Friday, June 17, 2011

Caretaker Govt needed To Avert Crisis

The time-honoured Latin maxim ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning nothing comes from nothing, is relevant in view of the political scenario prevailing in the country. It is pertinent because consequent upon the ruling Awami League chief and Prime Minister's illogical stance that the Caretaker Government system —- for the implementation of which her fierce struggle is not forgotten by the people and is recorded in history— - must go and the Opposition BNP, the Jamaat-e-Islami and other parties' reasonable refusal to such a preposterous claim, notwithstanding the ruling party's three-fourths majority in Jatiya Sangsad.    What the nation has been watching since the coming into power of the ruling Awami League is blatant demonstration of politicisation of each and every segment of administration. The Supreme Court (SC) may or may not explain constitutional matter if and when asked for; and the Supreme Court decision is not binding on a government to abide by, so opine eminent legal experts of the country. Besides, the Supreme Court in its pronouncement observes that two more general elections be held under the interim Caretaker Government system. But the Prime Minister or the members of her cabinet or the lawmakers of the ruling Awami League are conveniently closing the eyes to that fact.    Prudent politicians and rulers should, of necessity, think many times the pros and cons of the Caretaker Government system and ask themselves again and again as to why it was made before attempting to rescind it. The incumbents of today will do a world of good to themselves—- and more importantly, to the nation as well—- to go through the newspapers of the year 1996 , when all hell broke loose. It was a terrible phase of havoc characterised by 'hartal' or general strike for at least 70 days called by the opposition Awami League, the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and other small parties demanding constitutional amendment providing for Caretaker Government system. How many arson cases happened, how many dozen buses and other automobiles were burnt to the ground, and how many innocent people were killed? It will be worthwhile on the part of the ruling party to take stock of those violent acts lest the nation would, God forbid, see repeat performance of unleashing a reign of terror endangering the lives of the citizens.    (To refresh our memory, the Caretaker Government system was the brainchild of the Jamaat-e- Islami which party was then ally of the ruling Awami League.) What a strange country is it, Seleucus!    Never before in the history of this country —- not even in the pre-independent days—-were politicians ever tried summarily by mobile courts. But such unheard-of universally condemnable incidents too happened in today's Bangladesh by the courtesy of the ruling Awami League government. Shame on the nation when its former Air Force Chief and minister in the BNP cabinet as well as a valiant freedom fighter had to be convicted in arson cases. People of this country are familiar with mobile courts on traffic rule violation, catching railway passengers travelling without tickets and finally checking food adulteration cases through mobile court's inspections by executive magistrates in April 2005.    BNP leaders and former ministers Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and Major (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, arrested on Sunday during hartal hours, were shown held in connection with setting fire to two vehicles on June 4 and 11 respectively before hartal days. Some 116 opposition activists were awarded different terms of jail by mobile courts. This time the government has worked out a new modus operandi by using the mobile courts by magistracy, reminiscent of tyrant General Ayub Khan's notorious regime during which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had to face many cases and suffer in jail.    The bottom line is: The ruling Awami League government should see reason to avert turmoil because the Prime Minister cannot afford to forget that a large section of the polity does not support Awami League today.

US IOC Awarded 2 Deep Sea Gas Blocks

Ignoring public opposition and expert suggestion, the state-owned hydrocarbon corporation Petrobangla signed the deal with US-based international oil company (IOC) on Thursday awarding two deep sea gas blocks.    Petrobangla secretary Imam Hossain and deputy secretary AKM Mohiuddin from the government and ConocoPhilips Asia Pacific vice- president William Laflarrendre signed the agreement at Petrocentre in the city's Karwan Bazar on Thursday.    Finance minister A M A Muhith, prime minister's energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, state minister for power and energy Enamul Huq, energy secretary Mesbahuddin Ahmed and US ambassador James F Moriarty were also present at the signing ceremony.    The energy giant will start its seismic survey by December in deep sea blocks 10 and 11 , an area of 5158 square kilometres.    The depth of water is between 1000 to 1500 metres and the blocks are about 280 kilometres from Chittagong Port. The firm under its mandatory work programme must initiate seismic survey in a grid of 10 km by 10 km space over the whole of the blocks. The Texas-based company has pledged $160 million bank guarantee for working in three phases and the contract period is for nine years.    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs earlier on May 23 approved a proposal for signing a model production sharing contract (PSC) with ConocoPhillips for exploration of hydrocarbons in the country's deep-sea blocks 10 and 11 and also a side line agreement (SLA) for disputed areas under the two blocks. Earlier, both Petrobangla and the US company initialed a draft of the Model PSC. Ahead of signing the deal, the IOC has created a new special company named ConocoPhillips Bangladesh Exploration 10 /11 Ltd in order to run the Bangladesh operation.    Petrobangla officials said though the ConocoPhillips will obtain two gas blocks in Bangladesh territory of the Bay of Bengal through the PSC deal, it will have to keep its exploration confined only within the undisputed areas in the Bay.    "The US Company would not be allowed to conduct any exploration works in 30 percent area of block 10 and in 15 percent area of block 11 ," said a Petrobangla official. Because, he explained, those areas are treated as disputed due to the neighbouring countries —- India and Myanmar —- also making claims there.    Bangladesh went to the UN body —- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) —- to settle the disputes. "If Bangladesh wins the battle in the UNCLOS, then the ConocoPhillips will be allowed to conduct exploration work in those 30 percent and 15 percent areas in block 10 and 11 respectively," said the official adding that the proposed SLA will provide such guarantee to the US oil major.    Bangladesh invited international bidding in 2008 for gas exploration in offshore and deep sea areas, and ConocoPhillips came out to be the responsive bidders for as many as eight blocks.    Finally, the government decided to award only two blocks to ConocoPhillips. The US company plans to start exploration from next year, but it will take 4-5 years to get result from the exploration works, Petrobangla officials said.         NCPOGMR's protest    Meanwhile, the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas and Mineral Resources (NCPOGMR) staged a demonstration in front of National Press Club in protest against the government's decision to award two gas blocks to the ConocoPhillips.    Addressing the protest programme, committee leaders said the government signed the agreement undermining the national interest and thus betrayed the causes and spirit of the independence.