FROM THE DESK OF THE CHAIRMAN
Dear Honourable Members,
It has been seven months that the new EC has assumed office. I thought it was just about time, as Chairman RAOWA, I informed all honourable members, my reflections on RAOWA, the current activities and, most importantly, our future plan. It has been an honour for me to lead this noble association comprising of such enlightened people of our country who not only sacrificed golden years of their lives in defence of our dear motherland but also continued to serve the nation in different capacity. I feel quite privileged to have in the EC, a group of dynamic members who are dedicated to the cause of RAOWA.
RAOWA As I see It
Our founding members established RAOWA to act as common platform of amity and fraternity of retired military officers and, in the last 37 years of its existence, RAOWA has come a long way emerging today as one of the largest associations of its kind. Our current membership stands at 4184 (four thousand one hundred eighty four). Unlike many other professionals, military officers do not really retire when their active military service is over, but continue to work in different capacities thus making valuable contributions to our nation’s progress and prosperity. We are fortunate to have among our members such iconic personalities who made their mark beyond their military career, contributing in different areas of national service. We have among ourselves political leaders, successful entrepreneurs, educationists, physicians, corporate professionals, engineers, lawyers and what not. I dearly feel that if we can harness the potential of our members, we can take RAOWA to a great height and, besides undertaking tangible welfare programs for our members, we can make even greater contribution to the nation. For that we need good strategy, plan and programs, blessing from the government and service headquarters, collaboration with corporate world and, most importantly, unity among our members. We had some hiccups in the recent past in the affairs of RAOWA but we can surely put them at our back and go ahead with new vigor.
Contribution of Our Former Leaders
If we reflect on the contributions of all past ECs, we cannot but feel humbled. Despite many difficulties, they achieved amazing things and today we are enjoying the fruits of their dedicated service to RAOWA. If Brig Gen Moazzem and his team did not have the courage and conviction of starting the construction of RAOWA complex by harnessing fund from service headquarters and taking bank loan we might not have seen this imposing building. If Maj Taneem Hasan and his team hadn’t have the required mental strength to take over the construction of the complex when the project got virtually stalled owing to lack of fund, by making the strategic decision of renting out Convention Halls and, from the advance rent and security deposit, completing the construction of the complex, we wouldn’t have had the financial power that we have today from the revenue being generated. These are examples of the recent past. But those office bearers of RAOWA’s early days who, virtually from the scratch, transformed RAOWA into a vibrant association are already lost from our memory to a great extent. They had probably made some mistakes in the discharge of their responsibilities. Since we all do mistakes at some stage or other, their mistakes or procedural anomalies must not make us forget their hard work, toil and dedicated services to RAOWA.
Transforming RAOWA into a Truly Welfare Association
As you can appreciate, RAOWA is meant to dedicate to the welfare of its respected members to ease their smooth transition back to civilian life and also to have a peaceful and worthwhile existence during the period of their retirement. Arguably, RAOWA provides a social platform for its members through organizing different social activities, which themselves are a great deal of welfare. RAOWA members can avail discounted services in different facilities of RAOWA like its restaurant, convention halls, beverage room etc. and also can use the sports complex, library, members lounge etc. along with their families. But, it’s true that RAOWA couldn’t come up to the expectations of its members in terms of core welfare activities excepting providing occasional financial assistance to distressed members and providing family security scheme money to the deceased members’ families. Lives after retirement have not been very easy to many of our members; a good number amongst us could not settle down well in their retired life and are facing financial hardship. No association can actually provide financial assistance to all its needy members since resources are always scarce. But what possibly we can do is to use our collective strength to assist our brother and sister officers to be able to settle down into some comfortable occupations so long they are active. We also need to take care of our older members; not all of them actually need financial assistance, but many are quite depressed and lonely and often unable to perform some personal much needed administrative activities. Some of the current and projected welfare activities of RAOWA are enumerated below:
- Assisting retired officers to get suitable employment in the corporate sector. ‘RAOWA’s endeavor to placement’, is a new initiative, under which we get demand from corporate houses for employment of potential retired officers, negotiate appropriate compensation and other benefits with employers, circulate to our members, shortlist potential ones and connect them with the potential employers. In this connection, we wrote letters to a large number of corporate houses informing them of our service to connect suitable military officers for potential employment. We started this initiative in Jan 2019 and till to date we got requisition from 19 companies/corporate houses for 22 positions and forwarded CVs of suitable officers. The frequency of such requisitions are increasing.
