Bangladesh mourns the demise of Ted Kennedy

Bangladesh mourns the demise of Ted Kennedy

Senator Edward Moore Kennedy 77, youngest brother of former President John F. Kennedy passed away late on 25th August at his home at Hyannis port and the death was announced on 26th August morning by the Kennedy family. He was suffering from a brain tumour that was malignant since May 2008.

The short statement of the family said : “ We have lost the irreplaceable centre of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.”

His father Joseph Kennedy, the millionaire businessman and one-time ambassador to Great Britain, and his mother, Rose, had raised nine siblings,– four boys and five girls. . Three brothers became senators and one a president. Edward was the youngest.

His father was Joseph Kennedy and mother Rose who came from Irish-Catholic families. His mother raised all the children with Catholic moral values and compassion. She once said : “ My babies were rocked to political lullabies.”

Ted Kennedy was the last surviving brother of a generation of Kennedys that dominated American politics in the 1960s and that came to embody political idealism and glamour.

He served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat Senator and was the only one of brothers who reached the age of 77. The other brother former President John and Senator Robert Kennedy were felled by assassin’s bullets in their 40s.

During his convalescence, he devoted himself to his legislative work, although he was not visible in Washington. He reportedly said : “ I had a lot of hours to think about what was important and what was not and about what I wanted to do my life.”

Born to the one of the wealthiest families in America, Edward (Ted) Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life. He was more than a Senator. He was a living legend whose presence insured a crowd and whose statements haunted many a President.

In 2002 he voted against authorizing President Bush for the Iraqi war and he later said: “ The best vote I have made in 44 years in the US Senate.”

On August 5, 2004, his speech at the Brookings Institution was bold, clear and critical of the Bush administration. He said : “ Sadly the Administration has failed to live up to basic standards of open and candid debate. On issue after issue, they tell American people one thing and do another. The repeatedly invent “facts” to support their preconceived agenda—facts which Administration officials knew or should have known were not true. As a result President Bush has created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon. He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people.”

On the death of Kennedy, President Obama said : “Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy. For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health, and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve profited as president from his encouragement and wisdom.”

Leaders across the world have issued statements of condolence on the death of Kennedy. Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that Mr. Kennedy had “made an extraordinary contribution to American politics, an extraordinary contribution to America’s role in the world. “ British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said : “Even facing illness and death, he never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life’s work.”

Ted Kennedy’s role during the War of Liberation in 1971 was extraordinary. He opposed the policy of President Richard Nixon supporting Pakistan. His office virtually became the “Bangladesh campaign office” in the US.

He came to visit in August 1971 to Kolkata to see for himself the refugees who fled from Bangladesh because of crimes against humanity and genocide on them by Pakistani Army. He was refused entry by the Pakistan government to former East Pakistan. After independence he visited Bangladesh and planted a banyan sapling which has grown big in the campus of Dhaka University.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition chief Khaleda Zia have condoled the death of US senator Edward Kennedy who helped mobilise international support for the Bengalis’ freedom struggle in 1971 .

The prime minister in her message recalled the unstinting support of the Senator to the war of independence from Pakistan and his role in mobilising world opinion for Bangladesh. “The people of Bangladesh will remember his contribution forever.” She said in his death Bangladesh lost a real friend.

In her condolence message, Khaleda Zia said, “The late senator was a humanist and democratic personality. The people of Bangladesh will remember him forever for the role he played in mobilising world opinion in favour of Bangladesh liberation war “The United States has lost a great leader in the death of Senator Kennedy and the people of Bangladesh have lost a real friend”.

Foreign minister Dipu Moni on 26th August condoled the death of US Senator Edward M Kennedy.

“We are deeply saddened at the death of Senator Edward M Kennedy. His ability to work across the political divide had earned respect from all across the globe,” Dipu Moni said in a press statement.

The minister said, “His absence will be felt not only in the United States, but far beyond”. In Bangladesh, Dipu Moni said, Kennedy would be rated as a “legend and a true champion of freedom, liberty and human values”.

“Senator Kennedy will be particularly remembered in Bangladesh for his unqualified support to our struggle for freedom and his empathy for the distressed millions in the refugee camps in 1971. “He has remained a friend ever since,” the minister said.

Senator Ted Kennedy was the liberal lion of the Senate and haunted bearer of the Camelot torch after two of his brothers fell to assassins’ bullets. He was a champion of democracy, freedom and human rights. He was a friend of the oppressed people across the world. Bangladesh people mourn deeply his loss and pray to the Almighty for eternal bliss of his soul. May I conclude by quoting”Those to whom we say farewell, are welcomed by others”.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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