‘Strong EC no substitute for caretaker govt’

December 31, 2011

Judiciary under threat, says Rehman Sobhan
Removal of the caretaker government system is not likely to be compensated by a strong Election Commission (EC), and the history of electoral politics in Bangladesh indicates that no ruling party has ever conceded defeat in polls, without the presence of a non-partisan government, Prof. Rehman Sobhan, chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said this in a keynote paper at a programme on “Bangladesh at 40: looking back and moving forward”. The event was jointly organized by CPD, Prothom Alo, The Daily Star and Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) at National Museum in the city on Friday.
Sen praised Bangladesh’s achievements in some sectors, including women empowerment and garment. Recalling his involvement in Bangladesh’s liberation war, the renowned economist said that he is contemplating writing a memoir. He said such an effort would be preceded by some serious research work.
He observed that in the last 200 years, economists have emphasized the need for proper economic management for social justice. He said that Bangladesh should take lead a movement to stop environmental degradation. If Bangladesh fails to stop global warming, the country would suffer terribly, he added.
Referring to secularism, he said that Mughal emperor Akbar had shown great courage by appointing Man Singh as the head of his armed forces. He remarked that the state should maintain an equal distance from all religions.   Planning minister AK Khandker expressed gratitude to India for its help in the Liberation war. Describing Amartya Sen as a great friend of Bangladesh, the minister praised the economist for his role during the country’s Liberation war.
He mentioned that the country has already achieved huge success in various fronts, including agriculture, garment, education and literacy programmes. He said the country now faces the challenge to remove disparity among the people. Bangladesh would become a middle income group country by 2020-21, he expressed hopes.
Sultana Kamal described the people of Bangladesh as true owners of the country. She said the fight against injustice would continue for the establishment of a just society. Prof. Rehman Sobhan, in his paper, observed several socio-economic aspects and analysed the prevailing political situation. “The opposition, over successive regimes, has been marginalized, partly as a result of its own political immaturity in boycotting Parliament, thereby violating its democratic mandate. They seem to be unable to discharge their primary mandate of keeping the executive accountable to the will of voters,” he said. He also said that malfunctioning of democratic institutions has been compounded by the country’s major parties’ continuing inability to strengthen democracy. Proliferation of violence becomes more pernicious, when it is patronized by the state. This distorts the democratic process and compromises every institution of governance, he added.
Prof. Sobhan observed that the last remaining bastion of the rule of law, the judiciary, is now under threat. He said the lower judiciary has degenerated into a politicized instrument of the ruling party. The once independent upper judiciary, which served as a bastion of democratic freedom, has become exposed to the process of politicization, he added.
“In the prevailing circumstances, Bangladesh’s assertion of nationalism should lie in re-establishing our sovereignty over our policy direction. We should recapture our policy autonomy and a democratic state needs to insulate itself from anti-democratic forces,” he said.
He stressed the need for democratization of economic opportunities by providing resources to the deprived. He said Bangladesh owes a blood debt to freedom fighters, who sacrificed their lives to build a more just, inclusive and democratic society. Matiur Rahman said: “Our dream was to create a new world. We’ve not yet been able to achieve it. But we’re moving towards the direction. We want to make our people’s life meaningful.” Mahfuz Anam said that the country is still facing a number of hurdles. “We’re not providing enough space to the young. We are keeping the young generation at bay, he added. Planning minister AK Khandker attended the programme as the chief guest, while Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen was the special guest. Executive director of ASK, Sultana Kamal, chaired the entire proceedings. Executive director of CPD, Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, delivered the welcome address. Matiur Rahman, editor of Prothom Alo, and Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star, also spoke on the occasion. A minute’s silence was observed to pay homage to martyrs of the freedom struggle.

Courtesy of The Independent

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