In a significant move, the government has put forth the name of Saima Wazed, granddaughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and a renowned expert in autism, as its nominee for the position of Regional Director for the South-East Asia Region (SEARO) at the World Health Organization (WHO).
The selection of the Regional Director will involve a voting process, with participation from the eleven WHO SEARO member states, which include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.
Notably, the Nepalese government has also nominated a candidate for the same post, intensifying the competition.
Saima Wazed’s impressive track record encompasses multiple achievements, such as drafting three international resolutions that found approval and adoption by member countries of both the United Nations and WHO.
Currently, she is on the verge of completing her doctoral studies in Organizational Leadership at Barry University in the United States. Since 2019, she has served as an advisor to the Director-General of WHO on Mental Health and Autism and has been a member of WHO’s expert advisory panel on Mental Health since 2014.
Her professional background includes being a licensed school psychologist, with more than three years of experience in the public school systems of Orange County and Duval County in Florida, USA.
In August 2023, Saima Wazed assumed the role of an associate fellow at the Global Health Program at Chatham House, where she has been actively involved since 2022 as a commissioner at the Commission for Universal Health.
She has also made substantial contributions in the field of climate vulnerability as the Thematic Ambassador for Vulnerability for the Climate Vulnerable Forum since 2020. Additionally, from 2017 to 2019, she held the position of WHO SEARO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Autism.
Within Bangladesh, she plays a pivotal role as the Chief Advisor for the National Mental Health Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and has chaired the National Advisory Committee on Autism and NDDs since 2012.
Saima Wazed’s academic and training commitments span across various institutions, including her role as Adjunct Faculty at Barry University in the USA, Visiting Faculty at Dhaka University, Visiting Specialist at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, and Visiting Faculty at the National Institute of Mental Health in Dhaka.
Her influence extends globally, with invitations to speak at prestigious conferences and events around the world. These include engagements at the UN General Assembly in the USA, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, the World Assembly of Women in Japan, COP26 and 27 in Scotland and Egypt respectively, UNESCO’s High-Level Roundtable in Sri Lanka, the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Cambodia, the World Economic Forum in India, the World Congress of Psychiatry in Portugal, and many others.
Recognizing her exceptional contributions, Saima Wazed has received several international awards, including the Excellence in Public Health citation by WHO SEARO, the Distinguished Alumni Award by Barry University in the USA, the International Champion Award by Shema Kolainu in the USA, and acknowledgment by Columbia University as an Innovative (Women) Leader in Global Mental Health.
Toll Rates Confirmed for Upcoming Bangabandhu Tunnel Inauguration
The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, an engineering marvel running beneath the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram, has completed its primary construction phase and is now eagerly awaiting its official inauguration.
The remarkable Bangabandhu tunnel, representing Bangladesh’s maiden venture into underwater tunnel infrastructure, is fully equipped and ready to facilitate vehicular movement. Plans for its grand unveiling are underway, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set to inaugurate the tunnel in Chattogram on October 28. As part of the inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Hasina will address a gathering at the Anwara end of the tunnel.
Subsequently, starting from the day after the inauguration, the tunnel will be open for vehicular traffic, marking a significant milestone in regional transportation.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader noted that the primary construction phase of the tunnel has been successfully completed, and current efforts are focused on resolving any remaining technical issues within the tunnel. This groundbreaking project represents Bangladesh’s entry into the era of underwater tunnels, signifying a monumental achievement and a source of national pride.
According to Md. Manzur Hossain, the Secretary of the Bridges Division, the primary tunnel is fully prepared for vehicular traffic, with ongoing efforts encompassing the establishment of essential infrastructure, including fire service and police station buildings. The overall progress of the tunnel project stands at an impressive 98 percent.
To ensure seamless transportation, the traffic division has devised a comprehensive plan for managing traffic flow both within and around the tunnel area. Inside the tunnel, vehicles will be able to maintain a speed of 80 kilometers per hour.
The tunnel is poised to bring transformative changes to communication within the country, with a focus on enhancing connectivity between the capital, Dhaka, and Chittagong city, as well as the popular tourist destination of Cox’s Bazar.
