Rejoinder by ERD and WB
The Economic Relations Division (ERD) of the Ministry of Finance said Sunday that "there had been no discussion whatsoever about Islamist parties by the World Bank or any other development partners in any context" during the just-concluded three-day meeting of Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) Implementation Forum, "neither before nor after the Forum".
"No such meeting had ever been requested by the World Bank with Islamist parties", said the ERD in a rejoinder sent to The Financial Express (FE) to a news item published in the FE's Sunday (November 20, 2005) issue under the caption, "Donors seek to hold meeting with Islamist parties".
The ERD's rejoinder said: "The article states that development partners of Bangladesh have expressed interest to hold a meeting with the Islamic-minded political parties including allies in the present four-party coalition government to know their stand on the growing Islamic militancy in Bangladesh and goes onto add that development partners, particularly the World Bank, have already discussed the matter with the ERD last week and might seek permission from the government for holding such a meeting".
"The article has named a 'high official of ERD' as the source of the above information. Further, Islamist parties were not the focus of any World Bank intervention or statement, nor was the matter ever discussed with ERD last week.
"The above claim made in the article is totally unfounded and hence there is no scope for any official of ERD for having given any such statement to any body. As a matter of fact no such statement was made by any ERD official", it added.
"Since the unfounded information published in the article might give rise to misgiving among members of the public and lead to misunderstanding we request for publication of the rejoinder as our clarification .........", it concluded.
In a separate rejoinder issued Monday to the FE by the World Bank (WB) Country Director's Office in Dhaka, the WB said: "Although the World Bank puts governance at the centre stage of its Country Assistance Strategy for Bangladesh and welcomes dialogue on this issue by all political parties, the Bank has not specifically requested for a meeting with Islamist political parties either during the PRS Implementation Forum or after.
"Furthermore, there has been no discussion between ERD officials and the World Bank on this issue in the last week", it added.
FE reporter's reply: The issue of holding a meeting between donor agencies and Islamist parties was discussed at a meeting held prior to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Implementation Forum 2005 meeting organised in the capital.
The advanced meetings between representatives of donor agencies and countries and officials of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) were held between November 7 and November 14.
Eight officials of the WB attended one particular advanced meeting where the possibility of arranging a meeting between donor agencies and Islamist parties was discussed.
High officials of the ERD and General Economic Division were present in that meeting.