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Liberating Language an Expression of Freedom

20 June 2019

Minister Mozammel Huq, Minister of Liberation War Affairs of Bangladesh paid a short fact finding trip to South Africa recently. It was the life and struggle hero and freedom icon Nelson Mandela, the first president of a democratic South Africa that motivated the minister’s visit. The minister is himself a veteran soldier who fought for the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971.

Photo: (l-r) Mr Shahiduzzaman Sarkar, Member of the National Parliament of Bangladesh, High Commissioner Shabbir Ahmad Chowdhury, Minister Mozammel Huq, Minister of Liberation War Affairs of Bangladesh, Anisha Pemjee, The Diplomatic Society, Kirtan Bhana, The Diplomatic Society and Mr Motahar Hossain, Member of the National Parliament of Bangladesh

That conflict is similar to the June 16th uprising in Soweto, South Africa, which rejected the imposition of Afrikaans as a language medium in schools. This uprising is commemorated on June 16th known as Youth Day in South Africa.  

The minister visited the Hector Pieterson memorial in Soweto that pays tribute to a generation of high school students who stood up to the brutality of the apartheid regime. In Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, a memorial to the students was also erected to preserve the history of the campaign that saw Bangladesh not only defend its cultural heritage but also break away from West Pakistan and develop and grow into a thriving independent nation under the leadership of the late Sheik Mujibur Rahman.

Spending time in Vilakazi Street at the homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Minister Mozammel Huq had a township experience of Soweto famous for its resilient people in the fight for their liberation. Today Vilakazi Street is famed for its two Nobel Laureates who lived in the same street.
For those who glorify colonialism a visit to the Voortrekker Monument in Thaba Tshwane Pretoria, which was also on the agenda of the minister’s visit, the concentration camps set up to brutalize the Afrikaners is a stark reality check. The Afrikaners themselves, victims of colonial oppression fled the Cape Colony and trekked into the interior of the country. The stigma attached to the Afrikaans language is being retracted as more South Africans discover more about their origins. Maropeng, The Cradle of Humankind, the Origins Centre at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg all present an opportunity to learn more about early humans.

Several hundred thousand Bengali speaking people are currently estimated to be in the SADC region. They account for much of the remittances between Bangladesh and the Southern African region.  About 5 million make up the diaspora, many employed in the Middle East, ASEAN as well as in the USA and Britain, the former colonial governor of India. Human resource is the key driver for a country of 170 million, considered to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Minister Mozammel Huq found great affinity with the liberation heroes of South Africa. Their belief in fairness and justice, of freedom of expression and the joy of accomplishment of having achieved a goal was also the cornerstone of Bangladesh’s liberation war. In this year of indigenous languages South Africa celebrates 25 years of its democracy and freedom. The constitution guarantees the use of all 11 official South African Languages, an aesthetic legal consideration dispersing the dominance of one over the other with a practical framework that makes it officially available where it is required.

The Kruger National Park, the world renowned game reserve was the last stop for the minister to experience a safari of the abundant African Savannah.  A vision of connecting with nature to conserve the environment and draw in its natural African beauty was a design of Paul Kruger, the first President of South Africa in the Old Transvaal.

The Kruger Rand, a gold coin named after the first President, is valued for its purity and acknowledged store of wealth and is what most precious metal investors will recognize.  South Africa, together with its neighbours, still holds vast deposits of highly sought after precious minerals, metals and gems. The new Continental Free Trade Agreement between the countries of Africa has just come into effect at the end of May 2019

The common aspiration of people marked the visit of Minister and War veteran Mozzamel Huq’s visit to South Africa; it indicates the value of continuous people-to-people and face-to-face interaction through which to build a genuine dynamic partnership.




February/March 2020








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