Insulting our intelligence
A number of leaders in the two main political parties -- Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- have taken us for granted. What else would explain their arrogance and complete disregard for the democratic values and wishes of the people.
In their mind, they have a hard time admitting that we could think on our own. They seem to believe that people in this country will fall for whatever they throw at us. Insulting our intelligence has become their second nature.
There are numerous examples that could be used to make this point. But today I will just highlight two recent events. First, consider the railway minister's laughable attempt to exonerate himself from the bribery charges. The entire country knows what happened that night, so there is no need to repeat here. In any other country, the minister would have stepped down pending a neutral and objective investigation. What do we see here?
The minister is crying foul and pretending that he is the victim of a conspiracy to ruin his political image. In an interview with the BBC (quoted in The Daily Star on April 14), he said: "The Border Guard Bangladesh headquarters is a restricted area after 10 pm. How did the car enter that area? Who let them in? Why did they stay there the whole night? The answers to these questions are needed. Who gave the money, where was it given, where did it come from?" However, the minister conveniently forgot to ask the next logical question: Where was the money being taken? He should know the answer.
It has been clear from media reports that the money was part of a bigger pool which was raised from job seekers in Chittagong. Officials at different levels in the Railway Department kept their cut of the money. The assistant private secretary was in the process of delivering the boss's share.
Corruption in Bangladesh by government ministers and officials is nothing new. It doesn't surprise us anymore. Over the years, irrespective of party affiliation, very few ministers have succeeded in resisting the temptation of taking money from different projects, appointments, transfers, etc. Fortunately, there are few in the AL cabinet today who, by Bangladeshi standard, could be considered reasonably honest. However, the railway minister hasn't demonstrated anything that would suggest that he is in that group.
The minister sees conspiracy where there is none. The embarrassment that he has caused the government is of his own making. The right thing for him to do is to step down. By continuing to cling on to power, he will only perpetuate the widespread view that he is part of the problem in the railway ministry. He is, in his own words, the "black cat."
When it comes to making fools out of themselves, our main opposition party stalwarts are not far behind. Just consider the summersault performed by the BNP's acting general secretary on the issue of the maritime litigation between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Following the verdict given by ITLOS, the opposition party leader thanked the government on the verdictno small feat. Other leaders followed the party line and congratulated the government, although some said that the credit goes to the bureaucrats in the Foreign Office rather than the current government. What a joke!
Within a few days the opposition realised that they were giving too much credit to the government. So the BNP acting general secretary came up with his unprecedented theory that Bangladesh has actually lost the litigation. Are you serious?
An array of newspaper articles explained in details the different aspects of the verdict. To take an example, a fellow columnist M. Shah Alam wrote on this page (The Daily Star, April 8) that Bangladesh's concave coast and socio-economic and historical reasons merited the application of the principle of equity as against equidistance propounded by India and Myanmar, which have convex coastlines. Bangladesh's argument was also supported by international case laws developed over the last several decades.
The verdict given by the ITLOS on the basis of the principle of equity extended our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to 200 nautical miles from along our more than 400 km coastline. This gave us 110,000 square kilometres undisputed sea area, both water and sea-bed, as well as legal entitlement to previously disputed sea areas. Now Bangladesh can identify and earmark its own blocks, which are presumably rich in mineral resources.
The BNP acting general secretary took back the credit that he had previously extended to the government. I could only draw two conclusions from his action. Either he didn't read and/or understand the verdict; or he is criticising just for the sake of criticism. Readers, take your pick.
While reading a recent news story from South Korea, I couldn't help but ask myself, when will our political leaders learn to hold themselves accountable for their action?
The South Korean police chief offered his resignation last week amid mounting public criticism over the police's slow response to an emergency call made by a murder victim. The police failed to respond promptly when an emergency call was made by the victim with a detailed description of where she was being held. The body of the victim was later found at the house of the murder suspect, hours after she called the police for help.
Cho Hyun-oh, Commissioner of the National Police Agency took responsibility as the national police chief and offered to step down. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is poised to accept the resignation.
I wonder when our political leaders will learn to admit their mistakes.