The Prime Minister's Office has sent a rejoinder to the editor's note published on January 25 headlined “PM pointer to Star's 'ill motive' and our humble reply”. Below we publish the full text of the rejoinder and our reply:
Attention has been drawn to the Prime Minister's Office of the reply of the Daily Star's ill motive as it has been termed and published in the Daily Star on Friday, January 25, 2013. The PMO feels that the misgivings and misleading reply might create an impression in the public mind undermining the level of alertness and efficiency of the officials of the Prime Minister's office in presenting different papers and the course of events to the Hon'ble Prime Minister on time.
2. In the so called humble reply the respected editor of the Daily Star quoted the statement of the Hon'ble Prime Minister in the Press Conference held on 23.01.2013 in the PMO “as to how a particular daily newspaper could publish the letter sent to the Anti-Corruption Commission before the Commission, the Ministry of Finance or I got it”.
3. In the opinion of the editor the letter the Prime Minister meant was the letter dated 9 January 2013, sent to the ACC by Luis Moreno Ocampo, Chief of the World Bank's external panel following his team's visit to Dhaka. Editor of the Daily Star also quoted the Prime Minister saying that there was an understanding between the external panel and the Anti Corruption Commission that nothing about the investigation would be disclosed.
4. The Anti Corruption Commission is fully an autonomous and independent Commission and the correspondences between the World Bank's External Panel and the ACC had to be kept confidential with a view to ensure a neutral and effective investigation process to end the stalemate for the national interest.
5. We don't question anybody's patriotism, but the way the Daily Star rejoiced its ability to obtain a confidential letter between two investigating bodies like the ACC and the World Bank's external panel and enjoyed the pleasure of publishing it by creating hindrances in the way of a successful process of investigation may hardly be appreciated. The respected editor also lamented that the respective officials of the Ministry of Finance & the PMO should have unethically got hold of those confidential letters like his staff of the Daily Star and made best use of this letter as the Daily Star has done.
6. The Publication of this confidential letter in your esteemed Newspaper has seriously impeded the process of investigation of the alleged conspiracy of corruption in the Padma Bridge Project. We appreciate that the Newspapers go for so called 'scoop' stories and it is true that often good investigative journalism helps the country's interest. But in this particular case it was neither a scoop nor investigative journalism. What the reporter did was simply procuring copy of a highly confidential correspondence between two independent agencies one international (World Bank's External Panel) and the other national (Anti-Corruption Commission). The Prime Minister's Office had no knowledge about this correspondence nor did the staff of the PMO thought it appropriate to obtain copies of such confidential correspondences. In fact, this would amount to undue interference with the affairs of ACC. The reporter of your esteemed Daily has precisely committed this unethical act only to create a sensation.
7. We acknowledge and are aware that the members of the public have the right to know facts and only the truth. The presentation of distorted pictures and half truth does not serve the interest of the public or of the nation.
8. Finally, the Prime Minister's Office would humbly request the respected editor of the Daily Star to utilise his sharp intellect for the sake of the greater national interest and not look for publishing 'scoop' stories as a stunt to create sensation.
We publish the PMO's rejoinder in full. Frankly we are at a loss to understand the reason it has been written as it does not address the point that we had written about.
At the press conference held on January 23, 2013 the PM categorically asked how The Daily Star could get a copy of the letter sent by the World Bank's independent panel to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) BEFORE the commission, the finance ministry and the PM herself got it. We showed in our reply that we did NOT, and that the ACC got it three days earlier. The conclusion is that the PM was wrongly briefed by her staff leading to considerable embarrassment to her.
With ref. to paragraph 5, where the PMO detected our “rejoice” and “pleasure” in publishing the letter is beyond our understanding. Similarly, we never wrote that “respective officials of the Ministry of Finance & the PMO should have unethically got hold of those confidential letters”. What we said was that if the PM and the Finance Ministry did not get those letters then we should not be blamed for it.
The rejoinder claims (paragraph 6), without giving any proof, that our publication of the letter “seriously impeded the process of investigation”. On the contrary, we think we have helped the process by making the letter public. It is beyond our understanding how publishing of the letter by the panel could affect investigation.
We fully agree with the PMO's assertion that “The presentation of distorted picture and half truths does not serve the interest of the public or of the nation” (paragraph 7), but how publishing the full text of the letter led to either “distortion” or “half truths” is beyond our understanding.
Readers will recall, one ACC member, referring to the letter, initially said that the WB panel was “happy” while the truth was the opposite, and it came out only after we published the letter.
We leave it to our readers to judge whether we have served the truth and public interest by publishing the letter.