Nation this week
The elections to Dhaka South City Corporation and Dhaka North City Corporation will be held on January 30, the Election Commission announced. During a press briefing at the Election Commission (EC) office, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda said electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be used in the polls instead of traditional ballot boxes. The army will not be deployed in the polls, he added.
Four other election commissioners -- Mahbub Talukdar, Rafiqul Islam, Kabita Khanam and Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury -- were also present at the press briefing, despite recent reports of discord rendering the commission almost dysfunctional. The last date for submitting nomination papers is December 31 and the last date for withdrawal of candidacy is January 9. The EC will scrutinise nomination papers on January 2. The size of the combined electorate is over 5.4 million (54 lakh).
State-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) started selling onions at Tk 35 per kg, closer to the usual price before an Indian ban on exports hit the market hard. TCB spokesman Humayun Kabir said they decided to reduce the price after observing the market situation. "Each kg onion will be sold at Tk 35 from trucks until further announcement. We used to sell the imported bulb at Tk 45 in the capital to control the price," he said.
According to TCB's market observation, each kg imported onion was being sold at Tk 60-120 and the local variety at Tk 90-110 prior to its latest move. Onion prices started surging after India first restricted its exports and then on September 29 imposed a total ban for "improving domestic availability". The supply crunch pushed up the price of the common kitchen item by as much as 557.8 percent, according to TCB.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has responded to a legal notice, served by Telenor Group to President Abdul Hamid seeking arbitration over a Tk12,579 crore audit claim with the telecom regulator. However, BTRC officials maintain that there is no way for arbitration as the matter is sub-judice.
Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar, earlier on December 19, told reporters that "Grameenphone sent a legal notice to the president". But Telenor's Singapore office has made clear that "Grameenphone is not a party to the process". Previously it was reported that Telenor Asia, based out of Singapore with which Bangladesh has signed a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), sent a notice threatening to initiate arbitration by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a World Bank body, over the dispute. Although the courts here have ruled against it, a treaty commitment may override such a ruling, contrary to the minister's understanding.
The Awami League's 21st national council ended with no surprises on after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was re-elected party president, with Obaidul Quader retaining his post as general secretary of the ruling party. Sheikh Hasina was unanimously 'voted' to the top position of the party. This is her ninth consecutive term since she was first chosen as party chief in 1981, in absentia, a few days before returning from exile in India.
Quader was 're-elected' through a process that leaves him as the lone candidate for a second consecutive term. The duo will lead the Awami League for the next three years. Thousands of councillors, who came to Dhaka from all across Bangladesh to attend the two-day national council, burst into cheers for Hasina and Quader when their names were announced at the auditorium of the Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB).
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