- Creation of Jobs in the government, semi-government, autonomous organizations and national projects. We have planned for a comprehensive effort to lobby with services headquarters, military enterprises and government leadership to create employment opportunities within these sectors for our needy members. Military officers retire earlier in life with still many more years of active life. We dearly feel that many of them could be absorbed in these sectors, which will not only allow them to have honourable employment, but the nation also can be benefited from their valuable services.
- Assisting in Entrepreneurship. RAOWA Entrepreneurs’ Forum is trying to create opportunities for business ventures for potential entrepreneurs and also assist in skill development. We signed a MOU with Daffodil University for entrepreneurship development, and shortly we shall see some tangible results in this aspect. We shall lobby with services headquarters, military enterprises and government leadership for preferential treatment of veterans in pursuit of entrepreneurship. We are also mulling over some possible business initiatives under the banner of RAOWA in suitable sectors with government patronization.
- Financial grants. Although our resources are limited, of late we have enhanced our endeavor to financially assist some of our members in acute distress. We also like to include our affluent members in this endeavor and hence opened a Sadakah Fund and a Jakat fund for members for their contribution. As a responsible association, we also like to assist, within our capability, to other distressed people in the society, particularly for some of our retired soldiers from these funds. In the last 6 months we have provided Tk 52,00,000.00 (fifty two lac) to 26 families of deceased members under FWS, Tk 27,68,390.00 (Twenty seven lac sixty eight thousand three hundred ninety) to 16 financially distressed members and Tk 1,00,000.00 to one serving officer in the form of financial grant/assistance. Please note that it is quite difficult to address all such requests from RAOWA’s own fund. Hence assistance from our more affluent members is always welcome.
- Members’ Lodge. Suitable accommodation with necessary services for visiting members of RAOWA from abroad and outside the capital is a dire necessity. We like to set up such a facility, if we can construct the second RAOWA building in place of old existing RAOWA complex.
- Assistance of RAOWA Members’ in Routine Administration. Our Members Support Center is now assisting our members in some much needed administrative works like renewal of passport, car sticker, BRTA matters (tax token and fitness), visa application etc., apart from limited secretarial assistance. These services are more needed for older members who can’t do these jobs themselves and often have no helping hands to assist.
- Seminars/Symposium. We are routinely organizing seminars/symposiums on health issues, religious matters, entrepreneurship development etc for the general members and their families. Retired Army Medical and Dental Officers’ Forum (RAMDOF) assisted us in organizing some of the important programs on health matter.
- Some Goodwill Gestures from RAOWA. In the recent past we undertook some goodwill gestures from RAOWA, which truly are not welfare, but has a positive effects in building our bondage as a community. These are:
- Visiting ailing RAOWA members every fortnight in the CMH. We also inform our members the list of officers who are admitted, so that they may visit them, enquire about their health and also pray for their early recovery.
- Sending food for 25 persons to the family of each deceased member.
- Funeral assistance like providing transportation, shrouding cloth etc. for a deceased member, if requested from the family.
- Sending birthday card to all members.
