Expressing concern over the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Bill, top Transparency International official José Carlos said such a law would reduce space and possibilities for the civil society to combat corruption.
Speaking at a press conference at the Senate building of Dhaka University on Monday, he said Bangladesh scored 35 out of 100 in the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index of the Berlin-based global anti-graft watchdog, which means the country has a severe case of public sector corruption.
“That is why Bangladesh needs comprehensive diagnosis and national-level planning for anti-corruption measures to change the situation,” he added.
Carlos is currently serving as the chairperson of the international board of directors of Transparency International.
The bill has a provision that allows the government to cancel registration of NGOs for making malicious and derogatory statements against the constitution and constitutional bodies, among other reasons.
Rights activists and groups condemned the passage of the bill, terming it repressive for the NGOs and the civil society and contradictory with the constitution.
Carlos further said he expected space for the civil society organisations – which includes Transparency International itself – to fight against corruption, or else corruption would keep increasing in the society. “We are not the enemy here, corruption is.”
He said Transparency International would support Bangladesh government in all its anti-corruption efforts, but they would not remain silent when “things are going wrong.”
Transparency International will closely observe how implementation of this law pans out in Bangladesh, he added.
Sultana Kamal, chairperson of Transparency International Bangladesh who was also present at the press conference, said: “Section 14 of the bill says if any NGO makes malicious and offensive statement, that NGO's registration will be cancelled. But the law does not define how a statement would be considered malicious and offensive. So the law can be misused.”