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     Volume 11 |Issue 33| August 17, 2012 |


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Ministers Addicted to their Voices

Shah Husain Imam

Pre-Eid garrulity of some ministers has made them into wordsmiths! Both conceptually and in the words used, these high functionaries, if anything, have been reckless, irresponsible and self-serving. Their vocal chords are activated at the sight of a protruding mobile, microphone or audiotape device from newsmen. Hardly are they conscious of the fact that what comes out cannot be taken back except through tendering apology.

Bikalpadhara President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury has advised high functionaries of the government to 'lock their lips' before Eid. He is rightly perturbed on hearing the home minister say, 'Those leaving Dhaka for Eid vacation should ensure they have properly locked their houses and shops'.

The home minister has the privilege of living in a well-guarded, secure residence, but that doesn't mean she should take the people for fools to entertain the idea that they would leave their houses and establishments unlocked while on Eid vacation. This is a silly exhortation that one in charge of citizens' security could have made.

Is the minister washing her hands of any responsibility during Eid holidays that is how it is likely to be construed as. Is it not encouraging slack in police vigil when citizens are away to their village homes or having holiday trips out of the country? Of course, the law enforcers are entitled to observing Eid festival like any other citizen. Yet, as in any other country, on such occasions, contingency plans are put in place to ensure public safety. Security cannot be sent on holiday. Law enforcement is placed (like emergency care in hospitals) on a special footing because the criminals have a way of taking advantage of a perceived lowering of guard.

Indeed, the minister's statement is not as innocuous and inane as some would make it out to be; for, in the same breath, she demands: 'They (citizens) should also have their own security arrangements for this period.'

Instead, one would have expected her to assure the people of special arrangements being made for Eid holidays. What are the law enforcers for? Actually, Badruddoza Chowdhury even reacted so far as to ask, 'Is she scaring people in the name of precaution?' He hopes like any other citizen that dacoits and thieves would not feel encouraged by the minister's words.

There is a comical element to the reaction to the glib talk. Mosharraf Hossain, a BNP-time minister berating Shahara Khatun on failure of law and order suggested she should resign and like Abul become a 'patriot' after the latter submitted his resignation.

The impression is that a few ministers who apply due diligence to their portfolios are the least wordy, they are quietly performing to deliver goods away from the glare of publicity.

Shahara may have deserved criticism for her thoughtless comments including solving murders on a scale of hours, not even days, but nobody is left in any doubt that she has stepped into shoes larger than her feet.

Recall also these samples etched on the public mind and the audience these were targeted at: The state minister for home advising journalists to keep away from policemen as though asking newspersons to abandon their duty of covering incident where policemen are present!

The shipping minister with a lot of trade unionist clout arbitrarily imposed charges on vehicles lined up at ferry ghats for the benefit of transport unions and associations. These are to be seen as 'service charges' for maintenance of serial and discipline, so the minister decided. But there is a sensible reaction to this (for a change!) from state minister for home who wondered aloud: 'Why, that should have been the legitimate work of the law enforcers!' Do we sense a competition there?

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

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