|Volume 5 Issue 02 | February 2011|
Trial of war criminals
I agree with Dr. MA Hasan that nobody should play dirty politics with the trial of war criminals. I also think that the government is not serious about the trial as it is reluctant to take any action against war criminals who belong to its party and its allies. Moreover, it is allowing its student and youth wings to kill innocent people and rape helpless girls. These were the crimes committed by the war criminals too. Hence the government is making the trial controversial and making it seem like an act of revenge. Many opposition leaders who did nothing against freedom fighters are now scared of being charged as war criminals. The government's attitude towards the opposition and total control of the judiciary is making this trial controversial.
Dr. M. Mahboob Hossain
Appreciating practical education
Education has two perfectly integrated aspects -- theoretical education and practical education. Theoretical learning refines the inner abilities of an individual while practical experience reinforces them. Practical knowledge thus plays a most significant role in the edification of a student. But in our country, practical learning has not gained the appreciation it deserves. The students have little or no opportunity to receive practical experience and are forced to find refuge in the practice of “Total Memorisation”. The students try to memorise physics, chemistry, biology and even English! Most students never get the chance to improve their speaking and listening abilities, nor the opportunity to try out simple scientific experiments such as how to crystallise salt, how to magnetise an iron bar, etc. These are easy, simple and low-cost experiments, yet they can flare up curiosity in an individual. Good intention of the decision makers and proper planning of the school authorities can make such practical experiences accessible to students. To build a scholarly Bangladesh, there is no alternative to appreciating practical education.
“Of Youth and Optimism”
The article published in the January 2011 issue of Forum was very moving. Currently in our society, influential groups are making an enormous effort to keep the next generation out of all political and social activities that would help us to progress as a nation. While some may beg to differ, I believe that our present social system benefits only youth with connections to influential members of society. As for the general youth of our society, their lives are characterised by endless traffic jams, unethical political activities, lack of educational facilities, injustice toward minorities, deteriorating law and order and the iron fist of RAB and lack of job opportunities and job security. Yes, we the young people of this society are not at all motivated to step into the shoes of the earlier generations.
Rizwan Hussain Jabbar
Airport in Arial Beel, development and public interest
The government led by Sheikh Hasina has decided to build a new airport in Arial Beel. This will require around 25,000 acres of land. It will destroy a huge agricultural land and wetland. The present government may want an airport with the name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which is fine, but what will happen to the people who live on this land? How will they get their livelihoods? How will they be compensated and rehabilitated? What is the long-term cost-benefit ratio of the project, if the government has calculated it at all. Just recall Kaptai Hydro-Electric project. There was the problem of militarisation, social unrest and good governance, not to mention the environmental costs which may just outweigh the benefits of the electricity generated by the project. We can also take lessons from the experiences in Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal. We certainly need development but we should also calculate the costs. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina should take into consideration all these factors. We do not want another Phulbari or Rupganj happening.
US Embassy cable: UK training a “death squad”?
The Guardian's December 23rd report on the British government training a Bangladeshi “death squad” raises a valuable issue. Should Western governments, ones promoting good governance and human rights overseas, aid law-enforcement agencies with abysmal human rights records?
Formed in mid-2004, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is an elite paramilitary force, with personnel seconded mainly from the armed forces and police. Uniformed in black clothes and headgear, wearing wraparound sunglasses, and carrying automatic weapons, they certainly burned a piercing image. Their mission to apprehend criminals and uphold law and order was applauded by policymakers, who stressed the failure of the regular police force, with their limited willpower and resources, to do the same.
Over the years, RAB gained fame as an efficient law-enforcement agency. It has had spectacular success in apprehending Islamist militants, even those who caused nationwide bombings. US Embassy Dhaka's cables report that this agency is viewed by Bangladesh's civil society as its most respected police unit. In massive gatherings, such as the outdoors Bengali New Year events held in Dhaka, RAB can be seen at security checkpoints, ensuring that another bomb blast does not take lives.
However, RAB has also gained infamy as hundreds of extrajudicial killings have taken place under its watch. Each time, the official story is strikingly similar: Upon a criminal's apprehension, he leads RAB personnel into his safe-house, where his accomplices start shooting, and he is killed in crossfire. Never mind the glaring lack of evidence, the torture marks on the deceased's body, the same line is repeated. The media has been fed this story so many times that the word crossfire is written in quotes.
This is what makes Human Rights Watch condemn RAB as a death squad, and why the organisation calls for the US and UK to halt cooperation with the agency. US Embassy cables depict the UK as RAB trainers of investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement. The US is also shown as eager to train RAB on counterterrorism and law-enforcement capabilities. Plans to imbed US marshals to set up internal affairs, use of force, and rules of engagement systems are mentioned.
Therein lies the kick: The US and UK are adamant on defeating Islamist militants across South Asia, and RAB is viewed as an effective partner in containing the threat. As both governments are required to promote human rights overseas, they also seek to modify RAB into a more transparent and accountable force. According to the cables, the British High Commission has already trained the agency on human rights. The US Departments of Defense, State, and Justice interagency team reviewed RAB's human rights record and stressed the need for improvement to receive US training. In their mission to eliminate Islamist militancy, if these two Western governments can alter RAB's trigger-happy behaviour and culture of impunity, not only will this be a victory for human rights advocates, but also for Bangladeshi society as a whole.
The opinions expressed in Readers' Forum are those of the writers' and in no way reflect the opinion of the publication.
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