Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

August 31, 2009


This sort of news barely make it to the pages of the mainstream media. That is why alternative citizen media outlets becoming more and more important for those who want to see the clear picture. The Online Community of Singapore (TOC) started their journey in December 2006 with a simple aim in mind: "telling the stories about Singapore and Singaporeans that weren’t being told in the mainstream press."

TOC reported back in May this year about Abu Sama (Asmad Kadir), a Bangladeshi labor, who was physically abused by his employer in Singapore.

Asmad Kadir, 28, has been working with Ocean Marine Engineering in Singapore since 2007. In February this year, he asked for the five months’ worth of salary owed to him to be paid.

On 13 April, in a salary dispute mediation session overseen by MOM between Asmad and his employer, it was agreed that Asmad’s employer would pay him half of the salary owed and the other half “upon repatriation”, as stated in the agreement. However, till date, Asmad said he has been paid only S$300 out of the S$2,100 he is owed.

Asmad Kadir asked to meet with his employer at the Ministry of Manpower building on 14 May. His employer had wanted to meet with him at his (the employer’s) office. However, having been assaulted previously at the office (see story below), Asmad asked for the meeting to be held at MOM instead.

An hour of negotiation ensued which lasted till 6pm, when the MOM building was to be closed. Asmad then had no choice but to go out and meet with Ganesh. There, Ganesh and another man, Biji, insisted that Asmad signed the receipt for the money first before they paid him. Asmad told them he would not and that he will only sign after he has received the money. They got into a heated argument. The two men then seemed to relent and asked that they proceeded to a side street where Asmad will be issued a receipt. “I feared for my safety,” Asmad said, “but I still went to the location with them.”

When they arrived at the new location, Ganesh and Biji tried to force Asmad into a microvan by manhandling him. In the scuffle, Ganesh punched him, causing his lips to bleed. Biji grabbed the right side of his face. In the struggle, Asmad’s shirt was torn and he managed to free himself and fled. “This is not the first time Ganesh has assaulted me,” Asmad said in the police report he lodged against his employer’s brother.

Now there is an update from TOC:

Those of you who’ve watched Migrant Dreams might remember Abu Sama. He’s the little guy who ran away from his company after being slapped on the ear by his supervisor. The wound – a perforation in his eardrum – took months to heal.

We wondered then how he would survive the ordeal. We thought he might sink into depression. But Abu Sama surprised us all. When the Ministry of Manpower told him that he was going to be sent home, he demanded to be paid before leaving for the airport. And when his angry bosses tried to drag him into their van, Abu Sama put up a struggle, escaped, and insisted on making a police report. A volunteer told us how he managed to wiggle out of his too-big t-shirt and run away. The image made us laugh. But Abu Sama didn’t find it funny at all – despite being homesick and short on cash, he decided to stay on in Singapore to pursue his case. It was, to him, a question of justice.

A few days ago, we received word that the police were letting Abu Sama’s bosses off with a warning. A warning. So apparently, it is OK for a person to rip a hole in another person’s eardrum. It is also OK for thugs to drive up next to you, and try and drag you into their car. A warning. That’s like a few words on a piece of paper. Gee, that’s really going to stop those guys from hurting other people.

He had pressed on, believing in Singapore’s justice system. Good god we’ve failed him.

Old Dhaka - A Thing Of the Past?

By Waziuddin Chowdhury:
It has been thirty years since I left this town- now a Mega-City of over 14 million people- many of whom are squatters living in slums. While there are indeed modern edifices in the newer parts of the City that boasts modern buildings and high-rises that rival many in the affluent developed world, this album and a few others to follow concentrates on the buildings of the past. As an Architect, I regret that the Bangladeshis are jettisoning everything of the past in a race to modernize.
Tara Masjid (mosque) was originally built in the late eighteenth century and referred to as Mirza Shaheb Mosque. In 1926- a businessman named Ali Jaan Bepari took it upon himself to completely clad the old mosque with ceramic tiles with star as its motif- and hence the name Tara Masjid.

(Image courtesy Waziuddin Chowdhury)

Via Ihtisham Kabir

August 28, 2009

Threatening Floods In Bangladesh

According to ReleifWeb hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis are stranded by floods:

Heavy monsoon rains, which arrived much later than normal this year, have stranded hundreds of thousands in southeastern Bangladesh and threatened livelihoods. According to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC), there are nine places where river levels are 3-125cm above the danger level. If current rainfall persists - as the FFWC thinks it will - by the end of August over 30 percent of the country could be inundated, the forecast warns.

Here is the satellite photo from Earth Observatory acquired on July 23, 2009 showing the Brahmaputra River:

The situation changed and the inundations can be seen in this image acquired on August 26, 2009:

Earth Observatory:

Although Bangladesh had suffered from drought just a month earlier, heavy rains arrived in August 2009. The overdue monsoon rains had swelled the Brahmaputra River and many of its tributaries by late August.

