Archive for the 'Constitution' Category

The suspension of politics in Bangladesh – the end of freedom?

On Sunday Fakhruddin Ahmed, the Chief Advisor to Bangladesh’s ‘interim’ military-technocratic administration came to Sylhet. He declared that the administration was directly accountable to the people, and was a constitutional government as it had assumed office taking the oath on the Constitution. He went on to say that his government wanted real democracy, adding that a peaceful atmosphere and social stability were the pre-requisites for holding free, fair and credible elections.

This is all utter nonsense, and I’m disappointed that I was in the office and unable to witness his statements myself.

These are the facts about the political situation in Bangladesh at the moment:

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‘The greatest game’: Bangladeshi politics, the story so far

I haven’t been posting about every latest political development here because I never intended that to be the purpose of this blog – and working a six day week and doing other things means I don’t have as much time as I’d like; just keeping up with the news is hard enough.

But I do find the ever-changing situation fascinating, and I think for anyone who’s studied or had an interest in politics, what’s happening here is…in a word, spectacular.

On the Drishtipat blog, an excellent, short but thorough round-up has been published, including some eye-watering examples of gross corruption, and some photos which really do tell a thousand words. Check it out here.

Bangladesh – Military Coup on the quiet?

This document came to my attention, and is a fascinating account of rumoured events leading up to President Iajuddin’s resignation as Chief of the CTG, and declaring a state of emergency.

Essentially, it is saying that the army decided to stage a bloodless coup because they were threatened by various international actors that if they assisted in the running of rigged elections, they would lose their prestigious and financially lucrative contracts with the UN.

It is written by Dr. Abdul Momen, a professor in Boston, USA who seems to have good sources, but either way, it’s a nice story, and unfortunately all too believable.

What I personally find interesting is how the fate of whole countries can rest on the whims of a few people, who are typically unelected and inexperienced to handle that level and type of power. Indeed, they might be ignorant of it. Power sometimes, I believe, at critical points can become an independent force, and it is all man can do to try and keep some modicum of control before events and unintended consequences propel situations towards human disaster. I’m not sure if we’ve created a way to manage this. I’m not sure if we ever will.

Continue reading ‘Bangladesh – Military Coup on the quiet?’

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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The People, the Politics, the Constitution: Bangladesh

I’ve been issued with so many security updates in the last two weeks that I’ve stopped posting them. The political situation shifts and changes every day; the pendulum of fortune is swinging between the Awami League alliance and Bangladesh Nationalist Party coalition so rapidly it’s been hard to follow.

For the politically interested observer, who cares about Bangladesh, the situation has been both fascinating, in some ways thrilling, but often maddenly frustrating. I’ve been witnessing the country socio-political implosion over the last month, and seen how gradually all nearly public institutions are being maligned and weakened. It’s like a civic war is taking place; a conflict not so much between the people, but within the principles, ideas, institutions and political foundations that the country is built upon.

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