RAOWA’s Effort in Harnessing Intellectual and Literary Abilities of Members
Many of our members are engaged in literary pursuit and every year we see a good number of publications from our members. For the last few years RAOWA is participating in ‘Omor Ekushe Boi Mela’ with its own stall and also has been holding a’ book fair’ in its own premises to encourage our members by showcasing their books, publications etc. Besides, among our members, we have wealth of intellectuals who have the ability to undertake serious research on host of subjects. In order to encourage and assist our members in the pursuit of their literary and research activities RAOWA has taken following new initiatives:
- Establishing RAOWA Research and Study Forum. The RAOWA Research and Study Forum (RRSF) had been formed in March 2019 with the objective of carrying out research and study on national, regional and international security and geopolitical issues with a view to suggesting policy options for Bangladesh. The RRSF has a Governing Body (GB) of five members, who are all retired Armed Forces Officers. The GB lays down policies, initiates and conducts research and study on various subjects and topics. The broad fields of research and study for the time being will be: Geo-politics, Strategy, and Policy and Governance. The first edition ‘RAOWA Review’ a quarterly peer-reviewed scholarly journal, will be published very soon. The RAOWA Review will be available both in hard copies and online on RAOWA website. The RAOWA Review has an Editorial Board and a panel of Advisors/Reviewers who edit and review all research papers submitted and decide on which papers are best suited for publication. These Editors and Reviewers are all regionally and internationally renowned scholars. The RRSF will also hold seminars on the outcomes of its research and study on subjects and topics of interest and importance to Bangladesh.
- Establishing RAOWA Writers’ Forum. RAOWA Writers Forum has been formed in Jan 2019 with 94 writers as members. The aim of the forum is to encourage and help our writers to improve their writings and thus enrich RAOWA publications. The Forum is working to improve the standard of RAOWA Magazine ‘The RAOWA Mirror’. Besides, under the supervision of the forum, a new magazine in tabloid form, containing RAOWA activities will be published thrice in a calendar year. In this year a seminar on the books and publications authored by the defence service writers on our Glorious Liberation war will be organized.
- Enhancing the scope of RAOWA Publication. RAOWA publication is working to help the writers in publishing books authored by RAOWA members. This was the second year RAOWA arranged a book stall at ‘Ekushey Boi Mela’. Books authored by RAOWA members were displayed and sold from the stall. Four committees, namely ‘Amor Ekushey Book Fair Committee’, ‘Book Review Committee’, ‘The RAOWA Mirror publication Committee’ and ‘Publication House Committee’ have been formed to make the RAOWA Publications rich and effective.
Reorganizing RAOWA Ladies and Children’s Affairs Sub-committee. RAOWA Ladies and Children’s Affairs Sub-committee was formulated in 2001 and its TOR at present is inadequate to meet contemporary needs of growing numbers of ladies and children. We are, therefore, planning to reorganize the composition of RAOWA Ladies and Children’s Affairs Sub-committee, if need be changed the name itself, to meet the contemporary need.
Restructuring RAOWA Secretariat. As you can appreciate, despite all good intentions, planning and support by the elected EC, it is only through a strong, motivated, capable and efficient Secretariat that RAOWA can fulfill the need of an effective association. For quite some time RAOWA didn’t have a proper HR policy, as well as a proper organogram. Last year, a HR consultancy firm was engaged to study RAOWA’s current and projected activities and recommend restructuring of RAOWA Sectt including formulation of a comprehensive HR policy. The policy would take care of all aspects of employment of all members of the Sectt, as well as delineate appropriate job descriptions and specifications. Based on the recommendations of the company and through further study by the EC, a comprehensive HR policy is being developed, a part of which is already implemented. A dedicated HR department under a Manager (HR) has also been created. We shall see completion of this project within next two months.
- Development Work Jan – Jun 2019.We have committed a total of Tk 77,87,896.00 (Seventy seven lac eighty seven thousand eight hundred ninety six) in the various development works in the last six months. Mentionable few are:
- Construction of Boundary Wall from Gate-3 to South West corner of RAOWA to strengthen the security.
- Construction of Hard standing on West side of RAOWA Complex to facilitate the use of constructed cook house and parking.
- Construction of one staff room to increase living space for RAOWA staff.
- Conversion of one store room into Party Centre with adequate facilities to increase the facility of RAOWA Restaurant.
- Replacement of existing loose/broken cement mortar tiles by Conmix Plaster for ensuring safety has been replaced.
- Standardization of the Flag Stand at Level-4 to have well organized assembly space.
- Installation of Lightning Arrester on the rooftop of RAOWA to Complex to ensure safety.
- Setting of LED letter sign at the top floor on eastern side of RAOWA Complex to beautify the look of RAOWA Complex and make the complex’s existence visible from a long distance.
- Installation of 15 CCTV Camera in the Convention Halls of RAOWA to increase surveillance capability.
