<%-- Page Title--%> Newsnotes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 140 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

January 30, 2004

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Rokan Rocks

After bringing allegation of bribery against an Additional Judge of the High Court and championing the cause of some 30 private banks, Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud has hit the headline again. The maverick lawyer told the journalists at the biennial general meeting of the Crime Reporter's Association to "Lay siege to the magistrates who are influenced by the ministers and MP's and then issue warrants to arrest the journalists in criminal defamation cases." He said, in cases, the ministers and MP's do not go to the civil courts, (rather), "The home ministry or the Prime Minister's Office asks magistrates to issue warrants and they readily follow."

The government needs to lose weight

What the Public Expenditure Review Commission (PERC) discovered a few days ago was known to the rest of the country for years. The Commission, formed to find ways to bring discipline to government expenditure, prescribed downsizing the government. The BNP-led four-party alliance government created history by amassing 70 people in the cabinet, an all-time record in the history of Bangladesh. It took the BNP some time to realise that 'more men doesn’t always mean better work', prompting Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to bring the number to 50 a few months ago. The Commission, however, suggested further pruning in its report to Finance and Planning Minister, advising reduction of the number of ministries from 38 to 22 and abolish the PMO (Prime Minister's Office). Other suggestions the included merging of the liberation war affairs and the Armed Forces Division with the defence ministry and a few other similar such mergings. More ministries than required not only means more ministers, who are to be equipped with red passports, foreign trips, cars, residence, telephone bills etc, but it also means more wastage, more corruption and more inefficiency. The onus is now on the government-- it must act decisively if it wants to save the public exchequer of the huge burden and ensure effective and meaningful governance.

Commonwealth Writers Prize 2004

Though relatively new, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, perhaps the most international literary award after the Noble, has certainly grown to be a prestigious award. Initiated in 1987 by the Commonwealth Foundation, the award is meant to encourage and reward the upsurge of new Commonwealth fiction, which has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to contemporary writing in English. Besides this initiative has helped brilliant works reach a wider audience outside their country of origin.

The Commonwealth Writers Prize covers some 56 countries; these countries are divided into four regions namely Africa, the Caribbean and Canada, Eurasia, South East Asia and the South Pacific. Awarded annually the prize carries one award of 10,000 pounds for the best book and one award of 1,000 pounds for the best first published book. Besides, there are two additional prizes of 1,000 pounds each for each region--one for the best book and one for the best first published book. Each of the four regions has a 3-member panel of judges, while the final judging panel is composed of the four regional Chairpersons, which is chaired by an eminent critic /author. For the year of 2004, Dr Fakrul Alam, Professor of English Department, Dhaka University has been selected to join the regional panel of Eurasia. The other two members of the panel are Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta, Professor and Chair, English Department, Kolkata University and Maya Juggi, Editor of the literary page of The Guardian. The judges are scheduled to meet in Kolkata next February.

Anti- Bush Feeling at WSF

The World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai was attended by thousands of social activists from all over the world. Predictably George Bush has been the target of expressions of extreme outrage and hatred especially among the anti-globalisation activists. This includes Americans who are attending the Forum. At various discussions and demonstrations, the US has been criticised for everything, from the occupation of Iraq to genetically modified agriculture. Posters adorning the venue include those portraying George Bush as a vampire, a criminal in a police lockup and even as a version of the Devil himself. What is most interesting is that among the 100,000 people 1000 are Americans.

Meanwhile the WSF has received some negative publicity over the arrest of a South African judge on charge of raping a fellow South African delegate. The 51-year-old judge has denied the allegation.

Chars will get a Boost from the British

The UK has announced that it will grant 150 million pound sterling for for two projects to develop primary education and livelihood in char areas of Bangladesh. The programme, which is also being financed by the Government of Bangladesh, will target 17 million children a year providing them with quality education through 11 categories of school. This part of the project will receive 100 million pound sterling. The main aim is to bring about a quantitative improvement in primary education in these neglected areas, through better training for teachers, improving access of teaching materials, recruiting more teachers etc.

The other British grant of 50 million pound sterling will be spent on providing sustainable livelihoods, providing better social services and building better infrastructure for the char dwellers in northern Jamuna. The UK grants will be spread over eight years.

20 Years without Promotion

Around eight drug-superintendents at the government-run Drug Administration (DA) have been awaiting promotion for as long as 20 years. "Unless someone at the level of an assistant director dies we have no hope of getting promoted," says one of the victims. Quoting an anonymous source at the DA, a Daily Star report says, "MD Farhad Hossain joined the DA on July 7, 1976 as a drug superintendent and is still serving the headquarters in the same post." In the last four years, the report continues, four officials from the health directorate have been posted at the DA to fill some vacant posts. The deadlock has generated frustration and anger at the DA office. "Certainly we don't want that someone dies to give us a lift. The problem is that the promotion structure at the DA is such that we got struck," an official says.

Died. Mirza Mehdy Ispahani (Sadri), chairman of MM Ispahani Limited died of cardiac arrest at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bankok, at age 81.
Sadri Ispahani was a well-known industrialist who also supported several institutions and organisations engaged in social welfare activities.


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