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Machine-Readable Passport (MRP): Favouring the fallible again..!

The tender evaluation committee has once again recommended that the contract for the machine-readable passport (MRP) projects go to a Malaysia-based company, despite cancelling its offer earlier.

No plausible explanation has been offered for awarding the same contract to an associate of the same concern that had failed in the past to deliver an IT-related project of the central bank.

Asked why the IRIS Corporation Barhad was again given the job despite cancelling it initially, Brigadier General Refayetullah, director of MRP and machine-readable visa (MRV) project, told that after the evaluation committee made the recommendation after it was was convinced that IRIS Corporation had not been blacklisted in Turkey.

The tender evaluation committee forwarded its latest report on the project on Dec 20 to the home ministry.

The evaluation committee in its first report forwarded on Nov 23 recommended that IRIS and Flora Telecomm with Gemalto (Luxembourg) be awarded the MRP and MRV project contract.

Page of a passport with Machine Readable Zone in the red oval

After a probe into the related documents, published a report on Dec 4 on the failure of those companies in delivering similar job in the past.

The firms certified by the project evaluation committee as fit to provide required technical and technological support. But found that IRIS was blacklisted in Turkey and Flora Telecom’s associate ‘Patimass’ was blacklisted with Bangladesh Bank. The Turkish government barred IRIS from bidding for any government work until October 2011 as it failed to complete the nation’s MRP project in time.

It does not have the experience of supplying 2.5 crore passport books and manufacturing 80,00,000 passports a year as mentioned in the bidding requirements. On the other hand, ‘Patimas’ was blacklisted by the Bangladesh Bank for its failure to develop a software to facilitate inter-bank transactions. The evaluation committee in its second report on Dec 8 recommended that Flora Telecom should be exclusively awarded the project contract, excluding IRIS.

General Refayetullah said, “IRIS submitted documents to the committee claiming that they had not been blacklisted in Turkey. On scrutiny of the submitted documents, we were convinced about the authenticity of their claim and included the firm in the third and most recent recommendation forwarded on Dec 20.”

Bangladeshi Passport probe found that “IRIS Technology Ltd” blacklisted in Turkey and IRIS Corporation Barhad were in fact the same company with same address. When the competence of the two firms were questioned considering the importance of the emergency, massive project–International Civil Aviation Authority has asks all the countries to introduce MRPs and MRVs by April 2010– the project director did not sound all too convincing.

“The firms lacked in fulfilling certain technical criteria, which are ‘rectifiable’,” he said.

“Our job is done, now it up to the ministry. We should cooperate with whatever firm the government awards the contract to.”

He said in case IRIS and Flora were unwilling to accept the work order, offers of France’s Oberthur Technology and China’s Beijing Jinchen Ciccone Security Printing Co, Ltd could be re-evaluated for getting the job done by the deadline, after which travelling abroad will be barred without the e-passport and visa.

Asked if he was apprehensive about accomplishing the work in time, the General Refayetullah said, “The delay caused by not issuing the work order to the tender winning bidder in early December can be overcome. If necessary, we’ll work overtime.”

Handwritten, untidy and sometimes barely readable passports often cause Bangladeshi travellers to be singled out for interrogation at airports abroad

He claimed that the project activities were progressing following regulations and the work would be completed in time. Md Abdul Mabud, director general, of the Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP) told on Sunday, “Despite a little delay, we’re expecting that the government would decide the matter as soon as possible to allow the MRP and MRV project to be accomplished within the timeframe.”

An ECNEC meeting on Mar 19 decided to issue 174,00,000 general and 10,00,000 urgent passports under the five-year project at a cost of Tk 283 crore. The project, launched in July, is expected to be complete by June 2014.

The government assigned the army to supervise the project and invited international tender on Sep 16 which closed on Oct 27. Eight companies participated in the bidding. The tender was called for supplying 22,00,000 passports every year. Iris, ‘Beijing Jinchen Ciccone Security Printing Co, Ltd.’ (China), Flora Telecom and Gammeltoe (Luxembourg), ‘Oberthur’ (France), and ‘ST Electronics’ (Singapore) were the leading contenders for this project.

