Vol. 4 Num 213 Wed. December 31, 2003  
Letters to Editor

How heartless we are....

On Thursday December 25, 2003, in a tragic plane crash in Benin we lost 16 of our beloved people. They were army personnel representing Bangladesh in a UN mission in Sierra Leone and Liberia. After successful completion of their duty, they had been on their way home to Bangladesh. They had lots of dreams when they boarded the plane. But destiny was written differently. Their body and dreams all crashed in the Atlantic. Even for two days, none of the relatives could know the fate of their home coming fellows. I do not blame the fate or destiny they have suffered. But the reaction of the nation hurt me.

They came merely as the headlines in all the national TV channels at night on 27 December 2003 as commercial news and nothing more. It reminded me of my days in Sierra Leone. One long year devoid of relatives and dear ones, we did a tremendous job for Sierra Leone, we risked our lives to the sword edge of death meeting the RUF leaders like General Issa, rebel Brigade commander Colonel Basemarine and many others. Many lives of Nigerian and other West African ECOMOG troops perished while facing those rebels. It is we, the Bangladeshis, risked our lives, faced them, brought them to the negotiating table, arranged arms hand over and finally organised fair elections in Sierra Leone . Besides, we provided free medical treatment to people where the medical infrastructure had totally collapsed. We helped them to build their ruined homes and to build mosques.

What we got in return? The UN did not pay a single dollar more to us for this service. We were not asked to do such welfare works under the UN mandate. This is our national heritage to be beside the distressed. But we were flowered by Sierra Leoneans. Everywhere we moved we were applauded by the local people. They started considering us as their real friends. Our national image to the international community was brightened. We brought reputation for our nation. Those who have died in that accident were the predecessors of us and they upheld our image in the same manner.

The deaths have shocked Sierra Leone and Liberia. They mourned the deaths as if their own relatives have died. But here, except a news headline, no sense of sorrow was reflected in any of the TV channels. Those who died could not go seeing us what a heartless nation we are. The TV channels, it seemed to me, were broadcasting foreign news.

Do we have no time to stand a while for them, no time to sacrifice our precious entertainment and say only for once but aloud together "we are proud of you"?