Papul’s arrest embarrassed the people of Bangladesh, says TIB executive director
Although many countries have rules and have signed international conventions against money laundering, human trafficking, corruption, and other organized crime, they are only for show, said chief of Transparency International Delia Ferreira Rubio.
“In fact those are the only ways through which we can hide the absence of political will as well as to face the problem and to prevent corruption, money laundering and other organized crime,” she said.
She was speaking at a webinar, arranged by the Kuwait Transparency Society on Sunday, titled “The Role of Civil Society in Combating Organized Crime,” where Dr Iftekhar Zaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, and Majid Al-Mutairi, chair of Kuwait Transparency Society, were also panelists.
“So apart from the rules, we need to guarantee enforcement of those rules: proper, timely and effective enforcement,” she said.
She also urged all countries to ensure overseeing institutions, the judiciary and the public prosecutor.
“[But] many times, the organizations are created, the bodies are in place, but no yearly budget is assigned to these organizations to properly perform their activities,” she added.
Politics is investment
“We don’t have anything from business people who are coming to politics. This happens prominently because politics is considered to be an investment. It’s a kind of opportunity to rise to power assurance. Also the political position is viewed as a license for making profit,” said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekhar Zaman.
Today 61.2% of parliamentarians are business people, which was 17.5% in the first parliament after independence, he said.
“Not only that, in the government, corruption and criminality in the process is consistent; it’s growing like any other virus in Bangladesh, of course.”
Indicating former lawmaker from Cox's Bazar-4 (Ukhia-Teknaf) constituency, Abdur Rahman Bodi, widely known as a yaba godfather, he said: “It was not a political track record that made him a member of parliament. It’s his illicitly earned money that secured him a position as a member of parliament, and also for his wife to become a member of parliament.”
Drawing attention to Bangladeshi MP Mohammad Shahid Islam alias Kazi Papul, who was arrested in Kuwait for alleged human trafficking, he said it’s an embarrassing situation for the people of the country.
Showing frustration, he said Bangladesh’s response to the Papul issue was very generous, muted, and hesitant.
“We haven’t heard anything from the speaker of parliament who we feel is a constitutional body of the highest institution of democracy in a country like Bangladesh… It’s not a crime, it’s an organized crime for money laundering and human trafficking,” said the TIB chief.
He lashed out at a few other parliamentarians for allegedly accumulating illegal wealth through corruption and fraud, money laundering, casinos, the illicit drug trade, etc.
And because of this Bangladeshi migrant workers may face embarrassment in their host communities, he said.
He urged the government to enforce the law.
He indicated that under the Human Trafficking Prevention and Suppression Act 2012, and the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2012, through they could be given the highest punishment, like life imprisonment for human trafficking, and up to twelve years of imprisonment for money laundering.
Robust political will needed
“We may have rules and regulations. But unless you have a robust political will, you are not going to make a difference,” said Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, of the ruling party Awami League.
Calling corruption a “virus,” he urged the government to control it at the source.
“As long as you have corruption in our society and in our national politics and the world, people will get infected by it. Because it’s a virus which is going to infect, whether he is a member of parliament or a general in the military, a minister or bureaucrat, I think that [root problem] should be determined,” he said.
Saber urged everyone to take the whole matter as a case study and see where there were gaps in legislation.
“Are there gaps in legislation, are there gaps in the rules and processes we have, that allow a potential crime. That, I think is important: responding to the disease, not the symptoms,” he said.
“It’s not that the act of corruption has taken place. It’s why it has taken place.”