Commerce Minister’s verdict before the trial

by Abdul Quader | March 17, 2009 5:03 pm

The government-sponsored inquiry committee is still investigating the ruthless killings of army officers at BDR headquarters in Dhaka. The committee headed by a retired secretary to the government is expected to finish off its inquiry soon and provide a report to the government. A simultaneous inquiry is also be conducted separately by the army.

In recent days Commerce Minister Faruq Khan is divulging sensitive information to the media about the groups of the society alleged to have been involved in the killings. He stood by his claim that Islamic militants such as Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh had a link with the massacre at the BDR headquarters (The Daily Star 17 February). The Minister also hinted at involvement of other groups of people which he did not elaborate. He further alleged that militants are working under the banner of different organisations and the law enforcers are arresting these militants.

It is absolutely inappropriate for a Minister coordinating the inquiry matters to publicly announce who are behind the carnage at BDR headquarters long before the inquiry is complete and its report published or lodged with the government for consideration. The impropriety of the Commerce Minister’s public comment is evident when the Minister for Law Shafique Ahmed stated that no finger should be pointed to anybody accusing links with the conspiracy behind the killings at Pilkhana before the inquiry reports are published.

Apparently the Commerce Minister is helping the alleged criminals when he said that “some people are trying to assist those who were directly involved in the mutiny”. This is very sensitive information as the divulgence of this information would alert those if they are really sheltering or otherwise helping the persons directly involved in the mutiny. Those who abetted in the conspiracy and massacre will now be hiding and try to remain untouched or avoid to be brought to justice.

People outside the government may have different theories about who hatched the conspiracy, who played the major role in the massacre, what was the motive and who would have benefitted from the event. These people may express their own views and make comments in public in a democratic society. However, when a government inquiry is on-going, it is preposterous on the part of a responsible Minister of the government to talk loose about a very serious inquiry, which has the potential to undermine the operation of the inquiry and its consequences. Minister Faruq Khan’s public bickerings are unhelpful to the inquiry. Legal matters should not be handled so lightly.

Everybody expects a neutral and impartial inquiry which would consider all relevant factors surrounding the event and identify the culprits and make appropriate recommendations concerning their trial. The government should consider the inquiry report as soon as it has received the report and make it public as the matter has attracted great public interest for obvious reasons. Moreover, the matter is of immense significance of national security.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, whoever is identified as the mastermind and perpetrators of the heinous crimes, both BDR jawans and others, need to be brought to justice as quickly as possible. Trials, be it under civil law or army law, should follow the standard and acceptable procedures of law and justice be dispensed with accordingly.

The Commerce Minister should refrain from making any unhelpful and inappropriate public statements and comments about the inquiry into the massacre at BDR headquarters. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina may consider developing a code of conduct for her ministers requiring how a Minster should behave in public keeping in mind the limitations imposed by the code. Unbridled and reckless talks by those in power may tarnish the image of the government and make it less well-functioning. Let nobody preempt any verdict before the trial.

Abdul Quader writes from Canberra

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