Plan to use public resources on partisan cause unacceptable
THE demand by the environment minister, who is also the publicity secretary of the ruling Awami League, along with the information and cultural affairs minister, for, and acquiescence by the finance minister to, allocation of fund from the public exchequer, to be spent on a campaign to showcase the ‘success stories’ of the AL-led government ahead of the upcoming general elections provides a useful insight into the mindset of the incumbents. According to an official, who attended the unscheduled meeting of the four ministers on Sunday, was quoted in New Age on Monday as saying that the money could be channelled from block allocation of the national budget for the current fiscal year. While he could not say how much money would be allocated eventually, the amount looks likely to be in the vicinity of Tk 100 crore, the estimated fund requirement for the campaign.
It is no doubt shocking that the incumbents could even think of seeking budgetary allocation for what is essentially an electioneering exercise by the ruling alliance. Regrettably, however, it is hardly surprising; after all, the ruling party has thus far displayed a tendency to blur the distinction between public and private property. There have been more instances than one in the past four years and a half where the ruling party and its front organisations erected party offices on public space. In fact, the ruling party could be accused of apparently entertaining the idea that it has the right to employ anything and everything for partisan purpose.
Such a mentality has recently found expression in the ingenious but apparently unethical and illegal campaign whereby the ‘achievements’ of the AL-led government were enumerated and contrasted with the ‘failures’ of the previous political administration in colourful banners plastered on hoardings at almost all the key points in the capital Dhaka. Notably, the banners covered the advertisements of different companies that the owners of the hoardings had already been paid for. It is also worth noting that the banners have since been pulled down, in the wake of strong protests and severe criticisms from different quarters.
What’s worse, such misuse has not been restricted to public property alone. It has been reported in the media that, as part of the planned campaign, styled Special Mass Awareness Campaign on Development Activities, a five-member committee of the mass communications department under the information ministry has already been formed. Moreover, the department and different ministries have been tasked with coordination of the campaign, with assistance from the deputy commissioners and police superintendents of police at the district level, and the upazila nirbahi officers at the upazila level.
Overall, public money and public servants look set to be employed what is essentially an electioneering exercise by the ruling alliance, which is not only unethical but also illegal. Hence, it is imperative that the finance minister should reconsider the decision and refuse to allocate public money for partisan use. Meanwhile, conscious sections of society and especially the media need to raise their voice against the move, mobilise public opinion and sustain pressure on the government so that not a single taka from the public exchequer is spent on any self-seeking exercise by the ruling alliance.
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