The successful bidders will get the task to operate and maintain the project for two years and DIP will take over the project in phases. DIP officials said no old (manual) passport will be issued after the project starts functioning. But those with old passports with valid expiry dates will not face any problem. There are some 1.2 crore manual passport holders in the country.



After economic storm, Asia faces 2010 political risks…

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle

Investors who kept faith in Asia as the world teetered on the brink of financial meltdown a year ago have been richly rewarded — the region’s markets rode out the storm in spectacular style and posted stunning gains.

The economic outlook for 2010 appears far sunnier. But with frothy markets betting on a smooth return to business as usual, the danger of a sudden correction hangs over Asia, unless the region can steer its way past some treacherous political risks.

Development emergency: those in the teeth of this economic storm are women and children

Development emergency: those in the teeth of this economic storm are women and children

The two most important issues for the world economy in the coming year are political — the pivotal relationship between the United States and China, and the timing and coordination of exit strategies from the stimulus measures that kept disaster at bay.

Investors in Asia also need to be wary of political shocks that could suddenly overturn the region’s risk profile.

Upheaval in North Korea, where there are persistent doubts about the health of leader Kim Jong-il and where the economy is going from bad to worse, could cause profound regional instability.

And the risk of a confrontation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, perhaps sparked by another militant atrocity in India, is ticking upwards again.

“A multitude of political, security and operational risks converge in Asia,” said Michael Denison, research director at London-based Control Risks consultancy. “The causes of the global recession are now well understood. The contours of the recovery, by contrast, are far from clear.”


G2 Relationship

The United States and China are already by far the two most important countries in terms of political clout. And in 2010 China is set to overtake Japan as the second-largest economy. The “G2″ relationship is key to shaping our destiny not just in the coming year or coming decade, but through the 21st century.

Like most relationships, it is not easy.

Pressure on China to allow the yuan to appreciate will become ever more intense in 2010 as economic storm clouds evaporate, and one-year non-deliverable forwards suggest modest gains by the currency by the end of 2010.

But Beijing will not want to jeopardise economic growth by letting the currency rise too quickly, and does not appreciate being told what to do by Washington or anyone else. In the United States, meanwhile, yuan weakness is regarded as a protectionist policy that threatens the U.S. recovery.

Into this volatile mix add the ever-present threat of import restrictions, like the U.S. imposition of tariffs on Chinese tyres in September, sparking a tit-for-tat trade war.

Plus the danger that Beijing’s backing of regimes that Washington finds unpalatable, from Pyongyang to Yangon to Tehran and Khartoum, explodes into a political confrontation.

Most analysts say Washington and Beijing are painfully aware of the risks and would step back from the brink before any dispute threatened the global economy. But the two countries have yet to find a way to communicate comfortably as partners. The risk of a misunderstanding or sudden chill in relations is real.

The second key political risk for Asia — and indeed the world — is dealing with the hangover from the stimulus measures that helped keep the global economy afloat over the past two years.

World Economic Forum

If governments withdraw the stimulus too soon, they jeopardise growth. But keep policy too loose for too long and they risk not just inflation but also catastrophic asset price bubbles.

Given China’s importance to the global recovery, signs of property and equity bubbles there are a particular concern.

Another risk for investors is if countries trying to prevent bubbles and curb inflows of “hot money” tighten capital controls. Analysts say this could be a key issue for India and Indonesia in 2010.

Disagreements could also erupt within countries, between governments focused on safeguarding growth and central banks fearful of inflation and bubbles. That could lead to bad decisions, and make policy hard to forecast. Policy friction is already an issue in Japan. India and South Korea could be next.


As in any year, the best-laid plans in 2010 could be derailed by unexpected shocks. We have no idea about some of the lightning bolts that will hit Asia in 2010 — the surprises that author and fund manager Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “black swans” and former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called “unknown unknowns”. But there are plenty of known unknowns to worry about. Mass social unrest due to economic hardship was the dog that failed to bark in 2009. That could change in 2010.

Economy Recovery

“A structural rise in unemployment will represent a key macro, political and security risk in 2010, even in states like China where growth has remained relatively solid,” Denison said.

