April 2006

Here is my 10 point proposal that will make politicians/government officials less desperate to stick to power and make the opposition less greedy to return to power. Poeple with mostly ideological interst and those who want to serve and make a change will only be interested in taking the job of governing Bangladesh.

1. No government housing ( No more minto road) for ministers, state and deputy ministers and advisers. ( Rent the Minto road houses to interntional hotel compaies, guest house operators. ).
2. No flag car and no governmnet provded transport except Prime minister, Chief Justice, Opposition leader, speaker.
3. Mandating the ministers and speakers to use public transport for travelling between Dhaka and constituency.
4. Bar the government and elected officials from travelling to foeign lands for treatment except the conditions which are absolutely not treatable in Bangladesh.
5. Put a term limitof on the position of prime Minister. My take on it is to make it a max of two.
6. Make it a rule, no family member of a prime minister can replace him/her. May need to wait at least one to two term before doing so. Same rule should apply for MPs, no relative/family member can contest from the same constituency for at least two terms.
7. Prime Minster and opposition leader must have a monthly open press conferece that would be telecast live.
8. There must be pre election and midterm debates directly between the prime minister and the oppisition leader.
9. There would be only one official residence cum office for prime minister. Similar accomodation/office must also be arranged for the leader of opposition. There must not be any government supply for food service, cook in these accomodations and any other government installations. All officials, starting from prime minister will have to do/arrange their own grocery shopping and cooking. They may hire cooks on their own, but not through government.
10. All the circuit houses, Dak banglows, governments rest houses must cease to exist. These all should be sold/rented to hotel operators. Officials, politicians using these accomodation may later get reimbursed from specific departments provided the trips non-political public interest have been justified.

I was a student of Chittagong medical College, when the cyclone of April 29 hit coastal Chittagong. It was drizzles all day, winds were gaining momentum as night fell on Chittagong. When I came out of the library building around 9 PM, the winds were quite strong, campus was deserted, and hospital lobby was empty. I had to stay over in the hospital that night because the road connecting the hospital and the student’s dorm on the other side of the hill was too unsafe for walking in that storm. Falling trees, flying debris were everywhere. As night progressed, storm got fierce and fiercer, as if the whole immense 6 story quarter mile long building will fall apart. As I tried to get some sleep in a bed at the sick student’s ward, it was a scary sleepless night. We, half a dozen stranded souls, kept waiting for the morning only to see utter devastation of the medical college campus. The beautiful hilly tree lined campus was in ruins, 50% of all the large trees were uprooted, and power lines were all over. The hospital, the highest tertiary healthcare-trauma center for all of southern Bangladesh was totally ineffective as the fallen trees completely blocked all the roads including that to the emergency.

Storm 1991 victim

44 years ago yesterday East Bengal lost one of it’s greatest leaders of all time, Sher-e-Bangla A K Fazlul Huq. We, who grew up in the 70s and 80s knew part of Sher-e-Bangla. I don’t know how much the generation of 90s and this millenum know of Sher-e-Bangla A K fazlul Huq.

Sher e bangle A K fazlul Huq was born on 26 October 1873 near Barisal. After the traditional Islamic education and early schooling at Barisal Zilla School, he passed the FA Examination in 1892 and BA Examination (with triple Honours in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics) in 1894 from the Presidency College, and obtained the MA degree in Mathematics in 1896 from the University of Calcutta. He later obtained BL degree in 1897 from the University Law College, Calcutta. Fazlul Huq started legal practice as an apprentice under Sir Asutosh Mookherjee. Huq had the good fortune of receiving affection in numerous and various ways from the likes of Aswini Kumar Datta and Prafulla Chandra Ray.

Sher e bangla

This report discusses the Niko’s side of the story on the recent Tengratila gas blowout and the ordeal that followed.

Although this report does not say anything but the calgary, canada based Niko’s version on how Niko landed it’s deal , some quite interesting observations came out of this article.

…” Niko’s executives admit they failed to prepare themselves for the ferociously partisan climate of hardball politics here.

…”The atmosphere in Bangladesh is more “vindictive” than anything ..”

…”Although it is the world’s eighth-biggest country by population (with 140 million people), this impoverished country is ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt in the world. And it is a consistent underachiever in foreign investment, attracting less than most other major Asian countries.”

…”With an election approaching in the country, Niko became a scapegoat for jousting politicians and feuding officials.”

…“It was a shock to us,” Mr. Hornaday, NIKO CEO said. “We weren’t prepared for that kind of aggressiveness — that really nasty stuff. It wasn’t something we were accustomed to, even in India. Politicians are using us to discredit the government. ..”

…”Corruption and bribery are commonplace in Bangladesh’s media outlets, and Niko’s competitors were savvy enough to cultivate the media. Local journalists say it is common to get cash or gifts from gas developers in Bangladesh, including the big multinationals. But Niko refused to distribute any envelopes of cash. “It’s not the Canadian way,” Mr. Sampson, Niko CFO said.

…” The company has flown reporters to its gas fields for a first-hand look, and it has invited a group of journalists on an all-expenses-paid trip to India and Calgary. “We want to show them that we’re not a rinky-dink operation,”

( Will this part of the news ever come out in Bangladesh media? :–Rumi )

Another interesting twist in this story comes with connection of Yale University with Niko.

This yale insider article states that

” Questioning Yale:

On March 29, 2005, Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) held its annual meeting. The ACIR is charged with overseeing Yale’s investments.

At the meeting, members of GESO, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization at Yale, together with undergraduates and School of Forestry students asked about how Yale University, as a $50 million shareholder in Niko, planned to help fix the situation in Bangladesh.”

According to the report, On July 7, 2005, students, alumni and graduate teachers at Yale University sent a letter to Yale’s President, Richard Levin. They wrote:

“We believe that Yale has a responsibility to fix the situation. We, therefore, call on Yale to immediately send a medical team composed of doctors from the School of Medicine to ensure that the people of the region are getting the best care possible and to send an environmental team of experts from the Forestry School to assess the situation and begin the work of repairing the environmental damage. Yale should also demand that Niko pay those affected just compensation.”

As the first version of this report went into press on August 1, 2005, there had been no response from the president.