Contributed by Hamidah Ismail
The year 2021 marks a special year for Bangladesh and High Commissioner of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to Brunei Darussalam Nahida Rahman Shumona.
“I feel honoured as my appointment in Brunei coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh Independence and the centennial birth anniversary of the founding leader of Bangladesh, ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” said the high commissioner in an interview.
Every year on March 26, Bangladesh observes a national holiday to mark the day Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who became Bangladesh’s first President (in absentia) on the same day and later as Prime Minister, declared independence and to pay tribute to martyrs.
“For Bangladesh, independence means we have the freedom to drive our own economic direction, freedom of speech and equal opportunity for all. We can now work together without any division to bring Bangladesh to a position where the father of the nation envisioned it to be,” said the high commissioner.
She shared that Bangladesh has progressed greatly in terms of education, infrastructural development, science and technology, defence and economic activities.
Speaking on the diplomatic relationship between Brunei and Bangladesh, the high commissioner expressed hopes for stronger ties between the two countries.
“Since 1997, Brunei has supported Bangladesh in many ways such as awarding scholarships to Bangladeshi postgraduate students to study in Brunei. It is my hope that Bangladesh will do the same and offer Bruneians scholarships to study in the many postgraduate institutions in Bangladesh, especially in the area of agriculture. Since Bangladesh specialises in agriculture, we can work together to help Brunei develop its agricultural sector.
“Bangladesh can also help Brunei in the health sector by sending more specialists, doctors and nurses to Brunei on a government to government basis. Brunei can also send its students to Bangladesh to study medical sciences as we have quite a number of world class medical facilities in Bangladesh,” added the high commissioner.
She said that another area that Brunei and Bangladesh can work collaboratively is the halal food industry.
“Bangladesh has a sizeable Muslim population and a huge market for Brunei’s Halal products. Similarly, Bangladesh could export apparels and dried food products to Brunei.
“Bangladesh also has interests to harness the blue economy as part of its development plan and as Brunei is a coastal country, both countries can have a joint venture and benefit from this collaboration.”
The envoy added that she hopes to spend more time with organisations that help children and the community.
“Since coming here, I have started working closely with organisations such as the Society for Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER), An-Nur Harapan and the Brunei Reading and Literacy Association (ReLA). This has been a passion of mine and I make it a point to do this in every country I’m posted to.”
In the interview, the high commissioner also expressed her gratitude to Brunei for allowing her countrymen to contribute and flourish in the Sultanate.
“Since 1984, Bangladeshis started coming to Brunei to work at various levels such as doctors, engineers, oil and gas workers, researchers, university professors as well as skilled and unskilled workers.”
As a career diplomat for 23 years, the high commissioner has served in Australia, India, Canada and Brazil.
“Brunei has been the only country where Bangladeshis could set up their own businesses and become prominent. Hence, I would like to tell my fellow Bangladeshis to always respect the rules and regulation of Brunei; learn the culture and language of Brunei and stay united as the Bangladeshi community here.
“Among my plans during my tenure here in Brunei is to establish a Bangladesh centre for cultural studies where both Bruneian and Bangladeshi can benefit from learning about each other’s culture and language. I would also like to collaborate with the local culinary training institutes to promote food diplomacy – not just between Brunei and Bangladesh, but all countries. Food is a universal language and I believe that through food, we can help people understand other culture and tradition.”