Oh yes, the man responsible for bringing a new (and lethal) dimension to the word “crossfire” has been hit - Abdul Aziz Sarkar, the director general of the Rapid Action Battalion,Â has been (cross)fired by the head of the caretaker government Iajuddin Ahmed .
This grim faced bloke who wouldn’t look out of place at a halloween fancy dress party has presided over hundreds of extra-judicial killings. And ofcourse in Bangladesh the middle classes egged him on swallowing the “crossfire” stories hook, line and sinker.Â Old Iajuddin has been told to demonstrate his neutrality by the former opposition, and I guess Mr Sarkar just got caught in the crossfire.
It was Aminul Islam, an extremely well regarded painter in bangladesh who said : “Great art is something more than just formal beauty. It should carry a message, reflect the spirit of the age, and, at its best, prognosticate and prophesy.”
Well I think S M Samsu has managed to do that here with this particular rickshaw painting. The text reads “Visa, Free, Bangladesh to America.”
Samsu is one of Dhaka’s most prominent rickshaw painters. With this one, he has left his usual theme of bengal tiger tea parties or bengal tigers and monkeys as traffic controllers, and has correctly captured a popular aspiration. Sadly political and social commentary in art is a rare thing these days in bangladesh. And one finds it only in niche forms like this. The Kamrul Hasans, the Abeddins, the Quayyum Chowdhurys and others who had a socio-political vision in their art, at least at some point in their lives, seem not to have too many successors.
I just caught the 8pm Rtv news. There were graphic images of violence throughout the country. Many have been killed. The confusion and uncertainty of it all has stumped the pundits. One prominent editor said to me that it has come to down to which way the mastaans sense the wind is blowing. And those calculations will decide the next few hours and days.
During hartals and other programmes of the opposition, traffic subsides slightly in Gulshan. Today however things are very different. There are hardly any cars in Gulshan. The Rapid Action Battalion is present everywhere. In the space of 30 minutes, my car was searched twice in two different spots. Shops which would stay open during hartals and sieges etc are closed.
There is a palpable feeling of dread. And a feeling that something is going to happen. Presently I have a hire car with a driver. They have been explicitly told to stick to the rules today ( I usually make them stray well outside of the safe confines of Gulshan during hartals and the like). Today the driver was not having any of it.
Hasan, the proposed head of the caretaker government, is off sick. That is quote unquote sick. And so we wait. A lot of people are hoping he will take care of himself rather than pretend to be a neutral caretaker of the country.
visit the Teardrops of Karnaphuli web site. You will need broadband to download the beautiful song “Karnaphuli.”
If you have seen the docu, please let me know your thoughts.
Here I am in Singapore running from relentless personal bad news and doing a bit of reconnaisance for an incredible project I am about to begin in November. The migrant worker project I am embarking upon kicks off quite rightly here in Singapore. ….a country whose basis was migration. There are tens of thousands of migrant Bangladeshi construction workers here. They are involved in the making of the gleaming glass towers one sees all around here. Indeed Bangladeshi workers are responsible for gleaming towers all over the place - not just south east asia but also the middle east. Not that anyone associates the success of these places with those who toil to make these places so.
The Migrant Voices team
Singaporeans - or sections of Singaporeans- are waking upto the contributions that migrant workers make to their society. So it was a lovely suprise, when I came across a CD called Migrant Voices whilst I was walking in the Esplanade theatre complex. It is a CD of songs performed (and some written) by migrant workers and put together by volunteers. As the CD says, it
“brings together the musical talents of migrant workers who have put in their heart and soul to the growth of Singapore. They are work permit holders who cook for our families, care for our elderly, clean our streets and build our homes…..They leave behind families and deep kinship ties to work here, in hopes of providing a better life for their loved ones.” …The project grew out of the realization that many migrants turn to music as a release from their personal and work woes.
Don’t I know it.
I hear on the grapevine that Patricia Butenis has had tea and perhaps some milk shemoy (vermicelli - an eid favourite) yesterday with the proposed head of the caretaker government - Justice K M Hasan. Is this the writing on the wall for the former chief justice? And why is Patricia doing the writing?
Lists are usually quite boring but check this one. These are the prominent brand name products currently being manufactured in the republic of Bangladesh!
Nike, Reebok, Lafuma, H and M, Gap, J.C.Penny, Walmart, KMart, OSPIG (Germany), Mother Care, Lee, Wrangler, Dockers, NAB, Tommy Hilfiger, Out Door, Adidas, Flacon (USA), Edie Bauyer, Eagle, Releigh(UK), Emmilee, Free Spiril (UK), Miles (Germany), Brouks, American Eagle, Hi-tech (UK) Decathlon, Phillip-Maurice (UK), Federated, Styles Co, Sag Harbour (USA).
Camera Lens (IO Parts) - Konika, Minolta
Golf Shafts - Abu Garcia
Mobile Parts - Sony
Automobile Parts - Nissan, Mitsubishi, Hino
Source: from a Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority document given to me in a recent visit I made a month ago to film their head - Brigadier General Ashraf.
My google bot has a sense of humour I think. This afternoon I suspect it decided I needed cheering up , and it fetched me a variety of stories based on the keywords I have given it - some laughable stories, some sad, some bizarre. I don’t know which ones to tell you about they are all so…..um…dreamy, I think is the word.
