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Thursday, April 22, 2010

[ALOCHONA] On the 1/11 Episode in Bangladesh

On the 1/11 Episode in Bangladesh

Renata Lok Dessallien on the denial mode

By Dr. K. M. A. Malik ( UK )

Renata Lok Dessallien, who served as the UN Resident Coordinator in Dhaka for more than three years, have once again come into media limelight because of her attempts to dissociate the UN and herself from the traumatic January 11, 2007 (the so-called 1/11) episode in Bangladesh. On this day the then President of the country, Iajuddin Ahmed, was compelled by a group of top level army officers to postpone the national elections scheduled for January 22, 2007 and declare a State of Emergency. This led to an unelected and unconstitutional 'Caretaker Government (CTG)' with a former World Bank official Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed as the Chief Adviser, but the Army Chief General Moeen holding the real power, ruled the country for about two years.

This period witnessed a very tragic period in Bangladesh history, full of controversies to break up the two largest political parties (BNP and AL), remove their top leaders and 'remodel' Bangladesh political landscape to suit foreign and local vested interests. The country not only went through a severe crisis in political uncertainty and turmoil, but also it paved the way for greater imperialist and hegemonic penetration and control. The economy was nearly ruined. About 70 thousand political workers at grass-root level were arbitrarily put into prison without trial. Top political leaders including two former prime ministers as well as many businessmen were imprisoned on charges of corruption. The country also witnessed the worst period of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, torture and the killings of suspected criminals under custody.
That a few top army officers headed by General Moeen U Ahmed had conspired for a long time before 1/11 to grab power with the help and connivance of the imperialist powers and their cohorts in international bodies such as the UN was not initially understood by the common people. A serious propaganda offensive was launched to denigrate the political process and glorify the 1/11 change. Only a handful of people could see the hidden agenda behind the event instigated by some foreign powers. Fortunately, most people became gradually aware of the ill motives of General Moeen to 'de-politicise' Bangladesh and to become its new 'saviour' with imperialist and hegemonic backing.

Faced with country-wide opposition and protests, and also because of the waning support from the foreign powers, Moeen had to abandon his personal agenda. His talk of introducing 'a new brand of democracy' was universally condemned and his links with foreign powers became totally exposed. Finally, general elections were held at the end of December 2008, which brought Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and allies into power. There were serious allegations of violations of electoral rules, rigging and 'understanding' between General Moeen and Sheikh Hasina (as confirmed by General Ershad and Abdul Jalil), but the opposition accepted the reality considering that a 'faulty' elected government is better than any unelected, military-led regime.

General Moeen is now a discredited name in Bangladesh , not only because of his personal ambition to become a 'little Caesar', but also for his deceptive and conspiratorial role to denigrate and subvert the democratic political process by using some elements within the army (especially the DGFI). His role in the BDR massacre on February 25-26, 2008, has also come under serious questions.

Moeen had earlier justified his intervention in the 1/11 episode by saying that it was the threat from the UN that prompted him to request the President to postpone the proposed elections on January 22, 2007, and to declare the State of Emergency . He also denied that he had any personal ambition to become the new ruler. He put the blame squarely on the UN intervention.

The out-going UN official now denies any involvement of the world body in the disastrous 1/11 episode. In a pre-departure interview with UNB, she said, "International community including the UN did not interfere in any way. Our only concern was to create conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections." 

She does not agree with General Moeen's contention that he received letters from the UN to the effect that the Bangladesh army personnel would lose jobs in the UN peacekeeping mission if the army plays any role in the proposed parliamentary polls on January 22, 2007. "This was never discussed," she asserted.

Renata Dessallien's denial has provoked severe criticism and some analysts have also called her a 'liar'. Reports in several newspapers make it very clear that the UN played a crucial role in effecting the 1/11 episode, and that Renata Lok Dessallien as the UNDP representative and resident coordinator of the UN was directly involved with the then Army Chief General Moeen in the conspiracy.

