<%-- Page Title--%> Chintito <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 124 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

September 26, 2003

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Contradictions and Complexities in Politics

(With no reference whatsoever to Architect Robert Venturi)


To what aw-kormonyo level our civil administration has stooped to (can you even imagine?) that the prime minister of a country has to, by her direct personal intervention and order, stop demolition of a mere road divider that she considered as waste! ("PM upset, stops dismantling of divider on Airport Road", The Daily Star, September 18). In this free country I take liberty in quoting the paper, "Prime Minister Khaleda Zia expressed annoyance at such whimsical waste of public money in the name of beautification." She could not be more right.

One obviously has to give The Daily Star staff photojournalist Anisur Rahman a pat on the back for picking up the story earlier. "Perfectly functional and expensive road-dividers on Dhaka's Airport Road, installed only a few years ago, are being dismantled as part of a facelift, whereas hundreds of other roads are in desperate need of basic repair. Such a whimsical use of scarce development funds has raised questions about the wisdom of the planners." (The Daily Star Sep 14) caption for Anisur Rahman's photo)

What prompts me to pick this point this week is the 'big question'. That is: Did it not cross the mind of any in the PM's office, the concerned ministries (communication, works, local government, finance...) RAJUK, DCC, R&H, the local MP, the local ward commissioner, whosever, that the recurring of the three B's (building, breaking and building) was a shameful waste in a country that was up to the waist of Micahel Jordan in debt. That means most of us are sunk up to our nose, or more.

Thankfully, when questioned by the justifiably upset Prime Minister at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (there could not be a better forum for questioning waste) about what was going on, why the road-divider on the Airport Road was being dismantled, the astute Communications Minister used his intelligence and said he knew nothing. Thankfully! Otherwise it would have been doubly embarrassing had the honourable minister of a country had in his full knowledge the three B's of every road divider in the country. Kudos to you for very smart thinking! But watch your step, sir, for they might start digging anywhere anytime anyhow anyway.

Unfortunately, the works about which Minister Nazmul Huda denied knowledge and expressed ignorance was being carried out by the ministry of which he was the minister. Oops! The Prime Minister was "surprised at the reply", and she can be rest assured so are the countrymen.

"Khaleda then asked Huda to accompany her to see whether the road-divider was being dismantled or not and went straight to the Airport Road. She found the divider was being demolished and asked the minister to explain the logic behind such an act, an aide to her said", reports The Daily Star.

We are happy to note that the authorities soon after removed workers, construction materials and vehicles from the site. Nobody deserves "a well done" because all concerned should have seen the waste before the Prime Minister did.

It is of course contradictory that we expect a minister to go blank about a mere road divider, but again demand him to be knowledgeable about it because his own ministry was involved.
Agreed, but that was not the only contradiction in the press last week.

Take for instance the Israeli government's most absurd decision to "kill" or "expel" Palestine President Yasser Arafat. Immediately after this most bizarre announcement by what must be insane people, it was not, as expected, the Jamat-e-Islami or the Islami Oikyo Jote which took to the streets of Dhaka in protest, but the left leaning 11-parties, politicians who apparently have nothing to do with Middle-East Muslims. You can gawk at that but that is the complexity in today's politics.

Even India, which even three or so days earlier hosted warmly the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quicker on its feet than most Arab and other Muslim countries. I hate to point out the time the bureaucracy of this "moderate Muslim" country took to announce its stand alongside the symbol of not only Muslim opposition to tyranny, but a people's brave and defiant struggle to freedom against calculated repression.

Consider also the supposedly "scrupulous" West's hushed reaction to the Israeli "fatwa" that Arafat should be killed or expelled to solve the longstanding Palestine-Israeli issue. Laughable at best! Had this arrogant death sentence been announced by someone else, say from the poor/Muslim/non-white (take your pick) country, the West would have condemned it as fatwabaz in the strongest of words, and threatened to impose economic sanctions, and offered the unfortunate victim sympathy, protection and asylum; all three, if you remember Salman Rushdie. Unfortunately for Arafat, he fits into all three of poor/Muslim/non-white. That's bad at a time like this when the world is up to its waist in contradictions.

If that was not enough for your weekly dose of contradictions, take another headline in The Daily Star, "Altaf sings cop success." (September 15 ) The story refers to the honourable Home Minister, who praised the police as "efficient, honest and patriotic", but frankly speaking I never knew he could sing.


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