South Asia

Bully's immunity: Bangladesh is witnessing a nationwide protest against the government's move to allow blanket immunity to the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The International Financial Organisation (Amendment) Act 2004, which has allegedly been drafted by the government under WB's pressure, has been ratified by the cabinet and is likely to be moved in the parliament session that began on May 12, 2005.

The Alliance Against World Bank Immunity, a coalition of 60 civil society organisations, including the Bangladesh Development Partnership Centre, Ubinig and Action Aid, launched the protest within and outside the country on May 8, 2005. If the law is passed by the parliament, the alliance plans to challenge its legality in the High Court. Opponents of the law point out that WB and IMF staff already enjoy certain amount of diplomatic immunity. Extension of the immunity is not needed for any work to get done, but is more like a "perk'. The protestors also question the extension of the immunity from diplomatic tasks to economic and development tasks. They say such facilities might enable WB to engage in harmful projects in poor countries.

Parliament secretariat sources say the law's passage is a matter of time, as it has gone through all preparatory formalities. The opposition has a less than one-third presence in parliament and it won't be able to block it. Besides, it hasn't taken a political stand on the matter.