Political move by an apolitical govt to depoliticise society

Editorial, NewAge, October 6, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The latest list of corruption suspects, released on Thursday by the Anti-Corruption Commission, reinforces, once again, our long-held suspicion that the much-hyped anti-corruption drive, initiated by the military-driven interim government since its assumption of office, may be part of a political scheme of an apolitical administration to depoliticise society. Previously, in these columns, we have repeatedly pointed out that the anti-corruption drive appears to be an extension of the incumbents’ not-so-overt machination to introduce a ‘new political order’ through deconstruction of the existing political establishments. Right from the word go the anti-corruption drive has primarily targeted the politicians for their supposed involvement in high-profile corruption, although it is common knowledge it is impossible for the political authorities to pull off high-profile corruption without active help of the unscrupulous sections of the bureaucracy and the business community. The lists of corruption suspects that the commission has released thus far are predominantly populated by politicians. The few businesspeople and even fewer bureaucrats, former and serving, who are on these lists, appear to have been implicated for their affiliation with one political party or the other.

The latest list has an added significance, came as it did just over a week after a list of 80 corruption suspects was made available to different media organisations on September 27 and published on September 28. Curiously, there was no official acknowledgement of the list, which is why New Age decided not to publish it. The list, which contained the names of several businesspeople along with politicians and civil servants, nonetheless followed hectic lobbying by the business community, overt and covert. It now seems that the lobbying did work as the latest list of 35, derived from the ‘unofficial list’, contains not a single businessperson and only five bureaucrats. Meanwhile, the law and information adviser to the interim government made public on Wednesday the incumbents’ plan to institute a truth commission, which, according to him, would enable corrupt businessmen to avoid serving jail sentences, if they confess their financial crimes and pay fines as recompense, and which, we believe, would institutionalise the ‘double standards of dealing with similar crimes by the businessmen and the rest of the populace in dissimilar ways.’

Overall, the latest list and the circumstances leading to its announcement lend credence to the prevailing public perception that the incumbents are adamant to use the anti-corruption drive to malign the political class with a view to depoliticising society. Such a ploy will not only defeat the purpose of reasonably containing corruption but also put paid to the people’s aspiration for democratisation of the state and society. The incumbents will be well-advised to abandon the pursuit of such a plan and genuinely try to rid society and the state of corruption.

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