Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Memoriam: Senator Ted Kennedy, A Great Friend of Bangladesh


Senator Edward Moore Kennedy (1932-2009)
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Senator Edward Moore Kennedy, popularly known as Senator Ted Kennedy -- the youngest brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and slain Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) -- died on August 25, 2009, at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, USA, after suffering from brain cancer. He was 77.

After a private funeral Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston on August 29, his body will be flown to Washington, D.C. for burial at the Arlington National Cemetery , where his brothers President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy are also interred. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other living former US Presidents are expected to attend the funeral Mass in Boston.

Democratic Party member Senator Ted Kennedy, who is well-known for his legislations mostly benefiting ordinary Americans, is mourned by both his friends and rivals. President Barack Obama eulogized Senator Kennedy, saying: "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time." One mourner at the President Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston said: "He was the people's senator." In his 47 years as the US Senator, he served the Senate alongside 10 US Presidents.

He Was a Great Friend of Bangladesh

Every time the history of Bangladesh is written, every time the details of the Bangladesh War of Independence are narrated, the great contribution of Senator Edward Kennedy in the creation of Bangladesh will be repeated.

The then US government of President Nixon blindly supported the government of President Yahya Khan, overlooking the Pakistani genocide in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971. Senator Edward Kennedy visited East Pakistani refugee camps in Calcutta and West Bengal in August, 1971, and was so moved by the inhuman conditions of more than 10 million refugees there and vivid signs of atrocious behaviour of Pakistan army, that, he became a public voice for these voiceless people. He exposed the real situation of these refugees and brutal situation in East Pakistan. He criticized the policy of the US government and demanded an immediate end to the sufferings of the East Pakistanis.

Senator Kennedy said: "The tragedy of East Bengal [East Pakistan, later Bangladesh] is not only a tragedy for Pakistan, it is not only a tragedy for India, it is tragedy for the entire world community, and it is the responsibility of that community to act together to ease the crisis."

He continued: "Simply humanity demands that America and the United Nations must accept the truth that this heavy burden should be borne by the entire international community, and not by India alone."

In his report to the US Judicial Committee on Refugees, he told of seeing "one of the most appalling tides of human misery in modern times....Nothing is more clear, or more easily documented, than the systematic campaign of terror -- and its genocidal consequences -- launched by the Pakistani army on the night of March 25th....American's heavy support of Islamabad is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal."

After the independence of Bangladesh, Senator Edward Kennedy went to Bangladesh on February 14, 1972, and spoke at a rally at the University of Dhaka. Thousands of students greeted him shouting "Joi Kennedy!" (Long live Kennedy!). He also planted a banyan sapling at the university campus. Bookmark and Share