[Dhaka Correspondent] The military-led interim administration believes that the continued state of emergency has not created any problems for the masses and plans to lift it “when needed,” chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed said. “I don’t think the common people are facing any problems due to continuation of the state of emergency,” he told newsmen at a meeting in his office Wednesday. Responding to a series of questions at his maiden meeting with newsmen since he assumed office on January 11, he said that the government has maintained the state of emergency because of “certain reasons.”
“The government will lift the emergency when it thinks it is no longer needed,” said Fakhruddin, who took office a day after President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency, suspending all civil and political rights. The government later allowed indoor political activities to help the political parties to prepare for the ninth parliamentary polls, expected to be held before the end of 2008. Fakhruddin told reporters that he would be happy to see the elections take place well before the announced deadline. He detailed a number of reform programmes initiated by the current interim administration to ensure a clean and credible election.
When asked whether or not his government would initiate a process to try the 1971 war criminals, as demanded by a number of civil and political groups who have launched a campaign seeking their trial, the chief adviser replied in the negative. He admitted that the issue of trying the 1971 war criminals was “very important,” but said that dealing with so many issues and taking up so many projects would impede his government in achieving its main goal of conducting a credible election. Fakhruddin said due legal procedures must be set in motion against the war criminals if any aggrieved person goes to court and resorts to litigation. There have been many governments, including democratically elected ones, in the last 36 years, but no visible step was taken to take them to court, he added. The present government is in power for a limited time and is tasked with creating an atmosphere conducive to the holding of a credible election, said Fakhruddin, “It is not desirable that our main task be overshadowed by any other less important tasks.”
Fakhruddin, in his introductory speech, said that his government took over when the country was heading for doom because of unabated corruption, erosion of moral values and widespread politicization. The institutions that are indispensable for ensuring democracy — Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Public Service Commission — have been remodeled and strengthened with reformed laws, while the judiciary has been made independent of the executive, he said. All interim government efforts have been aimed at smooth handing over of power to an elected government, he added.
He also referred to the anti-corruption drive which has taken more than 200 politicians, businesspeople and former bureaucrats to jail, and said it was part of the government’s plan to strengthen democracy.
When asked whether his government plans to ensure that the public office bearers make their wealth statements public to ensure transparency, chief adviser said he might consider it if it is necessary. Usually, he said, public office bearers submit their wealth statements along with their tax returns, “Even then, we will look into the matter.”
He said that his government brought back over Taka 800 crore out of the several thousand crore siphoned off from the country through different channels.
Referring to the spiraling prices of essential commodities, Fakhruddin admitted that the common people were suffering very much. He attributed the spiraling prices in the domestic market to the fall in global output and dwindling supply of certain products.
When the issue of fertilizer was raised, Fakhruddin almost echoed the observation of his cabinet colleagues. He said the government had sufficient stock of fertilizer, but there have been certain problems in the distribution chain, “The government is trying to solve these problems.”
Issues of manpower export, announcement of the sixth wage board award for journalists, and reforms in the education and health sectors also came up for discussion in the 50 minutes long meeting.