Mr. A B M Musa is one of the senior-most journalists in Bangladesh. In a recent gathering he advised everyone to shout “s/he is a thief” as soon as any one connected with the Government is sighted. I am sure that Mr Musa also knows very well that there are still some honest people in the country working for the Government. Apparently one would say that Mr. Musa should not have made such irresponsible utterances. But when you think more deeply you can understand how frustrated Mr. Musa felt with the present state of affairs.
Next day I read something very interesting. Mr. Musa writes about a shipwrecked person in an island full of snakes, crocodiles and other dangerous animals. Then he sees a ship passing-by and waves in desperation. God responded to his call when he found a boat coming from the ship. The man in the boat gave some recent newspapers and said “you should read them and decide if you want to go back Bangladesh or remain in the island”.
When a very respected and elderly journalist like Mr. Musa writes and speaks like that, it is time for us to look at things to its fullest context and think if there is a limit to it or will it go on endless. First let us talk about monetary corruption. I would not like to go on details but would just touch upon a few of them. By now there is hardly anyone in Bangladesh who has not heard about the case of Hallmark group. I understand they took well over four thousand crores of taka from the state-owned Sonali Bank and there is little hope that the bank can recover that money. Yet the finance minister calls it just a minor incident.
Another company known as “Destiny” took money not only from banks but also from innocent public in general. Some of those involved have even run away from the country. By market manipulation some people also made quick money out of stock exchange and most of it has gone out of the country. BEXIMCO group took full advantage of the inflated price of their share to take a huge loan from the bank against shares as security. The price of those shares is now not even 1/10th of the negotiated deal. There is another very interesting case of a mortgaged ship being sold without any reference to the bank. Such things can only happen in Bangladesh.
Now let us talk about the most sensational case – Padma Bridge project. Some people were too eager to make quick money and on the assurances of various contracts took in advance a large sum of money. I believe the transactions took place in Canada. When the Canadian Police started investigating the matter, a young Bangladeshi (also Canadian national) couple slipped out of Canada and returned to Bangladesh. The World Bank who initially promised to finance most of the project withdrew from the project. The WB provided the Government some vital information relating to the corruption. The government initially tried to laugh it out by saying how could there be any corruption when contract have not been awarded. Then for a few days the Government kept on blaming Professor Yunus for the WB decision. Then slowly the cats started emerging out of the bag. One minister has already resigned and another adviser is on the verge of resignation. Perhaps the root of the corruption goes beyond that and it cannot be resolved so easily.
Corruption is now deep rooted at every level of the society. A minister’s APS was caught with a car full of money in sacks on way to minister’s house. The minister resigned. He was still kept in the cabinet as a minister without any portfolio. The Anti-corruption Commission gained full confidence of the government by declaring the minister innocent. The nation soon came to know the identity of two new patriots. They are none other than the ministers who resigned on charges of corruption. If you want to know how wide spread and deep rooted the corruption network is then you have to visit any of the government departments or agencies who are supposed to provide service to the people. Let us start with local police, hospital, port office, customs office, land registry and record office, and then go to relevant offices for gas, electricity, water and to primary school for admission of children. You will soon know that there is only one solution to your problems and that is money. The railway minister admitted his inability to recover railway lands because of the influence of very powerful elements. Similarly the rivers and canals are being filled up by influential people for their use.
We will now take a quick look at the law and order situation. Almost every day one or two dead bodies are recovered from rivers and drains. Police said to have identified the body of garment labour leader Aminul Islam like that. The young journalist couple were murdered in their own bedroom perhaps because they knew too much about government corruption. A BNP leader along with his driver was hijacked from his car never to be seen again. There are others who die in so-called “cross-fire” (extra judicial killing). Countless people die on the roads when a minister advocates for driving licence to be made easier.
But the present Government can be proud of some of its success. It took no time to change the name of the Dhaka Airport to remove the name of Zia from it. It successfully evicted Khaleda Zia from her cantonment house. It hanged most of those responsible for 1975 changes. It brought in the constitutional changes to hold election under the present government instead of a non-party care-taker government. However, their claimed success of dealing with BDR revolt is most debatable. Men in arms revolt is nothing short of sedition. There can be no negotiation or compromise with them. Call for surrender of arms and submit them to lawful authority. Everything else comes after that. The elite forces of the country are maintained to defend the country and they should have been allowed to take necessary action to restore normalcy. The so-called political negotiation with the mutineers resulted into a great loss for the country. One can become a politician overnight but it takes lot of tax-payers’ money, years of training, hard work and dedication to become a colonel or brigadier. The nation can never excuse those responsible for the massacre.
We also suffered in the hands of the opposition when they were in power. We do not know where is the end and where shall we go.
BY : F R Chowdhury, UK.