The decisive victory of the Congress party in India’s 2009 elections was another good-news story for markets that could be threatened if militants based in Pakistan provoke a confrontation again. Investors are already rattled that reforms in India are going slower than expected. The last thing they want is war risk.

Ian Bremmer, 2d from right with, from left, Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian of Armenia, and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran at the World Economic Forum in Davos

“Another major attack would all but force India’s government to take a much more hostile approach to Pakistan … allowing Pakistan’s military leadership to set aside attacks on local militants and turn their attention to an enemy they feel less reluctant to antagonise,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the U.S.-based Eurasia Group political risk consultancy.

And finally, two key Asian heads of state are ailing, with the question of who and what will come after them far from settled. Thailand’s 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been in hospital since September, another complication in the long-running political crisis that has riven the country.

Many analysts expect instability to get even worse after his reign ends — giving Thai markets another rough ride. But most say there is little risk of contagion in other markets.

By contrast, when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies, the tremors will be felt in South Korea, Japan and beyond.

World Economic Storm

Many analysts say Kim’s death would herald the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang, leading possibly to prolonged civil war in North Korea, aggressive moves against the South, or the sudden reunification of the Korean peninsula. In all of these cases, the likely market reaction would be the same — panic.


Myanmar to repatriate 9,000 Rohingyas..!!

A family is engaged with bringing mud full of bucket from the nearest mountain area to build their shelter at Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp at Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar

Myanmar has agreed to repatriate 9,000 out of 28,000 registered Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh “as soon as possible”, foreign secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes said on Tuesday. He also said a Myanmar delegation would arrive in Dhaka to hold talks on maritime boundary demarcation on Jan 8 and 9.

Quayes was speaking at the end of the first day of foreign-secretary level talks. Quayes’ counterpart, Myanmar’s deputy foreign minister Maung Myint, arrived in Dhaka Monday to lead his side in the two-day bilateral talks. The two sides also discussed import of gas and electricity from Myanmar, but no specific commitment came on the issues, Quayes said. Myanmar did agree to offer one year’s multiple entry visa for Bangladeshi businessmen, the secretary said. Quayes said Bangladesh stressed at the first day’s consultation that it would not register as refugees illegal Myanmar nationals who intruded for “economic causes”.

He told reporters at the foreign ministry: “We have put pressure on Myanmar for the repatriation of the registered refugees in Bangladesh and they have assured us that they will start as soon as possible.”

“Out of the 28,000 registered refugees, Myanmar has identified 9,000 through verification as their citizens.

“Their repatriation will start within the shortest possible times,” said the foreign secretary.

He also added that increasing number of Myanmar nationals had been sneaking into Bangladesh for “economic” reasons. Quayes said he visited the two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district last week. The foreign secretary said besides the two camps, there are many makeshift thatched houses.

“The UNHCR has told us that the people living in the makeshift houses are unregistered Myanmar nationals.

“But since they intruded for economic reasons, they don’t fall in the definition of refugees.

“So, we will not sign any deal with the UNHCR for them,” he said.

About 500,000 of the Muslim Rohingyas fled into Bangladesh from the Northern Rakhain state in the 1990s as the military junta launched a crackdown on its minority populations.

Bangladesh with the help of the UNHCR sent most of the registered refugees back to their homeland over the years. But 28,000 Rohingyas refused to return fearing further repression there.

Local administrations in Bangladesh also say most of the previously repatriated refugees have returned since.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, sent a list of the 28,000 to Myanmar for their repatriation. The Myanmar authorities are in the process of verifying their identities—a precondition for taking them back.

It has already identified of 9,000 refugees as their citizens while the identities of rest of the 19,000 refugees are yet to be confirmed.

Some international observers have proposed Bangladesh integrate the Rohingya. But Dhaka has rejected the suggestion, saying such a move would open a floodgate of refugees.

Quayes said Mayanmar had informed Bangladesh that it cannot offer gas at present.

“They will sell us gas if they discover new reserves,” he said.

The foreign secretary said the neighbouring state had agreed to go for a joint hydro electric venture with Bangladesh, to be located over a Myanmar river.

