[J @ Shada Kalo, USA.]
A truly impressive conference is going to be held in Dhaka on December 27-29, 2007. Impressive, because this will showcase, for the first time, the achievement and advice of expatriate Bangladeshis. The chief guest for the opening ceremony is Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, chief adviser to the caretaker government. The closing ceremony is even more impressive, and we quote:
Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed
Honorable Chief Adviser
Non-Party Caretaker Government
People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Honorable Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Chair of the Session)
General Moeen U Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army
Thanks for sticking the “non-party” adjective in our eyes.
The sessions are absolutely crawling with advisers, secretaries and ex-advisers:
And to round out the civilians, we also see Lieutenant General Masud Uddin Chowdhury, Principle Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division on a panel on flood management, and Major General Aminul Karim, Military Secretary to the President, on a panel discussing national leadership.
Here is a curious entry for seminar 18 on second day:
Domestic Securities Imperatives & Investment Environment in Bangladesh
Presented by Mr. ATM Amin, Ph.D, Counter Terrorism Bureau, Bangladesh
Dr. Amin has another impressive designation: he is a brigadier general in the Bangladesh Army, and he is the director of the counter-terrorism bureau of DGFI. We find it interesting that his rank and employment was obfuscated.
Dr. Kamal Hossain [will deliver the vote of thanks], Fazle Hasan Abed [will deliver the welcome speech] and many other well-known “resident”-Bangladeshis round out some truly outstanding non-resident speakers. To be honest, some papers to be presented at this conference are good enough for me to want to pay to attend.
Which brings up a question — who is paying for all this? Booking Sheraton for three days of conferences costs big money. My experience is a bit dated, but in 1991 I was planning a trade show for my then employer, and the price-tag was about 3 lakh taka for three days rent for the ballroom. This conference will take over most of the hotel. How much will that cost, and what is the source of that money?
Chowdury, Mahbub E firstname.lastname@example.org
660 Bassar Road
Pouzhaeepsie, New York 12603
There is no such place as Pouzhaeepsie, New York. ZIP code 12603 is for Poughkeepsie, NY. Fine — pronouncing that name is not easy so this is not a big deal. The phone number belongs to one Abbas Uddin in Jamaica, NY. But wait — there is no such road as Bassar road in Poughkeepsie either. There is a Vassar road, as one phone-call to the city-hall confirmed. The current resident at 660 Vassar is a Mr. Richmond. So Mr. Chowdury used false information in registering his domain. It seems completely unnecessary, but there it is.
NRBs in New York, where Mr. Chowdury used to live (and was known as Shamim Chowdury), are surprised that this virtual unknown is organizing such a big conference in Bangladesh, and some newspapers have also asked this question. For some reason, Amader Shomoy has also taken a swipe at Mr. and Mrs. Chowdury. We absolutely disagree, since past performance is not a reliable indicator of the future. If Mr. and Mrs. Chowdury are doing this on their own initiative, we wish them all the best. But the thrust of this story is the star-, or rather, government-studded guest-list. How did Mr. Chowdury get not one, two or three, but 9 advisers and so many secretaries to come to his shindig?
Why is Bangladesh’s ambassador to the United States, and consul generals at various consulates in the USA, taking an active role in promoting this conference? In the linked letter, we find that the minister of economic affairs at the embassy in DC is prepared to answer our questions on this. We can’t just accept this as the officials doing their job — Bangladesh’s diplomatic corps doesn’t have a very good reputation when it comes to helping Bangladeshis.
Then the next piece of the jigsaw puzzle fits. A friend of ShadaKalo, a prominent academic, was invited to the conference. This gentleman is a vocal critic of the army and the CTG’s treatment of politicians and the lack of democratic processes. As a result, he was reluctant to attend. When the organizers heard about his reluctance, he received personal assurances from an adviser in the CTG, that his safety while in Bangladesh will be assured. Our friend knows the adviser personally so it makes sense that the assurances would come from him, but the surprising part of this is how quickly the response came back. This indicates, at the very least, a direct connection between the organizers and the “Non-Party Caretaker Government.”
Buried in the Amader Shomoy story is another nugget: Mr. Chowdury has claimed in a TV talk show that the government is assisting it in fund-raising. In that case, can we say Mr. Chowdury is engaging in government-sanctioned chada-baji [extortion]? Amader Shomoy also went as far as to ask why then Coco’s mother Khaleda Zia could not help Coco raise money through chada-baji?
Hmm. New Yorkers are scratching their heads wondering how Mr. Chowdury managed to land so many big fishes. While we don’t yet have all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, we have enough to see an outline. Who is standing behind Mr. Chowdury is not yet clear, but we understand this is not a case of the tail wagging the dog — as a matter of fact, it is the exact opposite.
At the very least, this is government patronage of a private citizen’s efforts. Or it could be the launch of a new party platform for a political aspirant like General Moeen? Watch this space as we fill in the gaps in the next few weeks.
J @ Shada Kalo [http://shadakalo.blogspot.com] writes using a pseudonym and is best known for exposing government, military, corporate foul plays through whistle-blowing investigative reports.