THE directive of the Financial Institutions Division to state-run financial entities to check against leak of ‘confidential’ information against the backdrop of bank scams making the headlines nationally and internationally, which tarnishes the image of the ruling party, appears to be an effort to hide issues of national import from people. Awami League lawmaker Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, who resigned as chairman of Farmers Bank after the government had unburdened Farmers Bank of its managing director in November over a severe liquidity crisis, in an incident said to be coincidental, on Monday requested the parliament speaker to issue a ruling on the Bangladesh Bank governor not to give out information to reporters about the disbursement of loans by private commercial banks. While this is nothing but an insult to people’s right to know, this also suggests that the government is trying to mend the issues the other way round. The is not taking any effective steps to iron out the banking sector, now mired in irregularities and corruption or any steps that the government is taking keep falling through. And the government is trying to save itself from being embarrassed by not letting people know that there, in effect, are some issues embarrassing for the government.
The Financial Institutions Division on February 1 asked the Bangladesh Bank, state-owned commercial banks and other financial entities to take steps that no confidential information related to intelligence and security should be exposed to any person beyond the authorities concerned. The Financial Institutions Division secretary, however, sought to say that the direction was not to stop the media from getting information on loan scams that plagued the state-owned banks and that such a directive was nothing new and the ‘bureaucratic exercise’ had been made on many occasions in the past, the cabinet’s approval of the Digital Security Bill, which incorporates the infamous Article 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act 2006, on January 29 making it ready for passage in the parliament, has raised quite a few eyebrows about any probable curb on the freedom of expression. Not only Farmers Bank but many others, including the state-owned Sonali, Janata and BASIC banks, have faced loan scams during the tenure of the Awami League government since 2009. Sonali Bank is mired in the single biggest loan scam of Tk 35 billion and BASIC Bank went almost bankrupt in scams involving Tk 60 billion.
People have the right to know what is happening to their money and the media play a crucial role in letting people know of that. The government, instead of trying to stop information on loan scams of banks from reaching people through the media, must try earnestly to concentrate on stopping the irregularities and corruption that have brought down all these banks. By doing so, the government can save itself from being embarrassed and people as well. The government must see issues in proper perspective to get to the root of problems and attend to them, not the other way round.
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