Launch owners press for release

VIDEO0013_WMV V9Arrested Pinak-6 Owner
Launch owners are now putting pressure on the government to release the owner of Pinak-6 launch and his son, claiming they have been kept in prison ‘illegally’.

They also demand that the government does not file cases and arrest any launch owners in future under the code of criminal procedure following accidents in waterways.

The Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carriers’) Association, a platform of launch owners, on August 25 submitted a memorandum to the Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan to press home their demands for releasing the duo.

The memorandum is signed by nine leaders of the association, including its chairman Mahbub Uddin Ahmed Bir Bikram.

In the memorandum, they said the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) does not have the legal jurisdiction to file cases under the code of criminal procedure regarding launch accidents. But it has filed the case in order to pass the blame on to the owners.

As per law, the Department of Shipping is authorised to file cases with the marine court under the Inland Shipping Ordinance, 1976, said Badiuzzaman Badal, adviser to the owners’ association.

Violating the rule, the BIWTA has filed the case with Louhajong Police Station in Munshiganj under the criminal procedure code, he claimed.

Besides, any owner can be arrested only when s/he is found guilty after investigation. But the Pinak-6 owner and his son were arrested and kept in prison before the completion of the investigation, said the owners.

“It is our legal demand. We are the main stakeholders of this sector. So, the government should not do anything that may harass the vessel owners,” said Badal.

The minister has assured us that the owner of the launch and his son will be released soon, and verbally directed the BIWTA chairman not to arrest any owners for the time being, he added.

However, the shipping minister denied it and said, “They (owners) can demand many things. They are demanding from their side. But it does not mean those have to be met. Law will take its own course.”

Regarding the release of Pinak-6 owner, the minister said, “Enquiry is going on into the accident. Steps will be taken on the basis of the enquiry report.”

BIWTA Chairman Shamsuddoha Khandaker, however, said the case had been filed under the code of criminal procedure as the owner of Pinak-6 and his son committed criminal offence.

Meanwhile, the owners have already threatened to enforce countrywide strike in waterways if their demands are not fulfilled immediately, sources at the BIWTA said.

The owners may take any step if the demands are not met and they cannot be held responsible for this, reads the memorandum, hinting at the possibility of resorting to strike.

The memorandum also includes 16 other demands of the association including, providing interest-free loan to owners for modernisation of vessels, taking opinion from the owners’ association before giving approval to launch construction plan and others.

On August 31, the minister had held a meeting with owners, officials of BIWTA, BIWTC and Department of Shipping, where the owners came down heavily on the BIWTA chairman for arresting the Pinak-6 owner, said meeting sources.

In the meeting, a nine-member body was formed to scrutinise the demands of the owners. The body will also chalk out plans to ensure river safety.

The owner of Pinak-6 Abu Bakkar Siddique and his son Omar Faruque Limon were arrested on August 13 and 15 respectively in connection with a case filed by a traffic inspector of BIWTA following the launch capsize in the Padma on August 4. The accident claimed the lives of about 110 people. Among them, 62 people still remain missing.

Pankaj Karmakar

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