Many in Bangladesh from all walks of life feel alienated from the 'Land of Politicians'. Free of the laws and rules that bind law-abiding citizens, members - big and small - of this Neverland seem to defy gravity. Their throats hoarse with propagating ideology, politicians are blind to rules and scruples. Ideals unite, whereas ideology divides.
Fortunately, our vocal media informs the average citizens about corruption, bureaucratic excesses, election irregularities, horse-trading and land grabs. Like serfs in the Middle Ages we have to grin and bear it for now with a faint hope of better days to come.
Modern life, as if on roller skates, has attuned us to change; like it or not progress creeps in on us. Fields as diverse as medicine, transportation, entertainment, construction, communication and education have experienced momentous changes in recent times. Our lives are better and comfortable for it. We therefore cannot stand it when things stand still or, worse still, regress. Interestingly, the phenomenon is circular as not only do people react to change but some also bring it about.
The oppressed and aggrieved in Bangladesh are sanguine that there are agents for positive change with regard to our top-down governance structure. The time is ripe for those who wield power to climb down from Neverland and put their ears to the ground, because we hear rumbling.
It is rightful for us to demand adherence to the fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined by the Constitution and, by extension, due process of law. Statecraft is not just a privilege, it is a sacred duty. Just refer to the oaths of office! Ministers and MPs should regularly engage in frank discussions with constituents where a plurality of views should be encouraged.
The ruling party and the government rejected outright the recent US state department report on Bangladesh’s human rights record. This will neither make the state department retract nor stop it from issuing similarly scathing reports in future. Further, those who heed such reports (and there are plenty) won’t suddenly trash them. Either the government is in a state of denial or playing to the gallery, or both.
Remember criticism is not conjured up, especially of the serious sort. I can’t think of a good reason why the state department will allow insinuations and incorrect reporting to mar their assessments. We are familiar with the saying “one has to tell nine lies to hide or justify one untruth”. My contention is that we don’t have be at the receiving end of such damning international reports. Pre-emption is the preferred course.
Let us cast aside foreign reports for a moment and concentrate on local media instead that reek of abomination of every conceivable type. Leaving aside fabrications and macabre headline-grabbing stories, we are bombarded with gross irregularities and miscarriages of justice almost daily. In my opinion every organ of the government down to its smallest unit should be made to collect media reports that pertain to it.
Stories backed up by specific dates, personalities, witnesses, places, figures etc. should receive priority. Officers-senior and junior-should be encouraged to act on credible reports that concern their areas. A set of rules can be drawn up for guidance. This is the face of public service we pine to see where accountability is the centre piece. Ethical officials will surely encounter plenty of obstacles; their backs need to be watched.
Put differently, I am pushing for abandoning a star-struck and ideology-bound culture where henchmen run wild while the senior leaders look the other way. For proof let’s take tally of the dead and injured in BCL. Rest assured our name won’t be sullied by foreigners when we put our house in order.
*Raihan Amin is an adjunct faculty at United International University