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General News

Monday, August 25, 2003

Compiled by SDNP

Head lines

Plan to raise highway police

PM presides over high-level meet

UNB, DHAKA, The Independent

The government plans to raise Highway Patrol Police (HPP) under the Communications Ministry to ensure safety and security on highways.

A proposal for constituting the new police force was discussed at a high-level meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, at the International Conference Centre yesterday afternoon.

Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, Communications Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda and State Minister Salauddin Ahmed, PM’s Political Secretaries Harris Chowdhury and Mosaddek Ali, Principal Secretary Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and senior officials were present at the meeting.

At the outset of the meeting, Secretary of the Communications Ministry, Syed Rezaul Hayat briefed on the activities of the Ministry.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, during the discussion, stressed building a well-coordinated and balanced communications network to ease the sufferings of common people.

She laid importance on undertaking "short-term projects on priority basis to reduce the sufferings of the people and draw long-term projects for national development".

The Prime Minister directed the authorities concerned to bring in coordination among projects of all development sectors in the light of people’s requirements and make those cost-effective.

She particularly mentioned quick implementation and checking wastage in implementing the projects.

The meeting was held to review the activities of the Communications Ministry, taking a close look at the progress of the programmes and projects as well as future plans for the sector.

Begum Zia asked the officials to give emphasis on poverty alleviation in drawing projects. She also told them to ensure tree planting in open spaces on both sides of the roads and pisciculture in the roadside canals.

The Prime Minister particularly asked the officials to take up programme for immediate reconstruction of Mothbaria-Barguna (Rajapur-Kathalia-Bamna-Patharghata) road, one of her election commitments.

The meeting emphasised taking up user-friendly, environment-friendly and long-lasting projects.

The meeting was informed that an Accident Research Centre, under the supervision of the Communications Ministry, had been set up at the BUET.

Besides, an Advanced Training and Driving Centre has also been established.

The meeting noted that six buses exclusively for female passengers were now plying the capital’s streets. And two-stroke three-wheelers have been replaced by CNG auto-rickshaws, improving the air quality of the city.

Other remarkable developments in the communications sector that came up for discussion include opening of Bangladesh-UK Friendship Bridge at Bhairab, starting construction of flyover at Mohakhali, widening of Dhaka-Chittagong Highway, and construction of Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Beach Road.

Stopping extortion at bus terminals, setting up of Dual-gauge line on the Joydevpur-Dhaka railway line and feasibility study of proposed Padma Bridge also came up.

The meeting also discussed the construction of Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar-Yangon Road that will link Bangladesh with the international roadmap.

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Faruque’s removal

Protest rallies in all dists by teachers today

STAFF REPORTER, The Independent

The Jatiya Shikkhak Karmochari Front will organise rallies and processions in all districts of the country today (Monday) protesting the sudden removal of Prof Quazi Faruque Ahmed by the authorities of the National University (NU) from the post of Principal of Sheikh Borhanuddin Postgraduate College.

The front leaders at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday announced its programmes as mark of protest against the decision and also to create pressure for immediate implementation of their eight-point demands.

Leaders of the front said that a protest paper on violation of teachers’ right would be submitted to the Vice Chancellor of the National University on August 27 seeking implementation of their demands on August 28. The front is also going to organise a rally of oppressed teachers and employees in the city on September 7.

Prof Sheikh Amanullah, co-chairman of the front read out the written statement at the conference.

Leaders of the front said that the Inter-Board Coordination Council recently took decision to increase education and examination fee without considering the financial capacities of students and guardians. They urged government not to increase sufferings of teachers and employees by creating illegal pressure on them.

The front leaders said about 2000 teachers and employees lost their jobs throughout the country and about 500 cases are pending in the court in this regard. They also said that the ongoing movement of the teachers and the employees would not stop without immediate reinstallation of Prof Quazi Faruque Ahmed, Secretary General of Bangladesh Federation of Teachers’ Associations.

Among others Mohammad Shahjahan, Azizul Islam, Prof Asadul Huq, Abdur Rahshid, Abdus Sattar, Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury, Mosharaf Hossain, Mohammad Ali Chowdhury, Abdul Quaium and M Arzu attended the conference.

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US envoy told of govt stand on gas export

Saifur denies pressure from Washington

STAFF REPORTER, The Independent

Newly appointed US Ambassador Harry K Thomas Jr yesterday broached the issue of gas export through pipeline when he called on Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman at the latter’s office.

