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Friday, September 14, 2012
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Tofail, Menon decline to be ministers; MK Alamgir, Inu, 5 little-known others take oath

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday expanded her council of ministers by inducting seven new members -- most of them little known public figures except for Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and Hasanul Haque Inu -- with many wondering about the reasons behind the move.

The new cabinet members -- five of them full ministers and two ministers of state -- were sworn in by President Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban in the afternoon.

The five ministers are Inu, MK Alamgir, Mujibul Haque, Mostafa Faruque Mohammad and AH Mahmood Ali; and the two state ministers are Omor Faruk Chowdhury and Abdul Hyee.

But all eyes were on veteran Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed and Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, both of whom were offered posts in the cabinet which they declined. Their refusal is unprecedented in the country's political history.

Their rejection compelled Hasina to replace them with two little known diplomats-turned-lawmakers Mostafa Faruque and Mahmood Ali.

Having refused to join the cabinet, Tofail and Menon have upset Hasina, also the AL president, and other senior party leaders, 14-pary insiders said.

They added that had the prime minister discussed with them their inclusion in the cabinet, the situation would have been different.

Clarifying his decision, Tofail said he did not want to be a minister, adding: "At the moment, I am not mentally, politically or socially prepared to take office as a minister."

Talking to reporters at his Banani residence, he said: "It doesn't matter whether I join the cabinet or not. I don't have any frustration and anger towards my party or any misunderstanding with the prime minister."

Earlier, Tofail told The Daily Star that he wanted to "work for the party". According to him, the party was more important than ministership.

He also explained his decision to Hasina, meeting her in parliament in the evening, sources said.

Explaining the expansion to the media, the prime minister said, “In the parliamentary system of government, expanding the cabinet is a normal process."

She added that by including seven new members in the cabinet she had in fact "honoured the voters" of the respective constituencies.

Asked if Tofail's rejection would be regarded as breaking party discipline, Hasina said, “I did not phone him. Had I called him and offered the post and he refused, only then the question of breaching discipline could have arisen.”

Several AL leaders, however, have told this correspondent that after the 2008 election, Tofail had been sidelined because of his "cosy relationship" with the 2007-08 caretaker government and his proposals about reforming the party.

It was only "natural" that Tofail would reject such a proposal at the fag end of the government tenure, they added, preferring not to be named.

Moreover, Tofail and Menon feel that the government has failed to deliver in many sectors and paid no heed to many of their suggestions on issues like the share market scam and Sonali Bank scam, party leaders say.

"They obviously did not want to be part of that failure," one senior leader said.

Some others inside the party see Tofail's refusal as a challenge and a "heavy blow" to the party and the government.

"From this, the public has got a negative message about the government," one senior leader said on condition of anonymity.

Hasina decided to expand the cabinet before meeting the president on Monday. On Wednesday, the premier talked to a number of ministers about her plan and asked two ministers -- Obaidul Quader and Suranjit Sengupta -- to talk to Tofail and Menon sensing they duo might not join.

Quader and Suranjit both tried till yesterday afternoon to convince the two but failed, sources close to the ministers said.

The Workers Party at its politburo meeting yesterday observed that the government had failed in many areas and thus had become isolated from the people. So it would be "imprudent" for Menon to join the cabinet, party sources told this paper.

Menon said his party did not support the idea of his being a minister at this stage.

Questions also swirl as to why Hasina wanted to expand the cabinet with barely a year of her government remaining. Also, the expansion comes at a time when criticism has been mounting about several ministers performing badly over the last few months.

The simplest and yet most implausible answer is offered by Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury.

“The prime minister has expanded the cabinet to bring more dynamism in the government and serve more people better,” said Matia, who is regarded as being close to Sheikh Hasina.

But this statement does not cut much ice as none of the new faces, except MK Alamgir, has any track record of getting any berth in the cabinet in the past.

One of the explanations now on offer from different quarters is that with the elections nearing, the AL wants to have ministers from some districts from where no one has been in the cabinet. Jhenidah, Jessore, Rajshahi and Comilla are four such districts and the new recruits have been picked from these districts.

Tofail, Menon and Inu were quite vocal about the government's failure. So the prime minister wanted to include them in the cabinet and have them shut up, insiders say.

None of the new cabinet members, however, has been given portfolios. "It will be done on Monday," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told reporters.

Sources said Mujibul might be given charge of the railways ministry. The government is planning to split the post and telecommunications ministry into two and give charge of any of them to Inu.

According to the sources, a small-scale reshuffle in the cabinet is also possible.

After the AL's landslide victory in 2008 election, Hasina formed her cabinet with 31 members -- 23 ministers and eight state ministers.

On January 24, 2009, she included six more fresh faces -- a minister and five state ministers -- in the council of ministers and reshuffled 10 portfolios.

