Let Chittagong be Chittagong | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 04, 2010

Let Chittagong be Chittagong


Photo: Raj Anikat/ drik news

THE immediate past Mayor of the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC), Al-Haj A.B.M. Mohiuddin Chowdhury is one of the most dynamic and performing mayor the city ever had, with the exception the of legendary late Nur Ahmed Chairman (He was Chairman of Chittagong Municipality for 33 years till he took voluntary retirement.) Mohiuddin has innovative ideas that he tries to put into action, but sometimes goes overboard and gives birth to unnecessary controversies.
Mohiuddin was the first elected mayor of CCC, preceded by two appointed mayors -- Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury of Jatiyo Party and Mir Mohammed Nasiruddin of BNP. In 1994, Nasiruddin contested the election with the full support of BNP, the party in power, but lost by about sixteen thousand votes.
The second election was held in January of 2000, which was boycotted by BNP on the usual pretext that the election would not be free and fair. Mohiuddin was given a walk over.
The third one, held in May 2005, was a sort of block buster in the election history of Chittagong, as the entire government, led by the then Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, threw all its might behind Nasiruddin, with Tarique Zia establishing a base camp in Chittagong for about a week. Mir Nasir lost the election by 91,000 votes.
The fourth mayoral election is scheduled for June 17. After the successful holding of the national election in December 2008, and a few by-elections, holding of the CCC election should not be too challenging.
To begin with, the CCC election rules have been made more stringent and binding on the candidates, and so far there has not been any major allegation about the candidates bending those rules. The signs are good so far, and the five million residents of the port city hope that the atmosphere will not worsen.
A.B.M. Mohiuddin Chowdhury of Nagorik Committee is the incumbent president of Mohanagar (Metropolitan) Awami League and the party has announced its all out support for him. BNP failed to field its own candidate and has decided to back Monzur ul Alam Monzu of Nagarik Andolon, an outfit primarily consisting of Jamaat intellectuals.
Afsaruddin Ahmed, the lone Jamaat candidate, has withdrawn from the race in favour of Monzur ul Alam Monzu, known to be a soft-spoken, decent and philanthropic person who was an ardent follower of Mohiuddin Chowdhury before the army-backed caretaker government took over in 2006.
When Mohiuddin Chowdhury was arrested on March 7, 2007, Monzu was appointed the caretaker mayor. Since then, the relationship soured between the two and BNP took advantage of the situation and roped in Monzu on their side. The failure of BNP to field their own candidate was not unexpected because of the legendary inner feuding of BNP leaders in Chittagong.
This was always a strength of their arch rival Awami League in Chittagong, who took the opportunity to capitalise on it. According to political analysts the failure of BNP to field its own candidate in this election was a proof of its political bankruptcy.
As of now, none of the candidates has presented a manifesto for the voters. In 2005, Mohiuddin Chowdhury declared a forty point manifesto, containing a few which did not fall within the purview of the CCC (like extending the rail link from Dohazari to Cox's Bazar). Insiders say that this time they will be more careful and stick to only those that are achievable and which will benefit the city dwellers.
However, Mohiuddin has reiterated that he will transform Chittagong into Singapore. This is meaningless to one who was born and brought up in Chittagong and has seen it being systematically destroyed since the fifties in the name of urbanisation and industrialisation.
No other city anywhere has industrial zones all around the, and nowhere were city developers so heartless and ruthless in destroying the natural and scenic beauty of this enchanting city.
Chittagong's location is no less strategic than Singapore's, but national policy makers never realised it and failed to make any use of this. Ironically, there has been too much of politicking with the port, the lifeline of the country. Yes, everyone wants Chittagong to be economically developed with all necessary infrastructures in place, civic amenities ensured, water bodies preserved, canals excavated, and the ever disappearing hills and greenery protected.
The establishing of a children's park in front of the majestic Circuit House in the city centre was the most villainous act in recent times. Who needs a swimming pool by bifurcating the historic Laldighi is still a mystery.
The government has declared that Chittagong port will be a transit hub of the region; a gateway serving Eastern India, Bhutan, Nepal and Southern China. It is a landmark decision of the government, though it has been made into an election issue by the BNP while trying to promote its backed mayoral candidate Monzu with the archaic slogan that once the port facilities are given to others (read India) we will lose our sovereignty.
Not discounting Monzur ul Alam Monzu's capability in giving a good fight in the coming election, Mohiuddin Chowdhury is standing on the threshold of being elected the mayor of Chittagong for the fourth consecutive term. If this happens it will be unparallel, though he still needs to beat the record of the legendary Nur Ahmed Chairman.
Whoever wins this election Chittagong should remain as Chittagong with all its unique features with the planned development of the city undertaken. As Chittagonians we want this city to be a model city for others in the region, even surpassing Singapore within the shortest possible time. What Chittagong possess, Singapore does not. It has its own heart, spirit and soul.
Let us not forget, Singapore is city of migrants. Huan Tsang, poet and traveller, described Chittagong as "a sleeping beauty emerging from mist and water." We may not have that Chittagong back but let us save what is left. Let Chittagong be Chittagong. Long Live Chittagong.

Abdul Manna is a former Vice Chancellor of Chittagong University and currently teaches at ULAB, Dhaka.

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