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     Volume 6 Issue 19 | May 18, 2007 |

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News Notes

World Leaders for Suu Kyi's Release
At least 57 former world leaders are now demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, a non-violent, pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and a noted prisoner of conscience. She had been kept under house arrest for more than a decade, due to protests against the military regime in Myanmar. US ex-president Bill Clinton and 56 other former world leaders have appealed to Myanmar's military regime to free the opposition leader. The 61-year-old has been under house arrest at her home in Yangon without a trial.
The 57 signatories addressed a letter to te head of the Myanmar junta General Than Shwe calling "for the immediate release of the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi". Suu Kyi had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 but was not allowed to make the trip to Oslo to receive the award. It was presented to her two sons, Alexander and Kim, who live in Britain.
The letter was initiated by Norway's former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, it was also signed former leaders Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Brian Mulroney of Canada, Junichiro Koizumi of Japan, former US president Jimmy Carter and ex-European Commission president Jacques Delors, amongst others. It said that the Aung San Suu Kyi is not calling for revolution in Bura, but rather a peaceful, non-violent dialogue between the military, national League for Democracy and Burma's ethnic groups.

Finally, A Word on the Voter List
The Election Commission has finally started 'partial' work on the voter list registration and preparation of national ID Cards. The army is of course going to take full responsibility of this mammoth task by setting up 12,000 camps all over the country where voters will have to come and register their names and have their photographs taken. This is a completely different approach from the previous procedure for preparing the electoral rolls by sending staff members to visit door to door.
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda said that it would not be possible to visit door to door as it is a costly and cumbersome job to carry the equipment around. As an incentive registrars will be provided with a National Identity Card which will be mandatory to have all sorts of government facilities that include getting VGF and relief cards, opening bank account and making a passport. The CEC is determined to complete the task within 18-month months although earlier on April 5 it was declared that the field level work would require only 12 months to complete. The Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed promised in his April 12 address to the nation that elections would be held at the end of 2008. Ten crore forms will have to be printed to collect particulars about the voters and the EC is on the process of procuring 12,000 web-cams, and the same number of digital cameras, laptops and printers.
The CEC said a massive campaign would be launched by engaging different NGOs and the media to encourage people to come and register. But it will be interesting to see how people in the rural areas perceive the army-- whether they feel intimidated or take them as part and parcel of the election process. The whole process of registering a voter is expected to take 20-25 minutes according to the EC. So it can be assumed that there will be long queues for days and how many people will have the time to stand in such a queue is also be worth thinking about.

Good Tidings from Afghanistan
There is good news from of all places, war-ravaged Afghanistan that has shown interest in recruiting manpower from Bangladesh to help rebuild the devastated country. The new Afghan Ambassador in Dhaka Ahmed Karim Nawabi expressed the willingness during a courtesy call on Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed at his office recently. The CA sounded very optimistic about the prospect, calling it a win-win deal for both countries.
He said Bangladesh wants to help Afghanistan achieve socio-economic growth and will be happy to help the country, mentioning the performance of a Bangladeshi NGO, BRAC, in Afghanistan. BRAC is working in various areas including microfinance.
The CA pointed out the strong historic, cultural and trade ties between Bangladesh and Afghanistan and suggested that Afghanistan can import high quality goods like tea, pharmaceutical items, ceramics, plastic items and leather products from Bangladesh. Likewise, Bangladesh can import dry food from Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan envoy also mentioned that terrorism, drug and narcotics are major problems in Afghanistan. Chief Adviser Ahmed said all should work collectively to combat against terrorism for security in this region as terrorism undermines socio-economic growth.
The quest for a better life has taken Bangladeshis to far off places. For many Bangladeshis it has meant selling their last piece of land or other asset, just to try their luck in a foreign land. Remittance from abroad, in fact, accounts for a huge amount of foreign exchange coming into the country. But in real terms it means a better life for millions of families who benefit from a family member's earnings. Braving all kinds of hardships-- poor living conditions, fear of deportation, fraud from recruiting agencies and culture shock these young men work hard and save almost all their earnings to send back home. These hard-earned funds, translate into a better house for the family, education for siblings, a decent groom for the sister, much-needed medical care for aging parents, generally an escape from abject poverty and hopelessness.

Picture of the week

On Mother's Day (May 13), while there were elaborate programmes celebrating motherhood and mothers everywhere were showered with cards and gifts from their children, one mother had to make the harshest decision of all. No one knows who this mother is, or what made her take such a cruel decision. Perhaps she was raped or her child was born out of wedlock and she could not face the stigma of going back to an unforgiving society. But on Mother's Day this woman decided she could not give her beautiful newborn son what he child deserved and abandoned him on top of a wooden box outside the premises of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Shahbagh police later rescued the newborn boy and handed him over to a childless pharmacy owner for temporary safekeeping till they could locate the mother.


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