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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.

Sikder Haseeb Khan

Imagine that you’re sitting on the throne of Bangladesh’s politics. You are ruling with emergency powers, but dissent is swelling. You are in the midst of an economic crisis. You are threatened by powerful shadowy figures in your own security and intelligence apparatus. Your previous international patrons now uncomfortable. You need an exit, preferably an honorable one.

So you want to hold elections. But a fully free and fair election will almost certainly result in an outcome that you have reason to distrust, for it may return to power many popular politicians that your administration has persecuted severely. So what do you do in this tense situation?

The answer: engineer the elections—but do so carefully, without raising too many alarm bells. Ensure that voting goes smoothly on election day, without hijacking of ballot boxes, prevention of voters from casting ballots, or any such crude tactics that would be obvious to an observer. In other words, engineer it, not rig it. Here’s how…

Bar dissenters

The first step that the regime has taken: prevent feisty politicians from running in the election. Convicting politicians in quick trials—whatever the charges—will come in handy: declare them ineligible for holding public office. Then government would then intensify an “anti-corruption drive” prior to the candidate registration date in order to bar the local political activists that it doesn’t like.

Field proponents

At the same time, the regime has to leave enough of Awami League and BNP outside the legal net so that the parties themselves can participate in the election. It will continue hand-picking “reformist” politicians or possible turncoats, and intimidate or otherwise persuade them to compete. It will support selective campaigns from both security and funding standpoints. As a recent report by the International Crisis Group noted, “the army is preparing a countrywide list of its own ‘clean’ candidates to contest the 2008 polls.”

Whether or not these candidates will represent a King’s Party or an existing political platform doesn’t matter. What matters is that mostly pro-regime candidates will be allowed to compete.

Shape the grassroots

Then the regime has to ensure that the party rank and file do not rebel. It has already arrested thousands of activists all over the country to prevent dissent, and intimidated thousands others to conform. The government is also trying to bar parties from having students’, teachers’, and workers’ organizations, which usually house most of the activists. In this altered playing field, the government wants to hold local elections first, under either a state of emergency or very limited openings, to ensure that its supporters are able to infiltrate the grassroots level prior to a national election.

Since parliamentary candidates have to rely on grassroots leaders to carry their campaigns, shaping the grassroots will help ensure that parliamentary candidates are forced toe a pro-regime line.

And local elections are not going to be monitored as much by international observers, so the field will be set to stage ‘upsets’. After all, this unrepresentative government claims that it’s only doing what the ‘people’ presumably want.

Control the cities

Another area that the regime has been trying to bolster is its support base among the urban civil society elite. Its attempt to get Dr. Yunus to lead this effort failed. Many of its other supporters among the urban elite are unappealing and unelectable in the perspective of the majority of voters. So, to the extent possible, it is redefining the boundaries of constituencies to give urban areas a greater share. This increases its chance to increase regime loyalists at least in the metropolitan areas. Holding non-party municipal elections is part of this plan.Increase authorityThe final ingredient is to increase the power of electoral authorities to arbitrarily declare results void. The Election Commission has been doing exactly the same. It is about to “empower it to cancel the candidature of any parliamentary contender for gross violation of electoral laws and declare vacant the seat of an elected lawmaker for giving false information in the account of the election expenses” (New Age, 29 April 2008). And who’s going to determine this violation? The Commission of course. Given this government’s woeful record, you can wave due process bye-bye in any such decision.Satisfaction guaranteedSo voila! Now hold national elections, and at the end of the day, you have engineered a nice exit strategy by making sure only your friends are elected. No violence, no ballot box hijacking, and a lot of claps from foreign observers.

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Sikder Haseeb Khan is a Bangladeshi author. This story has also been published in The Progressive Bangladesh.

Sunita Paul
September 29, 2008. New Delhi.

Couple of months back, I wrote an article, which was published in American Chronicle, Global Politician, Daily People’s View [in Bangladesh], Weekly Blitz [Bangladesh] and other newspapers and sites around the world. Subsequently, Mr. Kalyan Barooah, correspondent of The Assam Tribune published a report quoting some of the excerpts of my article. Later, another journalist in Assam, Nava Thakuria wrote a report for Newstrack titled ‘ULFA money in Bangladesh media’, where he categorically mentioned how people in the questioned newspaper and media group named Daily Star tried to ignore his questions and the editor was not available for comments, with the excuse of being in abroad.

But, lately I saw a response from Mahfuz Anam, editor of Daily Star [the media empire built with ULFA money], which should be definitely attended for the sake of upholding the truth against lies. I am going to give my clarifications on some of the points raised by Anam, which surely is his attempt to save the face of this media group from the attention of anti-terror organizations around the world, as ULFA is a notorious terror group in North-Eastern part of India.

Let me first quote the entire response of Mahfuz Anam for my reader’s reference. He wrote, “Your correspondent admits he based his write-up on a piece in the Internet portal called Global Politician written by one Sunita Paul titled “When the media turns into evil”. Should a journalist write a report purely based on an Internet piece without verifying anything himself. Your correspondent made no attempt to contact us for our comments nor did he do any research on his own to find out the veracity of the Internet piece.

