Outgoing US ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat said that the people of Bangladesh have a strong sense of history. And it is this sense that drives the country’s human development indicators. She was replying to a question about Bangladesh’s socioeconomic development while visiting the Prothom Alo office on Thursday.
Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman greeted Marcia Bernicat and showed her around the newspaper’s premises at the Progoti Insurance building in Karwan Bazar. She spoke to the newspersons of various sections. Later, in an exclusive interview, she spoke on various bilateral and international issues. She also joined in a discussion with senior journalists of Prothom Alo.
During her assignment in Bangladesh, Bernicat had to serve under the administrations of president Barack Obama and president Donald Trump. She said that there was relatively very little change in relations from administration to administration in the United States. The US has put very strong emphasis on the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the new administration is eager that Bangladesh be part of this strategy.
The US ambassador said she was impressed at Bangladesh’s socio-economic advancement as reported in the UN Human Development Index. She said that not only was she a history major, but her time here in Bangladesh had taught her that Bangladeshis has a strong sense of history. She pointed to prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s efforts. She said Sheikh Hasina deserved credit not just for her own vision, but for carrying out the vision of her father. Bangladesh’s founding father had the vision to launch a telecommunication satellite and that has been fulfilled.
Bernicat praised the civil society and the media as drivers of development in Bangladesh. She said, democracy and development go hand in hand and one was dependent on the other.
The US ambassador reiterated her concern about the recently passed digital security act. She said the US and other friends for two years had talked with various government representatives, submitting their concerns in writing about the digital security act. They shared the concerns that the editors have expressed. She also said that in democracies there are tricky challenges. On the one hand, there is freedom of speech. On the other hand, there is need to protect people from excesses of comment in the public space.
Marcia Bernicat expressed her hope again for free, fair and credible election with participation of all parties. She said the prime minister Sheikh Hasina, the ministers and everyone wanted a free and fair election.
Ambassador Bernicat, commenting on her visit to the Prothom Alo office, said, “Thank you for inviting me back to Prothom Alo. It’s always a delight to be here and I’m a great admirer of the work that you do and your integrity.”