- New RAOWA Building. It is becoming increasingly difficult for providing required service from the RAOWA Complex. A large part of this complex is rented out to tenants and three convention halls are being visited by thousands of guests on a regular basis. The resulting traffic and circulation problem is becoming a nightmare. With so many outsiders visiting every day, the inherent security problem is also bugging us. We, therefore, are contemplating construction of a separate RAOWA Complex, in the place of our old building. This will be completely dedicated to the members and then we can have the existing complex being used for commercial purpose only. The new building may allow us to have all the facilities dedicated to members like RAOWA Secretariat, library, card room, sports complex, beverage room, restaurant, members lounge, prayer room, members’ lodge, small convention hall for members, physiotherapy, laundry, salon and beauty parlor, bakery and confectionary, souvenir shop, book shop etc. However, this project and its financial plan needs to be approved from general members.
- New Members Lounge. Present members lounge at level-5 is only of 750 sft and is inadequate to meet the need of growing numbers of members. Therefore, we have planned to setup a new members lounge at present open space including the reception area at ground floor. The new lounge will encompass 2200 sft area and will include dedicated members area, coffee corner, refreshing area, archive cum display area, reception, members’ support centre and meeting rooms to meet the diversified need of general members.
Improving Quality of RAOWA Services
- Arranging Microbus. RAOWA felt the need of at least one Microbus to meet emergency purpose of the Sectt and members. I had two options, one to purchase from RAOWA fund and the second one was to get a donation from any philanthropic person. I opted the second option and requested a few important personalities for donating one Microbus to RAOWA. At one opportunity I could convince Mr Abdullah, Ex Member of the Parliament (Lakhipur – 6)to donate one Microbus for RAOWA. On 21 Mar 2019, on the day of 37th Founding Anniversary, he handed over one Microbus through a befitting ceremony. Now this Microbus is being used for RAOWA’s administrative purpose, serve need of NRB members and emergency of the members which has greatly geared up the activities of RAOWA as well as boosted the moral of the staffs.
- Convention Halls. Rent from convention Halls is the main source of income of RAOWA. From the inception, all affairs of Hall management was managed by Iqbal Hossain Catering Service. Due to the opposition of general members in 2018,RAOWA employed multiple caterers and event management companies in convention halls and hall management services were out sourced. This resulted a dent in RAOWA’s income from this sector. We have now decided to take the hall management services to improve the quality as well as to heal the dent which was resulted due to the shift.
- Restaurant. RAOWA Restaurant is one of the prime facilities of RAOWA for serving its members. Although the food price is quiet reasonable, but the quality of food and services need improvement. Efforts are being taken to improve upon these aspects by engaging quality chefs and training its staff. A separate party room is currently being set up adjacent to the Restaurant for allowing small parties to be arranged without disturbing the normal operation of the Restaurant.
- RAOWA Library. The comprehensive plan has been chalked out to renovate RAOWA Library and increase the number of books and other reading materials. The library will be digitized soon with provision of online connection with few other digital libraries. The interior of the library will also be improved.
- RAOWA Catering. RAOWA catering service was limited in preparing few items for bakery only. We have broadened the scope of catering service and now food items for various RAOWA events are prepared by RAOWA catering. This resulted a huge cost saving as earlier these food items were outsourced from enlisted caterers.
- RAOWA Bakery. RAOWA Bakery is making quality bread and some cookies every day and sells at a reasonable price. The interior of the bakery needs improvement, but at present location it won’t be economically feasible as we are planning to construct a new building in place of the old RAOWA complex which will automatically necessitate shifting of the bakery. Improvement of bakery facilities and its interior will be taken in hand as soon as we relocate the bakery. However, efforts are on to improve the quality of items sold from the bakery.
- Games and Sports Complex. We concentrated on up keeping and increasing number of instruments in the sports complex to make it more useful to the members.
- Beverage Room. Efforts to keep the vibrancy of beverage room is on through frequent arrangement of musical program. In spite of the proposals from many corner, price of liquors has not been increased. Steps have been taken to control guests and to strictly maintain dress code.
