THE 15-storey BGMEA Building, having 2,66,000 square feet of floor space erected illegally on Hatirjheel-Begunbari Canal, still stands tall like ‘a cancerous growth’ — as the High Court Division on April 3, 2011 said when it ordered the government to pull down the building in 90 days — even after the time that the Appellate Division, after all the legal wrangles that took eight years, gave for the demolition ended on Friday. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, which owns the building and uses it as its headquarters and sold 1,25,000 square feet of floor space to business entities, including two banks and 38 apparel manufacturing companies, and other users of the building are reported not to have moved out, as New Age reported on Saturday, until Friday evening. Only that the apparel exporters’ association is learnt to have recently issued a circular saying that the association’s office would remain closed for April 13 for relocation and the office would resume on April 15 at the BGMEA Complex, spanning 110 kathas, built at Uttara in Dhaka.
The one-year deadline for the demolition of the building — on completion of an earlier extension that ended on April 12, 2018 — that expired on Friday was the third extension that the Appellate Division gave on April 2, 2018. On June 2, 2018, the Appellate Division rejected an association appeal against the High Court order of April 3, 2011, which declared the building illegal and asked the government to pull down the building in 90 days. Earlier, the High Court Division issued a rule suo moto, based on a report that New Age published on October 2, 2010, asking the government to explain why it would not be asked to demolish the building, erected in flagrant violation of the Wetland Protection Act 2000 and the Environment Conservation Act 1995 that govern the conservation of environment, open space and wetlands. Sheikh Hasina as prime minister laid the foundation stone of the building on November 28, 1998, when the construction began, and Khaleda Zia as prime minister inaugurated the building on October 8, 2006. When the Appellate Division last extended the deadline for demolition of the building, the apparel exporters’ association gave an undertaking that it would not seek further extension. After the prolonged legal wrangles, the BGMEA Building, which has come be viewed as a symbol of moneyed arrogance and an affront to the rule of law, should, therefore, come down early.
If the building still stands there in Hatirjheel-Begunbari Canal intact, it would only harm the rule of law. While the apparel exporters’ association must understand that it has already dithered about the issue for too long a period, the government, under the circumstances, must also remember that it is high time that it dismantled the building in the interest of the rule of law. The court in 2010 also said that the Export Promotion Bureau had illegally handed over the land to the exporters’ association having acquired it from the Bangladesh Railway. The government must look all these issues and act accordingly.
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