“The energy ministry will work on it,” he said.


Shahriar, Alok, Aftab the ‘rebel cricketers’ is back…!!

From left: Shahriar Nafees, Aftab Ahmed and Alok Kapali

Shahriar Nafis, Alok Kapali and Aftab Ahmed, the ‘rebel cricketers’ who quit breakaway Indian Cricket League (ICL) have been named in the 18-strong national squad for the tri-nation ODI series beginning in Dhaka on Jan 4.

Junaed Siddique, Enamul Huq Junior and Mehrab Hossain Junior have been dropped from the team announced by Bangladesh Cricket Board on Tuesday for the next month’s home tri-series featuring Sri Lanka and India.

The tri-series begins in Dhaka on Jan 4 and will be followed by two Tests against India at Chittagong (Jan 17-21) and Dhaka (Jan 24-28).

The 18 players were selected from a list of 26. But the selectors will finally name the 14 players in the squad on Dec 31.

The short-listed players are—Mashrafee Bin Mortuza, Sakib Al Hassan, Mohamamd Ashraful, Abdur Razzak, Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Syed Russel, Roqibul Hassan, Mahmud Ullah Riyad, Nazmul Hossain, Nayeem Islam, Imrul Kayes, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Shahriar Nafis, Aftab Ahmed, Shahadat Hossain and Alok Kapali.


Jamaat honours 5 ‘Muktijoddhas’.!… Like a great honors..!!

In an ironic move, Jamaat-e-Islami accorded a reception and gave award to five Muktijoddhas (freedom fighters) yesterday, 38 years after the birth of Bangladesh.

Jamaat-e-islami bangladesh

This party had termed freedom fighters traitors and miscreants during the Liberation War in 1971, and called for killing them.

Jatiya Muktijoddha Parishad, a Jamaat patronised organisation, organised the reception at a city hotel.

The function was held against the backdrop of public demand for and the government’s promise to hold trial of war criminals who had not only opposed the Liberation War but also collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces in committing genocide during the nine-month war.

Recipients of the award from Jamaat are Dr Rowshan Ara Begum, Lt Commander (retd) Afazuddin Ahmed, Salahuddin Ahmed, poet Al Mahmud and (posthumous) Major MA Jalil.

Rawshan Ara told this correspondent she did not know that Jamaat was involved in the programme.

Talking to journalists later, both Rawshan and Afazuddin demanded exemplary punishment of Jamaat leaders if found involved in the killings and oppression during the Liberation War.

Salahuddin said the award [Tk 50,000, books and a crest] will help an insolvent freedom fighter like him.

No representative of Jalil was present to receive his award.

Organisers said they would send it to his house as his wife is now abroad.

Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed, who was scheduled to be the chief guest at the function, did not turn up. He was represented by Maulana Rafiqul Islam Khan, ameer of city unit of the party.

Top Razakars

Several other Jamaat leaders including lawmaker Hamidur Rahman Azad were present at the programme.

Many of the present top leaders of Jamaat including its Ameer Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Mojaheed were accused of war crimes.

Leaders of Jamaat’s student wing the then Islami Chhatra Sangha, now known as Islami Chhatra Shibir, and some other groups were involved in anti-liberation activities.

Mojaheed was president of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971. Mojaheed asked workers of the organisation to form Al-Badr Bahini to resist freedom fighters, according to a “Fortnightly Secret Report on the Situation in East Pakistan”. In line with an official procedure, the report used to be regularly dispatched by the then East Pakistan home ministry to General Yahya Khan, head of the Pakistan government.

Many researches, academic studies, accounts of both victims and collaborators, and publications including newspapers revealed that Mojaheed, who headed the Al Badr team in Dhaka at that time, allegedly led those who had been involved in the killings of intellectuals — only two days before the victory of liberation forces on December 16, 1971.

Thousands of people still bear the scars of war crimes by Jamaat, Islami Chhatra Sangha and some other controversial outfits such as Nizam-e-Islami. Jamaat’s opposition to the struggle for independence has been documented in different publications including those by the party itself.


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