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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2008
Editorial

Conscience And Society

New Bangladesh needs new leadership

Even Bill Gates, who built a huge business empire from nothing, Microsoft, retired on June 27. Why can't our older political leaders decide to retire from their political business? People get fed up when they see some of the same old faces, with serious corruption allegations against them, shouting every day before TV cameras on same issues, reiterating their allegiance to their only leader(s) and saying no election without the leader(s).

The obvious question is if the leader is dead (God forbid), then what happens? Should the party run to the graveyard for next instructions? There must be a party constitution and a system in place to take charge of things if one is absent for any reason.

This is how a party can be said to be democratic. If no democracy is practiced in the party, how could such a party establish democracy in the country when it wins the election? This is where the major political parties have failed us miserably.

Should Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia retire?
Sheikh Hasina once reportedly declared she would retire from politics at an age of 57. It is long past. However, let's hope that she would now seriously consider retiring and allow the younger politicians to take charge of the party.

This might encourage Khaleda Zia to follow suit. One has to agree that once a person reaches a particular age, she or he needs to retire from active politics, take more care of his or her health, and give more time to the family. There is an urgent need to change the whole system of politics in the country.

Minus Two without outside pressure
Sheikh Hasina once told me long before 1/11 (when I went to present to her my book on North South University) that: "I will not be the prime minister if my party wins the next election." I told her that this is the best decision she has taken.

Nobody suggested this to her; she said it suddenly when other political issues were being discussed, though she knew well that I do not belong to any political party. Whether it would immediately happen or not is a different matter, but this shows that the realisation for a change had started to take hold in the mind of a party chief.

By saying so, she indeed intended to declare herself "minus" at particular point in time in terms of heading the government. This could happen with the other party chief too, and Minus Two could be effective without any outside pressure.

Let there be "Minus Many”
Relatively mature democracy like America is apparently set to go for a "change" in its politics and particularly in electing its chief executive. We also need to go for a "change" in our politics. Minus Two has now turned out to be nothing but Two because of somewhat inexperienced handling of the present political situation.

Anyway, why Minus Two only? It should be "Minus Many." Indeed, these two leader(s) can make it happen if they decide to get rid of those who are considered a burden not only to the party(s) but also to the society too. The honest senior members could, however, be useful as advisors to the party(s).

This is a sort of the reform, which is absolutely necessary. The leader(s), under parole, should go back to the parties, confirm participation in the elections including local government elections (AL has just announced its participation) and field young and honest candidates.

No further violence, no muscle power, no black money, etc. to be used to have their candidates elected. Young, honest candidates would always be preferred by the people. Let there be the beginning of clean politics in Bangladesh.

After election, the people would probably expect a broad-based coalition government, which could be seen as a national government as proposed by Dr. Kamal Hossain. The country now needs a politically strong government that can cater to the huge needs of the people.

Once the elected members form a government, they can rectify the past mistakes and serve the people instead of just serving themselves. They should know that today the people are very conscious of their rights, and false commitments will not work any more.

MPs not to be ministers
In my paper, which was presented and discussed at the Harvard conference organised on June 13-14 by the Bangladesh Development Initiative, I suggested that the MPs should exclusively be engaged in making laws for the country and must not be asked to perform ministerial functions.

Here, the American system seems to have worked well. Ministers should be chosen from outside by the head of the government and they should be well experienced in administrative work and also must have good background in politics.

Such nominated candidates must face the parliament for ratification. After ratification, they should be officially appointed by the president. Such a system will make the parliamentary elections less interesting to the corrupt people.

No more pre-1/11 politics
It is now accepted by all in Bangladesh that we cannot go back to a pre-1/11 politics.

However, how post-1/11 governance is being run is a matter that will come under strong scrutiny at home and abroad. Foreign countries will be perfectly within their rights to analyse our way of running the government with a view to taking decisions on their future relationships with Bangladesh.

This, however, should not deter us in establishing democracy that suits the people of the country. Democracy is a bottom up process and not a top down one and hence local government elections must be held before parliamentary elections.

Governance is a hugely difficult task and genuine commitment to run the country selflessly for the good of the people can ensure good governance.

Muslehuddin Ahmad is a former Secretary and Ambassador, and founder VC of North South University. He is also the Chairman of Civic Watch Bangladesh.

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