After an hour-long closed door meeting, Saifur told waiting newsmen that the ambassador raised the issue of export of gas in line with the discussions initiated by US Secretary of State Colin Powell during his recent visit to Bangladesh.

The Finance Minister said that the government had not deviated from its policy of exporting gas if there was an exportable surplus. The Energy Ministry was now in the process of assessing the actual gas reserve, but the final decision would be taken by the cabinet on the basis of final assessment on the domestic demand and exportable surplus.

Saifur said there was no pressure from the American side to export gas. " They simply made the suggestion but it is wholly up to us whether we follow it or not."

The US envoy said they had discussed the issue of gas but did not elaborate.

Thomas proposed to cooperate with Bangladesh in upgrading the law enforcing agencies, specially police force, meeting sources said.

The envoy told newsman that the USA was keen to cooperate with Bangladesh in improving its economy. "We discussed the areas of economic cooperation as both the countries were tested friends of each other ".

The Minister said that the USA also offered to cooperate with Bangladesh in reforming the police force if the country so wanted. The minister hoped that during the tenure of Thomas the US-Bangladesh ties would be further strengthened.

They also discussed the issue of good governance and law and order and duty- free access of Bangladeshi products to the US market.

Agencies add: Harry K Thomas said the US government was committed to work for boosting Bangladesh’s economy, besides contributing to its reforms programmes.

" We want to find ways how we can help the people of Bangladesh in improving the economy," he told newsmen while leaving the Finance Minister's office.

Saifur Rahman praised the new envoy and said he had met him and his ailing spouse during their recent visit to Washington.

Referring to mutuality of interests of both sides, the Finance Minister said the US government had always lent tremendous support to Bangladesh on financial issues and in various other international fora. 

He said the US cooperation in monetary and fiscal issues is good. At the IMF and World Bank meetings, the US representatives give strong support to Bangladesh's cause. "They have a good impression about us and also have good relations," he said in this connection.

" We want to continue the excellent relations and take it deeper," Saifur said.

Export of certain amount of the natural gas is a longstanding demand of the international oil companies exploring hydrocarbons in Bangladesh, and also of the donors, for the desired returns on their investments.

The government owes them around 75 million US dollars in arrears for the gas it buys from them under the production-sharing contracts with the IOCs.

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‘Disabled population to be turned into nat’l resource’

World Special Olympics medallists accorded reception

STAFF REPORTER,The Independent

Thirty intellectually disabled athletes who won medals in the World Special Olympics held in Dublin in Ireland last June, were accorded a special reception yesterday by the National Forum of Organisations Working with the Disabled (NFOWD).

Held in the SWID Bangladesh Auditorium at Iskaton Garden, the reception was marked with jubilation of the mentally retarded boys and girls who had brought laurels for their motherland.

Minister of Social Welfare Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid addressed the occasion as chief guest and Secretary of the Ministry AM Abdul Jabbar was present as special guest. Director General of Social Welfare Murtaza Hossain Munsi spoke as guest of honour and president of NFOWD Khandoker Zahirul Alam presided over the function.

"The present government is pledged-bound to mobilise the disabled population of the country and explore their inner resources as national wealth. The government has no prejudice towards the disabled people of the country rather it seeks to integrate them in the mainstream development process," the Minister said.

Special guest, Secretary AM Abdul Jabbar said, "Parents, teachers and instructors of these unfortunate children are entitled to the credit for this extra-ordinary achievement first of all. We thank all those attempting to present a happy and beautiful life to the disabled."

NFOWD chief Alam said, "When the so-called able athletes are returning home empty-handed from Olympics and other international sporting events, the astonishing performance of the mentally retarded and other disabled boys and girls in the Special Olympics is remarkable."

He also suggested the Ministry of Social Welfare to work with the Sports Ministry to organise more sporting events for the disabled children at the grass-root levels.

Later the Minister handed over crests to the successful athletes. The winners are: Nipa Bose and Salma Akter (two gold medals each), Ali Asgar, Syeed Gaus, Shaibal Khan, Silvia Rahman and Kazi Ehsanul Haque (one gold medal each), players of the unbeaten champion Football team (eight gold medals), Ashraful Alam (one silver), Mukta Khandoker (one silver and one bronze), Rebecca Sultana Liza (one silver), Anjali Rani (one silver and one bronze), Rumana Salam (one silver), Tariqul Islam (one silver) and Abu Ashraf Sarker (one silver).

