imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Friday
Jan 27,2006

Check the treatment meted out to the EU Troika and compare it to the reatment given to the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca ( a former CIA agent of 15 years standing). The EU Troika go to Dhaka and try to speak as constructively as possible. In an earlier post I described how they raised the issue of an independent election commission and the need for politics to become less confrontational. They got snubbed by Khaleda Zia and the Election Commissioner. Indeed the latter pretended to be in hospital….Now when Rocca arrives the first thing she does is say that Bangladesh is not only a “functioning democracy but a shining role model of Muslim democracy.” And what is she primarilly referring to in that phrase: yup the “anti-terrorism efforts” of the Bangladesh government. Bangladesh is a partner in the fight against terror and all that crap. She hits the mark and she is feted. She has said nothing yet about the election commission and its need to be independent. Doesn’t even matter if you are in bed with the fundamentalist Jamaat.

Talking of fundies. Notice all the acres of newsprint given over to the Hamas victory. And the Israeli hawks see this as yet another opportunity to shut down the already mangled peace process. If the Afrikaners in South Africa could sit down with the ANC - why can’t these zionists sit with these fundies? The transition in South Africa showed that a state at war with neighbouring countires, a state facing defiance and violence within the country and a state responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of people can still move on and within a relatively short time become a country that isn’t plagued by terrorism - state terrorism or the “terrorism” of those who are desperate and without hope.

European Union in Dhaka

Wednesday
Jan 25,2006

So the European Union have sent three wisemen to Dhaka. They are in Bangladesh to educate the various stakeholders there on how to wipe their political bottoms, and to generally poke their noses here and there. Their meeting with the foreign ministry has hit the papers. It went something like this: “Now, children, the Independent Election Commission cannot erm..be controlled by the Prime Minister’s office” said one of the three Europeans. This must have seemed strange to the assembled Bangladeshi officials. I mean the PM is the top official in the country and why shouldn’t she meddle in the election process? The people gave her the mandate to manipulate things, no? And so it was that Morshed Khan, the Foreign Minister, shot back : “We feel that Election Commission is functioning independently and three elections were held consecutively under the present structure of the electoral process.” To translate for you, he was saying this to the troika: “Oh really good sirs? But it has been ok so far. I am Foreign Minister after all?”

And there is no fooling the three wise men: Commenting on the marginalisation of parliament as the arena of debate, they re-iterated its primary importance over and above confrontational politics in the streets through hartals and demonstrations etc. Great. I am sure everything will be hunky dory from now.

Europe is a big trading partner for Bangladesh. Garments, prawns (over chemicalised for sure) and the like …..and therefore one hopes that Bangladesh takes notes of the concerns expressed by these guys. But don’t hold your breath.

Monday
Jan 23,2006

A very controversial “elite” police outfit was created in Bangladesh in 2004 ostensibly to do something about the law and order breakdown. It is called the Rapid Action Battalion or RAB. Human Rights lawyers and international organisations have been worried about the number of deaths in custody and/or so-called crossfire incidents resulting out of RAB deployment. Here is a BBC report about it. The Foreign Minister Kim Howells has talked about it in parliament a few days ago. The European Parliament condemned (pdf file) it last year. Human Rights Watch January 2006  (pdf file) also talks about RAB.

My interest is elsewhere. My interest is in what they wear. They are dressed from head to toe in black. And their headgear is in the best tradition of Ninjas. And my question is why? Take a look at their web site. It is slow loading so you might want to look at a screen shot below instead
RAB web site screenshot

Does this remind you of an elite agency or do you feel, at least from the flash banner at the top, that this is a shoot-em up Nintendo game site or some sort of action man site? And the site itself is interactive (Live chat, feedback forms etc) - nothing like it exists for other government agencies in Bangladesh. And you have to ask yourself one thing - “why?” Where did the inspiration come from? Is it just bad concept design by the web agency given the job and an unsophisticated commissioning officer who okayed it? Or is there more to it? Surely the ninja bandana suggests a sustained effort in the aesthetics of this? And not just an unwitting outcome? Does this garb, and all the urban legends, help to depoliticise this creature RAB in the eyes of the citizenry? Certainly the middle classes have swallowed hook, line and sinker the crossfire stories…and in anycase, they say, the criminals would get off scot-free if they were given over to the judiciary…

Bangladesh is not unique. It seems paramilitary or elite forces need to take a beefcake approach to things. Take a gander at these South Koreans….

South Koreans

Wednesday
Jan 18,2006

George Soros
Three cheers for liberal billionaire George Soros. He goes to Sing and he speaks his mind: Singapore does not qualify as an open socieity. Read here.