DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR: FOREIGN OFFICE

by  F R Chowdhury

Ever since the present Government led by Sheikh Hasina came to power in Bangladesh in December, 2008, the public and national institutions have been badly damaged and destroyed. Most of them have been damaged in the process of turning them into an extended part of their political party. Talented young people do not come forward for civil service because they have no connection with BAL (Bangladesh Awami League) or BCL (Bangladesh Chatra League). I do not know of any BCL leader being an outstanding student; but jobs are reserved for them. The police force, top to bottom, is all made up of party cadres. The same is gradually extending to armed forces and judiciary. The process of politicising has gone to such an extent that a high court bench sent a case to chief justice because a minister telephoned them to influence the verdict. It came out openly in newspaper; still the Government is totally silent about it. We shall confine our today’s discussion only within the purview of our foreign ministry because if we also want to write about other institutions then we will not be able to conclude the article.

We shall start the discussion with the appointment of the former foreign minister Dr. Dipu Moni. She never got a doctorate in international relations or any other social science. She was a little known physician in her local area. She never performed any diplomatic assignment or duty or even represented Bangladesh in any UN or other international forum prior to becoming the foreign minister. The result was a national disaster. Bangladesh failed to win any new friend and relations with existing friends nose-dived. So far Dipu Moni is concerned, she remains the most well travelled foreign minister that we ever had.

During this period, lot of people were employed on diplomatic service, not through any process of selection but because of political connections. There was an ambassador in Oman (former MP Nurul Alam Chowdhury) who put his hand around the shoulder of the Omani Foreign Minister (a member of the royal family). On various occasions he tried to address expatriate Bangladeshis in Oman but made a fool of himself. The video recordings were passed everywhere for people to enjoy. We had another ambassador in Nepal (Nim Chandra Bhowmik) who was known as night club expert. He created lot of embarrassing episodes for Bangladesh. Then we had a lady ambassador to Philippines who employed her husband and children as casual workers for the mission and made money in the name of diplomatic receptions.

An ex-BCL leader Aparna Rani Pal was appointed on contract as an assistant secretary and then posted to our mission in Canada. Another ex-BCL leader Suchana Rani Haldar got a similar employment and was posted in Malaysia. Some employees of our mission in Malaysia are now under investigation for disappearance of some five hundred Bangladeshi passports. Ms. Irene Parveen Badhan, another ex-BCL leader (and wife of BCL Secretary General), already a civil servant, is now posted in Bangladesh High Commission in Singapore as a Counsellor.

Dewan Mahmudul Islam who was APS to Adviser H T Imam has been appointed as First Secretary to our high commission in Canada purely on political consideration. Similarly Maqsud Ali Khan, APS to Foreign Minister Dipu Moni also obtained a posting in Canada. Monirul Islam Kabir, PRO to Dipu Moni got a posting in our mission in the United Kingdom. The common factor in all those postings is political connection.

Most interesting of all Mr. Barun Dev Mitra, a former food secretary went as an Economic Minister (equivalent to joint secretary) to our mission in the USA. This remains the biggest surprise.

Mr. Abdul Momen, brother of Finance Minister and a US national has been appointed as our permanent representative to the United Nations. He has been a total flop. On several occasions he misled the Government with wrong information.

I failed to understand why Bangladesh had to cast its vote in favour of a Russian city for the World Expo Festival of 2020. Was it because of the prime minister’s arms deal with Russia? Bangladesh always had exceedingly good relations with UAE and it was expected for Bangladesh to support Dubai’s bid for the exhibition. This was another big blunder of our foreign ministry. Because of this mistake we are likely to lose our business opportunities with UAE and perhaps employment opportunities of Bangladeshis. Our remittances from UAE so far stood only second to Saudi Arabia. Now UAE is likely to stop issuance of tourist visas to Bangladeshis.

I was fortunate enough to visit two of our missions abroad. In both missions I found the portrait of the prime minister and not the president who they supposed to represent.

The foreign ministry now requires a big overhaul to get rid of these political appointees. Then it has to be revamped with professional diplomats. Above all we need a dynamic foreign minister who can project the right image of the country abroad and his/ her policy and work must be followed by our missions abroad.

