Edward M Kennedy Jr, son of late US Senator Edward M Kennedy and nephew of late US President John F Kennedy, on Monday said he hopes the relationship between Bangladesh and the United States will continue to grow.
He made the statement while speaking at an event organised by the US Embassy at Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University to commemorate 50 years of US-Bangladesh relationship.
"I just visited the banyan tree at the University of Dhaka, which was planted by my father after the independence war in 1972 as a symbol of the USA-Bangladesh relationship," he told the gathering.
“The tree has been still growing up and so is the relationship between the two countries since the last 50 years,” said Ted Kennedy.
“As a symbol of the US-Bangladesh diplomatic relationship, my father planted the banyan tree…he replaced the tree, which was blown by the Pakistani army as underneath the tree was a big gathering point of students and many rebellious movements started from there,” he said.
Senator Edward M Kennedy planted the tree as a symbol of restoring democracy so that the students could gather and make political discourse again, Ted Kennedy said.
“My father told us stories of this great nation while we were growing up… he told us about the rampage of the Pakistani Army in Dhaka University in 1971 where the Pakistani army randomly shot thousands of teachers and Students,” he said.
Edward M Kennedy, who was a Massachusetts senator in 1971, supported Bangladesh’s War of Liberation going against the Nixon-Kissinger administration’s policy on absolute support to Pakistan.
Bangladesh awarded late senator with ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour' in recognition of his contribution towards Bangladesh’s independence.
Now, Kennedy Jr is on a weeklong visit to Bangladesh along with his family members. He said the Kennedy family will always support democracy and prosperity of Bangladesh to build further stronger ties between Washington and Dhaka. "Kennedy family feels special kinship with the people of Bangladesh who suffered bloodshed," he said.
Ted Kennedy also appreciated Bangladesh’s gesture for hosting more than 1 million Rohingya people from Myanmar. He also praised Bangladesh for its contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission.
US Ambassador to Dhaka Peter Haas said though the Nixon administration stood against Bangladesh during the war in 1971, many Americans, consulates and Senators opposed the administration for helping the Pakistani Army during the war.
Senator Kennedy was one of them and he criticised the policies of the Nixon administration, he said.
“He also called on the Pakistani government to treat Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with respect while he was in prison during the war of 1971,” Peter Haas said.
DU Vice-Chancellor Professor Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman said they were delighted to have Ted Kennedy and his family members. “Bangladesh has a kinship with the United States of America and we hope it will develop more in the future,” he said.
Later, Ted Kennedy gifted an original copy of a book ‘Crisis In South Asia’, which has been authored by his late father, to the Dhaka University Library.
Earlier, Ted Kennedy and his family members visited the banyan tree at the university’s ‘Bot Tola’.