Archive for April, 2007

Uncertain Times

[This has been cross-posted on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free blog. There are already comments, so maybe contribute to any debate there?]

Bangladesh is rapidly moving from being the world’s fifth largest democratic state, to the world’s largest state of total uncertainty. Since January 11, when the military stepped in to avert certain chaos and cancelled January’s scheduled but highly contentious general election, imposing a caretaker government under a state of emergency, the caretaker government, whilst initially very popular here, is beginning to look less military-backed and more military-run.

On Sunday in London the former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the Awami League (AL) was humiliated when she was turned back from Heathrow trying to board a flight home as the military stated they would refuse to let her re-enter the country. Her bitter rival Khaleda Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) and the most recent prime minister, is desperately fighting against exile to Saudi Arabia with her family. The coup began by the military is near completion.

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The world wakes up to the mess in Bangladesh?

The august New York Times has published an editorial on the crisis in Bangladesh today. The NYT states:

April 15, 2007

Editorial

Bangladesh in the Generals’ Grip

Promoting democracy, especially in Islamic countries, is supposed to be a major goal of President Bush’s foreign policy. But his administration has raised little protest as Bangladesh — until January the world’s fifth most populous democracy — has been transformed into its second most populous military dictatorship.

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On holiday

I’m off to Calcutta for a few days and also have a lot of professional VSO stuff to sort out over the next week or so. Hence not much blogging. And not anymore for a week.

Big Political Trouble in Little Bangladesh

The dam of lies and corruption is beginnning to burst, and everything’s spilling out now.

In the last few days, charges first of extortion/corruption and today murder have been levelled against Sheikh Hasina, the leader of Bangladesh’s Awami League, who was PM from 1996-2001 and leader of the party pretty much since her father was assassinated in 1975.

Sheikh Hasina has been on holiday in America, since all politics is banned in Bangladesh, but she’s announced that she’s coming back as soon as possible to fight the charges, and has completely denied them, obviously.

You can read about the murder charges here, on the BBC. Most Bangla news sites at the moment are still buzzing with bias.  They’re based around who was responsible for the riots on October 28th when six people were beaten to death. I was there and it was disgusting. It’s the kind of charge that’s completely politically motivated and may well never even see court, but personally, I would agree with this summation, by Kawsar Jamal who runs the Change Bangladesh website:

“150 million people including the Non-resident Bangladeshi are responsible for October 28th, 06 occurence. The factors that played hard for the occurence to happen are
lack of education,lack of information sharing between people to people,lack of humanity and humanness(n)and lack of proper process and procedures of so called filthy democracy,familycracy and autocracy thats been followed for last 35 years after independence. It doesn’t look to good even now, so I won’t be amazed if I see the same occurence sometime soon too, who knows may be very soon or little later unless things gets strengthen up very soon.”

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Tom Waits and Scarlett – a perfect combination

One of my favourite artists, in fact one of my top five favourite artists is Tom Waits. Ever since I first heard ‘Small Change’ about ten years ago, I was compelled to get a whiskey and listen to the rest of the LP (which is now one of my most treasured possessions), and I’ve since bought nearly all of his albums. If someone like Springsteen captures the heart of the ordinary working man, then Waits has its soul.

For a brief explanation of why he’s one of the greatest lyricists ever, you can read this, which I totally agree with.

However, Waits is an ugly bastard. It doesn’t really matter at all, but when I heard today that Scarlett Johansson is going to release a Tom Waits covers album…I couldn’t help thinking that God gets it right sometimes.

Demolished Office Pictures

I wrote about two weeks ago that our office had fallen foul of the interim administration’s new clampdown on illegal property, and the two feet in question that were encroaching on public land was going to be demolished.

The red line you can see drawn on to the side of the building here, denoted where they were going to demolish:

office-002.jpg

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That was the warning we had. You turn up for work, and see your office is going to be demolished in 72 hours. A red mark like the plague.

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Then – and this is typical for Bangladesh – we discovered that the suspect two feet of building wasn’t encroaching over a public road – the road was on private land owned by our landlord, so he could build over it how he liked. Hooray!

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Six Months in Bangladesh

Last Wednesday 28th March was a major date for me here in Bangladesh, as it was the six month anniversary of my fragile, fraught, passionate and all-encompasing relationship with this country.

Ironically Georgia was in Sylhet, so I didn’t have to celebrate on my own, but there wasn’t any champagne around so I put some filtered water in the fridge and had both my overhead fans on and that’s about as exciting as it gets for me in Sylhet.

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