State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam has said that Bangladesh will seek an explanation from the United States regarding the recent speech of Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Leader Kalpana Akhtar by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
On November 16, US President Joe Biden signed the new labor policy. Speaking in California on this occasion, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken said that the United States has taken various steps, including visa policy, to implement workers’ rights around the world.
Citing the example of labor rights activist Kalpana Akhter in the declaration, the US Secretary of State said, “We want to stand by people like Bangladeshi garment worker and activist Kalpana Akhtar, who said that she is still alive because the US Embassy played a role on her behalf.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar spoke to reporters at the Ministry about the statement given by the US Secretary of State on Tuesday.
Regarding the arrest of Kalpana, Shahriar Alam said, If I remember correctly, Kalpana Akhtar was arrested once in Bangladesh in 2010. He is not alone, several other labor leaders along with him were arrested while protesting while on duty. Later their case was withdrawn.
Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) executive director Kalpana Akhtar is also the president of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation. Kalpana, who started working as a child laborer in a garment factory at the age of 12 in the nineties, got involved in the labor movement after a few years.
Three BCWS organizers Kalpana Akhtar, Babul Akhtar and Aminul Islam were arrested in 2010 during the garment workers movement. Kalpana was released from jail after a month.
After the Rana Plaza collapse, Kalpana Akhtar was arrested while protesting in the United States for financial compensation. Shahriar said that after the Rana Plaza collapse, when some buyers in the western countries refused to pay financial compensation to those factories, Kalpana Akhtar and a couple of others went to the United States to protest. He was arrested while doing so.
However, Kalpana Akhter never informed the government or the law enforcement agencies about the threat to her life in the country, said State Minister Shahriar Alam.
Regarding Kalpana’s activities, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said that Kalpana Akter has been leading an NGO to ensure labor rights in Bangladesh with great success.
The State Minister believes that there is no reason for Bangladesh to be worried about the US announcement regarding the application of the power of sanctions including trade if the labor rights are taken away. However, he said that the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will ask for an explanation about the statement made by the Bangladeshi labor leader Kalpana Akhter.