Shubho Shondha! Good evening,
I was honoured to be invited to be with you this evening to recognise and celebrate the success of the British Bangladeshi community. I can think of no better way of doing so than through this evening’s brilliant initiative by British Bangladeshi Power & Inspiration. By celebrating the success of the Bangladeshi community in the UK, the initiative embodies the people to people connections that both countries enjoy.
Coming from the UK, I’ve always been aware of the deep and strong ties that bind the UK to Bangladesh. Looking back, British Bangladeshis have played a large part in my life and experiences. I was a regular Blue Peter watcher throughout my childhood. So it won’t be a surprise that Konnie Huq was a major influence as I was growing up. Since I started work, I’ve had the privilege of working with many of the British Bangladeshis in the Foreign Office. Many have no public profile. But some of them feature on the Power and Inspiration list – I went to the same school as Mockbul Ali, a good friend. And I’ve worked closely with Anwar Choudhury too.
But it’s only since I’ve arrived in Dhaka that the breadth and depth of the UK-Bangladesh relationship has struck home. And that is what we are here to celebrate today.
You know better than me the strong political ties that link our two countries. The UK has been a strong supporter of Bangladesh from the very beginning. Following his release from prison in 1972, Sheikh Mujib flew first to London. He then flew to Dhaka on a Royal Air Force plane given to him by the British Government. Our strong political ties with Bangladesh have continued ever since. It’s good to see that political figures from the Bangladeshi community feature heavily in this year’s list. Either as aspiring UK parliamentary candidates, or established politicians, their engagement in UK politics means we can be assured of close political ties between Bangladesh and the UK for many years to come.
Our business links are also strong. I am proud that the UK was the second largest direct foreign investor into Bangladesh in the last financial year 12/13 with nearly £160million invested. Nearly 100 UK firms are based here in Bangladesh. It is heartening to see so many entrepreneurs, businessmen and innovators represented in this year’s list. I had the pleasure of working with some of them last week, when the Wales Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce visited. Their visit will help promote even closer business ties between the UK and Bangladesh in the future.
The UK’s development partnership with Bangladesh is second to none. We are the largest bilateral donor here, helping to lift hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis out of poverty. I hope that you will tell your families, friends and communities how we are working hard to help the very poorest benefit from Bangladesh’s impressive growth. Again, British Bangladeshis are at the forefront of this work, with development professionals well represented in the list.
I could go on. I’m confident that, whatever I say, and whatever walk of life I raise, there’ll be a British Bangladeshi there, playing a leading role, enriching British society – and helping further UK-Bangladesh relations at the same time. And that is what is so inspiring about this evening’s event, and the BBPI list. From Judge Khatun Sapnara, the senior judge who is the first ever BBPI ‘Person of the Year’, to Ruqsana Begum, British female Muay Thai champion, every sector of society, and every walk of life is represented. Every story is truly inspirational. I can think of no better testament to the strength of the ties that bound our two nations.
I would like to thank all of you present here and especially Nahas and Abdal, the BBPI team, for organising this celebration. I look forward to the initiative growing from strength to strength in the coming years.