Why don’t you go away BGMEA building?

05 Mar 2017, 17:02

Afsan Chowdhury

If there is one power group among the civilians, which can defy every rule, law and order of the land, it is the BGMEA empire. And that power is symbolised by the illegally constructed BGMEA building which the Supreme Court has asked to be crushed describing it as a ‘cancer’. That it has survived for so long is a testimony to its power.

Of course, the owners knew it was illegal but still they went ahead and built it. BGMEA knew that Hatirjheel was an environmentally protected area but they had the arrogance to do it. They have known that in a weak and corrupt state, dominated by crony capitalism with no established rule of law regime, they could get away with much.

By inviting the present and previous Prime Minister to the building for various ceremonies including inaugural, they not only made sure that the building was ‘legitimised’ but displayed that political power was on their side. By going to the illegal BGMEA building on formal occasions, both PMs have now become participants in an attempt to make an illegal act ‘halal’. It is a bad mark on them, which will have no political costs in our culture but shows the power of the lobby to mobilise national leaders when they need them.

BGMEA is a symbol of contemporary Bangladesh at its worst. It shows how money and power have become so big they have grabbed the right to do whatever they want. That they are the most pampered group in Bangladesh is not accidental. Political and amla (bureaucrat) aristocracy are both great beneficiaries of the RMG lobby. The problem they have faced in all these years has come only from the Sinha Court which had declared its building illegal, insisted on its  removal and now rejected the review petition filed by the BGMEA. Media reports are saying that it is a matter of time. But how many believe this is actually going to happen?

The BGMEA has done everything to prevent its destruction by enlarging its stakes. As was noted in the November 2016 judgment of the Supreme Court, there were many attempts including selling apartments to enlarge the building ownership to prevent court action.  This sale was doubly illegal as the building itself was a legally contesting property. But having survived for so long, the feeling was that BGMEA could survive legal action or at least by-pass it. Till now it has been able to show their thumb but finally they have met a form Supreme Court. But even though the Court has given the order and there is no bar to bring it down now, when that will happen is a matter of doubt.  

BGMEA will seek a three-year time for the demolition, its lawyer has said.  This is of course part of a longer strategy to keep buying more time. In three years, more legal moves can be made and of course given the dependence of political parties on the RMG lobby, the BGMEA is hoping that  in the end, nothing will be have to done. And of course Justice Sinha will be gone by then.

It is no longer about an illegally constructed building. It is also if certain lobbies, institutions and power groups are bigger than the government. BGMEA seems to have made a claim as a semi-sovereign entity in the country, a claim made by the super-rich in general. Right now, it is not about violating a law only. It’s about violating what is called the sovereignty of Bangladesh.  

Let’s see what happens next.