Vol. 5 Num 1009 Tue. April 03, 2007  
Front Page

Bangladesh to have own brand of democracy
Army chief says

Army Chief Lt Gen Moeen U Ahmed yesterday said Bangladesh will have to construct its own brand of democracy recognising its social, historical and cultural conditions with religion being one of the several components of its national identity.

He defined 'own brand of democracy' as a 'balanced government' where power is not tilted towards any family or dynasty. "We have tried both the presidential and parliamentary forms of government and now the people will judge which is better," he said.

There should be a balance among powers of the government, the president and the prime minister ensuring transparency, accountability and sense of responsibility, he said adding that the previous political systems made way for massive corruption in the society.

Terming the armed forces as the 'silent partner' of the people he also said power should not be concentrated in the hands of a dynasty or a party.

He was presenting a keynote paper at a regional conference of International Political Science Association, where he said, "We must build up our vision of freedom, peace, dignity and justice for the people of Bangladesh."

President Iajuddin Ahmed inaugurated the conference at a hotel in the capital organised by the association with its own President Prof Ataur Rahman in the chair. Dr Zillur R Khan, Rosebush professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin, USA also presented a keynote paper on 'Rethinking Political Development: Security, Justice and Leadership'.

According to a report by the state-run news agency BSS, the president in his inaugural speech said, "The present government is carrying out a number of fundamental reforms to strengthen democracy and establish good governance and rule of law in the country."

He said political development means security and freedom for the people of a nation in today's complex world while security of a state depends on both military and non-military aspects.

"A nation state, therefore, must find an integrated approach that can ensure its physical security as well as participatory decision making in a democratic process. Security and democracy are thus intricately connected with the concept of national sovereignty," he added.

"Safeguarding of national sovereignty is vital but protecting the people against famine, disasters and internal disorders is essential," the president said.

Lt Gen Moeen said a credible defence force is essential against external threats of different varieties while on the other hand a nation must also ensure the security of its people through meeting their basic needs.

"I believe the aspiring democratic process of Bangladesh and the current transition period allow us an opportunity to develop a new concept and find a new sense of direction to the future politics of Bangladesh. By its own merit the country has a principle to live by and a purpose to strive for, and this needs rethinking so that we can reinvent a system of governance with new leadership al all levels," Moeen said in his keynote paper on 'The Challenging Interface of Democracy and Security'.

"It is the people of Bangladesh who will decide whether they want a new platform to lead them into the future," Moeen said in reply to a question. He also said if a political party is for the people then it should find out what the people of the country want instead of what its members and patrons want.

The nation must not keep looking at the parties rather it should realise its own goals by asserting how and by whom it wants to be led and how to develop the economy, Moeen added.

"If you look at the parties that came to power through out our history, you will see that they only gathered things for themselves and not for the people," he said.

Referring to the situation regarding manpower export to Malaysia he said every migrating worker had to pay about Tk 3 lakh before but now Tk 1 lakh is all they need for the purpose. "So who took the extra money from the poor people?" he asked.

"The roadmap to democracy lies, I presume, with objectives as envisioned by the government through anti-corruption drive and reform packages, within affordable time frame that will steer the country away from escapism and build strong foundation of validity on democracy," Moeen said in his keynote paper.

When asked what he meant by 'affordable timeframe', the army chief said the timeframe should be set by the events leading up to achieving the goals of reforms instead of only the time elapsed.

"The government will take a decision on the matter and I think it will depend on the Election Commission, how much time it will need to bring necessary changes as well as to complete its preparations for a free, fair and credible election," Moeen said.

"We do not want to go back to an 'elective democracy' where corruption in society becomes all pervasive, governance suffers in terms of insecurity and violation of rights, and where political 'criminalisation' threatens the very survival and integrity of the state," the army chief said.

He also said governance through a caretaker system is a very apolitical idea, yet one has to accept the reality considering that poor governance and corrosive corruption almost destroyed the fabric of the society.

"On the other hand, we have to read the resolute character of the Bangladeshi people that enabled us to overcome the perpetuation of dynastic rule for a transparent and accountable Bangladesh," Moeen added.

Law Adviser Mainul Hosein was also present as a special guest.