Sunday, December 13, 2009

America Week in Rajshahi

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 

A three-day 'America Week', featuring activities of the US embassy and US agencies in Bangladesh begins in Rajshahi today.

According to government officials, Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister GM Quader is likely to inaugurate the colourful programme that will continue until December 10 at Parjatan Motel.

On the inaugural day, US Ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty will visit Martyrs' Memorial Archive at Rajshahi University and take part in a discussion with students on education in America and visa procedures, said RU sources.

Youths in Rajshahi showed enthusiasm about the programme as many of them yesterday visited the Parjatan Motel.

Following a tradition of past America week, people could visit more than 40 booths run by the US embassy, USAID and its development partners and some US business houses.

In a press conference in November, Cultural Affairs Officer of the US embassy in Dhaka Catherine A Hallock said the embassy is going to hold the week in the month of victory of Bangladesh.

"There will be a blend of culture of Rajshahi including folk song Gambhira with the American programmes", she said.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Terrorists out to destabilise world peace using Islam

Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister GM Quader in Rajshahi yesterday said some terrorists are using the name of Islam to destabilise peace across the world, adding: "In fact, it is not Islam which they (terrorists) are preaching."

"The American people must know that we, Bangladeshis, are their friends and brothers and would remain so, even if some terrorists were using the name of Islam."

The minister said this at a press conference after inaugurating the three-day America Week at the local tourism motel.

The people of Bangladesh have rejected distinctively this type of politics of terrorism and religious extremism, he added.

"All Muslims are not terrorists and definitely, majority of the Muslims hates terrorism in the name of Islam… Most of the Muslim world also dislike them."

Quader recalled the US assistance to Bangladesh during natural disasters, including cyclone Sidr, saying that the US is the friend of Bangladesh since its independence in 1971. "The friendship would be strengthening further."

US Ambassador to Dhaka James F Moriarty said, "Terrorism is the enemy of democracy and democracy is the enemy of terrorism. That's why, the new democratically elected government right now is very aggressively going after terrorists in Bangladesh."

He termed Bangladesh an 'important friend and partner of the United States', saying: "We have provided more than $5.5 billion in development assistance since Bangladesh's independence."

"As Bangladesh moves to a trade, not aid, driven economy, it is important to note that the US is Bangladesh's most important trading partner."

He said the bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded $4.2 billion in 2008. "The livelihoods of millions of Bangladeshis depend on our close relationship. We want to deepen and strengthen this friendship."

The envoy held a discussion with imams at Imam Training Academy at noon. Later, he visited the Martyrs' Memorial Archive and attended a discussion with the university students at RU Senate Bhaban.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Ghulam Rahman yesterday recommended allocating funds for the lawmakers and the election expenses of political parties from the national budget in order to curb corruption.

"If we can free our political parties, its activities and the election process from corruption, we can expect a remarkable reduction in corruption in our society and we can achieve the goals of our Liberation War -- improving the living standards and eliminating the economic disparity," he said at a discussion.

The political activities and the elections are very costly affairs, he said. "If one chooses to do politics or if a minister visits his constituency, he has to spend a lot of money for their supporters. Where would they get the money from?"

Progati (Promoting Governance, Accountability, Transparency and Integrity), an USAID initiative, organised the discussion in Rajshahi city to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day.

Speaking as the chief guest, Ghulam Rahman said a culture of cronyism and a business-politics nexus have developed in the country in the long absence of democracy.

"Parliament is the head of the country. If it is tainted by grafts, the entire country will gradually be involved in corruption. So, we have to combat corruption at the top first," he added.

Ghulam Rahman called on the countrymen to unite and launch a social movement to resist corruption.

He said the economic condition of South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand was similar to that of the then East Pakistan 50 to 60 years ago. "But today, those countries have developed a lot while almost half of the population in our country is still ultra-poor."

Speaking on the occasion, US Ambassador James F Moriarty said corruption reduces Bangladesh's GDP by about two percent or 1.5 billion dollars a year. "As a direct result of corruption, tens of thousands of Bangladeshis remain unemployed, uneducated and impoverished."

He, however, observed that Bangladesh has made progress in ensuring good governance and strengthening the democratic institutions.

He termed the participation of 80 percent of voters in the last general election 'an outstanding feat in any democracy'.

The independent Anti-Corruption Commission having investigative capacity, the formation of the Information Commission and Human Rights Commission and a very successful Election Commission helped the country make some progress in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions index, he said.

"While it is heartening to see that Bangladesh is one of the nine countries that improved most in their rankings in 2009, the country still ranks near the bottom at number 139 out of 180 countries. Bangladesh still has a long way to go," the ambassador added.

Describing the activities of Progati, he said the project is helping improve transparency and accountability in public resource management. It works closely with the Jatiya Sangsad and the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

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