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     Volume 5 Issue 123 | December 8, 2006 |

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News Notes

NDI Clarifies its Survey
The controversy over President Prof. Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed's assumption of the role of Chief Adviser (CA) to the Caretaker Government (CG) has taken a legal turn. Three writ petitions were filed earlier this week against the president's assumption of the post, his manner of exercising executive power and the Election Commission's (EC) move to declare the election schedule before finalising the voter list.
Among the 11 petitioners are Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul Jalil, Workers' Party President Rashed Khan Menon, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haq Inu, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary General MA Mannan and Jatiya Party (JP) presidium member GM Quader.
The petitioners alleged that the president's assumption of office is in violation of Article 58C of the Constitution, which lays out the composition of the non-party CG, the appointment of the CA and council of advisers. Following the president's assumption of the post, many legal experts had said that the provisions of sub-articles 3 to 5 had not been exhausted before the president moved to sub-article 6 and himself assumed office. In other words, there were still retired Chief Justices, retired judges of the Appellate Division and/or eminent citizens of the country available and eligible for the post.
Another petition alleged that the CA has repeatedly acted on his own, without consulting the council of advisers, undermining the collective responsibility of the CG to the president and thereby violating article 58B(3).
A third petition asked the court “to issue a rule on the EC to explain why it shall not be directed to take necessary steps to prepare and publish the draft electoral rolls and thereafter publish the final electoral rolls before declaring the election schedule for the forthcoming general elections”. The petitions were due to be heard by the High Court later in the week.

The day after the petitions were filed, the EC declared the election schedule. According to this schedule, the general elections are due to be held on January 21, 2007. The 14-party coalition, however, has vowed to renew their movement and blockade if the schedule is not withdrawn by Saturday.

Died: Yet Another Domestic Worker
Even before the ink dries on our stories about abused domestic workers, new crimes are committed. The latest victim was 50-year-old Fatema Begum, who worked at the house of Shila Islam, a professor of general history at Eden Women's College. According to Shahjahan, another domestic help at the same house in New DOHS, the mistress of the house beat Fatema the morning she died because the latter had been late in making breakfast. Shila Islam also admitted to beating Fatema sometimes as she stole and was an "irregular" worker, but denied killing her. After receiving information from the neighbours, the police came and stopped Islam's husband who was taking Fatema Begum's body to her home district, Joypurhat. They filed a murder case against Shila Islam and placed her on a one-day remand for interrogation. As often happens, there was no follow-up of the story and the fate of the killers of yet another domestic worker is lost, and perhaps, secure, in a legal and social system that favours the already advantaged.

The Neglected Urban Poor
Recently Brac held a three day conference on "What works for the poorest?" in collaboration with the Brooks World Poverty Institute and the Chronic Poverty Research Centre at the University of Manchester. The speakers at the conference mentioned the often-ignored incapability of the poor to use money effectively and the rich people's power to prevent pro-poor taxation policies. Qaiser Khan, acting country director of World Bank, warned of a social disaster if the government and development agencies did not address the growing urban poverty rate. He went on to say that the government does not address the issue of urban poverty because it fears more people will migrate to the cities if social protection was provided to the poor. Khan also added that most of the development projects are focused on rural areas, he stressed the need for special development programmes for the urban poor in order to mitigate possibilities for disaster in the future. The problems will be of an unimaginable scale in the future, as 50 percent of the Bangladeshi population would be living in urban areas in the next 20 to 30 years. Peter Chaudhry of Oxfam, outlined how case studies in Vietnam suggested that the poor can and do use their income effectively when given the chance and they themselves can make choices on their livelihood priorities. There were eight sessions at the conference discussing the development activist's experiences with the landless poor, incorporation of technological advancements with development, private and public partnerships, and culture and poverty.

Nirontor bags award
The country has yet another reason to rejoice; this time for an award in film clinched by a fellow countryman. Famous director Abu Sayeed bagged a Special Jury Award for his film Nirontor along with a Silver Peacock and Rs 5 lakh at the recently concluded 37th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. According to Sayeed, this is indeed a reward for sensitive and serious cinema and a triumph of struggling filmmakers in the country.
Produced by Impress Telefilm, the 105-minute film revolves around a lower-middle class family in Dhaka going through hard times. The blind father can no longer work and most of the family's money has been wasted on their unemployed son Hiru, who refuses to work. All the family's problems fall on the shoulder of their beautiful daughter Tithi, who works as a prostitute to help the family. The film is a fairly non-judgmental look at the lives of Tithi, her family and the people she comes in contact with through her job.

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