The state of our institutions
One is consumed by an eerie feeling. It seems that Nature has conspired against Bangladesh. Otherwise it is difficult to rationalise the recent happenings that appear no less than deliberate and well planned assaults on our core institutions. Some of those onslaughts have come from outside and are pretty much the outcomes of our action or inactions. Some of them have originated from within, instigated by various factors.
The institution that has suffered the latest attack, both literally and figuratively, is the Bangladesh Bank (BB). As the departing governor has admitted, it was like a militant attack which, understandably, pulverised the management into inaction rather than moving it into action. While it is quite possible that the BB system was actually hacked, it happens all the time with many banks all over the world; I would make so bold as to suggest that there are far too many happenstances to indicate, and it is getting clearer by the day, that it was not merely 'hacking' but a case of pure and simple larceny which, according to experts, would have not been possible without the connivance of insiders, and there are many definition of 'insiders' which space prevents from elaborating. However, I for one am at a loss to rationalise that a person with the prudence of the former governor of the Bank would keep the matter under wraps for so long. And who knows, had it not been for the Inquirer of Manila we may not have come to know of the heist even now. We are told that if the alert had been given in time it might have been possible to save the money, at least some of the more than 100 million dollars that the country was robbed of.
The BB Governor has done the only moral thing to do, resign. He has taken the rap on himself. But that is only one aspect of the issue. The matter has generated several questions and people need credible answers to those. It is not only the money involved in the defalcation, there are questions of national security linked with the fraud, and the sooner the investigations are over, the sooner, hopefully, we should be able to identify the local cohorts who have helped in the theft and the sooner we can plug the loopholes in the system.
Let us take also the instance of the highest court suffering denigration heaped upon it by no other than two honourable ministers of the government and a former justice of the Supreme Court. All three had trained their guns on the Honorable Chief Justice, who is not only an individual but also a symbol and a fiduciary in terms of dispensation of justice and the final recourse of the common person seeking judicial redress.
The manner and method of the former justice venting his spleen against the Honourable Chief Justice has sullied the image of the highest judiciary. However, what the former honourable justice may have failed to appreciate is that by his comments about the CJ he did not slight the CJ so much as he slighted himself. How true is the saying, which I was dispensed by my teachers at school, that 'to belittle someone you have to be little yourself.' The former justice may have endeared himself to a few including the TV channels that gave him the space and time to do so, but many viewers were shocked by his invectives.
The two ministers have been asked to appear before the Supreme Court on March 20 to explain their comments about the CJ. While they have offered unconditional apology for their remarks the diatribes against the CJ coming from the ministers have not done any good to the image of the highest court of the land or the government.
Our trade and commerce is under duress too with the Brits banning direct cargo flights from Dhaka on grounds of security. This has serious impact on our exports to Britain, particularly the perishable goods for which there is a large market in that country. This was something waiting to happen. The Australians had done us the same 'favour' in December of 2015 only. And that had not come before several warnings to the civil aviation authority here, of the likely consequences of shoddy security measures at our main airport. And it is only last week that nine hundred million taka was sanctioned for purchase of equipment to beef up airport security.
Another institution that has been in the news and will continue to be so is the Election Commission. It has not endeared itself to the large number of contestants in the forthcoming union parishad elections for ignoring their complaints of harassment, intimidation and coercion by political opponents, on the grounds of lack of specificity in the allegations. This is the only institution that had of its own volition curtailed its powers. And recently one of its commissioners has turned protocol on its head, much to the charging of his colleagues at the EC, by visiting the police HQs, which they feel have undermined the commission.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star