A Conversation With Dr. David King

[Cross posted at E-Bangladesh]

This morning I received an email from Dr. David King. Dr. King is a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. As ShadaKalo reported in his excellent post last night, General Moeen U Ahmed attended Dr. King’s class on Election Reform on Monday. The class consisted of 9 of Dr. King’s students.

I followed up with Dr. King and had a conversation spanning several emails with him.

Dr. King confirmed that General Moeen was not invited by the Kennedy School of Government. General Moeen had instead been invited by Harvard University. That invitation was later cancelled, for reasons unknown to Dr. King. Dr. King had asked to "borrow" General Moeen to appear in his class before his invitation to Harvard was cancelled. Dr. King told me via email:

"I don’t know how the original invitation was made, but I understand that General Moeen _was_ invited to speak at a public forum at Harvard. Not the Kennedy School — but up in the "yard." General Moeen accepted, and I asked folks here if I could borrow him for my Election Reform class. Then, for reasons I don’t know and haven’t been told, the event at which General Moeen was going to appear was cancelled. Those kinds of things happen a lot around here — for various reasons — especially when talks involve bringing folks together from various countries or universities. I was worried, when the public event was cancelled, that General Moeen might not be able to visit my Election Reform class — and I’m glad he was able to make it yesterday."

According to Dr. King, General Moeen was accompanied to his class by his personal assistant "who took notes during the class and signaled to us when it was time for the General to leave." Dr. King described Monday’s class to me as follows:

"We went around the room, introducing ourselves, then began the PowerPoint presentation. General Moeen was very engaged throughout — and discussed almost every one of our recommendations. My students come from many countries, including Gambia, Chile, Brazil, Lebanon, Greece, Thailand, and the U.S. So our conversation had a highly "comparative" element to it. The students are, for the most part, "mid-career" degree students — mostly in their 30s and 40s. The group was collegial, but challenged General Moeen throughout the hour — as one would expect in a research seminar. General Moeen did come prepared with a talk, but the class tended to focus on the recommendations my students presented."

Dr. King’s class jointly presented a Power Point presentation entitled "Election Reform for a Sustainable Democracy in Bangladesh". The presentation laid out steps the military government should take to restore democracy, including:

  • holding elections before October 2008
  • lifting the state of emergency
  • adhering to electoral rules used in previous elections
  • deferring other electoral reform to a future elected government
  • releasing comprehensive information on all persons arrested
  • ending press censorship and repealing or amending repressive press decrees
  • ensuring transparency in granting licenses to media companies
  • abiding by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

General Moeen did not make a presentation. Instead the students engaged him in discussion. Dr. King said that there was "give-and-take of a very fruitful exchange" between the students and the General. Dr. King declined to give further details of the class room conversation between the students and General Moeen, except acknowledging to me that issues of human rights and the suppression of fundamental rights were discussed.

Dr. King also informed me that he was invited to the lunch earlier this afternoon between General Moeen and Bangladeshi students at the Kennedy School of Government. I understand that the lunch meeting included Sheikh Hasina’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy who is a student at KSG.

There have also been persistent rumors on the Internet that Dr. David King was going to consult on election reform for Bangladesh. Dr. King emphatically denied those rumors. He wrote to me:

"I’m not consulting for anyone from Bangladesh. Nobody has asked, and the first I read about it was on blogs just yesterday. News to me."

So, General Moeen finally did make it to Harvard. But he was not there at the invitation of the Kennedy School of Government., as has been widely and inaccurately reported in the Bangladeshi press. His earlier invitation to Harvard University had been cancelled. Instead, he attended Dr. David King’s Election Reform class.


Dr. David King sent me the following clarification after reading this post:

"The only clarification I’d make is that the issue of an "invitation" is hard to pin down. We invite people to come speak here all the time, but for all intents and purposes, there is no centralized place called "Harvard" that handles invitations. We have a patchwork quilt of institutes and centers here. I think it’s wonderful that someone at Harvard began all this by asking General Moeen to speak at a conference. Once that invitation was extended, I was eager to bring General Moeen into my seminar, of course. In that respect, he was invited into my seminar, and he was invited to present a talk at the lunch today, and he was invited to meet with several other Harvard faculty individually. I hope that the dialogue General Moeen has had at Harvard benefits the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh."

I share the hope in Dr. King’s last sentence above.


More coverage of General Moeen’s visit to Boston at ShadaKalo:


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11 Responses to A Conversation With Dr. David King

  1. tacit says:

    It’d be interesting to find out the details of the “original” Harvard seminar to which he was invited.

  2. Mash says:

    Taylor, interesting day up in Boston today.:d
    Tacit, yea, I have to say I am curious. Dr. King said that he was invited to speak at some public forum – and then the event was cancelled. Obvious questions are what forum and why was it cancelled, and by whom? Not to mention who invited him to the forum in the first place?

  3. Sydneysider says:

    Although we have freedom of press in Bangladesh, none of the media are publishing the truth about Gen Moeen’s mysterios Harvard tour and his lies. Thank you very much for letting us know the truth. Seems like we have a Burma-like situation in terms of information flow now. We will pass the truth on to aam-janata. Keep informing us the truth. Thanks agian.

  4. khanna says:


    i feel bad once i see that u r trying to put u r finger at the back of some one.

    Not good looking at all.
    what u want to achieve out of that.

  5. Mash says:

    Khanna, Dr. King (whose class General Moeen visited) contacted me and said he would be happy to talk about the visit. I believe I have represented his comments to me faithfully and accurately. I sent a link to this post to Dr. King after I posted it and posted a clarification that he sent me. I think the post offers an important perspective into General Moeen\’s visit, especially in light of some of the misinformation floating around in the Bangladeshi press.

