Pitting beneficiaries against benefactors of corruption

Editorial, NewAge, October 2, 2007

Three of the seven serving and former bureaucrats, who were part of the cabinet committee on purchase that approved the proposal for awarding a contract to Global Agro Trade Company on container handling at the inland container depot in Dhaka and the Chittagong port and summoned by the Anti-Corruption Commission in connection with the GATCO scam case against former prime minister Khaleda Zia, reportedly came up with identical testimonies to the commission’s investigation committee on Sunday. According to media reports, each of them claimed that ‘higher authorities,’ meaning the political authorities of the day, had approved the proposal for awarding the contract to GATCO. If there were any manipulations by the political authorities in this particular case, the bureaucrats in question, as servants of the republic who are oath-bound to protect national interest, should surely have taken a strong position against the move. They could have had their opposition made public or even step down in protest. However, we are not aware of any bureaucrat taking such a strong position against the GATCO contract. On the contrary, we have seen some of them actually reaping benefits in terms of getting prestigious postings and transfers, multiple contractual appointments after serving out their tenure, etc from their association with the political authorities in question. It is rather unacceptable that the same bureaucrats who let manipulations by the political authorities in the GATCO affair without a semblance of protest should be summoned to testify in the case.

We have to point out though that this is not the first time that the incumbents have employed this tactic in taking their anti-corruption drive to the politicians. The Awami League president, Sheikh Hasina, has also been implicated in a corruption case filed by a person who had supposedly been forced to pay her in order to get a contract when she was the prime minister. Obviously, the complainant of the case was a beneficiary of the underhand dealing that had supposedly taken place. We have maintained all along that whoever is found to have engaged in corrupt practices should be prosecuted and punished in a transparent manner and within the ambit of law. However, in what may well be construed as a unidirectional move to malign politicians, especially Khaleda and Hasina, the incumbents have made a travesty of justice in using those as complainants or witnesses in corruption cases who may have been beneficiaries of the supposed corrupt practices. This is unacceptable.

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