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‘People want change and they are ready for it’

  • Published at 09:05 pm November 27th, 2018
web-Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain
File photo of Gono Forum President and Jatiya Oikya Front leader Dr Kamal Hossain Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain is the principal architect of the new opposition platform, the Jatiya Oikya Front, which counts the BNP among its members. In an exclusive interview with the Dhaka Tribune's Nawaz Farhin Antara, the eminent jurist - one of the authors of the Bangladesh constitution - discusses his goal of ensuring a free and fair 11th parliamentary election and explains why he will not run for office

You recently said you have no intention of contesting the upcoming election or holding any post in a new administration. Why?

I think people should retire at their peak. All the current nomination aspirants and candidates are at least 20 years younger than me. As I will not find anyone of my age in the parliament, I will not contest the upcoming general polls. But I will perform campaigns, I will give speeches, I will even participate in the meetings. I will provide my insights, my thoughts, and my experiences to the parliament to ensure good governance despite not being an elected representative.

Do you want to be president?

No, I do not. I worked with Bangabandhu for three years. After that I do not feel the urge to be in any kind of post. But I can work without being in any formal position. Now it is time for the young generation to take charge.

How will your alliance decide on the next prime minister if it wins power?

The Oikya Front will collectively decide who will be the next prime minister. 

People say that there is no one to lead us. I do not believe that statement. Rather, I say there are a number of qualified individuals who are ready to make any kind of sacrifice for the country, who can lead us and become prime minister.

It is true that the vacuum created by the loss of Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmed is still there, but as a nation we have come a long way in the past 40 years.

This is the beauty of democracy. We all can participate in the selection process of our prime minister. I am hopeful that we will have many qualified leaders to choose from.

What are the key challenges to make the next election a fair one given the opposition claims of irregularities in the recent city elections?

It is impossible for the opposition party to stop irregularities and vote rigging alone. This is why I am emphasizing more in the general people's inclusion and participation in the upcoming general election.

We are trying to make people aware about their rights and duties. We want to get very close to the general population so that we have their support. We want them to stand firm against any kind of corruption. We want them to counter any conspiracy regarding sabotaging the election. 

People want change. They are prepared for it. We are trying to carry forward this message to them as much as possible. We are working relentlessly to make them aware of their rights and duties. 

No party can guarantee the rights of the general people. The citizens themselves have to take the initiative to protect their basic rights.

If the voters and the general people of Bangladesh decide to exercise their voting rights and responsibly raise their voice against any kind of irregularity regarding the election, only then there will be a stop to all this.

The most important part of any democracy is the citizens, as they are the primary source of all power. 

Do you think giving magistracy power to the armed forces would be a democratic step towards ensuring a fair and free election?

Once the role of the police was very strong, but now they are biased towards the ruling party.

For example, the police are inquiring about the political background of the presiding officers and polling agents. They are doing this to serve their own interests. They simply want to eliminate anyone having any connections with the opposition.

Any state with a corrupt law enforcement agency suffers from an identity crisis; it puts a very big question mark over the sheer existence of a country. I am very worried about all these things. 

People have lost confidence in the police (and now) the army is more trustworthy. They will take necessary action if they see any irregularities or corruption.

Do you believe a fair election can be held under a party-run administration?

We are prepared to face all the possible outcomes. The government may or may not give a fair and free election. 

The step was not taken to ensure a neutral election body. They are looking for those who are in support or have ties with the government. They want to use them as their trustworthy servants to sway the result of the election in their favour.

This incident was not covered thoroughly by our media - this dishonest approach by the government should have been portrayed everywhere by all forms of media.

I think we should talk to the election commission chief about this matter. From my perspective, he actually understands the crisis but his hands are tied.

Jatiya Oikya Front and the members of the 20-party alliance – in which Jamaat is a key ally – are all going into the polls under the BNP symbol. Does this not mean that you are all standing on the same platform?

I need to think about this thoroughly and then discuss. Soon we will raise this question among ourselves. The possibility that our candidates and Jamaat men will contest under the same symbol in the general election did not cross my mind, because we were told that Jamaat has no connection with the BNP that we have tied knots with. We created this platform based on that belief.