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‘Are you asking me to cut up the national flag?’

  • Published at 10:27 am December 20th, 2017
‘Are you asking me to cut up the national flag?’
The Ministry of Education had grand plans for a Victory Day celebration on Monday. The zeal of the planners manifested in the form of a cake in the design of the national flag, which manage to infuriate Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid to the point where bureaucrats were falling over each other to avoid the blame. The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) planned the event at the International Mother Language Institute, inviting hundreds of guests from many institutions and government offices. Everything was proceeding amiably, until the Education Ministry and DSHE officials brought out a large cake looking like the national flag. The usually vivacious and light-hearted minister exploded in a fit of rage, shouting: “Are you asking me to cut up something that depicts the national flag? Are you asking me to cut up the national flag?” Senior officials quickly realized their plan was going downhill, and tried to shift blame, all the while continuing to aggravate the minister’s wrath. “Whose idea was this? Who ordered the cake? Whoever is involved with this is going to pay,” the minister warned as he stormed out of the event.

Whose idea was it anyway?

According to several ministry officials who witnessed the outrage, the cake was the idea of an “overeager” deputy director who “frequently flaunts his power.” Kamal Uddin Hyder, DSHE deputy director (Monitoring & Evaluation) has been a notable figure for his unbridled enthusiasm in ministry events. A number of ministry officials have singled out Kamal, saying it was most likely his idea to surprise the minister with the cake. One ministry official said Kamal was on the stage with the minister when the cake arrived. When Kamal was contacted, he denied any involvement with the cake. While he admitted being on the stage, he said he knew nothing about the cake. Kamal was a Bangladesh Chhatra Dal leader at Dhaka University and a known confidant to former BNP MP Shamsul Alam Pramanik. He is notorious for his propensity to strike up rapport with top government officials to cultivate personal relationships. According to various officials, he exhibited blatant abuse of power during the tenure of Fahima Khatun, the previous director of DSHE. Kamal also said that DSHE Director (Secondary) Abdul Mannan was personally overseeing the catering at the event, who was also present on stage when the cake arrived. When Abdul Mannan was contacted, he too denied all involvement. His response was curt: “I am completely new here. I have been preoccupied for over a week with exams. I was made the head of the committee on catering based on precedence, but I have no idea what happened. The entire event was orchestrated by junior officers. I was at the event on Monday to speak to the director general, but left soon after. I did not know about the cake until Tuesday.” But he promised to look into the matter.

An inconvenient assignment

Education Ministry Secretary Mohiuddin Khan said Additional Secretary Aminul Islam from the administrative section of the ministry has been tasked to find out who was behind the cake. Mohiuddin said the event may have been the ministry’s to organize, but the DSHE was in overall control of the execution. But repeated attempts to contact Aminul have failed. His assistant said he was not at the office, and he did not respond to any phone calls. This article was first published on Bangla Tribune
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