Momen draws flak from party
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, who generally loves to talk to the media, avoided journalists yesterday as he was under pressure from Awami League leaders and facing criticism from opposition politicians and international relations analysts for his recent comments.
They say the statements are disgraceful and embarrassing for the country and politically damaging to the ruling party.
"No, I am not going to talk to you. You misinterpret my comments," Momen told reporters in front of the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum on Dhanmondi-32 after paying respect to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He took part in a discussion near the museum, marking National Mourning Day.
Minutes before the foreign minister left around 1:00pm, AL Presidium Member Abdur Rahman MP told reporters that the foreign minister "didn't belong" to AL and so his statements didn't reflect the party's position.
Momen, an AL lawmaker from Sylhet-1, is an adviser to Sylhet District Awami League and also the "number-1" member of the ruling party's Sylhet city unit.
Speaking at an event in Chattogram on Thursday, Momen had said he requested the Indian government to do whatever necessary for continuation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
"I went to India and said Sheikh Hasina's continuation must be ensured. She is our role model. If her continuation is ensured, our country will stride towards development and become a truly non-communal country," he said.
Abdur Rahman yesterday said they requested the foreign minister to speak responsibly so that crooked people cannot take advantage of his comments and confuse people. He said the PM may issue instructions to the foreign minister on this.
A number of top AL leaders told The Daily Star that Momen's statement angered the party top brass as it put the organisation in a "discomforting" position.
They said the PM addressed the Chattogram event virtually from Gono Bhaban and Momen was the chief guest there. No one usually speaks at a function after it is addressed by the PM. Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim, who was special guest at the programme, was requested to speak, but he refused saying that it won't be appropriate for him to deliver a speech after the PM's address. The foreign minister, however, spoke.
AL leaders said Momen, who worked as permanent representative at the Bangladesh Mission to the UN, was supposed to know diplomatic norms quite a bit, but he was actually damaging the party's image.
"Ever since Abdul Momen was given the portfolio of the foreign ministry, he has been talking about whatever comes to his mind and that triggered controversies different times," a top AL leader said preferring anonymity.
A few days ago, Momen was widely criticised for saying that the people of the country are "living in heaven". His comments came at a time when the people were facing harsh realities due to rise in prices of essentials. He later blamed the media for "twisting" his words.
In May, Momen had met his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar in Guwahati. After returning to Dhaka, the minister said he sought India's advice on how to import wheat and fuel from Russia, sidelining Western sanctions. This also drew criticism from different quarters.
In 2019, Momen compared the relationship between Bangladesh and India with that of husband-wife, which sparked strong criticism.
AL insiders, wishing anonymity, said they were trying to find out the reasons why the foreign minister made such statements ahead of PM Sheikh Hasina's scheduled visit to India early next month.
Momen's comments regarding India gave rise to many new questions, the insiders said, adding that they were analysing if those statements came due to his "childishness or illness" or if he was directed by someone to embarrass the government deliberately.
Some AL leaders said the minister's latest statement was embarrassing for the PM. They also questioned Momen's political intelligence and self-esteem.
An AL central committee leader said they want actions taken against the foreign minister. "If things go on like this, it will be difficult for us to run the government smoothly ... ."
Terming the foreign minister's Thursday's statement disgraceful, former ambassador M Humayun Kabir said it created an awkward and embarrassing situation for the AL and the government. According to him, the minister's comment was beyond diplomatic norms.
Former ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad said Momen's statement weakened the minister's position and harmed the image of the PM and the government.
Momen made many improper statements previously and he should be extra careful about his comments, he said.
"If he regrets making the statement, the harm may be lessened to some extent," said Munshi, also former chairman of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.
Meanwhile, Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader yesterday said the government cannot avoid the responsibility for the foreign minister's recent statement on seeking India's help to keep the PM in power, reports UNB.
"Such a statement has also embarrassed our neighbouring friendly country India. It has also called into question the sovereignty of the country," he told a programme at the party chief's Banani office.