Your reporter writes, “it (meaning ULFA) partly owns or used to own Transcom Media publisher of the prestigious Bengali daily Prothom Alo, English daily The Daily Star besides two periodicals.” The simple fact is that there is no media house called Transcom Media. The Daily Star is owned by Mediaworld, which is a registered private limited company and has six shareholders who have been the directors of the company from the outset. Prothom Alo is owned by another company called “Mediastar” with few of the same owners as Mediaworld.

Mr Kalyan Barooah selectively quotes Sunita Paul, without verifying the facts, that Latifur Rahman, one of the owners of The Star and Prothom Alo became bankrupt in the nineties when Anup Chetia gave him a “few million dollars to reorganise his collapsed business”. These are deliberate canard and outright lies. Mr Latifur Rahman was and is one of the most respected businessmen of the country and has been elected, starting from the nineties, numerous times as the president of the most prestigious business chamber of the country, namely the MCCI (Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry), a post to which he has been recently re-elected.

Transcom, as a company, was not started, as your reporter quotes Sunita Paul, in the nineties but has been in business since early seventies, after Bangladesh was born. Again, it was not Latifur Rahman who brought me to the Star, as claimed by your reporter quoting Paul’s piece. I am one of the founding directors of the company and was the founder Executive Editor of the paper at the start and became editor at the untimely death of SM Ali within less than three years of the birth of the paper.

About the writer of the Internet portal piece, Sunita Paul, suffice it to say that Paul never contacted me or any of my administrative staff while writing the story to ascertain facts about our company and its finances. To the best of my knowledge she did not talk to any senior staff or any of the other directors of the paper, or any of the other persons who could have given her some facts about The Daily Star and Prothom Alo.”

So, now it is my turn to give clarifications to the points raised by the editor of the ULFA funded newspaper.

Mahfuz Anam said, Latifur Rahman [founder of the media empire] was never bankrupt. But, I have extensively checked with various sources in Dhaka and it was clearly revealed that an industrial project named W. Rahman Jute Mills, which is located at Bangladesh’s Chandpur area was amongt the top listed load defaulting enterprises in Bangladesh and Latifur Rahman was a defaulter and was even attacked by the workers of his factory for non payment of salary, before he could manage ULFA money. Latifur Rahman’s wife is the first cousin sister of Anup Chetia [there is no word from Anam on this point].

Anam writes in his response “The simple fact is that there is no media house called Transcom Media. The Daily Star is owned by Mediaworld, which is a registered private limited company and has six shareholders who have been the directors of the company from the outset. Prothom Alo is owned by another company called “Mediastar” with few of the same owners as Mediaworld.”

But, after investigation, everyone will discover that, Transcom is the owner of all these newspapers including Daily Star when they will log on to http://www.transcombd.com and click for ‘MEDIA.’

In the Transcom website, it is clearly mentioned that “In recent years Transcom has emerged as an increasingly significant media house in Bangladesh.”

So, why Anam is shy in accepting the fact that Transcom owns all these newspapers? Just because, he too knows that the back ground story of money in Transcom was from ULFA?

Anam wrote “Transcom, as a company, was not started, as your reporter quotes Sunita Paul, in the nineties but has been in business since early seventies, after Bangladesh was born.”

Again a clean lie! If anyone will log on to the link http://www.transcombd.com and will read the ‘A brief look at history’, they will see that the company claims it to have been establsihed in 1885 as tea plantors. But, wherefrom Mahfuz got the fact of Trancom’s journey from 1970? The tea garden business is something else, like W Rahman Jute Mills as I already mentioned. Transcom became known in Bangladesh when it got the sole distributorship of Nestle products in 90s. Before that, the family was struggling with losing businesses of teas garden, jute mills etc. Latifur Rahman’s name is listed by the present rulers in Bangladesh as a suspected corrupt man, as his source of income and fund is extremely dubious.

Anam did not say a single word about Aina Broadcast Services [ABC], which is a FM band radio station, that Transcom Group bought with huge amount of money from another newspaper owner. Such dealings were mediated by Daily Star man who is now the press secretary to the Chief Avdisor of the millitary controlled government in Bangladesh. Daily Star group is continuing to influence the government in salvaging Latifur Rahman from being arrested and tried for series of financial irregularities. It was even reported in the press that, Transcom was importing unknown goods in various containers with false declaration of being milk product or electronic equipment. According to several sources, illegal supply of weapons were also conducted by Transcom under the garb of business commodity for years.

It may be mentioned here that, after getting fund from ULFA, Latifur Rahman opened several accounts with foreign banks. He managed franchisee of KFC and Pizza Hut with each US$ 1 million plus. According to investigations, no permission were ever sought from Bangladesh Central Bank for such huge transfer of money. It is learnt that the money were wire transferred to KFC and Pizza Hut from Latifur’s overseas bank accounts.

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Sunita Paul is an Indian writer, columnist, political analyst and regular contributor of American Chronicle, The Global Politician and The Asian Tribune.

[Considering the difficulties of Bangla fonts, the article have been presented in three segments one after one, each as gif image. After the article bellow the heading will start loading, you can simply start to read and the article load will complete as you will go ahead -Editor]

Mahmudur Rahman
6 September, 2008. Dhaka.


Mahmudur Rahman is the former Chairman of Bangladesh Government’s Board of Investment and formerly the Adviser of Fuel to the cabinet.

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