A few weeks ago, a message came in my mobile which exhorted all to unite against corruption. Bet many others received it too. The question is how many actually took the time to look into its (sms message) hollowness.
If a nation is to unite against corruption, the country must have a powerful anti-corruption commission, operating independently without fear of any political reprisal.
Cutting out all pro-democracy rhetoric that is thrown at our face, the truth remains, anti-corruption apparatus does not work freely with the authority to nab anyone irrespective of position or influence.
In fact, there was an obtuse suggestion made some time ago that in order to launch a corruption investigation against a certain person or organisation, approval from a government official would be required.
This is like saying: Seek permission from the centre of corruption to bring down venality.
When in other countries, a top public official, caught to be involved in irregularities is often seen standing down from a post as a mark of respect for the people and as a sign of remorse, in Bangladesh the trend is the opposite.
We have never seen a person accused of anomalies admit mistakes to step down with contrition. Neither have we seen anyone ever admit that there is corruption but the government is trying to limit it.
The brazen line uttered is: My regime is spotlessly clean. Corruption? Go and check on the other side!
As we step into the 42nd year of independence, celebrating the spirit of ‘71 needs to be assessed with some introspection. Of course, we will all don the red and green clothes, fly the flag on the car, and go to Victory day carnivals.
However, 16 December also asks us to pause and evaluate where we stand as the nation reaches maturity in age.
The first decade of Bangladesh was bloodstained!
Coups, counter-coups, and secret killings were topped by famine, gross mismanagement of relief and efforts to attain arbitrary control of power. The second period was the almost decade-long period of military rule, stifling dissent to hang on shamelessly.
With the nineties came hope. The aspiration for democracy paved the way for properly held elections. Unfortunately, most elected governments have been found to be veering away from the democratic principles to eventually emerge as non-transparent and stubborn.
In between finding a fertile ground, corruption soared!
Though we have always been among the top twenty countries with high venality, prosecution of powerful corrupt people has been almost non-existent.
The media made quite a few startling reports on government officials caught red handed with illegal money or wealth (notable is the series on forest and custom officials), however, the ultimate fate of these people was carefully taken off the media gaze.
Were they punished or simply sent away from the limelight to spend a few days in some remote posting?
So, it’s right to say that corruption has secured a place simply because there weren’t any notable moves to contain it. Lamentably, when we celebrate Victory Day and all that it stands for, the oblique permissiveness that allowed corruption to become institutionalised don’t come back to haunt us.
That is indeed regrettable, because deciding to ignore social afflictions indicate that the habit to live in a make believe world has turned into common/universal culture.
This year, we celebrate Victory Day at a moment when political intransigence coupled with bigoted views has left the nation paralysed. Whatever the major parties say, we, as common citizens of the country, realise that the welfare of the masses is nowhere in the picture. That is until the masses can be manipulated for some political end.
In the last few months, ordinary people have been burnt, died in the hospital, and sustained injuries,
while business has come to a standstill. All this has happened just because people’s interests were not taken into account in making political decisions.
Though in my limited understanding of democracy, the people, or the voters, always maintain the integral position in an elected system of government. It’s now observed, the masses are helpless spectators of a demented political competition of point scoring.
But like this writer has said several times before, expectations never die! A trader in Chittagong called Faruque, driven to the edge by the political imbroglio, came up on the streets with a placard on his body that appeals both the leaders of AL and BNP to reach a consensus so that the people are saved from the fall-out.
He also calls out to save the country from a sick form of politics. Today, it’s one man, but Faruque’s wish is shared by millions who do not dare come out to speak boldly.
But didn’t we fight in 1971 for a free voice to express our feelings? Bengalis took up arms to ensure that they get a country where their desires are fulfilled.
As the country remembers December 16, the flag waving and body art painting should be curtailed a little for some deep thought as to how much ordinary people can do to influence politics and politicians in the country.