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Love for power



Fire-fighters put out fire in a bus set ablaze at Dhanmondi in Dhaka on December 1, the second day of the 72-hour countrywide opposition blockade, which was eventually extended up to Thursday evening. — New Age photoFire-fighters put out fire in a bus set ablaze at Dhanmondi in Dhaka on December 1, the second day of the 72-hour countrywide opposition blockade, which was eventually extended up to Thursday evening. — New Age photo

People are dying on the street and more are ready to die to uphold the cause of democracy in Bangladesh. The road and railway transport are being damaged severely. It is quite surprising that three of the burnt/damaged buses belong to the same person, who reportedly got nomination from the government party. That puts a big question as to who the real saboteurs are, writes FR Chowdhury

IN A democratic dispensation people vote for candidates they think will work for the cause of the common people. The party that wins majority seats form the government. When no single party wins majority then likeminded parties (whose principles and policies are similar) form a coalition to create a majority. Formation of coalition or withdrawal from coalition and pushing the government to face a no-confidence motion used to be known as political game for power. This is how parliamentary democracy works. We knew all that even before the liberation of Bangladesh.
Since 1971, we learnt a few more things about democracy which may not be in real sense democratic. The love for power makes most politicians blind. These politicians, once in power, develop such a taste for power that they cannot live without it. They want to remain in power for the rest of their life. When in power, they keep the judiciary, police and civil administration under their grip and control so that their corruption and misdeeds cannot surface. One of the reasons for such love for power is that, once out of power, their corruption and misdeeds will be known to people.
The other things we have learnt are that politicians must not accept defeat. If I have not won then it was definitely not fair election. Call it pukur churi and condemn it. Do not attend parliament if you are not in power. Resort to violence and agitation on the streets to bring down the government. When in power, make sure to place your supporters in key positions in the administration. You can certainly manipulate the results of the next election   in your favour.
As a result, there has been serious breakdown of civil administration at all levels. The police cannot take action against criminals because they belong to the party in power. The judiciary is supposed to be independent but in practice are loyal and obedient to the party in power. The government withdraws cases because of these being ‘politically motivated’. Even presidential pardons are awarded to those with political connection. Corruption is now a normal way of life and you may be treated as a big patriot if you manage to score high marks in corruption.
Bangladesh finally developed its own solution to its problem. Sheikh Hasina, who was those days in opposition, came with the idea of a non-party caretaker government for conduct of general elections. This would ensure free and fair election where all candidates would enjoy level playing field. The system received wide support from all quarters and our constitution was amended to make provision for this system. Bangladesh found its own brand of democracy. It worked fine and it looked as if election-time violence was a matter of the past and we were on a democratic path suitable to our own conditions.
There was no need to destabilise this stable and tested system. Yet, within days of election with two-thirds majority, Sheikh Hasina got a court order from her loyal and obedient court declaring the system as undemocratic and got the constitution again amended to remove the provision of caretaker government. Publicly she cited example of the UK, India and other states where there is no such provision. But there was a big hidden agenda. We have already discussed how Bangladesh differs from other states. To some extent, it is our culture that leads us to believe that a caretaker government for the election period is the best solution for the country.
The hidden agenda is nothing other than to perpetuate power, making sure that power is consolidated in such a way that the party cannot be dislodged from power. Her father had done it openly by creating BAKSAL but she tried to do the same in the disguise of a multi-party democracy. She has already reshuffled the civil administration into another league to turn election results to her liking. People have been promoted and rewarded in such a manner that cannot be called anything other than bribery. Independent minded people in civil and military administrations have been removed or forced into retirement. The field is clear.
The people rejected the idea of election under party administration the same way as they had rejected BAKSAL. Rakshi Bahini could not suppress people then and today’s forces despite all the manipulation cannot suppress the uprising of the people. People gave blood to preserve the sanctity of democracy by introducing the caretaker system. It is unfortunate that people are again required to die on the streets for the same cause. It is all due to one person — Sheikh Hasina who appears these days to be so obsessed with power that she cannot believe in living without being in power. She is afraid, once she leaves it, she may never get it back. Ex-president Ershad has finally told people how cases against him are kept pending and how he is threatened with consequences unless he becomes an obedient opposition and participate in the election. Where is the independence of the judiciary? Hasina has used every possible trick to remain in power.
People are dying on the street and more are ready to die to uphold the cause of democracy in Bangladesh. The road and railway transport are being damaged severely. It is quite surprising that three of the burnt/damaged buses belong to the same person, who reportedly got nomination from the government party. That puts a big question as to who the real saboteurs are. The burning of standard garment factory is a sad episode. This factory was perhaps the most modern of its type in Asia. The enemies of Bangladesh who will be direct beneficiary of our industrial and economic breakdown may be behind this destruction.
Yet, the prime minister is adamant that she will go her way. The killing, burning and destruction seem to mean nothing to her. It is due to her that Bangladesh lost all credibility in the international diplomatic circle. The diplomatic missions in Bangladesh are openly giving views and comments on issues that are supposed to be our internal matter. The German ambassador has openly requested the government to release the BNP leaders. The US ambassador said that election results would not have any credibility unless all major parties take part in it. The Indian high commissioner is of course busy patronising its own party.
Meantime, the prime minister, his son and cousin are giving out statements in a manner never heard of before. The prime minister said that under no circumstances Bangladesh will have any martial law. Her son said there was no general left capable of mounting a coup. Cousin Sheikh Selim said there would be no benefit of going to president because he could not do anything. These statements are contrary to decency and decorum. What we are afraid of is that unless the prime minister comes to some sensible solution, Bangladesh may lose its share of peacekeeping operation under the UN. There seems to be every reason for the UN secretary general to say that he cannot depend on troops from a country that cannot keep peace in its own country.
The people of Bangladesh are very enterprising. They are capable of achieving every success. We have made tremendous progress in agriculture, garment industry, leather industry, fish-processing and ship-building. All that we need is peaceful political environment free of corruption and nepotism. We appeal to the prime minister not to try to make our democracy similar to that of the UK or India. Leave us with our own Bangladeshi system of caretaker government and remain happy so that we never again have pre-election violence.
fazlu.chowdhury@btinternet.com




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