Govt's de-politicisation attempts deplored
Monday, 28 January 2008

Staff Correspondent

Politicians and academics at a dialogue on Saturday slated the government's de-politicisation attempts and said any election keeping the two top leaders behind bars would not be acceptable to people.

Citing the statement of the plaintiff of extortion case against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, most of the panellists at the Bangladesh Sanglap organised by the BBC Bangla service said it exposed the real face of the government.

They criticised the government for media gagging attempts and expressed their dissatisfactions at the process of resolving the crisis at Dhaka University.

They also resented the failure to contain the skyrocketing prices of essentials. The issue of trying war criminals also came up in the discussion and the panellists unanimously stressed that those must be brought to book.

However, they differed on the trial process. Some of them said only the government could try the war criminals and this government should at least initiate the process as political governments failed to do so in last 36 years.

Others said this government had no mandate to decide policy issues other than holding free and fair polls. Journalist Sadeq Khan, Dhaka University Teachers' Association general secretary Anwar Hossain, BNP office secretary Rizvi Ahmed, and Awami League secretary for environment affairs Hasan Mahmud were the panellists at the dialogue moderated by BBC reporter Kamal Ahmed at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the evening.

On Azam J Chowdhury's statement that he had not directly sued Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina, BNP leader Rizvi Ahmed said the statement proved that the entire process was part of the government's 'de-politicisation move' and its plan to deceive the people into believing that politicians are bad. But now the people are getting clear picture of all the plans, he said. Hasan Mahmud said the government should withdraw the cases after Azam J Chowdhury's statement.

Sheikh Hasina was forcefully implicated in the case under a plan to malign her and end her political career. Anwar Hossain labelled the statement as a 'surprise' from the government. 'Each citizen has the right to get justice.

All the cases filed against the two former prime ministers are bailable, but they are kept behind bars, he pointed out. Sadeq Khan said Azam J Chowdhury's statement should not have any effect on the government as it had nothing to do with the case.

'Now it is entirely court's jurisdiction,' he said. All the panellists were critical of the restriction on live airing of talk shows of television channels in past couple of days, while the chief adviser claimed that Bangladesh's media was free.

Sadeq Khan said the government's stance was self-contradictory though emergency rules empower the government to restrict the media.

On the chief adviser's statement that the government can not try the war criminals for time constraints, Sadeq Khan said, 'This government has a cover of caretaker government, though it is really a government of emergency. But it should concentrate on their principal duties.'

Replying to a question whether the process of resolving the Dhaka University crisis was dignified, Anwar Hossain said it was not graceful at all. 'It could be respectful if all the charges against students and teachers were withdrawn.' Rizvi Ahmed and Hasan Mahmud echoed him and Sadeq Khan declined to make any comment.

'I can say the process was not satisfactory at all as still there are grievances among teachers and students, and I would not make any comment whether it was graceful or not.'

Responding to a question from audience, anchor Kamal Ahmed said airing of this session of dialogue in television depended on the government as the BBC's media partner could not air some of the episodes of the dialogue.

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