Bangladesh PM differs with fin min, anti-graft body chief over corruption
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday urged Bangladeshi expatriates to project country’s positive image and successes achieved in the last three years of the ruling Awami League government before the world.
“Bangladesh is not a country of corruption anymore. Bangladesh is a very potential country. And it has become possible because of the continuous efforts of the Awami League-led government,” she said.
The prime minister was addressing through video-conference system a programme organised in New York to celebrate Bangladesh’s victory in a legal battle with Myanmar over maritime boundary dispute, from her official residence Ganabhaban.
New York City Awami League (NYAL) unit organised the programme at Queen’s Palace.
In the beginning of the video-conference, Hasina informed the expatriates about finding oil in Sylhet.
She said: “The opposition and their allies are trying to protect the corrupt and the war criminals through propaganda in foreign land. The expatriates should stand against this out of patriotism.”
“We’re trying the war criminals and corrupt, but the opposition party is trying to foil the trial process,” she said.
She added that the government would not let anyone hamper the trial.
Mentioning contribution of the expatriates to Bangladesh’s economic development, the prime minister lauded their input in every initiative of the government.
The Daily Star/Unb, Dhaka May 21
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged Bangladeshi expatriates to supplement the government efforts in strengthening democracy in the country and to remain alert about the propaganda being carried out by BNP and Jamaat against the country.
“You (expatriates) should remain alert about the propaganda of the BNP and Jamaat against the country,” she said.
The premier said this while she was speaking through a videoconferencing from her official residence Gono Bhaban with the expatriates living in New York City on Sunday night (US time), marking the celebrations of Bangladesh’s win in maritime boundary case.
About the country’s image, she said, “The present government has been able to restore Bangladesh’s image as a democratic, progressive and secular state erasing the bad name.”
PM’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad said Awami League’s New York City unit arranged the programme at Queens Palace where the mayor of New Jersey was present as the chief guest.
She also called upon the Bangladeshi expatriates living in the US to project the positive image and the successes that the country achieved during the last three years of the present Awami League government.
“Every sector of the country is making quick progress and our successes have brought qualitative changes in society and economy apart from improving the standard of living of people,” she added.
Mentioning the intimidation of political opponents and minorities by the previous BNP government, Hasina said the global community should be aware of their repressive acts and political vengeance.
The premier expressed her gratitude to expatriates for their wholehearted support to her and Awami League at the time of any crisis, particularly after August 15, 1975, and during the crucial time after January 11, 2007.
She also recalled the contributions of the expatriates to the movement for the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh, and extended her thanks to the expatriate citizens and exchanged greetings with them.
Hasina said Bangladesh was a very potential country, and whenever Awami League had come to power it made relentless efforts to take the country forward utilising its potentials.
She urged them to work for brightening the country’s image abroad and highlighting its achievements in various sectors over the years.
About the country’s present political situation, she said the present government had taken initiatives to try the war criminals and corrupt people to make the country’s development and democracy sustainable.
She said BNP, in the name of a democratic movement, was out to foil the trial of war criminals and the corrupt people. But, she reiterated that their trial would surely be held even after their repeated attempts to foil it.
In this context, she referred to the deterioration of law and order and torture by BNP-Jamaat activists during their 2001-2006 rule, saying that they made the country a land of terrorists and militants.
Awami League’s New York City unit President Commander Nurunnabi and General Secretary Emdad Chowdhury, among others, spoke on the occasion. PM’s Special Assistant Abdus Sobhan Golap and Military Secretary Major General Mia Mohammad Joynul Abedin were present.
Meanwhile, the mayor of New Jersey invited Hasina to visit his state at her convenient time.
Muhith spots two barriers to good governance
Corruption and lack of enforcement of law in an appropriate manner are the key obstacles in ensuring good governance in Bangladesh, said Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday.
“Corruption, I believe, is highest in police administration, judiciary and education and health services,” he told a function at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital, adding that police were the most corrupt in many countries, including Bangladesh and India.
He, however, mentioned that the most corrupt system in Bangladesh was the system of land administration, and termed it “an evil cycle” gifted to the people.
Muhith was speaking at a roundtable, “Good Governance: Leveraging Initiatives that Work”, organised by the Cabinet Division in partnership with Asian Development Bank (ADB). Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and Country Director of ADB M Teresa Kho also spoke.
Ghulam Rahman, Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), told newsmen after the programme that almost every sector in the country had corruption.
The finance minister opined that proper implementation of information technology and flow of information could stop graft and thus ensure good governance.
He said around 75 percent of the litigations were filed centring on land registration and land records.
It takes years to find the owner of a piece of land because of the hurdles concerning land records or surveys, said the minister. He hoped that digitisation of land records and land offices would make it easier for people to deal with land issues.
Regarding graft among the police, he said the rules and regulations, by which the police are governed, ensure that corruption could be checked, “but unfortunately it is not”.
“It can be totally checked by applying Information Technology,” he said.
An FIR (first information report) or a GD (general diary) usually contains all related information, and it is impossible for a policeman to be corrupt if that is made public, he said.
“If a policeman doesn’t carry out his duty according to the FIR or GD, people will say he must have taken bribes,” said the minister.
On RTI’s role in good governance, Muhith said it was the best guard of individual rights. “If I know how a decision is taken and what the decision is, I can seek accountability from the government.”
He said the government had taken some steps in that respect: establishment of citizen charters and information officers in every office were among them.
Anybody can visit an office and ask for service referring to the charters. “Unfortunately, that is not very much in use, neither by citizens nor by offices,” he added.
On community-level action against corruption and mismanagement, Muhith said decentralisation and empowering local governments were very crucial instruments for good governance.
“Of course, the administrative chairs are there up to the Union Parishads, but power is extremely concentrated at the upper level,” he said.
The minister added that community involvement was fundamental for good governance as it gave the people a sense of participation in policy-making, legislating, and questing after transparency and accountability in the government’s performance.
Bringing up an example, Muhith said, “If the director of education sits in a district headquarters, it will be very difficult for him to not notice the interests of the community. Otherwise, people will storm his office and the officer will have to flee.”
On IT-based service delivery, he said, “If there is online service, it will be much easier for an individual to obtain services and follow regulations. IT is the biggest instrument against corruption.”
Muhith said good governance had become a matter of serious concern as “without good governance, it is very much difficult to manage the affairs of the people and the country in a very healthy manner”.
He said the Constitution of Bangladesh, as originally adopted, had provided for an office of Ombudsman with the aim of ensuring good governance. “But we have been unable to appoint an Ombudsman in 40 years,” he added.
“It is said that political divisions were too strong in this country to permit the emergence of an Ombudsman. This is the argument which I have heard in government after government; every government has had the same view — that it is very difficult to find a person who can be made Ombudsman,” said the minister.
Asked to comment on Muhith’s remarks about graft, the ACC chairman said corruption had become a way of life in Bangladesh.
“Every sector has corruption — more or less,” he told reporters. “It continues to rise when greed acts as the main factor and when the corrupt are released due to the loopholes in laws.”
Corruption could not be contained unless there was political will, said Ghulam Rahman.