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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Red faces over flags and anthem
National flags flying upside down and a sound system that cannot play the Bangladesh national anthem.

It has all proven too much for Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who has ordered a top level inquiry into the blunders that have marred an international conference in the capital, Dhaka.

Indian flag
Officials work out how to hang the Indian flag the right way up
The opening of the conference, attended by delegates from 48 nations, should have begun with a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

Prime Minister Zia led some 1,000 representatives of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in standing for the anthem.

But after a couple of minutes of embarrassed silence, which officials ascribed to "technical glitches", it was decided to move on to a recitation from the holy Koran, while officials tried to restore the sound system.

Then a second attempt to play the anthem only got as far as the first phrase before the music stopped.

'Unfortunate for the nation'

The deputy speaker of the Bangladeshi parliament, Akjter Hamid Siddiqui, was so furious he jostled a hapless fellow member of parliament on to the dais to give a solo rendition of the anthem.

The government dishonoured the national anthem before foreign nationals
Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina

"It is unfortunate for the nation," was the comment of Foreign Minister Morshek Khan.

Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina was more forthright: Prime Minister Zia "will face trial for disrespect shown to the national anthem".

In the meantime, two employees at the conference venue have been suspended for neglect of duty.

A three-member team has until Thursday to report on the mishap.

Inverted flags

Many delegates were already upset by the sight of their flags having been hung upside down at the conference centre.

Indian delegates were the first to voice their displeasure at finding the green stripe of their flag above the saffron and white stripes.

Delegates from Australia, Fiji and Cyprus took it upon themselves to correctly hang their inverted flags.

According to the AFP news agency, the Sri Lankan flag was hanging upside down throughout the opening session of the conference.

The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says deputy speaker Siddiqui put on a brave face on the situation.

"If there is any lapse or omission in respect during your stay, please consider it has happened inadvertently and look at it with your magnanimity," he told delegates.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon got an early taste of the problems facing the conference.

When the New Zealand diplomat arrived at Dhaka's international airport on Monday there were no officials there to greet him.

After carrying his baggage to the VIP lounge he was eventually greeted by a junior official.

Ex-Bangladesh PM faces court action
29 Jan 03  |  South Asia

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