October 2007

Vol 7 - No. 4
 

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SOUTH ASIA | October 2007

 


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  AFGHANISTAN   BANGLADESH   BHUTAN    News Briefs

 

Human Rights in Bangladesh   A Different Approach to Reduce Corruption

 

Bhutan Strives to Develop 'Gross National Happiness'

 



 (Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
  map are not members of SAARC)

   AFGHANISTAN

 

Afghan President Condemns Suicide Bombing, 
Offers Taleban Posts For Peace

BY DANIEL SCHEARF

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has condemned a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 30 people and wounded many others. Mr. Karzai also offered to personally meet with Taleban and insurgent leaders and to give militants government posts in return for peace.

Mr. Karzai told journalists Saturday the bombing early that morning was a terrible tragedy, an act of extreme cowardice, and against Islam.

"A man that calls himself Muslim would not blow up innocent people in the middle of Ramadan, an enemy of all of us, an enemy of Afghanistan, an enemy of humanity, something that we condemn in strongest possible terms," he said.

The suicide attack occurred in the Afghan capital on a crowded Afghan National Army bus. The bomber, dressed in an Afghan army uniform, detonated explosives after trying to board the bus.

Mr. Karzai said the explosion killed 28 soldiers and two civilians. At least 21 people were wounded in the blast as it ripped the bus to pieces and damaged nearby shops.

A purported Taleban spokesman has said the group was responsible for the attack.

Despite the deadly bombing, Mr. Karzai said he was still willing to meet personally with Taleban leader Mullah Omar and another top insurgent, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, for peace talks.

He said he would even offer positions in the government to insurgent leaders willing to put down their weapons and join the political establishment.

Mr. Karzai says if he had their addresses, there would be no need for them to contact him. He would go to them directly and ask why they are destroying the country.

However, Mr. Karzai rejected insurgents' demands that foreign troops first leave the country.

Attacks inside the Afghan capital used to be rare, but this year there have been several, and suicide bombings are on the rise throughout the country. There have already been more than 100 this year, compared with only 17 in 2005.

In June, a police academy bus in Kabul was bombed, killing 35 people. That was the deadliest bombing in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taleban government in 2001_

U.S. officials say Taleban militants have resorted to terror tactics out of desperation as coalition forces have stepped-up operations against the them.

Taleban insurgents Saturday released four Red Cross employees after holding them for three days. The Red Cross was trying to negotiate the release of a German hostage held by the insurgents since July. The kidnappers had already executed a second German hostage.

[Source: Voice of America]

BANGLADESH

Reduce Corruption - A Different measure can be taken in Bangladesh

BY DR. TOUHID MD. FAISAL KAMAL Ph.D *

This was very normal to resign from their post(The Bangladeshi Anti-Corruption Commissioners) the stage seemed set for re-constituting the Anti-Corruption Commission with more power and authority in order to make it really effective and functional to serve the purposefor the resistance of Corruptions in Bangladesh. 

There is no denying the fact that widespread and pervasive corruption in government and public administration is now the number one problem of the country and the new caretaker government headed by Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed has already announced to undertake immediate appropriate measures to combat corruption.

In governance terms, corruption threatens democratic public institutions by permitting the influence of improper interest on the use of public resources and power, and by undermining the confidence of citizens in the legitimate activities of the state. In a developing country like Bangladesh where administrative norms and systems have not yet been fully in place, most effective action against corruption is to raise the awareness of all officers and staff in public service increasing the level of control, that is by having matters that would lend themselves to corruption processed by more than one official, or through increased vigilance on the part of superiors.

Corruption is a world wide phenomenon and it has got many forms, colours and dimensions and combating corruption totally is simply not possible anywhere in the world not to speak of a country like Bangladesh where the resources are limited but people's demands are innumerable.

Bribery, forgery, nepotism, ransom-taking and rent-seeking, tax evasion through collaboration with tax collectors, graft in government purchases, wrong auditing, false bidding etc are some of the forms of corruption we very often have to confront with in government offices.

The Code of conduct

To combat corruption a generally applicable code of conduct may be made available to the heads of organisations and other superiors. It will help them considerably to respond adequately to incidents and practices where the suspicion of corruption exists.

Particular emphasis should be there on a consistent supervisory control. Special training programmes for combating corrupt practices may be arranged for senior officials and heads of organisations specially to acquaint with ways of exercising control and supervisory functions. Concrete guidance on anti-corruption measures should be available to them so that they can respond in a competent way in an individual case.

