[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:
- General Moeen’s Mysterious Harvard Seminar with Joy
- A Quick Email Inverview with Dr. David King
- "I am very pleased to meet you"