The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel measures 3.32 kilometers in length, featuring two four-lane tubes spanning 2.45 kilometers each. Additionally, there will be a 5.35 km link road at both the west and east ends of the main tunnel, along with a 727-meter-long flyover at the Anwara end. Situated at a depth ranging from 18 to 31 meters beneath the Karnaphuli River, the tunnel is an ambitious infrastructure project.
The project is a joint effort between the Governments of Bangladesh and China, with construction carried out by the China Communication and Construction Company Limited (CCCC). The goal is to create a ‘One City Two Towns’ concept, similar to Shanghai in China, on both sides of the Karnaphuli River.
As the tunnel’s opening day approaches, a toll fee structure has been established for various types of vehicles, ranging from Tk200 for private cars to Tk1,000 for four-axle trailers, with additional charges for extra axles.
PM Reiterates Commitment to Fair Elections in Bangladesh
During a civic reception in her honor, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reaffirmed her unwavering commitment to conducting a transparent and equitable election in Bangladesh. Speaking at an event organized by the New York Metropolitan Awami League, she emphasized her determination to ensure that the upcoming election in Bangladesh is free and fair. Sheikh Hasina, who is also the President of the ruling Awami League and attending the 78th UNGA in New York, questioned the intentions of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) regarding the election.
She highlighted concerns about the leadership of the BNP, describing their leader as a fugitive convict, money launderer, arms smuggler, murderer, and perpetrator of the August 21 grenade attack. Sheikh Hasina questioned why the electorate would support a party led by such an individual, noting that the BNP abstained from the 2008 election and boycotted the 2014 election.
Recalling the tragic loss of lives in arson attacks carried out to disrupt previous elections, she condemned the perpetrators as despicable. Sheikh Hasina expressed her unwavering commitment to ensuring free, fair, and impartial elections in Bangladesh, emphasizing that the people would vote properly. She credited the boat, the symbol of the Awami League, with bringing about positive changes in the country and enhancing Bangladesh’s global image.
Sheikh Hasina called on everyone to disregard propaganda and focus on maintaining Bangladesh’s positive image. She noted that during the tenure of the BNP-Jamaat alliance, communication with foreign nations was restricted, but now Bangladesh is respected on the global stage. She urged people not to be swayed by a few individuals who spread false slanders through social media and apps to cover their misdeeds.
The prime minister encouraged the exposure of these slanderers and called for awareness about their true identities, emphasizing the need to unmask those spreading false propaganda. She urged vigilance against this group of individuals.
PM Warns Against External Interference in Bangladesh Elections
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reaffirmed her government’s commitment to conducting the upcoming elections in Bangladesh fairly and without interference, emphasizing that the people of Bangladesh will not accept any external attempts to disrupt the electoral process. She made these remarks during a press conference held at the Bangladesh Mission in New York, where she was attending the 78th United Nations General Assembly.
The prime minister underscored that her party, the Awami League, relies on the trust and power vested in them by the people, as enshrined in the constitution. She also warned that any efforts to obstruct the elections would face resistance from the Bangladeshi people.
Addressing recent visa restrictions, Sheikh Hasina expressed hope that these restrictions would apply to all parties, including the opposition, to prevent any attempts to hinder the election process. She mentioned that the upcoming general elections would proceed smoothly as long as there are no actions akin to the arson attacks that occurred in 2013-14, which were aimed at disrupting the polls.
Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the Awami League’s legitimacy is derived from the voters and not dependent on external factors. She also highlighted her government’s commitment to working for the welfare of the people and stated that they would not be deterred by sanctions.
The prime minister recalled her decision to allow Khaleda Zia, a convicted figure in a corruption case, to receive medical treatment at home while suspending her jail sentence. She mentioned the government’s efforts to establish an independent election commission with economic autonomy.
Sheikh Hasina discussed proposals for transparent ballot boxes and a voter list with photographs to ensure fairness in elections, citing concerns over past attempts to manipulate the voter list. She emphasized that elections, including by-elections and local government elections, have been conducted fairly and spontaneously under her government’s leadership.
Regarding corruption, she acknowledged the importance of combating it to achieve development and noted her government’s efforts to bring development to all levels of society. Sheikh Hasina encouraged Bangladeshi expatriates to send remittances through legal channels and urged them not to be swayed by propaganda.
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