I had just left behind a tense East Timor. No rice for several weeks… violence had again erupted on the streets. I had expected my one day pit stop in Dhaka, on my way to a UNAIDS assignment in India, to have been less eventful. Dili to Delhi had a nice ring to it. The plane had arrived in the early hours of the morning, and as I sat at Drik trying to finish the million pending bits that invariably pile up, Rahnuma rang to talk of the fire. Soon we were up there, outside the familiar building where I’d recently given interviews. Through the billowing smoke, my NTV and RTV mugs reminded me of how close our lives constantly were to needless tragedies shaped by irresponsible gatekeepers. I wondered whether the new gatekeepers in power, ushered in by an unspoken coup, would be different. They had started well, arresting corrupt individuals, and attempting to establish the rule of law, but the sinister rumblings of indefinite stay, had all the signals of previous regimes while the significant omissions in their ‘hit list’ was deeply worrying. On the plane Farhad Mazhar and I talked of having to brace ourselves for new measures designed to make us more safe. As for the disproportionate influence of ‘friendly nations’, swapping freedom for security appeared to be the order of the day. I wish we had a choice on whom to befriend.
Naeem’s translation of Anisul Haque’s moving Op Ed, and Peu’s mail pointing to Munir’s powerful images,
bring home a message too often forgotten. As Shupon points out, we forget very easily. As we’ve forgotten the deaths in the garment factories, or the ferry disasters. But then, those had involved the death of poor people.
The near death of the well to do could perhaps have a more lasting memory.
The tranquil mornings in the mountains of East Timor seemed a long way away.
27th February 2007