refugees who are languishing their lives in Nepal boarders. He also said that if commodity and capital could move freely, the people especially the climate-forced migrants also should have free access to all countries. Noman Ahmed Khan said that South Asia is endowed with immense natural resources, these resources should not be meant for corporations and elites, it should be meant and managed with common strategy for poverty eradication in the region. Omar Tareque Chowdhury reminded the historical linkages and one origin of South Asian culture. Shamsul Alam Sajjan appealed the South Asian leaders to review what tangible they have achieved in last twenty-five years. Monju Rani Pramanik expressed her expectation for a concrete plan on common climate strategy. Fesial Bin Majid termed the official SAARC as a limited club of South Asian rulers. He demanded a drastic regional wise cut in military expenditure and channeling this money for poverty eradication in the region.
Besides this Human Chain, Bangladesh National Committee on Peoples’ SAARC organized several other programs in Dhaka like a press conference on 15th April, cultural program in Dhaka University Campus on 18 April and national seminar on 19 April. Civil Society Organizations across the South Asia also organized different peoples’ events in their capitals, which culminated to a regional assembly in Delhi from 20 to 23 April 2010.