The constitution, democracy and corruption in Bangladesh
LORD Acton said: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." So not dictatorship, but democracy -- a government of not one man but of all people -- is now the norm in almost all the developed and developing countries of the world.
Bangladesh is a democratic country, but the quality of democracy obtaining here is abysmally low. The reasons are not far to seek. Corruption has eroded the vitals of democratic institutions all over the country. A large segment of Parliamentarians, who make laws and frame the guiding principles of governance, and the bureaucrats who implement the same, barring a few, indulge in corruption.
So the government's ability and efficiency in providing service to the people suffer significantly. In spite of factors like absence of academic maturity and political education of the people etc., the Constitution of the country plays a vital role, but it also bears the seeds of corruption in that it tacitly encourages corruption to germinate and perpetuate.
Article 66 (2)(d) of the Constitution says: "A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of Parliament, who has been convicted for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, or sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release."
This provision in the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, implies
-That a person convicted for corruption and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of less than two years is not disqualified for election.
-A person convicted of corruption and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two years or more may contest elections to become an MP, or even the president, on the expiry of five years after his release from jail.
-A corrupt politician washes off his criminal character and becomes a perfect, innocent man on expiry of seven years after going to jail for corruption and moral turpitude.
On the contrary, there is a proverb "black will take no other hue" and a common saying, "character once lost is lost for good," and a natural experience, "a river after it dies, leaves a trace of itself."
The citizen's view is that a person once convicted for criminal offence and suffering imprisonment, in most cases, turns into a hardened criminal. Any leader or MP convicted for corruption, if re-elected, is likely to indulge in more corrupt practices to make good the loss sustained by him during the period of his absence from politics or the parliament.
General Moyeen, recently said in Boston, USA: "Corruption devours democracy." Not only that, corruption destroys all democratic, social and moral values of human beings. So, a person once proved corrupt in a competent court of law should not be allowed to re-appear in parliament, except to the peril of our society.
Hence, we feel that the above provision in our Constitution (Article 66(2) (d)) is a stigma to the political culture in Bangladesh. This provision should be discarded, or so suitably amended as to debar all corrupt politicians from all elections, national or regional, for good.
Such action only may be compatible with the move of the present caretaker government to contain the demon of corruption pervading all over Bangladesh.
We may now turn to the other side of the coin, the bureaucracy, or all the cadres of civil service including the executive and the judiciary, along with the supporting ministerial services of the government.
In the late fifties, late Ataur Rahman Khan, the then chief minister of the then East Pakistan, made an observation, specially relating to the ministerial service, in his book "Jaratir Dui Bochor," that "they attend office for pay and work in the office for money."
This, though not an axiom, has percolated over the years to even the highest echelons of the bureaucracy in Bangladesh. Of course, not all bureaucrats and not all politicians are corrupt.
Corrupt political leaders or ministers at the helm of government until recently, added fuel to the fire. Corrupt practices of many a politician, matched ably by that of the bureaucrats (with a few exceptions), has plunged the whole country into an abyss of unparalleled economic ruin and moral degradation.
Preventive and curative measures need to be taken immediately to arrest the present trend of corruption and salvage whatever has remained of the body politic of Bangladesh from impending ruination.
Constitutional provisions to eliminate corrupt persons from government, both legislative and executive, as well as the judiciary, should be the first step in this direction. This should be followed by all-out legal actions (which the present government had initiated) to award deterrent punishment to the corrupt elements.
Ways and means should be devised to ensure the entry of persons without political attachments, and any blemish, into the bureaucracy by disallowing any individual found to have a criminal record from sitting for the BCS or any public service examination.
Besides, a social boycott movement against all vices and corruption at all levels in the society must be launched all over the country. A movement for moral re-armament for the people at large is also very necessary, which can be done most effectively through their school curriculum.