The premier last expanded her cabinet on November 28, 2011 by inducting Suranjit Sengupta, now minister without portfolio, and Obaidul Quader, minister for communications and railways.

Following yesterday's expansion, the number of cabinet members, including the prime minister, is 51.

Syed Abul Hossain resigned recently over his alleged involvement in the Padma bridge project corruption while Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj voluntary resigned as minister of state for home within six months of the government taking office.

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It looks like they got the message. They did not want to be part of the offences committed by the current AL government.

: Truth Teller

When existing ministers failed to live up to the public expectation how will the new faces bring about changes in barely one year?

: Nasirullah Mridha,USA


  • sabbir Hossain
    Friday, September 14, 2012 12:26 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    What is done so far by noble ministers of AL is nothing and that is why they do not want to be a part of the failure. Bravo Tofail Ahmed and Inu!

  • Translucent
    Friday, September 14, 2012 12:31 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    This is an intelligent move by the premier. This is also an opportunity to ditch some of the most corrupted and under performing ministers from the cabinet. I hope it will not divert public attention from the recent scandals and embezzlements. Momentum must be kept up by the journalists.

  • Iftikhar-ul-Awwal
    Friday, September 14, 2012 12:33 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Faced with financial scandals, wholesale corruption, and powerless to deliver in line with people's expectations, the prime minister has decided to enlarge her cabinet. Is it to satisfy some disgruntled leaders? Is it to deflect public opinion? Is it to satisfy alliance partners? Whatever the intention is, the cleavage within the ruling alliance has become all too visible. The refusal of some seasoned players to join the cabinet is a mortal blow. The ship is sinking fast, and the captain is unable to keep her on the water. Inevitably, the pendulum will swing, and nobody can reverse it.

  • nadim younus
    Friday, September 14, 2012 01:12 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    AL is on the verge of a total collapse. The prime minister was wrong enough to leave out Amu, Tofail and Razzaque. We might be seeing the last of AL, and I do not think people would ever vote for AL in the future elections.

  • Vampire Knight
    Friday, September 14, 2012 01:40 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Excellent! Thanks to cartoonist Sadat. The boat already has many holes. How to keep it afloat and reach destination, while veterans refuse to listen to captain's call?

  • Anonymous
    Friday, September 14, 2012 02:07 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    I head that Menon (a hardcore communist) holds U.S residency. How come a communist gets U.S status and maintains it?

  • suahmed
    Friday, September 14, 2012 03:31 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    It is a wise decision taken by the two wise and competent politicians. In our culture such denial for power is rare. At this fag ends of AL tenure why they would go to take the responsibility of failure of the government. Thanks for their prudent decision.

  • Anonymous
    Friday, September 14, 2012 03:44 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    This sends a wrong signal for Hasina Government. Hope Hasina government wakes up!

  • Mohsin
    Friday, September 14, 2012 05:32 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Why Inu is there? He is the most unqualified one.

  • S.M. Tofazzel Hossain
    Friday, September 14, 2012 06:27 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Expanding cabinet size at this stage will only worsen the traffic jam in Dhaka city with an added burden to public expenditure.

  • Tausif
    Friday, September 14, 2012 08:23 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    What this reshuffling will do for the betterment of the country in next fifteen months that the incumbent government has failed to do over last three and a half years?

  • Harun Rashid
    Friday, September 14, 2012 09:06 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Thanks to these two veteran politicians, at least they could say no. They have that courage. They know like all others that this is an expansion of quantity but will have little or merely no chance to improve the quality of people's life.

  • nds
    Friday, September 14, 2012 09:47 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Thanks to Tofail Ahmed for showing the courage to assert his dignity and self respect. The party chief needed such a message that in democracy she must and should not take every body for granted. Tofail Ahmed has set an exemplary precedence. I congratulate him for his courage and self respect.

  • babu dipu
    Friday, September 14, 2012 01:53 PM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    As the picture to the article clearly conveys; no one wants to board Sheikh Hasina’s sinking ship. History may repeat itself and perhaps Hasina may be removed from the political scene in a similar fashion to which her father was removed. Brutal dictators should take a lesson from the Arab spring.

  • Raja
    Friday, September 14, 2012 09:56 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    These are definite signs of desperation. The prime minister is not in a position to understand the prevailing situation. Small band-aids like the expansion of the cabinet with little known and controversial characters will do no good to the people.

  • Mazharul Islam
    Friday, September 14, 2012 09:58 AM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Congratulations to Tofail and Menon for declining to be ministers.

    Friday, September 14, 2012 12:01 PM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Very cunning they are. They just refused to board a sinking boat.

  • Fuad Hasan
    Friday, September 14, 2012 01:56 PM GMT+06:00 (177 weeks ago)

    Both of them are intelligent and have no greed for power and they do not want to take the responsibility of others failure. They clearly knows that it is too little time to make things right. Anyway, they deserve comments for their wisdom.





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