The images show a stretch of the Brahmaputra River has it passes through eastern India and neighboring Bangladesh. Although clouds obscure part of the river in the later image, its expanded width is unmistakable. In the west, where the river curves to the south and east, tributaries that are barely discernible in late July are conspicuous in late August.

August 26, 2009

Customer Service

When you live in the age of customer service systems run by call centers and automated email/contact form systems you can be in deep trouble some times.

The ISP I used in Berlin sent me via email the bill for internet usage for September in advance. It will be automatically deducted from my bank account although the contract has been cancelled in June, effective July and I was told then that there will be no extra fee for termination of contact (it was not binding) because I am leaving the country. I tried to contact them by replying to the mail, but it was an auto mailer, they have informed me to login to my account with them and file my queries in the appropriate category. Well I never had to use that account in last 3 years so I did not have a password. I tried to retrieve the password which was immediately sent by snail mail (instead of email) to my residence address where I do not live anymore.

It was so frustrating as I found from their site that there was no other email address to contact them. And I know about their call center (my previous experience was 6 minutes to reach the correct person) so did not risk an expensive ISD call. I contacted a friend in Berlin who did the queries for me and found out that they have sent a letter to my address after I left Germany asking for proof that I am leaving Germany - otherwise they will deduct the next month's payment. Well I left in July, they have cashed in August's payment and have no right to ask for September's. And it seems now that the only way to communicate with them is via snail mail - and how frustrating is that?

Will you ever be satisfied with a customer service?

RIP Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy

Yesterday Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009), the second most senior member of the US Senate, died of cancer. Here is how Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her reaction:

The prime minister in her message recalled the unstinting support of the senator to the war of independence from Pakistan and his role in mobilising world opinion for Bangladesh.

"The people of Bangladesh will remember his contribution forever."

She said in his death Bangldesh lost a real friend.

In her condolence message, Khaleda Zia (the leader of the opposition) said, "The late senator was a humanist and democratic personality. The people of Bangladesh will remember him forever for the role he played in mobilising world opinion in favour of Bangladesh liberation war".

She sympathised with the members of the Kennedy family.

"The United States has lost a great leader in the death of Senator Kennedy and the people of Bangladesh have lost a real friend".

(Source BDNEWS24.com)

Here is a summary of what he did for Bangladesh in 1971 (Smithbarney at OpenSalon):

Bangladeshi refugees 1971-1972

After the invasion of East Pakistan (also called East Bengal, now called Bangladesh) by West Pakistani forces in the spring of 1971, some 9,000,000 refugees streamed across the border into India. The world and the United States (Nixon/Kissinger mired in Vietnam, famously "tilting" toward West Pakistan) took little note. All except the 39 year old senior senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy.


In the brutal heat and monsoon muck of August, Senator Kennedy traveled to refugee camps throughout West Bengal (the neighboring Indian state) and reported back to the Senate in an extraordinarily passionate document (1) about the plight of the refugees in India and what he called the "reign of terror which grips East Bengal."

He concluded: "America's heavy support of Islamabad (West Pakistan) is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal."

Kennedy not only bore witness, he jolted the world into taking notice and aiding the refugees if not the independence fighters in East Bengal.

Bangladesh gained its independence in December, 1971 after Pakistan was defeated in a short and brutally effective war by India. Senator Kennedy returned to India and now Bangladesh in February, 1972. The United States had so far refused to recognize the new nation (see Kissinger's extraordinary memo). Kennedy called for its recognition. He was lionized in Dhaka, the capital, with cries of "Joi Kennedy" (Hail, or literally, Victory to Kennedy) as well as in Calcutta, India, when he revisited the refugee camps.

Senator Kennedy has remained a steadfast friend of Bangladesh and India. In fact, there is a move to recognize him officially as a Bangladeshi hero, along with the late George Harrison, who had organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, the archetype for such benefits in later years.

More readings:

* Senator Kennedy on the Bangladesh Genocide

* August 15, 1971: Statement by Senator Kennedy expressing his disappointment over the poor response of the international community on the Bangladesh problem.

August 24, 2009

Is the web dead?

Use the small arrows at the lower right corner of the slideshow to advance.

Via: Mikiane.com

August 23, 2009

Iftar In Chowkbazar

Microsoft Bing is trying to get in the forefront of the search engine market. Each Day it posts one interesting picture. Yesterday this photo by Abir Abdullah was highlighted:

And how it looks on Bing:

(Photo courtesy Ishtiaq Rouf)

It is the Iftar market in Chawkbazar in old Dhaka.

Here are the details from Bing:

1) Today is the second day of Ramadan, during which, Muslims do not eat from dawn until dusk for a lunar month.

2) Open air food markets are only one of the many things to see when you visit Bangladesh.

3) Though its independence is relatively young, the culture of this nation is ancient.

4) During Ramadan, Bangladeshi flock to this food market as soon as the sun goes down.

