Bangladesh native Abdul Momen, a management professor at Framingham State College, was a longtime critic of successive governments, military and civilian alike, in his homeland.
Now that he has been appointed ambassador to the United Nations for Bangladesh, Momen will have to field criticism of the six-month-old government he has agreed to represent. And some of that criticism is surfacing in his adopted state, Massachusetts.
Rafiq Islam, who lives in Falmouth on Cape Cod and has been in the United States for 26 years, contacted the Globe to say he had just returned from Bangladesh and found the crime and security situation to have deteroriated. He said that extrajudicial killings of political figures also have continued despite the promises of the new government.
He said that the new prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, elected in a landslide victory in December, appeared to be doing what she had done in her first term as prime minister, from 1996 to 2001, promising change and then failing to deliver. "The situation has not improved very much. Many international watchgroups have criticized the government, and the so-called progress has not materalized. It is more of a political dictatorship than a real democracy," Islam said.
I wrote about Momen's appointment in the Globe on Tuesday. Last night I asked him by email to respond to criticism that the government isn't doing enough or acting fast enough. Momen, who is traveling today to Bangladesh to collect his credentials for the UN post, answered by email before departing.
He said that in just a few months, the Awami League government led by Hasina in fact has made significant progress in a number of areas.
For example, he said the government had cut the prices of essential foodstuffs, including rice, by half in the last six months. To reduce corruption, the government has required Cabinet members to declare their wealth, and has made the financial system more transparent. The economy is likely to grow 5.5 percent to 6 percent this year, Momen said, ahead of earlier projections.
He acknowledged that there are law and order problems in Dhaka, the huge capital city, and that extrajudicial killings have continued, although he said the pace of such killings has been cut drastically. "More importantly, in the present government, both the Law Minister and the Home Minister have publicly stated that they will not tolerate any extrajudicial killing and those responsible would be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This is a good beginning. I have written personal notes to both the Ministers to fully stop the extra-judicial killing as it simply unacceptable."
Momen said terror attacks by Islamist extremists had stopped since Hasina took office, but he added that because of campaigns against tax evaders and corruption, "many well-to-do people are upset and they are trying to derail the government."
The daughter of one of the most prominent victims of extrajudicial violence in Bangladesh is Nazli Kibria, a professor at Boston University. Her father, Shah AMS Kibria, a member of Parliament and former finance minister, was assassinated in 2005. The family maintains a web site about Kibria and the assassination. The previous year, Hasina herself narrowly escaped a similar grenade attack.
Nazli Kibria applauded the appointment of Momen to the UN, but said she was upset that nothing had been done by the new government to bring the perpetrators of her father's killing to justice. "My father was a member of the Awami League. We expected this new government to do something, but they’ve done absolutely nothing. My family is not happy about it," she said.
Momen said in his email: "As you know, extra-judicial killing has become a norm, especially over the last seven years, and it is taking time to fully stop it."
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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