developed by avocats
The resignation of Syed Abul Hossain from his position as minister for information and communication technology was not unexpected. Pressure had been growing on the minister as well as on the government following the World Bank’s cancellation of funding for the Padma Bridge project. Abul Hossain published an ‘open letter’ in many daily newspapers in the form of advertisements this week which also carried an indication that he may step down.
The question remains: is it too little too late? Syed Abul Hossain was made the communications minister in January 2009, and later transferred to the ICT ministry, following Word Bank allegations of his involvement in a ‘corruption conspiracy’ in the tender process of the $2.9 billion Padma multipurpose bridge project. Initially, the government of Sheikh Hasina had reacted sharply to the bank’s allegations of corruption and refused to entertain its recommendations for probing the allegations and sending the minister, and his alleged accomplices in the administration, on leave for the sake of a fair and transparent probe.
In response to the government’s ‘inaction’, the bank cancelled the promised loan. The government’s stance was still quite aggressive. Although it ‘allowed’ the Anti-corruption Commission to initiate an investigation, the government made a cabinet decision to construct the bridge on its own, without any foreign assistance. Meanwhile, the Awami League leaders, and their comrades in the ruling coalition, made numerous ‘nationalistic’ statements against the ‘imperialist West’ interfering with the independence of a sovereign nation.
We can only assume that Syed Abul Hossain’s resignation, taken under pressure from within and outside the government, is meant as an olive branch to the World Bank. But the question must be asked: if the government was looking to patch things up with the donors in general and with the World Bank in particular, why did it let loose with a perfect storm of jingoistic accusations? The top leadership of the ruling party went so far as to accuse the World Bank of corruption in relation to a particular Chinese company.
However, it is better late than never. Now that we have said goodbye to the controversial minister, the government should take the matter of the corruption investigation seriously. This is necessary not only to get the soft loan for the Padma Bridge project, but also to clear the air regarding the scandal. The government should also meet its obligation to make public the documents that the WB has submitted to it for the sake of transparency. We hope to see light at the end of this dark tunnel.
This week, we also bid adieu to Humayun Ahmed, the most celebrated Bangladeshi writer to grace the literary scene for half a century. Two very different goodbyes. Humayun Ahmed didn’t lead cabinets or steer megaprojects. But he built bridges to people’s hearts. The latter is no less valuable.
developed by avocats