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     Volume 4 Issue 45 | May 6, 2005 |

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News Notes

Samad Azad Passed Away
The country's first foreign minister and veteran Awami League leader Abdus Samad Azad passed away last week of stomach cancer. He was 79. He had been on artificial respiratory system for over a day, before all kinds of medical treatment were exhausted and was declared dead at 5:55pm at BIRDEM hospital.
A grievous moment descended on the political arena as hundreds of mourners including long-time party associates, politicians irrespective of party affiliations, admirers, relatives and general members of the public flocked to the hospital and then to the deceased's Kalabagan residence.
A legend in Bangladesh politics, Azad had initially gone through a major ailment in August last year and was treated in Chennai, India. He was later admitted to Sikdar Medical in Dhaka for a month before he had a medical check-up again in Chennai in November last year. He fell ill upon placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar in the early hours of February 21 and since then had been under doctors' care at the BIRDEM Hospital.
Azad, who had been popular for his sense of humour, was loved and admired by leaders and workers of all parties alike. He served his party until the last days of his life. Even when he was in hospital, Azad fulfilled the responsibilities of acting party chief in absence of AL President Sheikh Hasina, who was away in the US and the Philippines for a month.
In a condolence message, the president recalled the contribution of the late leader to the country's democratic movement and to efforts to give parliamentary democracy an institutional shape.
Prime Minister and Leader of the House Khaleda Zia expressed her deep shock at the death. "The nation has lost an experienced leader and parliamentarian following his demise. This loss is irreparable to the nation," observed the prime minister.
Leader of the Opposition and AL President Sheikh Hasina said the nation lost a glorious son of the soil, an experienced parliamentarian and a symbol of national conscience at his demise. "And personally I lost my guardian and a far-sighted and trusted colleague," she said in a message of condolence.
With his death an era came to an end and an irreparable vacuum has been created in the national politics.

Innocent but behind bars
for eight years

Last Friday, a couple, falsely accused of abducting and killing their own son, were released after spending eight years in jail. Kamala Khatun and her second husband, Mizanur Rahman, had been awarded life imprisonment in the case in 1997. The case had been filed by the woman's first husband, Julhasuddin, after he himself hid Kamala's youngest son, Faruk. The truth only came to light when Faruk gave a statement to the jail super and additional district magistrate on February 24 of this year. A High Court bench on April 17 ordered the couple to be released on bail. Faruk is now in safe custody, while Kamala, upon release, has demanded punishment of the true perpetrators including her former husband. While neither she nor her husband can get back the seven years and 11 months of their lives that they've lost, justice served might help to heal the wound of betrayal and wrongful punishment just a little.

Insane brutality
A woman and her two daughters were killed by her adulterous husband last week. Muniruzzaman, alias Jaban Ali, was known to torture his wife, Hajera, ever since she learnt about his extra-marital affair with another woman of the village. The night of the murders, Munir stabbed his wife and four children -- two of whom died instantly. The other daughter died in hospital soon after. Munir claimed that a gang of robbers killed his family members. Whether they were cold-blooded murders or committed in the heat of passion is still unknown. Either way, the only way to describe the actions of the killer husband and father is brutal and insane.

Passing the controversial bill
The much-talked-about bill, proposing blanket immunity to the World Bank (WB) in Bangladesh, will be passed in the parliament within this month, after a parliamentary watchdog okayed the bill last week. This bill was placed in the parliament on October 31, 2004, although there was widespread criticism by the opposition political parties, civil society, and rights groups.
Amid such strong opposition protests, the committee finalised the bill without bringing any major changes to it. The report, recommending its passage will be submitted, in the next parliamentary session to be held on May 12, according to the meeting sources. Once the bill is passed, it will put the Bretton Woods institution beyond any legal action, a privilege the multilateral lending agency enjoys in no other country of operations.
The representative of the main opposition Awami League (AL), walked out of the meeting while the parliamentary panel was scrutinising the bill, terming it a violation of the constitution and democracy. Sayadul Haque, Committee member and AL lawmaker, claimed that the bill, once passed, would put the World Bank above the law as nobody will be allowed to file lawsuit against the World Bank, an act against the spirit of the constitution.
Committee Chairman Mushfiqur Rahman, however, retorted by asking as to why the previous AL government had given such an immunity to the Asian Development Bank back in 1972, if such a move is against the constitution. He went on to explain that after the passage of the bill, an individual, if affected, would be able to sue the World Bank, though the government would not be able to do so.

Teaching a lesson indeed!
Hundreds of students and their guardians took to the streets and staged demonstrations in front of the Sher-e Bangla Girls' School and College last week demanding the capital punishment for a teacher who allegedly molested a child of Grade 5.
According to Mahmuda Akhter, the mother of the student, Ruhul Amin, a science teacher at the school, told her daughter to go look for her book at room no. 47, when she informed him that she could not find it. It seems that the teacher took advantage of this and started to touch her in an indecent manner. Alarmed at her teacher's behaviour, the girl ran to her class and informed her class teacher, who in turn spoke to the headmistress about it.
It seems that the school authorities took no steps against the teacher although they were informed of the matter immediately after the incident.
The student's mother filed a case to Sutrapur Police Station against the teacher under Women and Children Repression Prevention Act with Sutrapur Police Station the same day. She alleged that several other such complaints were lodged earlier against Ruhul Amin, but the authorities never took any steps against him.
The protestors staged a four hour sit-in on Hat Khola Road in front of the college from 11:00am, creating severe traffic gridlock, and called for the removal of the Principal and the Vice Principal for failing to take action against the teacher despite being informed of the matter.
The agitated students also kicked the school gates before taking to the streets and staging the sit-in, witnesses said.
A representative of the students and guardians later submitted a memorandum with a five-point charter of demands to the Deputy Commissioner (East) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the Dhaka City Corporation commissioners of ward No 74 and 75.
The demands included the arrest and punishment of Ruhul Amin, the removal of principal Hosne Ara Shahid and vice principal Nadera Begum and two other teachers, including the daughter of the principal, nationalisation of the college and formation of a managing committee by the guardians.



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