SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, Ctg
Media: The Independent
The plot of land at Kolatoli beach in Cox’s Bazar, which was apparently promised as a present to legendary boxer Muhammad Ali during his February 1978 visit, was never registered in his name.
A part of the land has already been claimed by the river and the rest lies forgotten and uncared for. The Cox’s Bazar administration is not even aware of the history associated with the plot. Mohammad Ali Hossain, deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar, told The Independent, “I’m not aware of any such promise made about the land.”
The legendary boxer and his wife Veronica Porsche Ali had come to Bangladesh on a five-day visit at the invitation of then president Ziaur Rahaman. They had visited the most scenic areas of Bangladesh, including the Sunderbans, Sylhet tea gardens, Rangamati, and Cox’s Bazar.
During a public reception organised by the Cox’s Bazar mahakuma administration, a local political figure, Akhter Newaz Khan Babul, had declared that the plot was a gift from him to the boxing legend. Babul had addressed the programme as a leader of the former Chhatra League.
“I gifted a bigha (33 decimals) to Muhammad Ali from my 3.61-bigha plot. I had given him a letter of interest in gifting him the land. He had also given me a letter of consent that he had received it,” Babul recalled yesterday.
“He had committed to come to Bangladesh every year. He had said he would build a house on the land and stay there for two months every year. But that never happened,” rued Babul.
“Ali wanted to work for Bangladesh, but we could not use it to our advantage,” he added.
“The land is lying insecure and some parts have been grabbed by the river. But I’m still ready to register it for any of Ali’s successors,” said Babul.
Ali was given honorary Bangladeshi citizenship with a passport. His reaction was, “If someone wants to go to heaven, he should come here. If I get kicked out of America, I have another home.”