Sunday, October 7, 2007

Truth Commission Unwelcomed

Truth Commission should not be formed for certain quarters
BBC Sanglap told
Staff Correspondent
Source: Daily Star
October 7, 2007

Leaders of the major political parties yesterday strongly opposed the move to form the "Truth Commission" for certain quarters, saying that it would rather add to the rise of corruption.

Speaking at the BBC Bangladesh Sanglap, the political leaders also observed that if any law is to be enacted or any commission is to be formed, it should be made for all.

Their comments came following the recent plan of the government to set up a Truth Commission for businessmen accused of graft to have their confessions and settle the charges against them without putting them to trials.

Awami League leader advocate Abdul Hamid, expelled BNP joint secretary general Ashraf Hossain, Acting Jatiya Party Chairman barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud and professor Sadiqa Halim of sociology department of Dhaka University took part in the dialogue held at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the capital.

BBC World Service Trust in conjunction with the BBC Bengali Service organised the event moderated by Kamal Ahmed of BBC Bengali Service.

Law Adviser Mainul Hosein on October 3 said the government is going to set up a body, styled as "Truth Commission," to receive confessional testimony of businessmen accused of corruption with an aim to give corrupt businessmen a chance not to face arrest or undergo trial by surrendering their ill-gotten wealth or paying financial penalty to the government.

"The Truth Commission should not be formed for special quarters under any circumstances. It will never be logical. Laws could never be formulated for special quarters," Hamid, also a former speaker of the parliament, said. He, however, observed that such commission should be formed for all.

The caretaker government should take account of wealth of all former lawmakers and ministers of the last seven parliaments since the Liberation War and publish a white paper on the corruption of politicians and only then the anti-corruption drive by the government would be successful, the AL leader observed.

Ashraf Hossain observed that if punishment is reduced after confessions of wrongdoings or crimes, then crime would not be called crime anymore. Echoing Hamid, the BNP leader said that if such a commission is set up for special quarters, the importance of the customary laws would be degraded.

Anisul Islam Mahmud said that the economy of the country could not be kept vibrant by giving shelter to the corrupt businessmen through setting up Truth Commission. "Formation of Truth Commission for special quarters will never be good for the future of the country," Mahmud, a former foreign minister, said.

Mahmud observed that the arrest of the corrupt businessmen did not make any impact on the soaring prices of the essentials, as there is no involvement of those businessmen as well the ones included in the ACC's fresh corrupt suspect list with the commodity trade.

Prof Sadeka Halim observed that the Truth Commissions in other countries usually hear the victims of human rights violation. "We will have to be very careful so that corruption is not reinforced through formation of the commission," the DU professor said adding that the Truth Commission could be set up in line with creating the office of ombudsman as per the constitution.

The speakers blamed local and Malaysian recruiting agencies and a section of dishonest government officials and employees of both countries for the indefinite freeze by the Malaysian government on hiring workers from Bangladesh.

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