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     Volume 4 Issue 47 | May 20, 2005 |

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News Notes

Reconditioned Blues

Abdul Mannan Chowdhury Khoshru (C), president of Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association (Barvida), speaks at a press conference in Dhaka yesterday. M Habibur Rahman, vice-president, and Shah Mosharraf Hossain (L), secretary general of Barvida, are also seen.

Dealers of reconditioned cars are in trouble as present government policy discourages the imports of these vehicles while encouraging the import of new ones. New vehicles can be imported paying the same duties as duties paid for reconditioned cars. Moreover, new car dealers can get away paying less duties than the reconditioned car dealers by taking advantage of the present pre-shipment inspection system says a disgruntled dealer of the latter category. The present policy allows cars imported to be not older than four years old which pushes the price of reconditioned cars.

While the government justifies its decision saying that new cars are in better shape and far less polluting, many believe that all the policy has done is to allow huge imports of new Indian-made cars. Recently car dealers of reconditioned cars have appealed to the government to extend the 'eligible age' to six years. The high duties on reconditioned cars have hiked up the prices making them less accessible to people.

69 Bangladeshis Arrested in Kenya
While Dhaka asked its mission to report on the 69 Bangladeshis held for their alleged links to terrorism, drugs, and human trafficking the Kenyan police said they are investigating the matter. The Bangladeshi nationals were picked up from the countries port city of Mombasa. The AFP report confirmed that those who were seized in the overnight operation were living in two houses in a plush neighbourhood of Mombasa, heavily guarded by private security.

After their arrest, on May 14, Foreign Minister Morshed Khan observed that they might be fortune-seekers and had gone their through fake travel agency, whereas, local deputy police chief John Mbijjiwe told AFP in Nairobi that the investigators were pursuing three ;lines of investigations: whether the arrestees are linked to terrorist activities, drugs or human trafficking. However, Mbijjiwe refused to disclose where the men were detained. However, witnesses said that they were in the city's Port Police Station.

There were speculations at first as to the nationality of the detainees were, Mbijjiwe cofirmed that they were all Bangladeshis. The raid in Mombasa's upmarket estate of Nyali that led to the arrest, also led to the discovery of mattresses, few bags of rice, two computers, few Islamic literature and a handful of porno magazines.

None of the arrestees could speak English, which forced the police to speak in sign language. Along with the Bangladeshis the police arrested a caretaker of one of the houses.

In the backdrop of a an explosions in 1998, when two car bombs went off simultaneously outside the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in neighbouring Tanzania, and another blast in November 2002 that resulted when an explosive-packed vehicle was rammed into a lobby of a Israeli-owned hotel killing 15 people and three presumed suicide bombers, the arrest is a pre-emptive bid to such tragedy. The previous attacks were claimed by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Though no evidence has been found to link the detainees to any crime, there is a possibility that these non-English speaking Bangladeshis are what the foreign minister claim just plain fortune seekers. In this east African nation drug and human trafficking is rampant, especially in the coastal region.

US Mission Plans Own Diplomatic Post Office
The US embassy wants to set up a diplomatic post office (DPO) in Dhaka. In fact the superpower is poised to build up a global network of DPO, and it is only a part of the mega-plan. The embassy in Dhaka recently requested Bangladesh government to take the necessary steps towards this end. The Embassy officials, in a meeting with the foreign ministry officials on March 2, discussed the probability of the DPO. The ministry sources told The Daily Star that they were asked to start the process for its introduction. They also informed the National Board of Revenue (NBR) about the move requesting the board to bring in the changes required in the custom procedure to facilitate the implementation of the DPO.

Meanwhile, the officials at the foreign ministry were caught off guard regarding the issue. A foreign ministry official said that they are not clear about the proposal.

The US State Department plans to set up DPOs at all its overseas missions, and the US embassy has issued a letter to the NBR that says that the plan is at its embryonic stage. But the Bangladeshi counterpart seems to be in total darkness. An official of the foreign ministries Asia Peceific and Anmarica Wing said, "We have not been informed what purpose a DPO would serve, as the embessy already enjoy uninterrupted mail dispatch and receiving facilities under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."

According to sources, the major difference between the current and the proposed system is the change of the mail carrier. "Under the new system, all diplomatic mails to and from the US embassy will be under the control of and carried by the US postal service," a foreign ministry source disclosed.

"It was just an accident"
Many think that it was well deserved, when people burned a truck in Bogra, after it ran over an 8-year old school boy on his way to school.

Tanvir Hasan Rabbi, a third grade student of Bogra Zila School and son of Shamsul Haq Khan, was on a rickshaw going to school. According to witnesses, it seems that a truck hit the rickshaw, and instead of halting to create further damage, it ran over the child, instantly killing him. Locals chased and stopped the truck, set it ablaze and beat up its driver Milon and helper Rubel. The trucker and his helper were later handed over to police. Road barricades were also put up in front of Namajgarh truck terminal demanding punishment to the truck driver and shifting of the terminal to Bhober Bazar. The protesters later took out a procession, carrying the body of Rabbi and submitting a memorandum to the deputy commissioner.

Demolition men take to streets!
After the tragic devastation of the Garment factory in Savar, trapping, suffocating and killing several workers, people have taken into consideration the many buildings and structures built without the required permission and approvals. Last week, a group of angry businessmen at Patuatuli took to the streets, demanding the demolition of an 11-storey building constructed on Patuatuli Lane, with permission for a six- storey one.



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