An editorial in the prestigious daily New Age [April 19, 2010] has termed Ms Renata Lok-Dessallien's latest statement as "more than a travesty of truth; it is an affront to the people's intelligence." I include the following extracts from the editorial since, in my opinion, this is an excellent analysis on the role played by the UN and several foreign diplomats in the 1/11 episode.

The editorial says, "on the very day that a state of emergency was declared, i.e. January 11, 2007, her office circulated a media release that said 'should the 22 January Parliamentary Elections proceed without participation of all major political parties, deployment of Armed Forces in support of the election process raises question. This may have implications for Bangladesh 's future role in UN Peacekeeping Operations.'

The media release also said: 'United Nations Under-Secretary-Generals Mr. Ibrahim Gambari and Mr. Jean-Marie Guehno of the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations respectively, will be contacting Bangladesh's Political, Caretaker Government and Military leaders tonight in this regard.' Evidently, there was clear indication in the media release of impending communication between the UN and the then Bangladesh government.

Dessallien's claim that the 'international community, including the UN, did not interfere in any way' cannot be any farther from truth, either; in the lead-up to the January 11, 2007 changeover, there were heightened activities by the diplomats of certain countries and she was very much in the forefront of the so-called 'mediation', during which the 'mediators' even went to the Dhaka Cantonment to meet the then chief of army staff. These mediators did not even bother to keep their errands, which, needless to say, were in contravention of all diplomatic norms and international conventions guiding relations between states; they confronted the media, both electronic and print, with regular 'updates'. Surely, Dessallien cannot say her involvement in the 'mediation' was of her own volition; she did represent the United Nations and there were no two ways about it.

The timing of her claim is also intriguing, came as it did on the eve of her departure upon conclusion of her controversial assignment in Bangladesh . Over the past three years or so, she apparently did not deem it necessary to come up with such a disclaimer, although a section of the media consistently criticised the unwarranted interference by certain diplomats and UN officials in the country's internal affairs. She also did not bother to come up with a rejoinder to the claim of the former army chief, made in his memoir, that Guenho had called him to say that 'the UN will consider with due importance the withdrawal of the Bangladesh Army from the UN peacekeeping mission' should the 'army play any role' in the eventually-cancelled January 22 elections.

Overall, right from the start and till the very end of her tenure, Dessallien looks to have indulged in falsehood and deceit, which is unbecoming of a UN official and for which the incumbent elected government should have declared her person non grata, all the more so because her antics and those of the diplomats had brought upon the country two years of misrule by a band of apolitical individuals, the cost of which the nation is still paying and may have to pay for years to come. 

Regrettably, the Awami League-led government has thus far shown a curious reticence about bringing the proponents and exponents of the interim government, onstage and backstage, to task for their misadventure. The only solace for the people seems to be that they may have seen the last of Dessallien. Meanwhile, now that she has made the claim, the UN owes the people of Bangladesh some clarification."

Before concluding this essay, it is important to draw attention to the destructive internal divisions that facilitate the interference of foreign powers in the country's internal affairs. They take advantage of internal discords and impose their will on the country's politics, economy, administration, defence and other affairs. 'Divide and Rule' is a convenient tool in hands of imperialists and hegemons. 

The tragedy is that our rulers are short-sighted, incompetent and interested more in grabbing and holding power than in serving the true interests of the people. Since most of them can be easily 'bought and sold', they have a subservient mentality and depend on the 'advice' of 'foreign friends' rather than on the support of the common people. During the days leading to 1/11, we witnessed the shameful rat race of many front-line leaders of AL, BNP, Jatio Party and Jamat-e-Islami to visit the US, British, EU, Indian, Australian diplomats to solicit support, whilst refusing to conduct any dialogue and negotiations among themselves to resolve national issues. We can blame the outsiders for 'interference' but we must also accept our own part in facilitating the context for their intervention. (April 21, 2010).

[The author is an academic and political analyst; he lives in Cardiff , UK , and may be contacted by e-mail:]


[Disclaimer: ALOCHONA Management is not liable for information contained in this message. The author takes full responsibility.]
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