Govt needs to refute such claims with evidence, not rhetoric
THE US government’s claim that there are credible reports of the Rapid Action Battalion’s involvement in some extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances is neither groundbreaking nor earthshaking; in fact, it only echoes what conscious and conscientious sections of Bangladesh society have been saying all along. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Saturday, the assistant secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the US Department of State, Robert Blake, made the claim in his testimony at Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of US Congress in Washington on Thursday. Importantly still, the claim is unlikely to induce any positive response from the Bangladesh government. If past experiences were any indicators, one key functionary of the Awami League-Jatiya Party government or the other is highly likely to come up with a rebuttal, dismiss the US claim as ‘unfounded and baseless’, and even go to the extent of alleging that it is all part of a conspiracy, hatched by certain quarters, at home and abroad, to discredit and demonise the government of Bangladesh. In recent times, in the wake of the World Bank’s decision to cancel its $1.2 billion credit line for the propose Padma multipurpose bridge project on the ground that it ‘has credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy’, the government has followed such a script to the letter. Almost similar has been its response to the recent Human Rights Watch report on the trial of the February 25-26, 2009 rebellion at the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles (since renamed Border Guards Bangladesh).
What has, however, been rather curious about the aforementioned series events is that everyone — be it a Western government or a multilateral lending organisation or a human rights watchdog — seems to have credible evidence of one wrongdoing or the other by either state machineries or government functionaries. What has been equally curious is that the AL-Jatiya Party government invariably seeks to counter ‘credible’ reports or evidence with blatantly partisan, and often jingoistic, political rhetoric, that too, in the name of upholding and protecting national independence and sovereignty. Needless to say, amidst such high-intensity political rhetoric, hardly anyone from the government bothers to explain to the people why it cannot come up with its own ‘credible’ evidences and reports to refute those that, for example, Washington or the World Bank or the Human Rights Watch speaks of. Meanwhile, no one is even probed, let alone prosecuted or punished, for the supposed wrongdoing. In such circumstances, the government could very well be perceived to be trying to protect the wrongdoers, which, needless to say, cannot be good for itself or the country, for that matter.
The incumbents need to realise that, in case of such serious allegations as the one put forth by Washington of the Rapid Action Battalion’s involvement in extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearances, political rhetoric can only divert the public attention or media scrutiny or international spotlight for a little while. Hence, if they really believe that such allegations are part of a conspiracy, they need to come up with their own credible reports and evidence. Otherwise, instead of crying out foul and naming names, they should pay heed to these claims and act accordingly.
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Date:Sunday, 22nd July, 2012