London, 05-February-2014                                             <fazlu.chowdhury@btinternet.com>

4 COMMENTS

  1. I applaud the author for penning this timely eye-opener. What he has written is just the tip of the iceberg. There is little doubt that the entire administration has been ruined and is rotten to the core.

    As most Awami League leaders are are half-educated people and lack urbanity (Sk. Mujib included) that induce rationality in thinking, they treat the country as a village panchayat where things are dome on kinship basis. Institutional discipline, decorum, integrity etc. are a far cry for these people.

    Favouritism for loyalty and not institutional efficiency for quality is the norm for these people and this started with Sk. Mujib himself. Just to give one example – he promoted his brother-in-law from a section officer (this guy would have retired as a section officer) to the position of Additional Secretary, Establishment Division within a span of fifteen days of his return from Pakistan. This basically set the scene to what followed, politicization of administration, later in all Awami League administration since. BNP also did but did not take it to the level of vulgarity that AL governments have done since. At the present time, the picture is simply horrible and sings are that it will only get worse and threatening to extend to the only politics-neutral institution that the nation could fall back on in times of crisis, the army..

    Re the current situation of the Foreign Ministry, every bit of evidence that the author has presented is true – the only gap is that this is only part truth, real situation is much worse, waiting to be unearthed fully one day.

    Just to give one example. The author mentioned about Dr. A. K. M. Momen, Bangladesh’s PR to UN. For his years of lobbying in US especially during the Moin U/ Fakhru Care-Taker government when he joined Gauhar Rizvi of Harvard, PM’s current foreign affairs adviser and lobbied the state department on behalf of India that helped Hasina to return to power in 2008, was duly rewarded by the PM with this trophy of PR to UN, apparently against the wishes of the Foreign Minister (He was first given Ambassadorship to Saudi Arabia but Saudi government rejected him for his much known anti-Islamic writings, post 9/11).

    As the direct appointee of the PM Dr. Momen never bothered to consult either the Foreign Ministry or the Minister on PR Mission activities, he consistently made his own decisions, some of which went directly against the interest of the country. For example from time to time, and in order to garner support of the US state department for Hasina government, Dr. Momen engaged Israeli lobby in US in exchange for pro-Israeli vote at the UN, especially when Palestinians issues came for voting (someone should do a research on Bangladesh’s voting pattern at the UN during his tenure).

    In summary, things have gone so bad all around that rescue from these mess is difficult if not impossible. The situation calls for everyone irrespective of their party affiliations to stand up and do something.

    Sadly though, in spite of these glaring examples of governance rot,many of our heavily sedated politically opiumised intellectuals choose not to see these and instead bay empty slogans like ‘Mukti Juddher Chetona” to deflect criticism and glorify Hasina who as we can seems to be on a mission of wiping out the very last vestiges of existence of an independent Bangladesh. This is worrying.

    As they say there are many things that may save a queen but only the people that save a country!!.

  2. Great comment by ADK. The current crisis of Bangladesh is more fundamental than the damage of one institution. It is virtually the demise of democratic principle from the national stage. The 5 January election was the greatest farce the electoral history of Bangladesh ever witnessed. BNP should stop counting on foreign countries to solve this unprecedented crisis. One shouldn’t expect any change until BNP and the 19 party alliance, with help from all nationalist and Islamic forces united front, can start a massive up-rise and cripple the entire nation to compel the Sindabad’s ghost, also known as Awami League, to hand over power to a neutral government for holding a credible election.

  3. The author and the commenters have said it all. I would only add one example of “awamization” of the administration by Shaikh Hasina. On January 4th, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Chief appealed to the voters to go to the polling stations and vote in ‘uthshob mukhor poribeshey'( in festive mood) when, in fact, the country was blazing in protests and people were dyeing across the country defying the sham election of January 5. So it’s a great challenge to overcome the powers of the brute force. My only hope is that, in an ultimate analysis, the power of the people is invincible.

  4. It is sad to see our loving country being torn apart by this current government. The language that she uses on her public speech is sub standard. She should maintain her dignity & should not run away with her tongue. The power will finally return to people. It’s not a question of will its a question of when. The end is looming for current government. Oh I bet Rashed Khan Manon is happy that finally he is a front line minister,all those years of baseless politics finally paid off. I wonder how deep he will dig with his corrupt mind. Thank you to Capt Chowdhury for educating us once again.

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