ItÃ¢€™s time for social resistance against corrupt politicians
THE astronomical increase in the wealth of several leaders of the ruling Awami League in the past few years, as is evident from the wealth statements that they have submitted to the Election Commission along with their nomination papers for the forthcoming elections to the tenth Jatiya Sangsad, currently scheduled for January 5, 2014, perhaps provides yet another pointer to the fact that many, if not most, politicians increasingly view politics as a profit-making venture. According to a report published in New Age on Friday, a place in the cabinet or parliament has meant for some of these leaders an increase of hundred times and more in their wealth since the AL-led government assumed office in January 2009, although their statements to the Election Commission hardly ascertained any credible legal sources for such increase in their movable and immovable assets. Politics, for them, seems to have been the proverbial genie that changed their fortunes with a magic spell or a magic wand. It goes without saying that such stupendous accumulation of wealth by these leaders over the past five years makes a mockery of the much-trumpeted electoral pledge of the ruling party in its December 2008 manifesto for ‘multi-pronged’ measures in the fight against corruption.
What’s worse, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the national corruption watchdog, according to the New Age report, has said flat out that it is not in a position to carry out investigations of the sources of wealth of these leaders and that it can only ‘take steps under the ACC law’ if it receives ‘specific allegations’ against any of them. While it is not clear what, in the commission’s views, constitutes ‘specific allegations’, it is not too difficult to understand that such allegations would be hard to come by. In a reality where political leaders and activists too, especially of the ruling camp, wield redoubtable power and influence and are virtually above the law, ordinary citizens would hardly dare bring any allegations, specific or otherwise, of corruption against them. Moreover, the state does not have a credible track record when it comes to protecting such whistleblowers.
Importantly still, the ACC law does not make ‘specific allegations’ mandatory for the commission to initiate investigation; section 17 (c) of the law does empower it to ‘inquire into any allegation of corruption on its own initiative’. The significant difference in wealth between December 2008 and December 2013 of these candidates, as evident in their statements to the Election Commission, certainly warrants an ACC inquiry on its own initiative, into their sources of income. It stands to reason thus that the commission, in its effort to justify its unwillingness to investigate the sources of income of these AL leaders with a half-baked interpretation of the law, has proved yet again that it does not have either the ability or the appetite to go against the whims and wishes of the incumbents.
Hence, it is incumbent upon the conscious and conscientious sections of society to mobilise public opinion and build up a social resistance against these apparently corrupt politicians in particular and corruption in general. Such resistance is imperative to save politics from completely degenerating into a profit-making venture and, more importantly, to reclaim people’s space in politics. Needless to say, the domination of money and muscle has already pushed individuals dedicated to people’s welfare out of politics.
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