Fakhruddin’s words ring hollow

Editorial: NewAge, September 16, 2007

The comments of the chief adviser to the military-driven interim government, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, made during an interview given to the British Broadcasting Corporation on Friday deserve greater scrutiny. But before moving on to the comments of the chief adviser, it is worth noting that while the interview to the BBC is just the latest in a series of interviews given to the foreign media, the chief adviser has not yet given a single interview to the local media despite the fact that several media outlets, including New Age, formally applied to his office months ago to seek interviews with him. While we are happy that the chief adviser is speaking to the foreign media because this provides us with some insight on his thoughts and plans, his selectiveness naturally raises certain questions: Is it that the chief adviser hesitates to face the local media for fear of being asked more difficult and searching questions, given that the local press is more aware of the ground realities in Bangladesh? Or does the chief adviser feel a greater accountability to our foreign partners than to the people of this country? We should also not forget that this chief adviser found it necessary, soon after his assumption of office, to send a special envoy to the United States of America to clarify his government’s position, and that members of his government like to quote positive comments of foreign governments and their envoys to prove how well this government is performing.

Coming back to the chief adviser’s comments, he said that the government has not played any part in the internal affairs of the political parties and is therefore not responsible for their apparent fracture. This clearly proves that the chief adviser is either hiding the truth or is not aware of certain facts. That there have been overt and covert attempts by a particular government agency to restructure the political order through the political neutralisation of former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina is known to all quarters concerned in our country. The agency has been active from the centre to the local levels in trying to implement the government’s minus-two formula, and even if the people at large are tempted to believe the chief adviser’s statement, the hundreds of politicians who have come in direct contact with this agency will know how hollow the words of the chief adviser are.

The chief adviser has also claimed that there have been no attempts to intimidate the media during this emergency period. Once again, the chief adviser has been less than candid. The people at large may be confused by these statements, but those in the media who have received phone calls from members from the same government agency, been visited by members of it, or have been summoned to its offices, know only too well the extent of intimidation that has taken place. This proves that the chief adviser has failed even to sympathise with the members of the news media, both electronic and print, who are being obstructed from carrying out their professional responsibilities.

Lastly, the chief adviser suggested in his interview that the emergency was not hurting the common people of this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. When a proclamation of emergency suspends the fundamental rights of the citizens, it is those who are most disenfranchised that are hurt the most as all avenues that exist for them to express both their aspirations and their grievances are closed. This government must understand that the people cannot be expected to be apolitical in a modern state, even if the government claims itself to be, and the suspension of their fundamental rights is a denial of their aspirations for a genuinely democratic republic.

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