    If you dont believe that a discussion with Dr. King is newsworthy, then I am not sure what to say to you.

    But, I am not surprised by your comment. Previously you claimed, quite incredibly, in a comment that the Trust Bank prospectus that I linked to from the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission was a forgery. You did that without, I presume, even checking that the document is from an official Bangladesh government website. You didnt let that important fact get in the way of your baseless charge.

  6. Mash says:

    The link to Khanna’s comment I was referring to in the my comment on #6 got mangled. Click here for the correct link.

  7. AsifY says:

    Frankly Mash, I wouldn’t waste my time. I don’t think khanna’s a real person. I like to think that there’s a computer in some cyber cafe somewhere in the world with instructions to go to your blog and say the stupidest thing possible. Maybe that’s the only way you can start using the internet on that computer. Maybe it gives the user a discount. It’s some sort of postmodern/cyberage practical joke.

    I think its much easier for me to imagine that wild scenario than to imagine anyone being this thick.

  8. David King says:

    Mash — thank you for helping clarify things. I have posted to several blogs over the last few days, but only four of my posts made it past the “moderator” — so mistaken views have continued to be perpetuated. Thank you — and the other responsible moderators — for at least allowing me to speak.

    I think everyone at Harvard hopes for a genuine restoration of democracy in Bangladesh. That will take cooperation and compromise — and a restoration of trust that has been undermined by years of insider-deals.

    Note that G. Moeen’s invitation was never withdrawn. The conference fell through, as often happens, but we were always eager for a dialog, and I am glad that the Ash Institute played a role in bringing some of the Bangladeshi community together.

    It seems to me that political discussions in Bangladesh need to be much more transparent — whether the actions of the government, the parties, business communities, or journalists. It is not possible to have deliberation without dialog.

  9. Mash says:

    Dr. King, thank you for contacting me. I was happy to clarify things. E-Bangladesh has also published my post so our email conversation will be read by a wider audience.

    I do not moderate comments on my blog and give all commenters freedom to express their views. However, the freedom that you and I enjoy in America, and the opportunity you have had, on the Bangladeshi blogosphere, to lay the facts down as you see them is currently denied to the people of Bangladesh.

    Respected professors like you and promising students like those in your class today are behind bars in Bangladesh, and being tortured, for the temerity to speak against the military and for asking the same thing you and your students asked the General: to lift the state of emergency. It is ironic that General Moeen visited one of America’s centers of higher education while his troops defiled the seat of Bangladeshi learning and one of the symbols of Bangladesh’s freedom, Dhaka University.

    I fully support your call for dialogue. However, what we have in Bangladesh right now is monologue. The press is stifled by intimidation and censorship – and when that fails, a good old fashioned beating. General Moeen, who sat in your class, and witnessed and was accorded freedom of expression has actively denied that to 150 million Bangladeshis. Dialogue cannot begin with guns pointed and with fundamental freedoms suspended by official decree.

    This conversation you and I are having cannot be published anywhere in Bangladesh. Under these conditions, the Bangladeshi blogosphere has been the only outlet for information. We are not journalists. We all have day jobs. But we have tried to get the facts out as we understand them, with varying degrees of success. For our efforts, we have been repeatedly threatened by representatives of the military government in Bangladesh. Some of us have traded our freedom to set foot on the soil of our birth for the freedom to speak. In spite of all this, the Bangladeshi blogosphere has continued to provide information, and when rumors got ahead of the facts, has corrected itself. This is quite the opposite of what we currently find in Bangladesh where reality is manufactured with Orwellian chutzpah.

    I urge you to read this post by one of the lights of the Bangladeshi blogosphere to assure yourself of the integrity of the Bangladeshi blogging community. You will find that your comments to the Bangladeshi blogosphere have been taken to heart.

    Finally, I urge you and your class not to forget the people of Bangladesh. By presenting the general with your recommendations, you have been able to say to the General what Bangladeshis are not allowed to say. I urge you to take this opportunity that you have created to continue to press General Moeen to restore democracy in Bangladesh. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and our neighbor to the East, asked those who live in freedom to “please use your liberty to promote ours.” These are not idle words nor hollow rhetoric for the millions who live without freedom. By inviting General Moeen to your class you have earned our gratitude for opening a dialogue and a responsibility to continue it.

  10. khanna says:

    First, I do admit for the last comment I did regarding Gen moeen. I saw it later on. what is the fact u know, I wanted to believe this gen and his army And the only reason is, for last ten years with my sense, I only understood this much that no political government is good for us. They are greedy and always busy for self interest. Believe me; u will not get a single political leader who is working for his people except few, which can be counted with finger.

    Talk about Khaleda or Shekh Hasina, They were the follower of Ershad with different Shape. In the home of democracy they enjoyed dictatorship within the party. Mash democracy is not for us, why I said so, here maximum people one illiterate, they only believe in peace, no fighting, no Andoloan. But our politicians just do the opposite. They create problems, enjoy killing of general people and always after someone. What is my fault that I could not do my classes regularly, why so called teachers of DU were playing political games? Do know that general teachers of DU are fully against so called four teacher’s policy. Talk about Dr. Kamal, telling all good words, do u know that he is the legal adviser for Nikho gas extrication company’s, against our government. So this is the face of country loving people. That’s why I support this Chief. This government is better then any other. So what, many violations are going on. But we are now in peace. You will not realize it as u are not in Bd.

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