Monday, March 5, 2007

'Banker to poor’ Nobel Peace prize laureate formed political party

Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace laureate known as the “banker to the poor”, is to form a political party to try to rescue Bangladesh from a political crisis that has raised the spectre of military rule.

The founder of Grameen Bank raised hopes for a new era of democratic rule in an open letter to the Bangladeshi people exactly a month after the army forced the President to cancel an election and impose a state of emergency.

A military-backed caretaker government took power on January 12, promising to clean up its notoriously corrupt politics and to organise elections as soon as possible, but it has yet to set a date, raising fears of a return to formal military rule in the world’s third-largest Muslim country.
Dr Yunus, 66, who won the Nobel prize for his work of granting small loans to very poor people, lives an austere life in Dhaka, wearing clothes made of a simple cotton cloth that he designed to help poor textile workers. He asked Bangladeshis to send him letters, e-mails and text messages advising him how to build a “Bangladesh we all dream of”.

He said: “The way the present caretaker Government is trying to create an acceptable atmosphere by carrying out necessary reforms has made me optimistic, along with all citizens of the country. In this situation, I feel it with my heart that I should, showing due respect to the people’s expectation of me, participate in the mission of taking the nation to the height it deserves . . . I know that joining politics is to become controversial. I am ready to take that risk.”
His announcement offered the first real prospect of a democratic alternative to the “battling begums” — the two women who have dominated Bangladeshi politics for the past 16 years.

(By Jerome Page)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Expert body on voter ID card submits report - Cost estimated at Tk 385 crore

An expert committee has estimated that preparation of voter identity cards will cost about Taka 385 crore.The eight-member committee, constituted by the government to examine the proposals for introduction of voter identity cards, on Sunday submitted its report estimating a budget of Taka 385 crore for the ID cards which would be bio-metric and laminated.

According to sources close to the expert committee, the report recommended for creating a database of voter ID cards on a priority basis which could later be expanded to a national database for distribution of national identity cards.

The cost could be reduced by Taka 50 crore if a list with photographs is prepared and cards are not provided immediately, the report says.The report suggested that the ministry of home affairs could be the authority responsible for maintaining the database—a job so far done by the Election Commission.

The expert committee handed over the report to science and ICT adviser Tapan Chowdhury. The committee prepared the report incorporating all the ‘best proposals’ made by different institutions including the army, BUET, BASIS, BSC and a number of NGOs .

The committee, headed by Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, comprised secretary to the ministry of science and ICT Wahid-uz-Zaman, IT specialist Mostafa Jabbar, executive director of Bangladesh Computer Council and representatives from BUET, army and ministries concerned. It was formed on February 1 to conduct a feasibility study on the preparation of the voter ID cards.

Drive against corruption will be conducive to fair polls : Chief Adviser

Chief Adviser of the Caretaker government Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed on Sunday said drive against corruption will create a favourable atmosphere of election and at the same time will help bring economic benefits to people.

The government is determined to check corruption, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed said and called upon all to cooperate in rooting out the menace from the society.Corruption was spread out everywhere and it made lives of common people vulnerable, he added. The Chief Adviser made the remarks while exchanging views with high civil and military officials of Barisal division at the local circuit house. Previously he exchanged views with divisional level government officials at Chittagong.

Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed asked the officials to take effective steps so that price of the essentials can be kept at a tolerable level. Price level can be controlled by ensuring smooth supply system, he said and added vigilance should be kept so that the dishonest businessmen cannot manipulate the market. He also asked the officials to be alert so that the genuine businessmen are not being harassed during the drive of the law enforcers.

The Chief Adviser directed the government officials of all levels to discharge their duties with utmost sincerity, neutrality and responsibility rising above fear and intimidation. "You are the officials of the republic and will perform your work as per rules under the constitution and not being loyal to any party or opinion" he added.

Terming the government officials as servant of people, he also asked them to work with a mentality of service. Referring to various reforms undertaken by the government including the Election Commission and Anti- Corruption Commission, Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed said these are aimed at holding a free and fair election.