Prime minister's address
Given our prevailing political culture, the content of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's address to the nation on the completion of her two years in office was more or less predictable. From its beginning to the end, it was self-congratulatory.
While we may have been interested in such self-assuring panegyrics and drum-beatings about her government and the long wish-list for her remaining years in office, we would have also liked to see her mentioning some of the areas where the record was not so impressive. To all appearances, it sounded more like it was coming from the chief of the ruling party or the leader of the grand alliance, for that matter, than from a prime minister. There is a difference in the two perspectives, or have we forgotten that! For instance, her claim that the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) has been made a centre for practising democracy rings hollow to us when we see precious little has been done to engage the opposition in the exercise and thereby turn the House into a true centre for democratic practice. The opposition, too, must be blamed for the condition that our parliament has found itself in. And, of course, the prime minister's having come down hard on the opposition for such failure on its part, too, hardly fits well into the narrative of her government's successes so far.
On the other hand, about the day-today problems the man in the street is going through like the unrestrained price hike of essentials, the speech has little to write home about except the assurance that a probe is in order to go to the heart of the problem of price spiral. In a similar vein, other nagging issues affecting public life such as intolerable traffic mess in the capital city, the severe crisis of gas, especially in the household gas pipelines as well as for the compressed natural gas-run auto-rickshaws and other vehicles, prevailing shortage in power supply and so on, what we have are only promises. Her contention that law and order scenario has improved in the last two years, though acceptable to a certain extent, still belies the reports on the widespread instances of extra-judicial killings largely blamed on the police including the elite crime busting outfit, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Likewise her assertion that the government has taken a tough stance against crime and corruption also flies in the face of internecine feuds within the ranks of the ruling party's student and youth fronts over rivalry to increase their spheres of influence or for the so-called tender and admission businesses.
While one would be appreciative of the moves the government has already taken to increase regional connectivity, one is still to wait for some time to see those really bearing fruit. And about the commendable initiative taken to try 71's war criminals, the nation would like to see the process moving faster.
What was more expected of the prime minister's speech was a critical self-appreciation of the government's performance along with, of course, some self-praise. A clear statement on the present state of the economy and politics would have made the speech more meaningful.
As we began by saying that given our political culture, the speech was predictable. However, since the PM's proclaimed policy is the 'politics of change,' her address could well have been reflective of that stance.