Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, October 15, 2008


By Saif-Al-Din Mohd. Abdullah

“Last call for boarding the Malaysian Airlines...." were the distant words I heard as I came out of the largest airport in Asia, The Malaysian Airport. I have been here before but there was certainly something different this time; not around me but certainly in my mind. I had arrived in Malaysia from Bali, Indonesia, and I knew something more mind boggling was coming my way.

Driving from the airport to our hotel, I looked around and thought "this is how a country should look". Anyone who has been to Malaysia in the past 20 years will know how developed the country has become. It prompted the first question, was Malaysia like this from the beginning?

My father answered from the back of the car, "Of course not. A country cannot be born like this; you have to develop it. Each citizen has to play their part in helping out." He further added, "There was actually a time when Malaysians came to Bangladesh to study."

Bangladesh? Even last week I was advised by may elders to go abroad for my studies. Why would a young Bangladeshi not think about his own country? Well, if I just asked all the Bangladeshi people, whey don't you think about your own country even when you are in your homelands? We would be proud to celebrate our 39th Independence Day this year, but looking back what did we do for our country in the past 39 years?

I know someone would be happy to point out that Bangladesh has come a long way since 1971. But who came up with this development, the people themselves or the people who are employed to look after us? If you say for example, the food production has increased; it's partly because we have 150 million people, each and every farmer who works from dawn to dusk to feed themselves, their descendants. Take our manpower industry for example. You can easily find a Bangladeshi worker making an all out effort to earn a living. They do jobs that raise a question of status back in Bangladesh. Reports about this sector has been printed in our local newspapers several times, but did we do anything but only read the article.

The scenes around me in Malaysia just helped me to open my mind. What was I actually doing for my country? From the present to the past we have had our historical leaders. Malaysia had their fair share of leaders too but what happened differently? One man seemed to have made the change. Mahathir Mohammad, he was the leader; he was the mastermind behind the changing Malaysia. Each and every Malaysian admits and accepts his work and will always be credited to him for his dedication to the country's development.

Now here is where the twist comes,
"Well, Mahatir was a good man, but his time is over, people do not want to listen to him anymore, we know how much he gave us but its time the new leaders take his place." It was clear from his words that while Mahathir Mohammad is still revered, new leaders are looked upon for modernization and development.

Now are the Malaysians thinking in the right direction? You don't have to be Malay to answer that; the answer can be easily found when we refer to our own country. We have had our past leaders, successful and prominent ones, they have brought our independence.

A fiery debate arises, who was the leader behind our liberation and if history being tarnished fighting over whose picture to hang on the wall. Everyone knows and admires the person, who had brought our independence, fighting about it even after 39 years seems totally irrelevant. Would the parlaiment solve these problems?

For the past fifteen to twenty years the parliament has seen the same cycle, party in power speaking and the opposition boycotting. If the parties are so busy boycotting, who will be there to answer my question? You can say these leaders are elected by us, I can just say if there are no more eligible and educated alternatives, the people are helpless. Still there is one thing to say, "Dushtu gorur cheye shunno goyal bhalo. (better to have an empty shed than wicked cows)" And that is just an invitation for chaos.

The Malay people are thinking in he right direction using they ideology of the past successful leaders and bringing in younger and stronger leaders. I do not see why we cannot gather up a few young leaders who have the potential to take the country to different heights.

But actually I cannot go on blaming the politicians for the present state of the country, we are to blame too. It is obviously a problem in the total management and the mindset of the people. Just a small example, in the international airports of Malaysia and Indonesia, the tandas (toilets) have to be absolutely clean. We of course, settle for something we can just step into holding our noses. Compromising out of reluctance to do anything else. So to change things around us, we have to change ourselves first.

What does your definition of liberation mean?
Everyone can freely take money as bribes?
Anyone can take someone else's life?
Did Bangabandhu actually motivate us to have this kind of liberation? Obviously not....

Now, the liberation has a different meaning. It is something that cannot be fought by guns and sticks; you cannot march over the roads shouting out slogans. You don't have to get your blood rushing to win this war. It is the battle between the conscience of the people and all the bad elements of our society. People have to think about themselves and their surroundings to gain victory in this battle. And to get them doing all this all we need is Education. So all we ask from our leaders is that give us the spark and we will light the fire that will burn out the cover and expose what Bangladesh really is.

All these weren't written just to ruin my country's image nor improve the image of Malaysia or Indonesia. It is just a humble criticism, and as I believe, criticizing is the only way to learn what is going wrong and work together to get better at it.

Putting everything together, keeping all the problems in front of us, this is our country; it is the soil we are made from. Each and everyone wants to see a better Bangladesh. We want to walk down the road with pride. Bring out the patriot in you. Refuse to compromise.


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