Published in The Daily Star on Thursday 2 July 2020

Condolences keep pouring in

With the death of founding chairman and CEO of Transcom Group Latifur Rahman, the country has lost a business leader who lived by the highest standards of integrity and was a protector of professional and independent media.

Eminent citizens said Latifur was a remarkable gentleman who believed that the country’s future was bright.

Latifur, 75, breathed his last, in his sleep around 11:00am yesterday at his ancestral home in Cumilla.

Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh in a condolence message said Latifur set an unique example by running business with honesty and ethics. With his investment, he made immense contributions to the creation of employment opportunities.

Besides, Latifur assisted many social movements. His contribution to ensuring freedom of speech and media will remain everlasting, said the platform.

“With the death of Latifur, we lost a well wisher of Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh. He also patronised many associate organisations of the citizen platform,” said a letter signed by its convenor economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya and coordinator Anisatul Fatema Yousuf.

Other members of the platform, including rights activist Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education Rasheda K Choudhury, Vice Chairperson of BRAC Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, Chairman of Business Initiative Leading Development Asif Ibrahim, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue Professor Mustafizur Rahman, and Chairman of Landmark Footwear Ltd Syed Nasim Manzur also sent condolence messages.

In a condolence message, Bashundhara Group Chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan said Latifur made an outstanding contribution to the development of the country’s economy, business, industries and investments.

“He will live in the heart of the new generation entrepreneurs as an inspiration,” said the message, adding that the Bashundhara chairman was praying for the eternal salvation of the departed soul and was extending his sympathies to the bereaved family members.

Economist Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya told The Daily Star last night that Latifur will be remembered as an entrepreneur who made remarkable contributions to building the national capital base of the country. He has done that not only by reinvesting his profit in the country, but also through acquisition of foreign farms.

“The conglomerate he has built ranging from tea estates to pharmaceuticals, fast food to media houses, is an extraordinary feat in a country where we see rampant capital flight,” Debapriya added.

Latifur proved that enlightened ownership can ensure professional independence of the media, he said.

“I remember him telling me that if one takes financial and commercial benefits from the government, then one cannot really protect the independence of the media.

“That is probably why he did not do business with the government… Many governments tried to harass him with tax-related cases and administrative measures, but to no avail,” Debapriya said.

Everybody knows what a remarkable gentleman he was, Debapriya added.

“I had the privilege of observing him over the last three decades. He highly valued his employees and had an extraordinary belief in the bright future of the country.

“In his death, the country has lost a great citizen. The industries have lost a unique leader, and many of us lost a wise and sensitive guardian to go to.”

Iftekharuzzaman said Latifur will be remembered as a modest, unassuming and exceptional example of the rare category of business leaders who practice the highest standards of business integrity.

“Unlike many of his peers, he not only refrained from capitalising the loan default culture, but also successfully stayed away from linking his business success with advantages of partisan political patronage.

“Rather, he credibly survived the adversities of attempted political victimisation for being a top raking promoter of free media,” Iftekharuzzaman said.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, Planning Minsiter MA Mannan, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Information Minister Mohammad Hasan Mahmud, Expatriates’ Welfare And Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad, Environment and Climate Change Minister Shahab Uddin, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman, State Minister for Information Murad Hassan and Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam expressed shock at his death.

BNP top leaders in a condolence message said the death was an irreparable loss.

Former information minister Hasanul Haque Inu and AK Azad, president of the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh, expressed their shock.

Latifur was the founding director of Mediaworld, the company owning The Daily Star, and chairman of Mediastar, the company owning Prothom Alo, both leading English and Bangla newspapers of the country. He was the driving spirit behind the establishment of The Daily Star.

He was an honouree of “Oslo Business for Peace Award 2012” for his recognition of business ethics and social responsibilities. He was awarded Business Executive of the Year 2001 by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh. He was also president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka for seven terms.

Trustees of Liberation War Museum in their message said that they will remember the contribution of Latifur Rahman and Transcom Group in building the museum.