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Check the cool geezers above. This is what the crazy kids are wearing these days. Adbur Rahman is clearly fond of his red and white checked gamcha/tea towel. I swear I saw him wear the same tea towel thing on the day he was on TV all day long not so long ago? Can he be forgiven for wearing the same outfit twice in public? Does it bring him luck? The court didn’t think so obviously…. And check the slightly tilted helmet. Now that is style. He was surrounded by the cool black bandana wearing posse last time too…must be some sort of private security firm he has ( or had?) or maybe a breakdance outfit?
Banga bhai - I am disappointed with. The helmet is so straight on. So last year…..
The wisdom of the leaders of the Bangladesh garment factory owners never ceases to amaze me. Mr Tipu Munshi, President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, is most reluctant aboutÂ allowing trade unionismÂ and reckons uneducated women might be “misled by trade union leaders.” And although his views are positively from the 19th century,Â his views will, astonishingly, have many supporters amongst the bhadrolok and indeed a few bhadrolok bloggers I could mention.
Monica Ali’s new book is inspired by her home in the Portugese Algarve. She say’s her success with “Brick Lane” has given her time for “truthiness” - “something that’s a good story, that “feels” right, but doesn’t correspond to reality.”
And the reality of life in the Rohingya refugee camps in the south of Bangladesh does not correspond with that which is acceptable. 21,000 people face deteriorating sanitation, health and education conditions.
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Latest update on Garment Riots:
The three BIGUF staff members i blogged about yesterday have been released along with Mishu Mushrefa (as of the evening of 25th May Bangladesh time). There has been much lobbying on their behalf including from the GAP.
Unfortunately an unknown number of workers, including union officials, remain under arrest.
International, Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation General Secretary Neil Kearney had this to say about the events of the past few days:
â€œThe police force is riddled with corruption. Investigations are used as a means of making money, with officers accepting bribes to either drop charges or fabricate them. â€œThe police are in the pay of the garment factory owners, and when workers try to organise the police often threaten that they will be â€˜caught in the cross-fireâ€™ â€“ a term commonly understood in Bangladesh to mean they will be killed by police.
â€œWorkers who are arrested face a horrendous ordeal. Torture is institutionalised, and I have heard from many workers how the threat of torture is used to extract money from detainees. Those who cannot pay are tortured with impunity and charges are fabricated against them.
It has been a tumultuous week in Bangladesh in its main industry - the garment industry. Right on cue, today, friday and rest day for some, is the 107th anniversary of a tumultuous poet. Yes its the birthday of that enigmatic man, Nazrul Islam, who in his very brief years of productivity wrote such lines as these:
“…I am weary of strife,
but I would have no rest
until the skies have ceased to ring
with the groans of the tyrant’s victims
and tyranny itself lies dead, vanquished. …”
“Break this iron-gate of the prison
Pull it down into pieces
The blood-bathed pulpit of stone
Raised for worship of the goddess of the fetters.”
For me, in bangla or english, these lines written decades ago and written against what must have seemed like an insurmountable force - British colonialism - retain their resonance and relevance. Strange indeed then to find that a two day celebration of the poet was inaugurated yesterday by PM Khaleda Zia. Beggars belief, does it not, that an institution can be so blind? Why did the Nazrul institute invite such a partisan figure to lead the celebration and allow this personality and her government to appropriate Nazrul - the people’s poet? Nazrul must be turning in his grave. And I am shaking my head in total bewilderment.
But I shouldn’t really. Our failure to internalise this poet and remember him appropriately in our lives is long standing. See for example Rumi’s interesting anecdote and some questions at Drishtipat.
Two trade union organisers and one cleaner were arrested, blind folded and severely beaten and tortured by the police according to information received by the Clean Clothes Campaign on the 24 May.
Instead of launching an immediate investigation into the root cause of the riots and measures to address them, as called for also by the ITGLWF, the government yesterday had the police arrest several union officials, either in their offices or on the road (none of them at the protests). One was released yesterday evening, but this evening (24 may) Dhaka time, BIGUF received reliable information that all three of their staff members who were arrested (two organizers and one cleaner) had been blindfolded and severely beaten and tortured by the police. The lawyer who is helping them reported that she saw them this afternoon when they were brought to court. She said they were given medical aid before they were brought to the court, and personally saw the bruises cuts. She also said that the court ordered that they remain in detention five more days for further questioning.
