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

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 147 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 26, 2004

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BNP Goes Berserk
Armed BNP activists went on the rampage at a beverage factory of MA Mannan, an ex-party leader of BNP, in Savar. Witnesses said that about 60 attackers arrived on 13 motorbikes and beat up the factory workers in Hemayetpur, sending them running for cover amid a string of gun shots and blasts of homemade bombs during lunch break at 12:45 p.m. on March 15. A report in the Daily Star published the day after the incident confirmed that four workers received bomb injuries and two hit by bullet. The gang vandalised three vehicles while forcing its way into the factory that produces Sun Crest cola, Kickapoo, Maja Mango juice, Bubble Up and Iceberg mineral water. The attack on Mannan's factory came after custom officials' raid on his Dewanhat depot to seize 4,500 cases of Sun Crest soft drink and documents, forced closedown of eight garment factories in Chittagong and bomb attack on his Gulshan house in Dhaka. It is the backlash of Mannan joining the alternative political platform that Badruddoza floated very recently. Mannan became its member secretary. After the series of incidents the distribution manager of the factory filed a case with the Savar Police Station. But there is no stopping BNP out to teach Mannan a lesson. On March 16 the government froze bank accounts of five companies owned by Mannan. Meanwhile a group of JCD activists forced workers of his under-construction Elite chemical in Chittagong before they locked it.

They take telephone bills but don't pay
When the present Speaker was asked to comment on the non -- payment of telephone bills by MPs he laughed off: "This is too trifle a thing to lose your sleep over." The Speaker's attempt to downplay the issue is not unexpected. Because, he along with his deputy have not only won place in that prestigious list of phone bill defaulters, they together are leading from the front, as they should be doing, being the guardian of the House. With default of Tk 1 lakh 98 thousand and 555 he has been overtaken by his deputy Akhtar Hamid Khan, who owes Tk 2 lakh 75 thousand and 169 to govt coffer. Though MPs belonging to rival political camps are like the bitterest enemy, they appear to be absolutely unanimous when it comes to non-payment of telephone bills. On the opposition front the top position goes to seasoned politician and ancient Awami Leaguer Abdus Samad Azad. He owes Tk 2 lakh 9 thousand and 181. Interestingly, they have been taking their monthly allowance of Tk 6,000 for telephone bills. One suggestion instead of paying the monthly allowance ( for telephone bill ) to the defaulting MPs the government could send them to its coffer and that would bring down the arrears quickly. One high official of T&T, however, hastily added that they had been regularly sending "notices" urging the Honourable MPs to pay back their arrears.

Getting treatment for abduction attempt
It is not only the patients who go to hospitals, sometimes people with perfect health also go to hospitals. It has been a couple of weeks since a group of 10 JCD activists in absolutely perfect health, have been enjoying the warmth and care of Comilla Central Jail Hospital. On March 7 these people were caught red-handed by the local people when they were trying to abduct a businessman and were then handed over to the police. The news spread out too far that the police were forced to send them in jail despite their willingness to do the reverse. But they had not been absolutely disloyal they sent the JCD goons to jail hospital, where they could at least escape the rigours of the jail, if not get absolute freedom.

Socialist Victory in Spain
George W Bush lost an important ally in Europe last week after the incumbent Popular Party, led by Jose Maria Aznar, was routed in the general elections. Some voters openly expressed their anger when they saw the retiring prime minister cast his ballot. "Aznar: your war, our dead," shouted an angry mob inside the polling station. Incidentally the party's defeat was coincided with several bomb blasts that ripped through commuter trains on September 3. Though Aznar blamed it on an armed Basque group, ETA, many saw it as a punishment of Al-Qaeda for Spain's help in the invasion of Iraq. Actually immediately after the blasts the government had lost most of its grounds in the elections; and that lost turned into a total defeat after investigators found evidence of Al-Qaeda's hand in the blasts. The new prime minister, Jose Rodreguez Zapatero, has, however, vowed to pull the Spanish army out of Iraq within days. With Aznar gone, the only friend Bush has in the EU is Tony Blair. Many observers believe, Blair's days have become numbered too. But only the Brit voters know whether he will survive another general elections or not.

TU Activities in EPZ
The government has finally decided to allow Trade Union activities, though in a limited form, in the export processing zones. As it was demand of the USA, the Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman conveyed the message to US ambassador Harry K Thomas. The law minister was asked to draft a law by March 25 for EPZ trade unionism. The world Bank and the Bangladesh EPZ authority have prepared a framework for the law after discussion with investors and US labour organisation American Federal Labour Congress and Industrial rganisation (AFLCIO). The framework was presented at a meeting on March 15 with Thomas, who reportedly found it acceptable.


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