A conversation with Dr. David King

E-Bangladesh

E-Bangladesh

E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

[Mashuqur Rahman, USA.]

This morning I received an email from Dr. David King. Dr. King is a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. As ShadaKalo reported in his excellent post last night, General Moeen U Ahmed attended Dr. King’s class on Election Reform on Monday. The class consisted of 9 of Dr. King’s students.

I followed up with Dr. King and had a conversation spanning several emails with him.

Dr. King confirmed that General Moeen was not invited by the Kennedy School of Government. General Moeen had instead been invited by Harvard University. That invitation was later canceled, for reasons unknown to Dr. King. Dr. King had asked to “borrow” General Moeen to appear in his class before his invitation to Harvard was canceled. Dr. King told me via email:

I don’t know how the original invitation was made, but I understand that General Moeen was invited to speak at a public forum at Harvard. Not the Kennedy School — but up in the “yard.” General Moeen accepted, and I asked folks here if I could borrow him for my Election Reform class. Then, for reasons I don’t know and haven’t been told, the event at which General Moeen was going to appear was cancelled. Those kinds of things happen a lot around here — for various reasons — especially when talks involve bringing folks together from various countries or universities. I was worried, when the public event was cancelled, that General Moeen might not be able to visit my Election Reform class — and I’m glad he was able to make it yesterday.

According to Dr. King, General Moeen was accompanied to his class by his personal assistant “who took notes during the class and signaled to us when it was time for the General to leave.” Dr. King described Monday’s class to me as follows:

We went around the room, introducing ourselves, then began the Power Point presentation. General Moeen was very engaged throughout — and discussed almost every one of our recommendations. My students come from many countries, including Gambia, Chile, Brazil, Lebanon, Greece, Thailand, and the US. So our conversation had a highly “comparative” element to it. The students are, for the most part, “mid-career” degree students — mostly in their 30s and 40s. The group was collegial, but challenged General Moeen throughout the hour — as one would expect in a research seminar. General Moeen did come prepared with a talk, but the class tended to focus on the recommendations my students presented.

Dr. King’s class jointly presented a Power Point presentation entitled “Election Reform for a Sustainable Democracy in Bangladesh.” The presentation laid out steps the military government should take to restore democracy, including:

  • Holding elections before October 2008.
  • Lifting the state of emergency.
  • Adhering to electoral rules used in previous elections.
  • Deferring other electoral reform to a future elected government.
  • Releasing comprehensive information on all persons arrested.
  • Ending press censorship and repealing or amending repressive press decrees.
  • Ensuring transparency in granting licenses to media companies.
  • Abiding by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • General Moeen did not make a presentation. Instead the students engaged him in discussion. Dr. King said that there was “give-and-take of a very fruitful exchange” between the students and the General. Dr. King declined to give further details of the class room conversation between the students and General Moeen, except acknowledging to me that issues of human rights and the suppression of fundamental rights were discussed.

    Dr. King also informed me that he was invited to the lunch earlier this afternoon between General Moeen and Bangladeshi students at the Kennedy School of Government. I understand that the lunch meeting included Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy who is a student at KSG.

    There have also been persistent rumors on the Internet that Dr. David King was going to consult on election reform for Bangladesh. Dr. King emphatically denied those rumors. He wrote to me:

    I’m not consulting for anyone from Bangladesh. Nobody has asked, and the first I read about it was on blogs just yesterday. News to me.

    So, General Moeen finally did make it to Harvard. But he was not there at the invitation of the Kennedy School of Government, as has been widely and inaccurately reported in the Bangladeshi press. His earlier invitation to Harvard University had been canceled. Instead, he attended Dr. David King’s Election Reform class.

    [Update.]

    Dr. David King sent me the following clarification after reading this post:

    The only clarification I’d make is that the issue of an “invitation” is hard to pin down. We invite people to come speak here all the time, but for all intents and purposes, there is no centralized place called “Harvard” that handles invitations. We have a patchwork quilt of institutes and centers here. I think it’s wonderful that someone at Harvard began all this by asking General Moeen to speak at a conference. Once that invitation was extended, I was eager to bring General Moeen into my seminar, of course. In that respect, he was invited into my seminar, and he was invited to present a talk at the lunch today, and he was invited to meet with several other Harvard faculty individually. I hope that the dialogue General Moeen has had at Harvard benefits the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh.

    I share the hope in Dr. King’s last sentence above.


    For more on General Moeen U Ahmed’s Harvard adventure and his lunch with Sajeeb Wazed Joy read two posts by Shadakalo:

  • “I am very pleased to meet you.”
  • General Moeen’s mysterious Harvard seminar with Joy.

  • Mashuqur Rahman [http://www.docstrangelove.com] is one of the highest read Bangladeshi-American bloggers. Critically acclaimed for his incisive analysis on Bangladesh, US foreign policy and dedicated advocacy of human rights.

    [Read posts by Mashuqur Rahman]

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    E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.


    7 Responses to “A conversation with Dr. David King”

    1. MK

      Our journalists have very limited idea regarding the difference between an invitation from KSG (sounds like secret police) and Harvard. The problem is whether the good general just went with the flow or he indeed thought that he was going to KSG is up in the air. Hmm! May be he had other agendas that are not for public discussion. Problem is the righteous of us who are so engrossed with finding the truth nothing but the truth, may have greater lies and untruth in our sleeves. Yeah… yeah that is not the topic…

      He was indeed invited by Harvard and it was subsequently canceled. The reason behind it will be more interesting. If I were in his shoes, I would have said that the plans were already made even though it did not go thorough and I tried to make the best of it by meeting people and to understand how do you feel about the current situation.

      Most importantly I would rather come out clean on the Trust bank issue. His advantage is that he did pay up the loan and still paying it on a regular basis. Sometimes, it is easier to be just direct.

    2. Tokai

      Looks like Ash Institute is trying to make a quick announcement after the drama.

    3. Mash

      It’s called closing the barn door after the horses have already escaped.

      This is the most ironic part of the statement from Rizvi of the institute for “Democratic Governance and Innovation”:

      To allow for frank, free and meaningful discussion and dialogue with the students and faculty, the discussions were not open to the public or the press.

    4. Anonymous girl!

      Megher koley rod hesheychhey, badol gechhey chhuteeee, aha ha ha haaa. Keep rocking!

    5. Hiron

      General Moeen is now officially visiting China. We know Bangladesh army has bilateral military hardware interests with China. It is however surprising, that instead of going to Beijing or any other city he has gone to Macao with his family. The only significance of Macao we know of is gambling. Confusing?

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