(BIGUF = Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation).
Suggested Action: Write to your Bangladesh Ambassador/High Commissioner expressing your concern.
May 24, 2006
Dear Ambassador/High Commissioner
I/We (my organization) am/are greatly shocked to learn that you have arrested,
beaten and tortured a number of union officials in relation to the
worker protests of the past days, which follows years of negligence of
I (my organization) call upon you to immediately release them and instead launch an investigation in the root causes of the riots focusing in particular on the following problems:
- repression of unions and failure to respect the right to organize and
to collective bargaining;
- unfair dismissals of elected worker representatives
- excessively long working hours;
- low rates of basic earnings;
- abuses in piece rate payments;
- the late payment of wages;
- the use of child labour;
- issues of structural and fire safety in the sector;
- the corrupt police practice of charge sheeting workers on the
flimsiest of evidence;
- the practice of supervisors acting as labour contractors and illegally
raking off a percentage of wages;
- the practice of using hired goons to terrorise and intimidate workers;
- the behaviour of the police and other paramilitary forces when unrest
There are dangers and opportunities for garment workers at this time. The police violence and the factory burnings and closures have brought the workers’ issues straight to the front of agenda. But how will it pan out? Unionisation is patchy. The unions that do exist are many. There is no one union, one industry scenario here - a reflection of the malaise that afflicts mass organisations in Bangladesh. They fall in line behind party politics and their own independent voices become muted or stifled and even excluded. Take a look at the list of garment worker organisations below.
What hope unity? Well they have come together before earlier this year in protest at garment worker deaths. They need to hammer home their rights at the negotiation table, if there is one, and insist that the garment owners and the government stop paying only lip service to issues of “social and environmental compliance,” in other words, to stop playing profitable games with their lives and livelihoods.
These two smug looking gentlemen - Mr Abdus Salam Murshedy,left, and Mr S M Abu Tayyab - should be ashamed of themselves.
On the world scene, and in trade fora, they portray Bangladesh as a poverty stricken nation deserving of special kid glove treatment in order to beg for free access for their garments. At home, they take the gloves off and want to employ all the repressive machinery of the state - RAB, BDR and the armed forces - and use bullets, tear gas and what have you to quell any disquiet amongst the poverty stricken people they plead for. And when the poverty stricken die or get injured, the new tactic is to blame India for fomenting trouble.
Its blowing up in their faces and the factory owners still don’t get it: pitched battles between police and garment factory workers erupted today in Savar. The workers are demanding better wages, a six-day week, a ban on forced overtime and payment of withheld wages. Read HERE and HERE
See also yesterday’s post.
Faisha gechi -meaning â€œI am scupperedâ€ - a dhakaiya pop song. Personal and social commentary and great dhaka street scenes. Check it out!
Demands for a pay rise and demands for an “end to repressions” in a garment factory in Gazipur resulted in a violent confrontation with the the management and the police. These are at best incomplete reports regarding police action against the garment workers. Read HERE and HERE
“A number of workers alleged police opened fire on them at about 2pm from inside the factory without any provocation, when the situation was getting calm.”
The sweatshop industry has a bad image. And for many a good reason. We heard some fine sounding speeches from the politicians on May Day about workers rights. I wonder what they propose to do about this latest “disaster” for the industry.
Yet another accident in a garment factory, and this time in Gazipur.
After the explosion of the machine, scared night shift workers raced to come out of the textile mill located at Kaliakoir, about 45 km north of Dhaka, resulting in injuring 22 of them.
Read some earlier stories from this year about garment factory deaths:
84 dead and counting
18 dead and counting: yet another garment factory collapses
The tactic of quelling opposition through the courts is well known in Singapore. If you are bankrupted by a defamation case or indeed sent to gaol, you are unlikely to say anything against your adversary. Singapore’s ruling party has honed this tactic to perfection.
Now Public Works Minister Mirza Abbas has taken this approach and set his sights on Prothom Alo’s editor and its publisher, Matiur Rahman and Mahfuz Anam respectively.
This is quite a frightening development and should be resisted by all valuing a free press and indeed freedom.