Guidance and training for public officials especially at senior levels on codes of conduct, ethics and awareness may be considered as essential elements of service. These performances should primarily focus on the legitimate activities of civil servants that can be improved by further training minimising the potential of illegitimate administrative activities.

The efforts should be planned specifically to promote the efficiency of the application of laws. Also of fundamental importance is the civil servants' code of ethics, which is normally prepared on the basis of an authorisation by law. This is an undertaking in which representatives of all fields -- trade, commerce, industry, law enforcement agencies, tax collecting agency, judiciary etc also take part providing expert and professional input.

For a country like Bangladesh, the main remedial measure against further spread of corruption should be to employ the power of modern information technology to reduce civil servants' discretionary power and thereby make government more transparent and accountable. The more discretion government employees have and the less visible their actions are, the greater is the potential for abuse and corruption.

There is an incredibly wide range of possible applications of IT to reduce discretion and increase transparency -- the scope seems almost limitless. As such the newly re-constituted anti-corruption commission should seriously consider to have a national data base on the claims/ allegations/ newspaper reports of corruptions and it should be updated regularly on the present status of the case.

Quick disposal of corruption cases is yet another area where proper attention should be given by the authority concerned. Special legal provisions must be in place to quicken the processes of trial at least to give the impression that the government is sincere and serious in combating corruption. In this respect, some quick exemplary punitive actions taken against the culprits will go a long way in enhancing the credibility of the anti-corruption agency.

Another really effective deterrent measure will be to apply stiffer sanctions, specially jail sentences for corrupt behaviour, confiscation of the ill-gotten money or property, to declare unfit for public offices and electoral posts.

In fact, the fair sanction is an important deterrent. The possibilities of suffering social ostracism, financial penalties or incarceration inevitably discourage people from taking the risk of engaging in corrupt behaviour.

One of the major reasons that corruption flourishes in Bangladesh is that hardly anybody is ever punished for it. We all know that there is massive loan default, tax and customs evasion, power theft, procurement corruption like kickbacks and extortion everywhere in Bangladesh.

Yet detection and punishment of these offences is very rare. The weak application of sanctions reflects the deficiencies of the anti-corruption machinery and a judicial system in which justice is easily deferred. A combination of political will and remedies is, therefore, needed to make sanctions a more potent deterrent to corruption in the country. The Anti-Corruption Commission was in operation with a fulltime chairman and two commissioners since November 2004 but it could not be possible to attain any positive and concrete result only due to lack of initiative, drive and dynamism from the leadership.

Finally since two Asian countries -- Japan and South Korea have achieved considerable success in combating corruption, we can follow some of the practices they use.

Scenario-Japan

In Japan the National Public Service Law provides legislation relating to the discipline of national public employees in the regular service. It includes the prohibition of any act, which may cause discredit to the public service. The violation of this legislation is punishable under the disciplinary punishment rules provided by the national public service law.

The public service officials' ethics and codes of conduct are established by every ministry and agency and applied to its public service officials. They prescribe prohibited matters about contacts with businessman concerned.

There is policy, based on Cabinet division, that due consideration should be given in the appointment of national public employees so that an individual officer shall not occupy a post responsible for budget implementation or licences for a longer period of time. In addition, various kinds of training for ethics awareness are provided.

Every ministry and agency has managers of the public service discipline and a general manager of the public service discipline. As one of the measures to enhance the high level of ethical standards in the national public service, the National Personnel Authority is currently reviewing the disciplinary punishment system.

Scenario-Korea

In Korea, the act on ethics in public service aims to secure fairness in public service by preventing public officials from accumulating unlawful properties. The Act institutionalises the registration and disclosure of the reported property of both public officials and candidates for elected public office.

The Act covers high-level officials in public service-related organisations as well as all public officials in the executive agencies, the legislature and the judicial bodies. Under the law, national and local public officials higher than grade four (director or equivalent level in the central government) as well as office holders of selected positions in public service-related organisations have to report their property to the registration agency and renew their report annually.

The registered property of public officials higher than grade one (deputy minister or equivalent level in the central government) shall be made public through the official gazette or public bulletins.

The Public Service Pension Law reduces the pension by half of public officials who received penalty, impeachment of disciplinary dismissal on grounds of corruption.

Among Korean citizens, the telephone number 188 is well known. By dialing 188, any citizen can report corrupt actions of public officials to the Board of Audit and Inspection.