- Card Room. A good number of our members do enjoy the facility of Card Room. We are trying our best to fulfill the expectations of these members and maintain a congenial atmosphere in the facility.
Calling on Important Personalities and Bringing Them to RAOWA
A plan has been chalked up to call on/ meet Service Chiefs, important PSOs of Service Headquarters, heads of military affiliated business enterprises, chiefs of law enforcing agencies etc. This initiative will be progressed for meeting highest political leadership like Honourable President and Prime Minister and Defence Adviser and also to invite them to RAOWA in some befitting programs. Following objectives will be pursued through this initiative:
- Establish more intimate relationship between RAOWA and service headquarters.
- To pursue a joint program to enhance the image of military community in the society.
- Branding of Bangladesh Armed Forces and possible cooperation that may be extended by RAOWA.
- To seek support of enhancement of RAOWA facilities and services (for example, getting financial support for renovation of old RAOWA building).
- To seek support for some income generating, welfare and social projects by RAOWA (bank, hospital, university and any other business enterprise).
- Seek support for some additional land (for example in Mirpur DOHS and AHS) for RAOWA.
- Seek support for preferential treatment to military entrepreneurs in business with Armed Forces.
- Seek support for a think tank.
- Pursue a joint program for training, grooming and sensitizing officers, who are on the verge of retirement, to embark on post-retirement career. To pursue the services headquarters to re-employ retired military officers on contract service to fill at least 25% of the posts in non-combat military establishments like static headquarters, logistic/administrative establishments, training institutions etc.
- Seek support for DOHS/AHS plots for Air Force and Naval Officers, who were not allotted with any land.
- To pursue ‘one rank one pension’ and ‘full pension for families of deceased officers’.
- To pursue the highest political leadership of the country for support for the cause of retired military community in general and RAOWA in particular.
There are some pending issues, which need to be addressed before we go to the next AGM.
- Reviewing RAOWA Constitution. The new EC in 2019 in its first meeting discussed the amendments recommended by the B of O headed by the SVC. It was decided to circulate the suggested amendments to the members to obtain their valuable opinion and feedback. The B of O having taken into cognizance all the feedback received from the members finalized their recommendations for amendments and was ready for the EGM. However, the EC in its regular meeting in June 2019, decided to have an open forum discussion on the proposed amendments before calling an EGM to have the approval of the general body. The open forum was partially held on 20 Jul 2019. A few more such meetings will take place. Later the amendments will be final and will be placed in the EGM at the earliest.
- B of O Report on Last 15 Years Anomalies. The Anomaly Board report is a thorny issue and was a top priority despite being a sub-judice matter. A series of engagements and negotiations with various stakeholders were done for an amicable solution to this long pending issue. There were also some initiatives by some of our senior members for a solution. The Advisory Council also put in lot of effort for a fair solution. From the EC, a core committee was formed comprising the Chairman, Senior Vice Chairman and the Secretary General to work out a practical approach to resolve the issue. The core committee has already made up their mind on how to resolve the issue and is committed to implement it forthwith. The approach is mentioned below:
a.The BOO recommendations relate to:
(1) Actions to be taken against individual members for their involvements in various kinds of anomalies / irregularities.
(2) Actions to be taken by the EC to rectify various anomalies and weaknesses in the constitution/system.
b. Most of the actions to be taken by the EC are those on which there are no major disagreement. Some of them have been already implemented and the rest are being or will be soon implemented.
c. On individual anomalies / wrong practice the issue of taking rental commission is proved with credible evidence and the four members accused on this ground will be called and asked to explain.
d. Other individual anomalies lack credible evidence and hence effort may be taken to gather more evidence.
e. Effort will be made to vacate the ad-interim injunction.
f. After taking the actions suggested above, general body will be informed.
In Oct 2008 Project Builders Ltd (PBL) was contracted for the construction of RAOWA complex but the deal did not see a happy ending due to delay in construction, despite repeated extension of the time period to finish the construction. As they could not last till the end of construction their financial claims remained disputed and unresolved. We are aiming to settle the issue soon.
