“Where is the driver?” asks Suranjit

“Where is the unsung hero? Why no case yet?” questions Suranjit. In his first ever interview after stepping down as the railway minister, Suranjit had a long 38-minute casual tête-à-tête with the anchor of an Independent TV talk show, Ajker Bangladesh. What he wanted to say throughout the show was that he has been a straightforward man since his childhood in the haor areas, and thus welcomed many foes in his life besides friends.

He pointed out three reasons behind being victimised as his APS Omar Faruk Talukder, and two senior officials of the railway ministry — Yusuf Ali Mridha, the suspended general manager (east) and Enamul Huq, suspended security commandant of railway Dhaka division — were caught with huge money at the BGB Headquarters on their way to Suranjit’s residence or that of Faruk on April 9. Had the driver of the microbus not entered Peelkhana that night, gross anomalies in the railway recruitment would not be possibly unearthed.

Suranjit anticipated that the age-old corruption nexus in the state’s railway sector, fundamentalists or the jealous people in his party might be behind the incident. He smelt rat, what he said, in the “unique scandal in political history of the world”; and therefore, went on to ask why the microbus driver went to the Peelkhana rather than going to any police station or stopping at the police check posts on the way.

Suranjit, who is a member of the Awami League advisory committee, praised the anchor, Khaled Muhiuddin, as the latter wanted to know from him whether BGB had the jurisdiction to hold someone detained at the Peelkhana for a night. Now a minister without a portfolio, the Sunamganj MP said he had been expecting this question from the media, but to no avail. He said the BGB which is governed under a law is entitled to the security issue of a specific area along the borer, not anywhere else. The BGB could hand the four detainees over to police, and even file complaints. Moreover, no criminal procedure has yet been launched to probe the sensational incident and punish those responsible. In this aspect, he said that it was yet to be known “what was the role of the army who shares security at the Peelkhana after 8pm?”

Suranjit also claimed the railway probe committee could question him regarding the haul if it wanted to since the two member probe body headed by the railway chief was given jurisdiction to probe into the incident of April 9. The anchor asked him for justification how the committee, formed by Suranjit, could quiz him or hold him guilty.

Notably, Suranjit was given a clean chit by that committee, which has submitted its report in a month after the minister had resigned. The committee, however, did not manage the statements of the “whistleblower” as driver Ali Azam had been missing since the incident. The probe committee also recorded similar written and stereo-type verbal statements of around 10 BGB officers and jawans—who claimed they allowed the vehicle inside the Peelkhana around 10:30pm since it had a parliament sticker. They also claimed to have not seen the money inside it.

Meanwhile, the other committee formed to look into the recruitment in railway’s east zone completed its probe and found massive bribery and irregularities in the recruitment process in 25 categories and recommended action against at least 20 railway officials.

Following this, Suranjit at a press conference declared that he would like to continue political activities since he was a lawmaker and had responsibility for the voters of his constituency. At the talk show, he said the similar thing as he was asked about his return even though the Anti-Corruption Commission was yet to complete its probe. He mentioned that a probe can’t be stalled, even when there is lack of evidence (the driver).

Suranjit also differed with lawyers who said the resignation was conducted as soon as he signed the resignation letter which he reportedly gave to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who also claimed that it was not a resignation as it was not accepted by the premier and not forwarded to the president.

The minister also questioned if anyone knew what he wrote in his resignation letter and where it was now.

He also castigated media for running baseless reports centring his involvement in the Tk 70 lakh scam, naming The Daily Star report questioning his son’s getting an interconnection exchange (ICX) licence that involves Tk 5 crore. Suranjit said the newspaper that is run by an educated editor, who is also his friend, should not have run that report at that time without scrutinising the procedure. He pointed that the next day all the other media outlets grasped that report. The spread was treated as a normal behaviour to him, but he said he expected in-depth investigation before publishing such sensitive reports.

The ACC, however, after an enquiry declared his son clean after finding that the money came from his business partner. Suranjit also urged mediamen to investigate the issue themselves if there were no fair investigation and no criminal case filed. And, he hoped that the unsung hero, the whistleblower of corruption, would come out or found to give statements which will help revealing the incident of April 9 at Peelkhana.



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