Via Ishtiaq Rouf's Bangla blog

August 15, 2009

15th Of August

Today is a black day for Bangladesh. 34 years ago on this day the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with his family members. On 7th of March 1971 he gave a fiery speech which united the nation towards the liberation of Bangladesh, which they achieved after a nine month long war with Pakistan.

Here is a background of why and by whom he was assassinated.

Interestingly another political drama was played today in Bangladesh. Khaleda Zia, chairperson of the main opposition BNP and former prime minister claims that 15th august is her birthday. Today she celebrated her 65th birthday with a 65 pound cake.

She was earlier sent a legal notice demanding a clarification on her party celebrating her birthday that coincides with the National Mourning Day.

The base of this confusion in everybody's mind is that because:
  • According to the education board her date of Birth is 5th of September 1946
  • When she first took oath as a prime minister her date of birth was 19th of August 1947
  • According to her marriage certificate with Ziaur Rahman the date of birth is 9th of August 1944
  • According to her press secretary later she is claiming her date of birth as 15th of August 1946
Her party BNP dismissed the allegations that she has deliberately chosen 15th of August as her birthday to undermine Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's death.
"The government is doing whatever it wishes by the power of its majority."

"Now, they think nobody can have a birthday on August 15; that no one was born on this day. Such autocracy is not acceptable."
Here are the relevant documents for your own judgment:

The Education board certificate:
Marriage certificate:
The Voter registration form of 2000:
These shows why people of Bangladesh cannot put their trust on their leaders and most of the valuable times of politicians and bureaucrats are wasted to pursue these arguments of treachery and trivial matters.

[Click to enlarge those images. Images courtesy Celtic Sagar.]

August 11, 2009

Bangladesh x Bangladesh

The above is the title of the cover of the recent edition of 100 Eyes Magazine, an online photography magazine edited by Andy Levin.

Levin, a professional photographer living in New Orleans, Louisiana writes:
This issue of 100eyes shows a country as seen through the eyes of its own photographers.

There is nothing remarkable about that, except in this case the country is one of the poorest nations in the world, known for being a subject for photojournalism rather than as a provider of photojournalists. Photographers flew into Bangadesh from New York, Paris, or London, that is, when they weren’t headed for nearby India. Photographers will still be flying to Bangladesh, including myself hopefully, but we
won’t be alone. In 1989 Bangladesh was depicted for Western eyes in a famous essay by photographer Sebastio Salgado that presented the shipbreaking yards at Chittagong. Twenty years later Bangladeshis are now behind the camera, and the results are stunning.

As economically challenged as Bangladesh may be, there are 200 newspapers in the small country, and many of them are staffed by students from Pathshala, a school founded by Shahidul Alam, the central figure in the emergence of photography in Bangladesh, and the author of the cover image of this issue of 100Eyes.
Amazing pictures...You can turn the page with the mouse in book style.. a must see.

August 04, 2009

Toba Tek Singh

After fifteen years on his feet, he was lying face down on the ground. India was on one side, behind a barbed wire fence. Pakistan was on the other side, behind another fence. Toba Tek Singh lay in the middle, on a piece of land that had no name. - Saadat Hasan Manto
After sixty years of the partition of India and Pakistan the madness that can sometimes overtake people in the name of religion still feels relevant.

From Global Voices:
Gojra, the capital of Gojra Tehsil, is a city of Toba Tek Singh District in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Last Saturday riots broke out in the town over alleged desecration of the Holy Quran. Following the riots more than 50 houses, belonging to the Christian community, were set on fire leaving 7 burnt alive and 18 severely injured. According to sources, most of the houses were burnt by a group of youths who had their faces covered with veils. They threw petrol bombs and fired indiscriminately.
Blame it on the Mullahs and Talibans or Zia's theocracy, the fallacy of the two nation theory still haunts the people. Still it divides rather than ensuring a peaceful coexistence.

(Image courtesy, The Dawn)

RIP MBah Surip

I do not know any Indonesian singer. I have seen some of them on TV and some stands out for their appearances. MBah Surip was one of them whom I thought was a Bob Marley look alike. The Reggie beats and the video of his latest song "Tak Gendong" are really interesting. I have seen people singing this song in the streets and the TV channels are playing it a lot. His "Ha Ha Ha" expression is really unique.

But it was really a shock to read that he has died today. This report tells that he died of heart failure. RIP Bob Marley of Indonesia. Here is his "Tak Gendong":

August 02, 2009

Quote Of The Day

"This giant of a man would be leaving us at a time when we needed him the most. He had fought against white domination, and he had fought against black domination. He had a dream of a democratic and free society. A dream he had been prepared to die for. It is for those of us who live on, to realise that dream. I now knew why Fatima had wanted the story to be told.

Happy Birthday Madiba. You built the road to freedom. We need the courage to walk it".

-67 Minutes for Madiba (Nelson Mandela) - Shahidul Alam