Archive for January, 2007

Bangladesh Emergency Powers Rules of 2007

When I left Bangladesh, on the night of the January 8th the last images I saw of the country, through TVs at the airport, was of police beating back protesters and firing rubber bullets in to mass crowds. The quiet departure gate rang to the sounds of screaming women, broadcast across a near airport. So long, and thanks for the memories.

By the time I came back, on the 22nd, much had changed. To give a very brief run-down: to avert a potential bloodbath, on January 11th President Iajuddin Ahmed resigned from his controversial position as head of the Caretaker Government (CTG), and, as President, postponed the elections that were due to be held on the 22nd of January.

The final straw was the UN, EU, and USA all by this point stating that with a flawed voter list and the boycott of the main opposition, the election couldn’t be international acceptable – in effect also legitimising the Awami League’s allegations against the BNP.

Iajuddin declared a State of Emergency and handed power to Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former central bank governer and World Bank official, and placed him in charge of an ‘interim government’, as now, constitutionally the 90-day tenure of the CTG has expired. We’re in uncharted territory.

Far from there being panic across the country, everything is eerily calm. The interim government has an urgent priority to clamp down on the most corrupt officials (hence the current mass flight to India of ‘ senior businessmen’), clean up the partisan civil service, fix the power crisis, keep food prices in check, and most urgently, create a new, legitimate voter list with a functioning id system, and then finally hold elections. Already the national security chief, the top civil-servant in the power ministry, and the attorney general have been ousted. The head of the Electoral Commission has also finally resigned, and efforts are being made to separate the judiciary from the executive.

But to set up a new Electoral Commission and create a new, error-free voter list is a mammoth task in a country with nearly 150 million people, and it needs to be done before the monsoon season starts in July. When the country starts to dry out again in September, it would be almost a year without a democratic government, and it is difficult to predict whether by that time another credible one could still emerge. Why is the interim government suddenly able to make such sweeping changes?

Why is the country so calm, with no protests or media furore? Because of the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007.

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Back in Bangladesh, with Borat no Beadle

I’ve now come back to Sylhet, after a month away, and have this strange sensation like I’ve come back home. I’m not quite sure if the classic adage of “you’ve got to leave a place before you can appreciate it” is true in my case, because I can’t say lying in a hammock on the beach in Cambodia, drinking beer, made me realise how great Sylhet is.

But I did feel, as I arrived at Dhaka, that I was coming back to a culture I was at home in; that this was where I was supposed to be going to, and not some incredibly long special edition of Beadle’s About. And then I got bitten by three mosquitoes whilst waiting for my bag to come through; absolutely robbed by my taxi driver, and when I finally got back to the flat there was a power cut. So it’s nice that Bangladesh was equally pleased to see me, and had provided the traditional welcome.

Continue reading ‘Back in Bangladesh, with Borat no Beadle’

Christmas every month

Thanks to the Bangladesh postal service. I came back from Cambodia the other day to find some presents waiting for me, only a month late. Over Christmas itself I was annoyed things didn’t come, but thinking about it, every time I come back to Dhaka I might have something waiting for me. The bribe to get the parcel wasn’t even that much! Excellent.

This great story from The Sun shows how post should be done though. Amidst a million morons, sometimes you’ll find one person with a bit of common sense.

More Sylhet photos

My VSO colleague Mikey came up to help us design a website. He’s not only an IT specialist, but also a fantastic photographer, and took some photos of Sylhet which you can see here. Including one of me looking grumpy in my office – I’m the white one.

Mikey’s blog is here.

Jamie T on Radio 1

One of my absolute favourite artists is Jamie T, who I first heard on the radio about a year ago and it was one of those ‘stop what your doing’ moments.

For me, he’s like a new Weller/Bragg/Skinner hybrid, with a little bit of ska mixed in to spice it. Some would say a new, urban Southern Artic Monkeys but played out to a more delicate touch. Sometimes he plays live with just acoustic bass, other times with a great band, but always sensational. And he’s only about 20.

He’s also getting plenty of mainstream recognition at the moment, and I’m gutted I’m missing out on all the new gigs. So I’ve got a request –

He’s hosting a show on Radio 1 on Monday January 15th, at 7pm. If anyone out there knows where I can get an MP3 of that, please let me know down below. Because somethings are worth spending a million hours in a sweaty Sylhetti internet cafe downloading.

Cheers.

Bangladesh’s Election – I’ll hold my breath

I’m leaving today to go to Cambodia, and will return to Bangladesh on the 22nd of January, the scheduled date of the national election. I fear that when I return it could be to a very different country.

With just over two weeks left to go, things are in turmoil. We’re all over the main news agencies; the BBC story is here. The main Awami League opposition and its allies have declared they will boycott the polls because the election won’t be free and fair. They’re staging huge blockades of Dhaka and other main towns until things change, demanding that the election is postponed.

The BNP and the allegedly pro-BNP President are insisting that the election must be held by the 25th, which is the 90 limit set by the Constitution. The army have been mobilised to ‘secure’ the country and stop the protests which the opposition are staging, as they’re ‘protests against the democratic process’.

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Sylhet Photos

I’ve finally put a few photos up, you can access them here:

And I’ve re-annotated these entries with photos too.

I have Moved

‘First Impressions of Sylhet’

Cycling in Sylhet