Launching of BARM Society, speech drs. Florus Geraedts
February 26, 2009, 1:28 pm
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Speech Florus on 24 febr 2009 in the Launching Ceremony of BARM Society in National Museum

Recently I was told that Grameen company invited people in Bangladesh to send letters, diaries, pictures and other documents related to the Liberation War to Grameen in order to preserve these documents and expose these to the public. This is on one hand a delightful event: this way we see that the people’s awareness about its own history is growing and that a huge Bangladeshi company is interested in that process. On the other hand, this kind of private preservation shows how less the general people is aware of the bare existence of the National Archives or other archivalinstitutions, let alone the lacking awareness that this collecting of historical documents first of all is the task of the National Archives and other archival institutions.
During the last 14 years I visited Bangladesh for archival development project BARM and I could see the hope giving efforts of the National Archives to collect and preserve archives, spread knowledge on archives and history by organising exhibitions, inspection visits to record creating Govenment institutions and bringing out a Newsletter on Archives and National Library. However, at the same time a process of decay was going on: during those years since 1995, experienced staff went on retirement and was not replaced on the necessary level of professional knowledge. More aspects show the worse condition of National Archives: A crucial process: digitizing Archives by scanning of the Archives and presenting these on Internet has been stopped almost one year ago. Accessioning of newly acquired archives still hampers. Inspection of the newly created government records hardly takes place and advising and training of record keepers and officers in charge of records all over Bangladesh are almost non existent.
In the present process of digitizing the Information Management, this National Archives plays no role at all. No cooperation with the Bangladesh Computer Council takes place though National Archives should be involved in digitizing information management. In Malaysia for example their National Archives is serving the nation and the whole society by full swing involvement in creating an electronic Goverment Service to the Citizens. The Motto of Malaysian National Archives is: Sharing Information will enrich each and everyone, Keeping secret and unused of Information, Archives and Records will hamper the spreading and extension of Knowledge. That brings hampering of progress and ongoing lawlessness and poverty in our economy and society. Transparency and accountibility are absent everywhere.
The Government of Bangladesh seriously will strive at a better future by announcing the Bangladesh 2021 Vision. The imposing of the Right To Information Act (october 2008) will be a mighty leap forward: it will force Government to become transparent, democratic and effective. This Right To Information Act will make the inhabitants of what was once a Mugul Empire, then British Colonial Raj and then a colony of Jinnah’s Pakistan to real, self conscious CITIZENS of a free and prosperous Bangladesh. Because with this Right to Information Act, Information Management and Digitizing are one and undivisable action. Right To Information for all citizens absolutely needs proper Archives and Records Management in all levels and quarters of Government. For reaching access to the Government Archives and Records, proper Records management is absolutely needed. For this aim the National Archives is the linch pin, a crucial actor. Is the National Archives of Bangladesh ready to play this role? Not at all. The National Archives now is in total agony: a suffocating, if not dying Digitizing Records Project. National Achives with a decreasing staff, without perspective of professional training, without proper Internet connected equipment can NEVER meet the needs of Bangladesh Government, Economy and Society for coping with the challenges of the electronic Information World. It can play no role in scientific development.
BARM Society should help the National Archives and all quarters of the GOB to execute the Archives Ordinance and the Right To Information Act as well. Land administration, Civil Registration, Judiciary, Regional and Local Government Record Keeping should become spearheads of innovative Archives and Records Management. Pilots must be developed ASAP and this will be part of the Roadmap to Bangladesh 2021, a new chapter in Bangladesh History.
BARM Society wants to develop all activities as presented by Lt Colonel Lutful Haq, dr Sharifuddin Ahmed and dr Mahbubur Rahman and a complete schedule of tangible steps forward will be published soon. It is my sincere hope and request to you to help us: the right honorable Government Representatives are kindly urged to take steps for strengthening the National Archives and archival care through the whole nation. All the members of the audience are requested to become member of the BARM Society and to develop ideas for archives rescuing and archival information management in all corners of Bangladesh.
We wish you and the BARM Society all success and courage. Because after all what I learned most since 1995 in Bangladesh is: to overcome disappointment and to wipe away frustration. Often with help from Bangladeshi friends and colleagues, often with help from Dutch colleagues,friends and relatives.
Nowwe should follow the saying of the Director General of National Archives of Malaysia dr Sidek Jamil in the closing ceremony of the ICA congress in Kuala Lumpur on archival development: Don’t dispute and worry too much: Just do it!
Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for your kind attention!!!


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