The government has appointed a public relations firm to convey the “truth” to dispel “misinformation” spread by “lobbyists” appointed by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami in the US, the foreign minister has told parliament.
The BNP had hired four lobbyist firms until 2017 and another in 2019, according to AK Abdul Momen. To prevent the war criminals from facing trials, the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami appointed three lobbyist firms in 2014, the minister said on Wednesday, reports bdnews24.com.
“Unfortunately, the lobbyists are presenting such statements that the people of Bangladesh would resent them if they knew. The lobbyists were asked to ensure that Bangladesh doesn’t receive any assistance. They urged the US government to prevent Bangladesh’s development.”
On Sunday, BNP MP Harunur Rashid and Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque Chunnu had demanded a statement from the foreign minister amid the ongoing debate over the Awami League and the BNP appointing foreign firms in the US.
Lobbying is legally protected in the US. Many organisations and countries, including India, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, appoint lobbyists to enhance their political and economic relations.
The BNP and the Jamaat have hired eight lobbyist firms in total in the US, said Momen. They paid $150,000 to the lobbyist firm they appointed to prevent the war criminals from facing trials. Another firm, Peace and Justice were appointed for $132,000, to influence the US government.
“The BNP has spent a total of $2.7 million from February 2015 to April 2017, including a retainer fee of $120,000 per month every year. This information is available on the US website,” said the foreign minister.
He said the BNP activists at the grassroots would never like it that Bangladesh loses all of its trade and business. “But the party leaders are doing it, keeping the activists in the dark. How can the BNP leaders write such things?”
On Jan 17, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said that the BNP spent $2 million in three years on a US lobbying firm.
He claimed the government is aware of the amount the BNP spent in the US against the Awami League administration.
The BNP leaders later alleged that it was not them but the government who appointed lobbyists in the US.
”The government appointed a PR firm and not a lobbyist. The lobbyists go to the Senate or State Department to lobby. The Bangladesh government appointed a firm to uphold the truth against the lies and falsehood spread by them.
“The government appointed a PR firm called BGR from 2014 to 2015, so they could write against the misinformation spread to protect the war criminals from facing trial.”
The minister said the PR firm BGR was appointed to prevent false propaganda against Bangladesh and ensure the welfare of the country and its people.
He also alleged that some BNP “members” wrote to the UN secretary-general urging him to declare the Bangladesh parliament “illegal”.
“Shame on those who do such things. While the BNP spends so much money on anti-state activities, have they ever published the financial statement of their party? Have they discussed with all leaders before they opted for such acts?” the foreign minister asked.