__________________

* The writer is a Management and I.T Professional, Free lance writer, Good Governance activist, and Member Secretary of Center for Good Governance-Bangladesh. The views expressed are of the author's own and not necessarily of the organization he represents. E-mail: tmfaisalkamal@yahoo.com  

BHUTAN

Bhutan Strives to Develop 'Gross National Happiness'


home

In landlocked Bhutan, wedged in the Himalayas between India and China, development is measured in terms of Gross National Happiness. It is a part of the kingdom's effort to improve the welfare of Bhutanese while not sacrificing traditional Buddhist values. VOA's Steve Herman traveled to Bhutan to find out more.

For the 600,000 subjects of the "Land of the Thunder Dragon," happiness is roads without traffic signals. In fact, drivers will find not a single red light in Bhutan.

Archers compete in Thimpu tournament

Archers compete in Thimpu tournament

Happiness is spending days competing in one of the numerous tournaments of the national sport: archery. For many boys from the age of six, a happy childhood is spent as a monk in Buddhist monasteries mastering Sanskrit.

When the kingdom emerged from isolation in the 1960s, it found its neighbors measuring development in terms of Gross National Product. But Bhutan was not comfortable with that benchmark as explains the managing director of the national Kuensel newspaper, Kinley Dorji.

"And when we looked around and saw what happened we thought that was a problem, that something very important had been forgotten and that was happiness," Dorji said. "So Gross National Happiness was introduced really to give development a higher goal."

Gepke Hingst

Gepke Hingst

Those familiar with ways to measure development do not necessarily see a conflict between GNP and GNH. Gepke Hingst is the country director in Bhutan for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

"Fundamental in the Gross National Happiness is the fact of this equitable social development," said Hingst. "If you look at certain countries in the region where you see an enormous growth it might not necessarily be so equitable. And I think disparities in any society are not the way to go."

On the U.N. Human Development Index, Bhutan is climbing steadily. It now ranks one spot behind Pakistan and just ahead of Bangladesh and Nepal. While precise statistics are hard to come by, adult literacy is believed to have doubled since the early 1980s and is likely now above 50 percent. Gross Domestic Product, mostly derived from hydropower sales to India, has been growing an impressive 10 percent on average in recent years.

But for many Bhutanese, development goals remain less concrete. Equal treatment and non-violence to humans and animals alike are among the key tenants of Buddhism.

Thus Gross National Happiness means stray dogs roam freely and will not be captured and killed. Many people, to gain merit, save chickens from slaughter and set them free inside monasteries.

Shingkar Lama

Shingkar Lama

For one of Bhutan's senior monks, the Shingkar Lama, Ngidup, this is Gross National Happiness realized.

"I'm very proud to say that we as a Buddhist country here in Bhutan actually sort of put the teachings, the very primary philosophy of Buddhism into practice and made it a national goal," he said.

Newspaper publisher Kinley Dorji acknowledges that despite the deep connection to Buddhism, Bhutanese are not immune from desiring modern day commodities and luxurious goods, such as German automobiles or a Korean widescreen plasma TV sets.

"That's exactly why we need Gross National Happiness because you have the reminder that material achievement, material success will not bring you happiness," Dorji said.

Bhutanese chat inside Phodrangdzong monastery<br />

Bhutanese chat inside Phodrangdzong monastery

The gauge for gross national happiness is abstract. And the head monk of the Shingkar advises not to get hung up on the numbers in the quest for happiness.

"So whether you want to enjoy it in the forms of numbers or you can say like 'I'm having like 10 happiness' a day or something, I don't know. But as long as you're feeling peaceful that's how we want the measurement of feeling happy or peaceful or whatever," he said.

Bhutan holds its first nationwide election in December, as it - under royal guidance - moves from absolute monarchy to a parliamentary government. Bhutan will soon find out whether democracy can also contribute to increasing Gross National Happiness.

[Source: Voice of America]

News Briefs

BANGLADESH

Foreign Ministry denies any arrests in connection with bomb blasts in Hyderabad: Bangladesh has denied any arrests in the country in connection with the August 25-twin bomb blasts in Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh in southern India, and said it has not received any request from India for information on the bombings which killed 44 people. "Bangladesh is yet to receive any request for information in connection with the Hyderabad blasts and there have been no arrests in Bangladesh in this connection," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on September 5, 2007. "The Home Ministry has informed me that no one by that name ‘Mohammad Sharifuddin’ has been arrested here," said acting foreign secretary Mohammad Touhid Hossain. He was reacting to reports in a section of the Indian media that Bangladeshi police had detained one Sharifddin alias Abu Hamza in connection with the Mecca Masjid blasts (May 18, 2007) and for providing support to the twin blasts in Hyderabad. PTI , September 6, 2007.

  

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