“Bangabandhu Rahman’s influence and legacy extend far beyond the border of Bangladesh, helping to inspire other global anti-colonial and independence movements,” he said at a discussion on Monday.

Joining virtually, the veteran South Korean diplomat presented the keynote speech at the fourth edition of the Bangabandhu lecture series “Bangabandhu: the Soul of Bangladesh”, organised by the foreign ministry.

Moon said Bangabandhu was a forward-thinking man and rare leader who had a far-reaching vision to help ensure a future for his young nation of Bangladesh.

“As a champion for human rights, social and economic equality and in environment, he was also far ahead of his time.”

Ban was a young diplomat of Korea to India when and concurrently Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War.

He was also a member of the visiting delegation in Dhaka at the signing ceremony of documents on establishing diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and South Korea in 1973.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest hero of Bengalis who led them to independence. Photo: Nasir Ali Mamun, Photoseum

“My very own fountain pen was used to sign the document. In fact to this day I possessed that fountain pen and I have held it a very personal souvenir. This is my personal memory,” the former foreign minister of South Korea said.

He also described another personal memory regarding the frugal approach of the foreign ministry officials at the early period of Bangladesh.

“Even today, I vividly remember how the Bangladesh government officials prioritised being frugal in promoting their work, life and resources. Ensuring even a single sheet piece of paper in their offices they tried to save. This is a very moving and striking memory for then a very young diplomat,” Ban Ki-moon said.

“I have been introducing this story to my own junior officers in Korea and at the United Nations for 10 years. This is real story. I am confident that this resourceful spirit helped enable Bangladesh to rebuild its devastated nation after the war.”

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam told bdnews24.com this episode happened when Ban met a foreign ministry official at the then foreign office in Segunbagicha. When asked for the telephone number, the official wrote it on a corner of the paper and gave it to Ban Ki-moon tearing that portion of the paper.

The former UN chief said Bangabandhu will always be remembered as the father of modern Bangladesh as well as a great leader of the world and this was evident to him when he was a young diplomat in the early 70s.

“Bangabandhu Rahman was a champion in empowering the Bangladeshi people to fight for their linguistic and cultural rights as well as their yearning for freedom and self-rule. His commitment to human rights did not stop there; rather it extended to other oppressed people all over the world.”

Based on this vision of Sheikh Mujib, Bangladesh has emerged as one of the fast-moving countries among the developing nations under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Moon said.

He mentioned a recent column published by The New York Times comparing the efforts of the US and Bangladesh regarding education, child poverty and climate change.

The former UN boss said as a lover of nature and protector of environment, Sheikh Mujib and Hasina were also instrumental in some of the earliest and most significant climate adaptation actions which have enabled Bangladesh to stand out as a leader in this essential field.

Ban Ki-moon urged all leaders to follow Bangabandhu to overcome global crises and uncertainty.

“COVID-19 and other global crisis such as climate change have underlined our fundamental interconnectedness. They have all made it clear that world leaders to prioritise fight against poverty and inequality and enhance climate action and adaptation,” he said.

“In this regard, I believe that the global community would do well at this pivotal time to harness the vision and legacy of leaders such as Bangabandhu Rahman of Bangladesh.”

Addressing the event as chief guest, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangabandhu was “the most courageous soul the world has ever produced”. The Father of the Nation was firmly committed and dedicated to his mission to free the country from oppression and subjugation, Momen said.

“He placed humanity above all the issues and always fought for people’s rights as well as for their well-being. Bangabandhu dedicated his whole life to ensure people’s economic emancipation to end economic disparity and injustice to build a “Sonar Bangla”- a ‘Golden Bengal’- an equitable and just society,” he added.

Momen also said the Father of the Nation was not only a visionary of the Bengali nation, but he was also the epitome of democracy, secularism, peace, harmony, and tolerance.

“To establish the rights of the common people, like Mahatma Gandhi, he never resorted to violence. Throughout his life, he chose the path of peaceful legal process in all his political campaigns, all his political movements.”

The minister said following Bangabandhu’s philosophy, Bangladesh has been promoting a culture of peace through its leadership role in the UN peacekeeping and peace-building for sustainable peace and stability.

“Bangladesh is contributing towards world peace through its active participation in UN peacekeeping missions and continued to be the top troop-contributing country for more than the last three decades.”

State Minister Shahriar, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, South Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh Lee Jang-keun, and Bangladesh Ambassador to South Korea Abida Islam also spoke at the programme.

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