imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for July, 2006

Jul 31,2006

Yes Ten years ago on April 18, Israelis massacred 106 people in this same village in Lebanon.  There are many graphic images of the carnage in Qana that day all those years ago and video too. I feel totally emotionally overwhelmed and unable to provide the links.

In Dhaka, State Minister for Expatriate Welfare, Lutfor Rahman Khan Azad received returnees from Lebanon. This is an indication of the focus the government is giving to this crisis. Can you imagine a state minister receiving migrant workers - mostly labourers and domestic help - in any other context?  One of the returnees said that Bangladeshis in Lebanon were passing their time in great panic and uncertainty.

Jul 28,2006

Zara in Glasgow

Zara is leading a new voluntary relief scheme in Bangladesh. Read below. Above pic: A Zara outlet in Glasgow and an over-sized person.

First some news of another fire. Yes indeed. A fire has engulfed a garment factory in Pallabi, Dhaka. No casualties are reported. Fires happen routinely in the poor condtions of the Bangladeshi garment industry. The owners jump up and down and cry “conspiracy” from time to time especially when workers are involved in any kind of agitation that results in fire or damage. However it is patently clear to everyone the the physical, financial and human losses are incurred routinely because of owner negligence and flouting of basic health and safety norms and conditions.

Oh and not just fires. There are factory collapses too. Anyone remember that Bunuel film where the voiceover says “And sometimes on sundays…” and the shot cuts to a collapsing building? I think L’age d’or or Un chien Andalou, I can’t remember. Yes it is as surreal and absurd as that. Garment factories collapse - its a given. But the results are not hilarious as in the film. About 15 months ago there was a major collapse at the Spectrum-Shahriyar factory. Sixty four people were killed, more than seventy injured and hundreds of workers were left jobless as a result of the disaster. Since then various stakeholders have been trying to set up a Voluntary Relief Scheme for the affected workers -

a transparent trust fund involving all companies and Bangladeshi partners and that includes not only lump-sum payments BUT also pensions based on calculations that take wages, family composition and injury into account.

As far as I know this would be an industry first in Bangladesh - indeed in any industry in the country.

Inditex - you probably know it as the high street fashion shop Zara - has taken the lead on this and hopes to have the scheme in operation by September 1. The Clean Clothes Campaign are urging companies sourcing from the factory to join the scheme.

Jul 27,2006

for battered Lebanon, from the government of Bangladesh and of course solidarity.

And then you get the other type of help. The type of help which extends support to american war policy but pretends to be with the people of Palestine and Lebanon. Step forward: Saudi Arabia.

And about 30 miles from where I am sitting, American planes are carrying bombs to Israel. Margaret Beckett has finally found a convenient issue to sound indignant about. Convenient because it sounds as if she is criticising Uncle Same but in reality this has little or no bearing on the war.

And don’t be fooled by Kim Howells criticising Israel. We have seen it all before with David Mellor of the Tories. It is a ruse. Nothing else. If your criticism is real, you get bombed and killed like the UN observers in that desperate bunker.

Jul 25,2006

About a month ago the commerce minister of Bangladesh was urging garment factory owners to give workers a better wage and comply with international labour standards. Now Mr Hafizuddin Ahmed has made an incredible statement - that garment owners should open fire on workers if there is agitation or risk of damage to their factories.

By my reckoning this is a new approach to resolving disputes and a new angle on dialogue and discussion. And it will find favour amongst many Bangladeshis who consider themselves as responsible and decent citizens. What is remarkable is that Mr Ahmed knows well the source of worker grievances - paltry wages, bad treatment and dangerous working conditions. He also knows that if unrest continues the industry itself is jeopardised. His statement not only flies against national and international law and indeed basic morality but also engangers the very industry he is in charge of.

Abandoned and penniless

  • Filed under: labour
Jul 24,2006

“Abandoned and penniless, they wander the streets in anxious little groups wondering what to do”….migrant labour in Lebanon, including upto 80-90,000 Sri Lankans.

And writes about his encounter with Bangladeshis in Beirut.

Jul 23,2006

They are not calling this ethnic cleansing. They are not calling this state terrorism. No the words being discussed are “proportionate” and “disproportionate.” No one can attack you or try you for war crimes or terrorism if the issue relates to proportionality.

And as the Israelis continue to ethnically cleanse southern Lebanon, they are not forgetting northern Lebanon either. They are bombing everywhere.

Here are some snaps I took from a demo we went on in Glasgow yesterday. The only political party on the platform was the Scottish Nationalist Party. What happened to the Libdems? And once labour activists would have thronged such a gathering. But yesterday they were nowhere to be seen. Incredible how fickle this world is.

Stop the war demo Glasgow

state terrorism

stop the war coalition poster

India follows suit

Jul 22,2006

Following the Bangladesh government’s condemnation of Israeli action, India has now for the first time criticised Israel since the conflict began. READ HERE.

India, like Bangladesh, has thousands of migrant workers in Lebanon and they have been forced to flee. According to the article, Sri Lanka has about 90,000 workers.

And here is a deshi blog which urges India to do its neighbours what Israel is doing to its neighbours. Old Niraj is “looking on with envy” at the death and destruction and wistfully wishes India could do the same. Sad git.

