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People’s Tribunal on WB, IMF, ADB in Bangladesh

News Reports

by, 6 December 2008

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New Age, 2 December 2008

Mass tribunal charges WB, IMF, ADB

Orders govt to realise compensation for causing national losses
Staff Correspondent

An independent mass tribunal in Dhaka on Monday charged the World Bank and two other lending agencies with offences of causing damage to Bangladesh’s economy and society and asked the government to take steps to realise reparations from them.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank were asked to stop ‘illegal activities’ while carrying out agendas of their masters. ‘Or else they will have to suspend their operations and leave this country,’ said the seven-member tribunal in its verdict.

The tribunal recommended that the accumulated losses in economic and social sectors due to lenders’ policies and activities should be calculated by a committee comprising some experts and three agencies should pay compensations for their misdeeds. The government was also ordered to try the lending agencies’ local collaborators for carrying out anti-people activities.

‘This tribunal thinks that their destructive policies, projects and unlawful activities have resulted in enormous economic and social losses in the country,’ said Mohammad Ghulam Rabbani, a former Supreme Court judge, who presided over the symbolic trial process by the tribunal at the National Press Club.

The mass tribunal preparatory committee, formed in November 2007, sent letters dated November 23, 2008 to invite the representatives of the three agencies in Dhaka to take part in Monday’s hearing and kept five seats reserved for them to defend their position. But none of them turned up.

Upon announcement of the judgement in front of about 500 people, including rights activists, the three-page judgement was signed by six other members of the tribunal, Dhaka University professor emeritus, Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, professor of International Relations of the same university, Akmal Hossain, journalists Kamal Lohani and Syed Abul Maksud, writer Selina Hossain and engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah.

Following the depositions made at the hearing, the tribunal indicted the multinational lending agencies for subjecting people to deprivation and widening disparity, ruining indigenous industries, retrenchment of workers, destruction of food and energy security, price-hike of essential items, agricultural inputs, water and electricity, commercialisation of education and health sectors, degradation of environment, creating dependency and hampering policy sovereignty.

‘It is also proved that in order to impose the burden of loans and influence the governments, the World Bank and similar organisations had resorted to various kinds of illegal means including gifts, bribes, blackmailing and pressuring [authorities] in secret manner with the help of the undemocratic interventions by the foreign ambassadors and vested quarters,’ read the judgement.

Economists MM Akash submitted deposition on their harmful influence on industrial sector, Muinul Islam on financial and Anu Muhammad on energy sector, physician-cum-politician Mustaq Hossain on health, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal leader, Bazlur Rashid Firoz on education, Shah Alam of the Centre for Law Research on jute and Junaid Saki of Bangladesh Krishak Majur Sanghati on agriculture sector.

They all demanded compensations for the losses as a result of the policies and programmes of the lending agencies.

The Daily Star, 2 December 2008

Realise losses due to ‘donor’ policies

People’s tribunal asks govt

Star Report

A Peoples’ Tribunal yesterday asked the government to realise compensations from the World Bank, ADB and IMF for causing losses to the country through implementation of their policies in various sectors.

The seven-member mock tribunal, formed by left-leaning groups, delivered the judgment after hearing seven petitions at a mock court set up at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.

"It has become evident to the tribunal that the World Bank and its associate organisations have imposed an anti-people development policy by offering loans or threatening to cancel loans," said Justice Ghulam Rabbani, who headed the tribunal, in the verdict.

Other members of the bench are: educationist Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury, engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, journalist Kamal Lohani, columnist Syed Abul Moqsud, Prof Akmal Hossain of International Relations of Dhaka University (DU) and author Selina Hossain.

No representative of any of the lending agencies were present during the hearing although separate notices were served to the heads of the agencies in Bangladesh on November 23 asking them to be present at the hearing.

The judgment came after a national preparatory committee on People’s Tribunal, formed on November 3 last year, brought allegations that the country incurred losses because of implementation of these agencies’ polices and projects in agriculture, jute, industry, energy and mineral resources, banking, health and education sectors.

The mock court observed that the policies and prescriptions of these agencies have deprived the people of their right to take part in country’s development activities, contributed to income disparity and devastated local industries including the jute industry.

Referring to various World Bank projects in agriculture sector, the petitioners said the implementation of the projects has resulted in prolonged water logging and recurrent floods in the country.

They alleged that the World Bank’s emphasis on producing high-yield variety rice, which requires increased use of fertiliser and pesticides, led to commercialisation of agri-input, affected bio-diversity and depleted underground water spreading arsenic contamination in the 90s.

Referring to jute and other sectors, the petitioners said implementation of Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) tagged by the World Bank in early 80s led to closure and privatisation of state-owned factories making thousands of workers unemployed.

Besides, trade liberalisation also hit domestic industries badly, the petitioners claimed saying that these agencies suggested for divestment instead of helping solve the problems of the state-owned enterprises.

Prof MM Akash of DU Economics Department, Prof Anu Muhammad of Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University, Prof Muinul Islam of Economics Department of Chittagong University, Gonosanghati Andolon Co-ordinator Zunaid Saki, Centre for Law Research Support Convener Shah Alam, Bazlur Rashid Firoz of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal and Chikitsak Sangsad Vice President Dr Mustak Hossain filed the petitions with the tribunal.