Thursday, January 10, 2008

ATN Discussion after four advisors' resignation

Courtesy of BBC

ATN Bangla television telecast its regular talk show programme "Annya Drishti" from Dhaka studio at 0430 gmt on 9 January. Words within double slant lines were originally spoken in English.

Programme: "Annya Drishti"

Duration: 30 minutes

Host: Shyamal Datta, editor of Bengali daily Bhorer Kagoj

Guests: Mozaffar Ahmed, economist and political analyst

Bazlur Rahman, editor of Bengali daily Sangbad

Discussion on Resignation of Four Advisers of Caretaker Govt

Datta starts the programme seeking Ahmed's views on the resignation of four advisers of the caretaker government, especially at a time when the government is going to celebrate its one year in office on 11 January. Ahmed says, "The context of resignation of the advisers of this government is different from that of the advisers of the previous caretaker government. They were not able to work on their own. But this time there was no such problem. As this caretaker government is staying for a long period, every adviser has to work hard. The four advisers who resigned from their posts got mired into controversies over their failure to perform up to the mark and making sarcastic and inconsistent remarks since taking oath of office a year ago. Such actions created an image crisis for the government. There were rumours over the last few days that the advisers - Mainul Hossein and Tapan Chowdhury - may have to go for their controversial statements and activities which embarrassed the government."

Datta asks whether the caretaker government will fall into a credibility crisis following the resignation. Ahmed says, "I do not think so. This government has no such problem. Moreover, the government will not change its course of action which might create a credibility problem. I think the government will continue with its set agenda."

Datta asks why the four advisers have resigned. Rahman says, "It was not actually a resignation. In fact, they were removed from their posts. It is clear that the four advisers were asked to resign, although it was not disclosed to the media. There has been growing resentment against these advisers for their work and words. Tapan Chowdhury, food and power adviser, could do nothing for resolving the power problem. In the last one year, he could not help generate a single unit of electricity. He instigated the price hike by saying the government has nothing to do with the increase in rice price. Mainul Hossein had made himself controversial from the very beginning by issuing statements against politicians and civil society leaders. And two other advisers also failed to carry out their responsibilities from the very beginning. But we have to think that the whole Advisory Council will have to shoulder the responsibility of the failure of the five of 10 advisers of the government [one more adviser had resigned earlier]."

As Datta seeks comments from Ahmed whether the whole advisory council has failed, Ahmed says, "The government has come to power with two promises - one is to hold a credible election and second to eliminate corruption from politics. And to this end, the Election Commission [EC] has been reconstituted. The EC has announced a road map to hold the stalled ninth parliamentary elections. But we do not know exactly where we are on the road map. The way the EC has extended many programmes, I think the road map will not be implemented completely. On the other hand, the Anti-Corruption Commission [ACC] has started suffering jolts as it is facing difficulties to find evidence against the accused. Now it is thinking to launch a social movement against corruption. However, //the government cannot stop its journey//."

Rahman says, "The activities of the ACC are in question. It cannot work with full freedom. The ACC is only preparing documents against those who are caught by the task force [comprising joint forces]. The task force has become a more powerful organization than the ACC." Ahmed says, "The goal of forming the task force was to bring coordination in the drive against corruption, but with more power with the task force it has become difficult to cooperate." Rahman opines, "The task force will have to work under the supervision of the ACC."

Responding to a query, Ahmed says, "This is a unique form of government. We have no experience in running the country for two years by a caretaker government. For doing so, the government has to take some policy decisions. The new advisers should be competent and efficient, with a clean public image."

Rahman says, "The advisers will have to be non partisan as it is a non party caretaker government." In reply to a question, Rahman says, "Any non elected government running the country for a long period has to face manifold problems. You can run the country //for three months somehow, but not for over two years.//"

As Datta asks what are the main challenges for the government over the next "crucial" one year, as the political parties have already started mounting pressure on the government to hold an election soon, Ahmed says, "Now the first and foremost challenge for the government is to restore its acceptability and credibility among the people. The people should have the confidence that a credible election is possible under this government." Rahman comments, "The role of the government and its supporters [army] in forming and breaking the political parties has already put its credibility under doubt."

Datta wraps up the programme with the hope that the government will be able to hold a credible election dispelling all confusion already created in the political arena.

Source: ATN Bangla TV, Dhaka, in Bengali 0430gmt 10 Jan 08

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