Unfinished Swadhinata Stambha opens today | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 07, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 07, 2011

Unfinished Swadhinata Stambha opens today


The exhibits are being put on display at the underground museum of Swadhinata Stambha complex at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital yesterday. The government opens the complex today. Photo: SK Enamul Haq

The government opens for public today the much-talked-about Swadhinata Stambha complex at historic Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital without instituting an authority to look after it or completing much of its work.
State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Captain (retd) ABM Tajul Islam is scheduled to open the Swadhinata Stambha (independence memorial). It includes an underground museum, terracotta murals on heroes and events of the Liberation War, a 2000-seat auditorium, an open air theatre and a water body which were completed six years ago under the first phase of the project.
However, the ministry has yet to set up the office of a curator for the museum or recruit the staff and security personnel to run the 67-acre memorial complex, said Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, who headed the project's experts' committee but resigned recently.
Prof Chowdhury said collecting the exhibits of the Liberation War to be put on display in the museum also remains a far cry.
Under the first phase, the then Awami League government built the VIP and Service Blocks and most of the walkways, water body, mural works and development of south plaza and marble works.
"We have not instituted any separate authority to take care of the memorial," State Minister Tajul Islam said.
The Public Works Department (PWD) would look after the civil works, National Museum will provide services for the underground museum and Bangla Academy for the open theatre, he said.
The experts' committee recommended an independent authority to run the museum, look after the entire memorial complex and conduct salute and guard of honour to the visits paid by high-profile foreign dignitaries, as the Kemal Ataturk Museum in Ankara showcases life of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the Turkish history, he added.
Shahbuddin Ahmed, executive engineer of PWD and manager of the project, said they were putting some photographs on the Liberation War to prepare the museum.
The proposed 150-foot glass tower of the memorial is under construction and the ministry intends to complete it by July next year at a cost of Tk 137 crore, said the minister.
The Swadhinata Stambha including the proposed tower is to commemorate the decisive public speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Bangladesh's independence.
The underground museum still remains an auditorium, said Prof Muntasir Mamoon, another member of the committee, who also resigned, adding, it has not yet been prepared as a museum and the terracotta work is still incomplete.
"All our recommendations and plans were aimed at making the memorial a symbol of our national aspiration. It will not achieve objectives of the master plan unless it is followed properly," he said.
Most of the experts' committee members, who had been devotedly working since 1996 on the project to make it a symbol of national identity and history of liberation, are absent in the scene of opening.
Six eminent personalities of the committee including Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury and Prof Muntasir Mamoon, architects Samsul Wares, Mobassher Hossain and Rabiul Husein and artist Hashem Khan resigned more than a month ago over a derogatory comment made by the state minister.
A High Court bench in July 2009, following a writ petition, directed the government to first identify the historic sites including Bangabandhu's March 7 public address and December 16 surrender of Pakistani occupation forces and protect those and remove any obstructions in doing so.
However, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police control room, Shahbagh Police Station, Shishu Park and scores of flower shops are still within the master plan area of the project, about which the government still sits idle.
The exact sites where Bangladesh's independence was mentioned and Pakistani forces surrendered are now within the enclosed area of Shishu Park, said Prof Mamoon. The mural works as per the original plan, entry gates and parking place are still incomplete, he added.
The Race Course Gallery built by the Nawabs of Dhaka will remain as a heritage.
The minister said the Shishu Park would be relocated preferably to Ramna Park but police presence within the master plan area is necessary for security reasons.
"We'll file an appeal to review the HC directions seeking certain changes," he said, adding that they would complete all the unfinished works by July next.

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