CHITTAGONG: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today directed members of Bangladesh Coast Guard to dedicate themselves to serving the country and nation as she assured that her government would continue its support for expansion and modernisation of the force.
"We want that you would continue work by dedicating yourselves to serving the country and nation ... our government would keep on its support for expansion and modernisation of the Coast Guard," she said.
The premier was addressing the commissioning function of two newly-built offshore corvette patrol vessels "CGS Syed Nazrul" and "CGS Tajuddin" of Bangladesh Coast Guard at Patenga here this noon.
Sheikh Hasina said the aim of her government is to establish any organization properly and suitably. "To achieve the goal, we have been implementing various steps," she said.
The prime minister said she is very much aware of manpower constraints of the Coast Guard. "The issue of raising manpower and oceangoing big vessels of the force is under our consideration alongside increasing working area and the areas under its jurisdiction," she added.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and director general of the Bangladesh Coast Guard Rear Admiral Aurangzeb Chowdhury were present on the dais.
Ministers, parliament members, chiefs of the three services, diplomats and high civil and military officials were present on the occasion.
The premier also asked the Coast Guard to take proper steps against militancy and reiterated that her government won't spare its patrons.
"Bangladesh is not a militant state and our government has taken a "zero tolerance policy" to stamp out militancy from the country ... we won't give any space to those sheltering and patronising militancy," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the Coast Guard will have to take necessary measures against militancy in the areas under its jurisdiction along with other law enforcement agencies.
The two new patrol vessels of the Coast Guard commissioned today have been named after close associates of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and national leaders Shaheed Syed Nazrul Islam and Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed respectively.
The Italian Navy handed over the two vessels to Bangladesh Coast Guard under an agreement signed during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Italy in 2014.
Under the agreement, the Italian Navy would also hand over two more such vessels named "CGS Mansur Ali" and "CGS Kamaruzzaman" to Bangladesh Coast Guard this year.
Earlier, a smartly-turned out contingent of the Coast Guard gave state salute to the prime minister on the occasion.
Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the two patrol vessels by handing over "commissioning forman" to commanders of the patrol vessels.
She later boarded the two patrol vessels of the Coast Guard and went round their different sections.
Despite manpower limitations, the PM said, Bangladesh Coast Guard is making special contributions to safeguarding huge maritime area as well as life and property of the coastal people.
"The force has now been turned into a symbol of confidence and security due to honesty, sense of responsibility, sincere efforts, farsightedness and efficiency of its members," she said.
The premier said apart from operating international trade on the sea route, there is a treasure of resources in the Bay of Bengal. "We have to explore, extract and protect these resources," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the Coast Guard is playing a responsible role in protecting national interest of the country including water resources of the riverine Bangladesh, safeguarding river route, stopping intrusion, checking smuggling as well as containing pirates in the Sundarbans, she said.
Besides, their operation to ensure security in the seaports and outer anchorage as well as their patrolling to resist catching of Jatka and mother Hilsha fish are playing a supportive role in national and economic development, she added.
Pointing out the contribution of the coast guards to the "blue economy" activities as well as taking effective steps against sea pollution, Sheikh Hasina said they are keeping economic activities in rivers, sea, coast and deep sea safe and dynamic.
In this regard, the premier mentioned that the annual success of the coast guard in terms of economic value has exceeded thousand crores in taka.
Highly praising the role of the coast guards, the prime minister said the activities of the coast guard in safeguarding commercial ships in the sea ports and outer anchorage of the country have also been acclaimed by the outside world.
"The Chittagong Sea Port has now been recognised as a secured port by the International Maritime Bureau," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said, the focus of her government is now on the sea as the resources in the land areas are limited. Our rights over huge sea areas have been strengthened further thanks to proper determining of the maritime boundary with neighbouring countries.
In this context, the prime minister mentioned that the Coast Guard is being more strengthened to protect huge sea areas earned through winning the maritime boundary cases in the international courts.
Due to the measures of her government, she said, the country is now advancing towards achieving economic emancipation as dreamt the by Father of the Nation through extraction of sea resources and ensuring their security
Citing references of involvement of Awami League and her government in constitution of the Coast Guard, the prime minister said the force was established following a bill placed in parliament by the Awami League in 1994.
Later in 1996, the Awami League government gave land for its zonal office, built infrastructures, handed over different types of boats to launch its activities in the coastal region, she said.
Sheikh Hasina said her government constructed 30 coastal cyclone management centres at the Coast Guard stations over the last eight years while 48 patrol boats have so far been built for this force.
Besides, 7 patrol vessels, one floating crane and two patrol boats are also being constructed at Narayanganj Dockyard and Khulna Shipyard under the Navy, she said, adding that these would soon be added to the coast guard fleet.
The prime minister mentioned that for the development of the Coast Guard, her government has allocated Tk 2500 crore for five-year term from the development and revenue budget of the government.
To further strengthen the Coast Guard, she said, capability of the force to train up the manpower has been increased through establishing its own training base in Patuakhali region.
The premier thanked the Italian government for handing over two ex-navy ships to Bangladesh Coast Guard under a G-2-G agreement.
"We are grateful to the Italian citizens working in different ongoing development projects in Bangladesh and I hope that the friendly relationship between Bangladesh and Italy will continue to flourish in future," she said.