Edward M Kennedy Jr on Monday said his father late US Senator Edward M Kennedy had fought for establishing a free and fair electoral system and would believe a free and fair election possible only if free media exists.

His father faced unjust criticism from media, yet he would believe in freedom of press, Edward M Kennedy Jr said.

Edward M Kennedy, known as Ted Kennedy Jr, made these remarks while delivering a speech at an event on the 50th anniversary of US-Bangladesh relations at Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban at Dhaka University.

Late US Senator Edward M Kennedy, then a Massachusetts senator who stood by the people of Bangladesh and campaigned for the liberation war in 1971 going against the Nixon-Kissinger administration’s policy on resolute support to Pakistan.

Edward M Kennedy Jr, who is also nephew of late US president John F Kennedy, and his family members are now on a weeklong visit to Bangladesh, beginning from Saturday.

BSS adds: Addressing the event at Dhaka University, Ted Kenney Jr recalled his father Edward M Kennedy’s moral stand towards right cause of Bangladesh’s freedom saying most American people supported the struggle of the Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 despite the then US administration’s tilled down policy towards Pakistan.

The Pakistan military administration under General Yahya Khan tried to suppress information regarding the genocide in Bangladesh launched on the night of 25 March 1971.

But Edward M Kennedy exposed the brutality of the Pakistani occupation forces to the world communities after his visit to the refugee camps in India in August 1971.

After returning back from the refugee camps, the junior Kennedy said, his father criticised the then Nixon administration to support Pakistan and called upon that “America to be the right side (in favour of Bangladesh independence) of the history”.

Ted said that in his report his father said that “American support of Islamabad is nothing short of complicity in human and political tragedy of (the then) East Bengal”

In 1972, Edward Kennedy planted a banyan tree at the famous "Bottola" on the Dhaka University campus during his visit to the newly born Bangladesh.

Ted Kennedy said visiting this banyan tree today was very “powerful and emotional” experience to him as he had been heard about the story of the tree in his entire life from his father.

“Today, I felt my father’s presence when I was underneath the tree,” he said emotionally.

Ted said his father planted the banyan tree on the same spot where the Pakistan army blew the old banyan tree in 1971 as the tree was famous for students’ demonstration.

“50 years later, the tree still stands and it is a beacon of resilience and beacon of hope, I think the US-Bangladesh partnership is kind of like this tree,” he said.

Ted said Bangladesh and US are the key partner in the world while the US applauded Dhaka’s contribution on world peace and generosity to accommodate such numbers of forcibly displaced Rohingya people.

“You know while some governments do not yet recognize you, the people of the world do recognize you,“ Ted Kennedy said quoting his father’s speech that he delivered in Dhaka in 1972.

“The real foreign policy of America is citizen to citizen, friend to friend, people to people, foreign bonds of brotherhood that no tyranny can diminish. For in a sense, we are all Bangladeshis, we are all Americans and we all share the great alliance of humanity,” he quoted his father.

He said his father’s foreign policy was based on concept of humanitarianism that Henry Kissinger found “so difficult to try understand”. “Humanitarianism is the cornerstone of my father’s view of foreign policy,” he added.

The Ted Kennedy put emphasis on free press as it is a must for functional democracy.

“I think, It’s important for you all to know that vast majority of the people of US were on your (Bangladesh) side during the struggle of the (your) independence,” he said.

Ted Kennedy Jr said that the Kennedy family would always support the democracy and prosperity of Bangladesh to build further stronger ties between Washington and Dhaka. "Kennedy family feels special kinship with the people of Bangladesh who suffered bloodshed," he said.

US ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas and Dhaka University vice-chancellor professor Akhtaruzzaman also spoke.

The US envoy also said the American people supported Bangladesh’s independence war while the then Nixon administration supported Pakistan on the issue.

The then US consul general in Dhaka Archer Blood also took stand the American policy wrote telegrams to Washington DC through the official channel about the brutalities of Pakistani authorities.

He said, it showed that people in the US can speak freely and being critical of their own administration.

The US Embassy in Dhaka termed the visit as "historic" while Edward M. Kennedy is accompanying family members included Katherine "Kiki" Kennedy (wife), Kiley Kennedy (daughter), Teddy Kennedy (son), Grace Kennedy Allen (niece), and Max Allen (nephew).

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