While much of the world looks on in horror as Israel bombs Lebanon, many people in India just look on with envy, wondering why India cannot respond in kind after the train bombings in Mumbai……all the Indian government has to offer is the wringing of hands, the usual palliatives about standing firm in the face of evil and incessant vows to capture the culprits. Used so often, these statements have become clichés.

Jul 21,2006

Following on from Incredible Quotation No 1, I have now found this by Khaleda Zia. 

election commission is still not free from politicization and controversy. It is hoped that the controversial election commissioner will resign voluntarily for the greater interest of the country and its people.

Come again? But this is what Hasina and AL are demanding - no?  Is Khaleda turning against Aziz too?? Has sense finally prevailed? Sadly no. The answer is simple, and excuse me for inflicting the deja-vu. Khaleda’s words are those she uttered way back five long years ago in 2001 (20th August) about the election commission and election commissioner. It was Hasina in the driving seat last time.The statement itself is not extraordinary but the cyclical pattern of politics in Bangladesh is.  The cycle goes on and on  with the same stultifying impact on the country. Only the stakes are higher as the years go on. And terrorism? Surely there was some mud slinging about terrorism too? Well yes. Read the full quote here.  And if the BNP webmaster removes it - unlikely as he/she has done nothing about this site in years -  I have a pdf of the page.

ps - has the BNP got a site somewhere else? If not, why not? Perhaps it sees itself as the government for ever and ever and has no need for its own site?!

Jul 20,2006

Morshed Khan, the Bangladesh foreign minister, hit the bullseye with this comment about Israel’s murderous actions :

“They (Western countries) condemn other forms of terrorism, but they do not do the same thing with Israel”

There about 10,000 Bangladeshi nationals in Lebananon - migrant workers. The government is seeking the help of International Organisation of Migration to get them out.

And is this really about captured soldiers as Bush, Blair and Beckett would have you believe?
“…The US and Israel …want to isolate and topple the Syrian regime by securing Lebanon as an Israeli-American protectorate on the Jordanian model.”

Read Tariq Ali

Jul 19,2006

As the elections approach, I have decided to remind myself of the great wisdom of our leaders. I start with the leader of the opposition and a statement she - allegedly - made in the year 2000. I found this in the Brussels journal and in Opendemocracy. Originally quoted by Anthony Browne (of The Times (London)).

Sheikh Hasina….in 2000 was asked by the Los Angeles Times how the country was going to feed, clothe, house and employ the expected doubling of her population by 2050. She replied:

“We’ll send them to America. Globalisation will take that problem away, as you free up all factors of production, also labour. There’ll be free movement, country to country. Globalisation in its purest form should not have any boundaries, so small countries with big populations should be able to send population to countries with big boundaries and small populations.”

So great news for the folks back home. You or your kids will all get to see the US of A just like Hasina’s kid - courtesy of globalisation and a welcoming Uncle Sam.

Jul 17,2006
  1. If you are in London, go to the DEMO on saturday July 22nd
  2. For the best news coverage, go to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign web site.
  3. Margaret Beckett refuses to condemn what the Israelis are doing in Gaza. Let her know what you think. Take the ISRAEL CHALLENGE.

Freedom fighters in business

  • Filed under: labour
Jul 17,2006

Recently I went to see a Chittagong land developer. They have a massive project on their hands. In his pitch to us, a director of the company declared that he was a freedom fighter. He made quite a song and dance about it. Basically he was saying that a freedom fighter loves his country and would therefore never defraud or cheat anyone. A kind of shorthand for declaring one’s personal integrity. Even if the matter at hand is a business one, the freedom fighter experience automatically and magically confers high standards of business practice and moral propriety. The label seems to carry a lot of weight. Certainly my chums were impressed even though the presentation was useless and lousy.

Imagine the relief that the hard-pressed Bangladeshi sweat-shop workers must be feeling now that the BGMEA (garment owners association) have appointed a freedom fighter to be its new president?! The great man is S M Fazlul Huq and I am sure things are now going to be wonderful for the workers. We can expect compliance to be at the top of the agenda, and of course pay rises, skills training and the other long standing demands of the workers I guess will all be addressed satisfactorily. Maybe they will even make available tea and coffee making facilities for the girls? After all we have a desh premik at the helm of the industry. Let’s party.

A view from a Gulshan window

Jul 14,2006

Best Westin, Gulshan 2

This is a shaky phone camera view from our flat in Gulshan 2. The ugly excrescence on the left is the Best Westin hotel. It is apparently going to be 5 star rated, and they plan to open around December 2006. To the right of this 5 star wonder you can see garment factories housed in rather dilapidated buildings. The workers stay late into the night.

And inside the view is better. Alpana and her works!

Alpana in flat

Jul 13,2006

A very interesting and riveting review of the shift from secular leftism to islamism in the east end of London by Delwar Hussain. I wish he had written more about the failure of the left. Delwar if you are reading..and i may be so presumptuous….I can tell you a thing or two about how the left cocked it up. Yes you are right…the day to day bread and butter issues were never taken up. Indeed party functionaries in Bangladesh wanted these to be taken up but the local London leadership….ah man…I have too much to do today to rile myself up thinking about those boneheads.