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     Volume 5 Issue 96 | May 26, 2006 |

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News Notes

CEC in Denial
The preparation of voter list by the Election Commission (EC) has turned out to be a farce. But the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has yet to acknowledge the failure. He has been unmoved by the escalating number of revelations of gross irregularities in the preparation of it. While the press became rife with news of the ominous presence of fake voters in the fresh voter roll, the CEC first vowed to remain silent and then spoke on May 21 at a press conference only to deny any allegation of irregularities.
Incorporation of non-existent as well as underage voters in the draft roll has not only put a huge question mark on EC's competence, it also cast a shadow over the possibility of an impartial election. It is not only the political opposition of the incumbent BNP-led four party alliance that vented its disapproval to it, a few ruling alliance ministers and some legal experts too have expressed their protest.
Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed, who is also the minister in charge of the EC Secretariat in parliamentary affairs, on May 19, alleged gross irregularities in preparation of voter list in his constituency.
In fact the publication of the draft voter list was followed by a huge outcry from both experts and common people. While journalists went door to door to discover hundreds of voters who are either non-existent or underage, people in certain areas went to file their complaint to the Electoral Officials.
While in the draft voter roll names of fake voters crept in, names of many legitimate voters were left out. There were sporadic incidents of agitation by people in many place across the country to rally in favour of legitimate voters whose names were needed to be included in the current voter list. While in some areas people could vent their anger to the electoral official, in most places the men in charge of supervising the preparation of the list was absconding in fear of retaliation.
On May 20 the residents of Khilgoan stormed the South Banasri High School headmaster's office room demanding explanation for inclusion of fake voters in the voter list prepared under his supervision. On May 21, the residents of Jurain met with the assistant registration officer at Muradpur Adarsha Ucccha Bidyalaya for protesting the inclusion of fake voters and to press home their demand for including the names of legitimate voters.
Interestingly, while the nation is being bombarded with debunking data that confirmed the irregularities of the EC in preparing the fresh voter roll, CEC MA Aziz put on a brave face. He brushed aside the allegation that the EC failed to prepare a flawless voter list. His words during the May 21 press briefing only sounded no less obdurate, he said, "There is no failure to prepare the voter list and the answer is no, no, an emphatic no." The press conference came after a long break, but in it he only showed his characteristic doggedness in denying all allegations.

Bangladesh to SPEED UP!
It is never too late for good news. Though Bangladesh had missed out on the opportunity to be connected to the information superhighway when it was offered for free in the early 1990s, at last the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia inaugurated the submarine cable. Net addicts may now feel relieved! At last Bangladesh is going to be connected with the global information super-highway. This has opened up a new vista of opportunities, providing the cheapest ICT services in all sectors. Now the country will have a 10-gigabyte data-transfer capacity per second, 68 times higher than the current speed.
The commissioning of the new submarine cable is a landmark in the country's telecommunications and information communication technology sectors, as it will tremendously enhance the performance and capacity in the fast-emerging knowledge economy.
Though it was offered for free in the beginning, it took Bangladesh more than a decade to realise the importance of being connected to the information highway. It is in 2004 that Bangladesh government signed an agreement with 12 other countries under a consortium for installing the submarine cable underneath the seabed, which cost a staggering Tk 628 crore.
The South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe-4 project connects the country with undersea fibre-optic cable passing from Singapore through Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and a number of Middle-Eastern countries to finally land in France.
Private internet service providers (ISPs), however are not happy as the government has violated the law by allowing the state-run telecommunication ventures to monopolise the ownership and operations of the submarine cable network.

Workers Run Riot
A garment worker of Savar Export Processing Zone (EPZ) was killed and more than 300 vehicles damaged during a clash, which originated from Universal Garments Limited, after the owner of the factory failed to meet the deadline for payment of workers' salary.
Workers of different garment factories in the EPZ yesterday came out on the street, set two factories on fire, damaged more than a hundred factories and put up barricades to drive home their demands. They also demanded payment of all unpaid salaries, overtime wages, basic wages for all, and an end to harassment by employees loyal to the owners of factories.
More than a hundred persons including workers, police and journalists were injured as employees loyal to the owners attacked the workers.
This was the second incident of garment workers' protest in a week in the capital. Following the incident EPZ authorities announced a two-day shutdown of the factories.

Futile Cabinet Reshuffle
In yet another cabinet reshuffle brought on by widespread protest against sever power crisis, State Minister for Power Iqbal Hassan Mahmood was replaced by State Minister for Finance and Planning Anwarul Kabir Talukder. Iqbal was not shown the door; he was made the state minister for agriculture. This latest act of replacing one minister with another has only prompted the experts to dub this change as a cosmetic one. One of them said to The Daily Star that Awarul Kabir, a very low performing minister of the current government, was told that the Prime Minister's Office and specifically the committee headed by the PM's principal secretary will take executive decision on power.
Like all other previous reshuffles this too will have little impact on the performances of the ministers. Since the beginning, the BNP-led coalition has been struggling with a huge cabinet of 54 ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers and advisers, making shuffles and reshuffles out of caprice. It is noteworthy that among the 54 ministers some of them do not have executive power, while two of them do not have any portfolio.
It has been revealed by a source that PM Khaleda Zia first decided to oust Iqbal from the cabinet but later backtracked on her decision as some senior leaders appealed to her not to do so as it might affect Iqbal's popularity in his Sirajganj constituency and, in turn, the popularity of the BNP.
Interestingly, though Iqbal was dumped in the agriculture ministry now headed by MK Anwar, he has been suggested not to attempt to take executive decision. And on top of that, he does not even have an office as the only available room for the state minister there is allocated to Information Deputy Minster Abdus Salam Pintu, who was removed from the industries ministry last month.

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