Chief adviser wrongly reads ground realities

Editorial, NewAge, November 16, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

We are extremely disappointed with the latest comment of the chief adviser to the military-driven interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, that he feels the common people are not facing any problems as a result of the continuation of the current state of emergency. It is absolutely unacceptable that a head of government could even suggest that the continuation of a state of emergency – and thereby the continuation of the automatic suspension of people’s fundamental rights – does not cause problems for the ‘common people.’ Such a comment proves once again that this government, like all unelected and apolitical regimes, is neither aware of the realities on the ground nor has the necessary contact with the general masses.

We have tried to impress upon the government time and again that the suspension of the people’s fundamental rights runs counter to its stated aims of positively transforming the nature of politics and strengthening democracy. Democracy requires the perpetual political participation of the people, within certain legal boundaries of course, for them to be able to demand and fight for their rights and aspirations. Suspending the people’s right to think, speak and express freely or their right to assemble and protest is, therefore, extremely problematic, regardless of what the chief adviser might have us believe.

The continuation of a state of emergency is, however, conducive to the spread of fear in society, which we feel this government has managed to do rather successfully. Even though maintaining law and order and ensuring stability is the responsibility of any government, the current government, through the adoption of the draconian emergency power rules that have made usually bailable cases non-bailable, seems to have attempted to frighten the public into compliance. Such is the pervasive sense of fear that the government’s unsolicited intervention in politics, its failure to rein in the prices of essential items or its inability to sort out the fertiliser crisis, for example, has gone largely un-protested by the people. It is also not surprising that the economy is suffering during this emergency period with investment levels dwindling and inflation going through the roof. We have pointed out countless times before that emergency discourages investment, as it indicates to potential investors locally and overseas that an abnormal and unstable situation is prevailing in the country. The lack of investment today can only mean that fewer jobs will be created in the future, which will affect the common people that the chief adviser has referred to.

While we can go on and on about the negative impacts of emergency on society – economic, political and cultural – we cannot find any good reason for persisting with such an arrangement any longer. If a state of emergency was indeed necessary in January to avoid a bloody confrontation between the two warring political alliances and to bring back political stability, it has been achieved long ago. It is high time that the government lifted emergency and returned to the people their democratic and political rights so that the country can move forward in its struggle to bring qualitative change in the nature of politics and to give democracy proper footing. If the military-driven government and its chief adviser really believe emergency rule does not cause problems for common people and cannot appreciate the need for the immediate lifting of the state of emergency, we, unfortunately, cannot but feel that our democracy is no longer safe in their hands.

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