The topic and purpose of the “secret meeting” involving a Saudi national and a leader of banned separatist movement of the Rohingyas at an Awami League leader’s residence in Teknaf remained a mystery.
The alleged link of controversial Awami League MP Abdur Rahman Bodi to the meeting complicated the matter further.
Cox’s Bazar, where the meeting took place, is home to some 3,00,000 Rohingyas, many of whom are involved in various crimes in the bordering area with Myanmar.
Joint forces on Saturday detained four people — Saudi national Ahmad Al Saleh Al Badi, Hafiz Salaul Islam, former military commander of Myanmar’s separatist outfit Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), Moulvi Ibrahim a man from Tangail who accompanied the Saudi national, and Baharchara Union Awami League Vice-president Syed Karim, said Lt Col Abujar Al Jahid, commander of BGB battalion-2 at Teknaf.
After the detention, Jahid said the four were holding the meeting for distributing funds among inhabitants of an unregistered Rohingya shelter in Teknaf without approval from local administration.
The meeting was held at Karim’s house at Nayapara village of Teknaf.
The four were under the custody of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) at the BGD-2 Battalion Headquarters in Teknaf where they were being quizzed by the BGB, police and other intelligence agencies, a police source said.
Law enforcers declined to comment on what was discussed in the meeting.
The Saudi embassy in Dhaka did not respond to The Daily Star’s request for confirmation of Ahmad Al Saleh Al Badi’s nationality.
Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office in a letter to the home ministry spoke of criminal activities by Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar and asked it to take steps to curb those.
Cox’s Bazar Police Superintendent Shaymal Kumar Nath told The Daily Star the arrestees were not handed over to the police. Police will take legal actions once they were handed over to them.
This comes less than a month after the BGB arrested seven people including five Chinese nationals on charges of illegal distribution of funds among the residents of an unregistered Rohingya shelter in Leda of Teknaf.
WAS BODI PRESENT?
BGB-2 Battalion Deputy Commander Major Abu Russel Siddique told some local media on Saturday that local lawmaker Bodi and Teknaf Upazila Chairman and AL leader Zafar Ahmed were also present at the “secret meeting”.
Teknaf Upazila Assistant Commissioner (land) and Executive Magistrate Zahid Iqbal, who took part in the raid on Saturday afternoon, said he saw Bodi at the house where the meeting took place, but was not sure if he was present in the meeting.
Contacted, Bodi told The Daily Star he was in Inani of Ukhia during the raid but rushed there on hearing about it.
He claimed he requested the BGB officials and the executive magistrate to take the arrestees to Teknaf Police Station.
Meanwhile, the BGB in a press statement yesterday said some media outlets quoted Teknaf BGB Battalion 2 Commander Lt Col Md Abuzar Al Zahid, saying Bodi interfered in the joint forces’ operations and tried to have the arrestees released.
“This statement quoting the battalion commander is fabricated and motivated,” said the BGB statement.
WHO IS BODI?
Abdur Rahman Bodi, lawmaker of Cox’s Bazar-4 constituency, hogged newspaper headlines several times for assaulting school teachers, forest and bank officials, engineers, a freedom fighter and a lawyer, among many others.
Dhaka Special Judges Court in September last year framed charges against him in a graft case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission over amassing illegal wealth.
Bodi joined politics in 1991 after failing to buy tickets from the BNP and joined the Awami League the same year. In 2003, he was elected chairman of Teknaf Municipality from the AL.
Bodi was arrested during the military-backed caretaker government.
He became an MP for the first time in 2008 with AL ticket and then again in 2014.
He had at least 23 cases filed against him at different time and some of them were withdrawn by the home ministry, considering them “politically motivated”.
He faces numerous allegations of land grabbing, smuggling and extortion.
HAFIZ SALAUL’S PAST RECORD
While there was no official version from police about the motive of the meeting, locals said Hafiz infiltrated Bangladesh in the 1980s and secured Bangladeshi citizenship by illegal means.
Police said they had arrested him over the violent attack on the Buddhist temple at Ramu on September 29, 2012.
Then on February 15, 2013, he was again arrested over his alleged involvement in the unrest created by the Jamaat-Shibir men under the banner of Saydee Mukti Council in Cox’s Bazar.
On March 21 the same year, police arrested him from a “secret meeting” at a madrasa at Hnila in Teknaf, sources said.
He built a mosque and madrasa complex named Imam Muslim Islamic Centre allegedly by grabbing vast land of the Forest Department behind Cox’s Bazar College.
ROHINGYAS IN COX’S BAZAR
Apart from more than 32,000 registered Rohingyas in two refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, about three lakh of the ethnic minorities from Myanmar are living illegally in the district, according to a recent government census.
Rohingyas entered Bangladesh in different phases since 1978 fleeing repression in Myanmar.
There are numerous allegations of criminal activities by a section of them.
A recent report by an intelligence agency said that Rohingyas — registered and unregistered — staying in camps, are involved in criminal activities like abduction, extortion, human trafficking and robbery.
It said 18 registered and unregistered Rohingyas are involved with criminal activities.
The report mentioned that they are active both in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The Myanmar authorities also lodged complaints with the Bangladesh authorities about criminal activities in their territory by some Rohingyas. It also said the criminals get shelter and assistance by some Bangladeshi men.
A school teacher of Shamlapur in Teknaf said Hafiz of RSO, Syed Karim, Shamlapur UP Chairman and Union AL President Maulana Aziz Uddin and his brother and upazila Vice-chairman Maulana Rafiq Uddin went to Saudi Arabia before the Ramadan this year.
They returned in the first week of the fasting month.
On return, Karim told locals that they would build a huge complex at his madrasa, Anas Bil Malek, added the teacher, asking not to be named.
Locals think the Saudi national went to Teknaf to talk about the construction of the madrasa complex.
They said Hafiz and Rafiq Uddin go to Saudi Arabia almost every year to collect fund for madrasas and mosques.
There are also allegations that many Rohingyas illegally obtained Bangladeshi passports to go to Saudi Arabia where they get preferential treatment as a persecuted community in Myanmar.
Source: The Daily Star