Bangladesh to fell building deemed ‘symbol of corruption’

This photograph taken on April 21, 2016, shows a view of a fire escape at a Bangladesh garment factory in Dhaka. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2017
0

Bangladesh to fell building deemed ‘symbol of corruption’

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s highest court Sunday ordered the demolition of a lakeside building occupied by powerful garment groups, a move welcomed by activists who considered the structure an enduring symbol of corruption.
The 16-story building, long criticized for openly flouting Dhaka’s strict construction laws, must be destroyed within six months at a cost borne by its occupants, the Supreme Court ruled.
“If they fail to carry out the order, the (government’s) capital development authority will demolish the building,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told AFP.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), which occupied the building, said they would vacate as “soon as possible.”
The building has been a source of a bitter legal dispute for years.
A court first challenged its legality seven years ago after it was revealed the building was constructed illegally on a state-owned floodplain.
Lawyers declared the hard-fought verdict a “landmark” in Bangladesh’s judicial history.
“It is challenging the culture of impunity that prevails in our society,” Rizwana Hassan from the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association, told AFP.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina lay the foundation stone for the controversial BGMEA building in 1998, while a former premier now opposition leader formally opened it for business in 2006, underscoring the industry’s ties to politics.
The BGMEA represents Bangladesh’s clothing industry, which last year accounted for 80 percent of the country’s $35-billion exports.
The garment industry employs nearly five million Bangladeshis, making it the single largest job creator in the impoverished nation.
A top union leader described the building as a “symbol of conspiracy and corruption.”
“They (BGMEA) thought they were above the law. They wanted to flex their muscles with no respect for the law,” union leader Babul Akhter told AFP.


Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor

Updated 22 min 43 sec ago
0

Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor

TOKYO: Donald Trump on Monday became the first foreign leader to meet with Japan’s newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito — an honor Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes will help charm the US president when it comes to thorny trade talks.
The palace visit in the morning, followed by a royal banquet in the evening, was the main event in a feel-good trip that started Saturday and has seen Abe and Trump playing golf, eating out, watching sumo and generally enjoying an all-Japanese weekend.
Dining with Abe and their wives at a typical Tokyo grill restaurant on Sunday, Trump said he “had a great time” and was looking forward to meeting Naruhito, who took the Chrysanthemum Throne only three weeks ago, after his father stepped down in the first abdication in two centuries.
“Tomorrow is really the main event — a very important event in the history of Japan. It’s over 200 years since something like this has happened. So it’s a great honor to be representing the United States,” Trump said.
After calling on Naruhito in the morning, Trump and his avowed close friend Abe will meet for summit talks and have lunch, before holding a press conference.
On Sunday, they grinned for a selfie and praised each other’s golf game. Before the dinner, Abe also accompanied Trump to a sumo tournament where the US president presented a gigantic trophy, brought from the United States, to the champion wrestler.
Abe hopes those good vibes will spread into talks on trade, military ties, the stumbling efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and a growing superpower rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
Within an hour of touching down in Tokyo, Trump railed against what he sees as a trade imbalance between the world’s top and third-largest economies and vowed to make the relationship “a little bit more fair.”
But on Sunday, Trump struck a softer note, saying that “much” of that deal would wait until Abe faces upper house elections likely in July — as rumors swirl that the popular prime minister will combine that vote with a snap general election.
With his trade war against China getting bogged down, Trump won’t want to rock the boat for his closest Asian ally.
Top Japanese and American trade negotiators spent more than two hours locked in talks on Saturday night but failed to achieve a breakthrough, although the Japanese side said there was more “understanding” between the two sides.

Loving Chairman Kim
On North Korea, Trump appeared to undercut his own national security adviser, the hawkish John Bolton, by downplaying two recent short-range missile tests by Kim which raised tensions in the region.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump tweeted.
“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.”
Before Trump landed in Tokyo, Bolton had told reporters there was “no doubt” that the launches contravened UN Security Council resolutions, the first time a senior US administration official has said this.
The issue is bound to come up as the leaders meet families of people abducted by North Korea during the Cold War era to train Pyongyang’s spies, an emotive issue in Japan that Abe has pressed Trump to raise in talks with Kim.
The nationalist Abe himself has frequently offered to meet Kim to solve the “abductee problem,” as it is known in Japan.
On Tuesday, Trump is expected to address troops at a US base in Japan, highlighting the military alliance between the two allies.
His visit there will underline another big US priority — arms sales to Japan, which is considering revamping its air force with advanced US F-35 warplanes.