"I feel proud of my son Shafique Ahmed, member of the unbeaten champion Football team of the country. He is twenty eight years old," said Shahnoor Morshed mother of Shafique.

"I have another daughter who is also intellectually disabled. She has been married and has become mother of a normal child. I would soon arrange a bride also for my son," said Shahnoor.

Parents and relatives of the disabled athletes expressed their satisfaction at the reception hosted for their wards.

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WB urged to reconsider its Tribal Dev pogramme

STAFF REPORTER, The Independent

The Adviser to the Prime Minister for Primary and Mass Education Prof Jahanara Begum has called upon the World Bank to revisit its approach to the Tribal Development Plan (2004-09).

The adviser was critical of the World Bank’s attempt to push for a new tribal development plan, saying the multilateral lender was trying to create a ‘sharp division’ between the hill people and the non-tribal Bangladeshis.

Addressing a workshop on "Tribal Development Plan" organised by the Ministry of Primary Education in the LGED auditorium, she said the WB has suggested separate primary education programme for the tribal people. This donor recipe would undermine the government’s efforts to ensure universal primary education, she said.

The government has taken up a multi-donor-funded 6-year programme titled "Second Education Development Programme (PEDP-II)" involving Taka 15,000 crore, mostly funded by the WB. The other donors for the project include ADB, NORAD and CIDA.

Prof Jahanara said, "Though the culture and language of the tribal people are different from those of the mainland Bangladeshis, their national identity is the same. So there is no scope of such sharp demarcation."

Responding to an observation of WB representative Nilufar Ahmad, the Adviser said it was not possible on the part of the government to publish supplementary education materials for each tribal group in their respective dialects.

"We’ve not yet been able to provide adequate facilities to ensure education of the disabled persons," she said, adding that a separate education formula for the tribal segment was also contrary to the constitution. It is the disabled people who deserve special provisions in the area of education, she observed and said, "indigenous and tribal people are part of our society."

In her intervention, Secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Prof Tahmina Hossain also dismissed the donor-dictated programme on tribal education and reiterated the government’s commitment to providing education to all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and other considerations.

The workshop was addressed, among others, by Secretary of the Ministry of CHT Affairs Syed Mustaque, DG Primary Education AMM Islam, Deputy Chief of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Altaf Hossain and Secretary General of Bangladesh Adibasi Forum Sanjib Drong.

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Double-whammy for some launch disaster victims

STAFF REPORTER, The Independent

It was a special day for Farid, Jharna, Sabuj and Skhawat Mia as they enjoyed three good meals yesterday thanks the Nirapad Noupath Bastabayan Jote, an NGO, which brought them to Dhaka from Lalmohon, Bhola. They are the children of people who lost their lives in the launch disaster in Chandpur on July 8.

In addition to the orphaned children, Maqsuda Begum (35) and Fatema (35), two housewives who lost their husbands in the launch disaster of July 8, described their sufferings at a press briefing at the auditorium of Dhaka Reporters’ Unity. Nirapad Noupath Bastabayan Jote, an NGO formed by the concerned people of 18 coastal districts after the disastrous launch accident, organised the press conference.

Maqsuda, a landless resident of Lalmohon, along with her four children has been passing her days in utter distress after her husband Zahidul Islam perished in the launch disaster. She has no means of supporting the children as she is a pauper.

To add to her misery, she is now being asked to repay in installments Tk 4,000 borrowed by her husband from an NGO, Coast Trust, to run a petty business in his native town.

The children of the launch victims’ families who accompanied their mothers enjoyed snacks of apples, cakes and soft drinks perhaps for the first time in their lives in the air -conditioned auditorium of DRU. Some of the victims said that they came to Dhaka as the NGO workers pledged handsome financial compensation from the government.

"My parents and father and mother in-laws are not alive and I have no means to earn my livelihood. My eldest son is only 14 years old. I do not know how I will survive," Maqsuda said in an emotion choked voice.

Fatema lost her husband Azizol and daughter Lima in the launch accident. Jharna’s mother and sister died in the accident leaving her an orphan as her father died about three years ago. Eight year old boy Farid said, the launch accident snatched away his mother and sister.

NGO representatives Nurul Alam, Tushar Rahman, S M Saidur Rahman, Aminur Rahman Babul said that the government must introduce life insurance scheme for the launch passengers. They also criticised the government and said that some fund was raised after the launch disaster, but the victims were not given the money. They demanded amendment to the existing law regarding compensation to the launch victims.

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