Following the decision of the EC on 12 May 2018 to terminate the contract with the Skyline and negotiate with the company for settlement the company asked for a huge compensation of about Tk 20 crore, out of which about 5 Crores against their interior/associated works, fixing of AC, buying of furniture, equipment, crockeries/cutleries etc and Tk. 15 Crore for mental harassment and opportunity cost since their works were stopped. Even the compensation for their real expenditure was found too prohibitive. Therefore the EC, on 18 Jun 2019, after detail discussion agreed that the termination of contract with the company will not be in the best interest of RAOWA. However, it was also felt that the old contract had some clauses which needed to be changed. The rent fixed in the old contract also decided to be re-negotiated and enhanced. The company, on principle, agreed with the decision of RAOWA EC and discussion is on with the company to finalize a new deed of agreement at the earliest. We do hope to settle the issue soon which will increase our revenue substantially.
- Expected Standard of Behaviour by Our Members
We all come from one of the greatest institutions of our country with decades of fine training and grooming. Yet, at times, conduct of some of our members fall short of desired standard, causing embarrassment and agonies. I like to take this opportunity to humbly remind all members of certain areas of conduct and behavior where we definitely need to improve upon to keep the lofty image of our community ever high:
- While after retirement we are not legally bound to the rigid hierarchy of the armed forces, but showing proper respect to our seniors/elders and respectful treatment or affections to youngers is the cornerstone of the behavior of any military officer. In certain cases we fail to adhere to this cardinal norm thus creating unnecessary friction.
- When we elect some members as office bearers of any association, it is expected to respect and support them for the term of office. Criticism is surely the cornerstone of a pluralistic society, but criticism must be constructive, fact-based and, of course, be done within the confine of civility and decency.
- Some of us tend to engage in unnecessary political debate/discussion in public place like RAOWA facilities causing undue tension. I personally feel that the old rule for officers not to discuss politics and women in the mess should, by default, extend to our second home.
- Social media has emerged as a very powerful tool to disseminate information, ideas and opinion to a large audience in real time basis. But, if not used properly, it can also create embarrassment, agony and misgivings. May I remind our honourable members of a spell of utter distress last year on the issue of B of O, when some of our members, both for or against the B of O report, engaged themselves in making disrespectful comment, mud-slinging and character assassination, thus creating distress for not only RAOWA but for the military community at large. Besides RAOWA affairs, some of our members also faced legal actions and were taken on custody for allegedly making provocative political comments. As RAOWA Chairman I felt helpless when families of these members approached for assistance. We, of course, tried to use our connections informally to help them, but in such legal matters, our hands are really tied. I don’t like to be judgmental on these issues, but fact of the matter is that when one doesn’t exercise caution and discretion in using social media, it may bring forth unnecessary distress for oneself, family members and the community at large.
- RAOWA is our second home and hence it is important that our attire and conduct within RAOWA Complex reflect the high standard of military officers that we are proud of. Frankly speaking, some officers often fall short in this area. There are specific dress codes for visiting RAOWA facilities and I humbly urge upon all to adhere to those. Another aspect that often creates embarrassment for us is the quality of guests that some of us entertain in RAOWA, particularly in the Restaurant and Beverage Room. We should be quite choosy while inviting guests, follow carefully the appropriate rules for entertaining them and, at the same time, ensure high standard of their conduct when they visit RAOWA.
In the last 6 months, we have taken quite a good number of initiatives for welfare of our members, improving our services and most importantly, to uplift the image of RAOWA. I feel that still many more things can be done. But it requires our concerted efforts, not only by the EC, but also by all our respected individual members. Most importantly, we need to create an environment of stability and harmony amongst us. I feel that my principal challenge is to unite all members, absence of which will take us nowhere, however good our planning is. It needs a sense of understanding, showing respect to each other and shedding of all kinds of bitterness. I, along with my EC, am open to any suggestion for overall development of RAOWA. Please feel free to drop by and have a cup of coffee with any of us, on prior appointment. We must all remember that RAOWA is our home and we ourselves can only make this home a place of happiness and tranquility. Thank you all from the core of my heart and my humble prayers remain for your health, happiness and prosperity.
Major Khandaker Nurul Afser