Caretaker govt mulls amnesty for businessmen to revive economy

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Dhaka, Oct 7 (UNI) The Army-supported caretaker government in Bangladesh plans to offer ''some kind of amnesty'' for businessmen through the proposed Truth Commission for resuscitating the economy but dismissed reconciliation with the political parties in the current standoff.

''It is necessary to overcome the economic crisis through reconciliation with businessmen,'' Law and Information Advisor Barrister Mainul Hosein told representatives of foreign media at National Press Club today.

Mr Hosein, who mooted the idea of Truth Commission, practiced in different countries of the world, said corrupt businessmen could be punished not only through imprisonment but also through other means like pecuniary penalty.

Defending the formation of a Truth Commission especially for corrupt businesses, he said many businessmen were jailed while many staying abroad, resulting in almost closure of industries and workers losing jobs.

''It's not bowing down to the business community. What we are contemplating is for greater interest of the economy and the nation because businessmen know to run the businesses,'' he said.

In reply to a question, the Advisor said, ''The idea is not to give general amnesty but some of kind of amnesty to the corrupt businessmen, which is welcomed by different chamber bodies.'' Asked whether the suspected corrupt politicians can avail the chance of appearing before the Truth Commission, he said the planned law concerning the Commission would not be specific about the corrupt businessmen only.

''But it will not be a matter of right to appear before the Truth Commission. The Commission would decide who gets reprieve and how that will be disposed of. But the businessmen will be given priority.'' Asked why the corrupt politicians will be deprived of getting this opportunity of clemency, the Advisor said the corrupt political leaderships bred corruption leaving the economy in crisis and infecting the big business as well.

''Big businessmen had to be involved in corruption willingly or unwillingly for their businesses because of large-scale corruption in past politics,'' he told reporters.

The incumbent caretaker government headed by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed launched war on corruption on assuming power on January 12 and under the state of emergency two former Prime Ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina along with nearly 200 former ministers, mps, government bureaucrats and big businessmen were arrested on corruption charges. Many were already awarded sentences with different terms.

The Advisor said corruption by politicians, including Prime Ministers, is seen as a major offence all over the civilised world, but ''in our country corruption by politicians was treated leniently as if they are always above the law.'' Continuing his tirade against corruption in the corridors of power he said, ''Theft by a Prime Minister is completely different than that of a man on the street.'' Mr Hosein said the caretaker government initially had taken actions against all the corrupt irrespective of categorisation because of the dimension of corruption was horrible.

''Now we are to think about punishing the corrupt businesses in different way. It does not mean that corruption by the businessmen is seen liberally,'' he said clarifying the government stance.

Asked why the government is not sitting with politicians to reach a national reconciliation, being witnessed in countries like Myanmar and Pakistan, the Advisor said the politicians have failed miserably in making democracy functioning and establishing good governance despite having elections and elected governments in the past.

''We've no conflict or enmity with politicians, but the politicians who are responsible for this crisis need to learn a tough lesson,'' he said.

The Advisor, however, said the political parties could discuss issues with the present Election Commission which has been made truly independent.

The government, he said, extends all-out cooperation to the Election Commission for holding free and fair election by December 2008 and is committed to transferring power to an elected government.

Asked if the two former Prime Ministers--Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina--now in makeshift jails on charges of corruption could be interned in their respective houses, the Advisor said,'' The government wanted them to stay outside but they did not cooperate.

They are responsible for their own deeds.'' Asked whether the government wants to see democracy and future elected government according to their own thinking, the Advisor dismissed the view, saying that since they have no desire to be in power, this view is not tenable.


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