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Rumi Ahmed
18 July, 2010. USA

Updated: Amar Desh online version again available.

Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh:

39. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed.
(2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of
the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation
to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
(a) the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and freedom of the
press, are guaranteed.

Bangladesh Supreme Court just struck down the Awami League government’s ban on popular newspaper Amar Desh. Amar Desh online version is now available.

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Based on precedence of two previous cases concerning Daily Ittefaq and Daily Banglar Bani, this verdict was very straightforward and expected. Accordingly High court verdict came with very clear judgment and an appeal by the government was a very shameful and surprising act. Esp when the government itself declared that Government had nothing to do with the ban, it was done by the district administrator of Dhaka.  And more shameful and less surprising was the act of the chamber judge of Supreme Court, Justice S K Sinha. Without letting any hearing to be allowed, he simply stayed the judgment of High court.

It is shameful because the chamber judge just violated his oath to uphold Bangladesh Constitution by allowing a Newspaper to remain closed illegally. It is not surprising considering the precedences in which  the court of the Chamber Judge is being used more frequently by the government to stall high court verdicts unfavorable to the Government.

More interestingly a case in pending in the Supreme Court in this regard. A contempt of court case was filed against Amar Desh editor Mr. Mahmudur Rahman  because Amar Desh quoted a senior lawyer of the supreme court, suggesting the same allegation against the chamber bench. In the report Daily Amar Desh quoted senior most lawyer of Supreme court and ex justice Mr TH Khan as saying, ” Chamber Judge means a stay of high court order”.

And yet more interesting was the fact that Mr Mahmudur Rahman is now ‘shown arrested’ in a case of anti corruption Commission for not submitting wealth report. In a recent spate of Supreme Court verdicts,  all acts of anti corruption commission were deemed illegal. Persons convicted by ACC are all set free and many of them are in important positions of current government. Even our current prime Minister challenged the wealth submission order of ACC, never submitted her wealth report and fought a lengthy court battle.

Sometimes, acts of the government, its law enforcement apparatus and the attorney General’s office seems bizarre. Yet again, more bizarre is the silence of the collective conscience of the country, our columnists-our editors-our TV anchors, regarding this total mindless acts of our government.

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Rumi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi blogger contributing from United States.

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Rumi Ahmed
15 July, 2010. USA

Mahmudur Rahman printed stories involving allegations of corruption about the Prime Minister’s family and her cabinet.

He is in prison and his newspaper has been forced to stop publishing.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury wrote an article in the Daily Star analyzing BNP’s victory in the Chittagong City Corporation elections.

He is in prison.

Shahiduddin Chowdhury said that Bangabandhu cannot avoid responsibility for the forty thousand people killed during his administration.

He is brutalized, denied medical treatment, and then sent to prison.

The list goes on and on.

Here’s the latest entry:

Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir’s parliamentary membership is cancelled; he is no longer a MP. The seat, Chandpur-1, will be declared vacant by the Election Commission, and a by-election will be held to it.

His BNP opponent, Ehsanul Haque Milon, has been kept in the prison for the last one year, on absurd charges such as stealing wristwatches, solely so that when this moment would come, Alamgir would have some slight edge over his younger, more telegenic opponent.

Here is the Awami League 2008 Election Manifesto, the much-celebrated “Charter for Change:

“Good governance through establishing Rule of Law and avoiding Political Partisanship. Human rights will be established on a strong footing with a view to ensuring rule of law. Independence of the judiciary will be ensured and the Institutions of the State and Administration will be freed from partisan influence.”

What is more partisan than keeping an individual in jail for more than a year just so that he will not be able to mount an effective challenge in an election?

None of this should be news to anyone. Milon’s daughter, Tanzida Nahar Haque, said as much in a recent press conference: “”It is a matter of regret that political enmity can be so ruthless and inhuman.”

It is, indeed.

After Major Jasimuddin in Bhola, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir is the second Awami League coalition candidate whose nomination has been found illegal: which means he should not have been able to contest the election in the very first place. There are at least two more AL and Jatiyo Party MPs whose nomination will also similarly be cancelled. Then there is Sheikh Helal, the MP from Bagerhat-1, who also won an election under a conviction.

These are five members of parliament who should not have even been eligible to contest the last parliamentary elections. That they still became MPs lends proof of the BNP’s allegation that the last caretaker government under Fakhruddin Ahmed and the Election Commission did everything in their power to help Awami League. If five Awami League coalition candidates were allowed to contest in direct contravention of the laws, how many were made to win by the administration’s covert and overt manipulation on election day?

2008 is past, the string of by-elections is now the future. There is no doubt that Awami League will try their very hardest to win, through coercion and force, if necessary. Even if they win, such victories will do incalculable long-term harm to this government. There are only bad options in front of Sheikh Hasina from now on. One fears, she will stay true to character, and continue to choose only the very worst ones.

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Rumi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi blogger contributing from United States.

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July 2010
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