There is the sincerely felt but sickly-sweet appeal on DP about the water shed that the Yunus prize should bring about in Bangladesh. It finishes “Let us dream. Let us believe. And then let us get to work.” Yes. Then I read about the dreams and beliefs and work of the opposition Awami League. And do you know what they consist of? Dreaming and believing in massive danda power. They are busy preparing 200,000 sticks and staves to beat the crap out of anyone and anything if the issues around the caretaker government demands are not resolved. And they don’t mind talking openly to the press about these stick/oar making extra-curricular acitivities . They must be worried about the “feel good factor” the prize has generated and all this talk about dreams, and are eager to use lathi and baash power to reverse it.
And then my google bot found another Yunus inspired soul. A disgruntled and disappointed zionist, Ida Nudel wonders whether Bangladesh will replace Israel as a “light unto the nations.” Dear me, Yunus-mania has hit Israel as hard as that? And there was no letting up on the part of my little bot - it found the Chicago Tribune describing Yunus as one of America’s own (as a force for capitalism effectively but said with nicer words) : “Give them a hand up, not a handout, he wrote. That’s an American-sounding notion, courtesy of Bangladesh.”
And finally I will leave you with the dreamiest of all of these. Yes it is by the eminent Prof himself. He reckons North Korea could do with a dose of his Grameen medicine. Someone needs to puncture his bubble, and bring the good professor down to earth and tell him about dreams and effective reality.
Having spent the last three years knocking my house about and creating various structures and openings in glass, I feel like a real dilettante and am often to be found telling architects where to shove it. The conservatism of architecture and architects in the affluent bits of Dhaka - particularly social conservatism - is staggering and especially so when it comes to apartment design. I suspect the handful of developers that exist have imposed a total ceiling on creativity, and so architects are only able to tinker with the internal space and the external facade. The aim of the developers is to maximise their profit and that means building to a standard and well tested set of plans with your drawing room invariably to the left or right as you enter, the large living space/dining area off of which comes the bedrooms, and the disgracefully tiny quarters for the domestics and the de rigeur squat toilet for them…..It is so formulaic it is actually quite laughable that some developers like Concorde go to the bother of giving you a CD with walk through animations….BUT ITS ALL THE SAME I KEEP TELLING THEM…to no avail.
You see, there I go again…. I will stop there and instead point you to a great web site featuring prominent Dhaka/bangladeshi architects. If only all their work was as good as this:
Coming up this December, 1-7th, is a documentary film festival organised by the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka. Here is the draft programme. There will be a special focus on Palestine.
1. The Poet and the Mahatma î º Debabrata Roy - 59 min
2. Netaji and India’s Freedom Struggle - Sugata Bose
3. S.21 : The Khmer Rogue Killing Machine - 111 min
4. The Khmer Rogue Rice Fields - Rachana Pallit
5. The Autobiography of Hout Bouphana
6. Amandla - A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony - Lee Hirsch
7. Martin Luther King - A Historical Perspective
8. Ralph Bunche - An American Odyssey - William Greaves
9. Ida B. Wallis : A Passion for Justice - William Greaves
10. Story of the Stone - Nathalie Fluckgner
11. Palestine - Sentu Roy
12. Film to be announced
13. Film from announced
14. The Fog of War
15. Why We Fight
16. Farenheit 9/ll
17. The Road to Guantanamo
Films from 1971
1. Stop Genocide
2. Khaled’s War
3. Nine Miles to Freedom
4. A Country Made for Disaster
5. Liberation Fighters
With all this noise around Mohammed Yunus, this year’s Nobel Peace gong winner, I decided I should find out how rich this banker to the poor is. I have no idea about his regular income. The only information I have is that he has bagged 10 million Swedish Kronors (about 723k GBP). And his share his half given that the award has been made jointly to the good professor and his Grameen outfit. Let’s say that he sticks to his celebrated wisdom of not handing out money to the poor - meaning he doesn’t do donations - that means he will keep approx 360k. That income, according to information based on figures supplied by the World Bank Development Research Group, would make Prof Yunus the 107,565 richest person in the world! Not bad going when you think there are six billion people knocking about. Well done again Mo!
It seems Motahar Hussein, a Bangladeshi gay man, has managed to escape from it. He left for Australia several years ago, and the Australian authorities locked him up in a detention centre about four years ago and then again two years ago.
Hussein explains that he first encountered anti-gay attitudes in university. He claims that fundamentalist outfits like Jamaat, Chatra Shibir and the Freedom Party made it difficult for him to stay in Bangladesh. Interestingly, confusingly and worryingly he also talks about detainee labour in the detention camp in Australia. He alleges that the detention centre was run by a company which saved millions of dollars per year because “they were paying refugee kitchen-hands and cleaners in cigarettes and phone cards.” Incredible. I would like to hear more about this aspect of his detention. Read his history HERE.
The Green Left Weekly of 18 October, reveals that he has been released from detention with the government granting him a Bridging E visa.
Yes Dr Yunus you may have got that gong but start worrying - your Grameen phone business has competition. According to certain american publications, North Koreans are buying old phones in Bangkok, sending them to Bangladesh in diplomatic pouchesÂ and selling them on in the streets. Yes American journalism knows no boundaries. When it comes to reds under the beds or mullahs in the attic, it will plumb unheard of depths.
Richard Lloyd Parry the Asia Editor of The Times (London) has been blogging and writing about the short-sightedness of American foreign policy re North Korea and the “inane guff” being spewed by CNN:
The only solution is the one which the South Korean government has promoted all along (and which the US government supported until the advent of George Bush): engagement, a long, patient process of drawing the country out of its shell and enabling North Koreans to see what a dreadful - but not hopeless mess - their leaders have got them into. That’s not going to happen under George Bush, under whose presidency manageable situation in Korea has got out of control. In a sense, the government in Pyongyang is only going to change if the governmennt in Washington changes first.
There, P, I never thought I would ever say all that about a News International journalist.