Editorial, NewAge, September 6, 2008
It is nice to know that the military-controlled interim government has become sceptical about the fate of its agenda to bring about ‘qualitative changes’ in politics before the general elections, scheduled for December. Such scepticism, we hope, will dissuade the incumbents from further tinkering with the political process in general and the political parties in particular. When articulating the government’s scepticism on Thursday, the commerce adviser made a point that the politically conscious and democratically oriented sections of society have been hammering on since the incumbents came to power, i.e. the important stakeholders in bringing about qualitative changes in politics are the people and the political parties. Regrettably, the interim government has thus far sought to keep these two stakeholders out of the process to bring about a qualitative change in politics.
For the political process to undergo a positive change it is of paramount importance that the people have the right to partake in the requisite debate and discussion. However, under a state of emergency, this government has denied the people of even their fundamental rights to the freedom of thought and expression, to bring out processions and stage rallies to voice their grievances, to move the court for democratic justice, etc. At the same time, the incumbents have launched a campaign to malign and harass the politicians and the political parties through arbitrary actions. All along, the interim government has appeared relentless in their efforts to antagonise the people and the political parties alike.
Within the first few weeks of its assumption of office, the interim government virtually negated the economic gains that the country had made in the 30-odd years since its independence. Its arbitrary drive against unauthorised structures on government lands and makeshift shops on roadsides and pavements left tens of thousands of people homeless and jobless almost overnight. Its anti-corruption drive induced a climate of fear in the business community, resulting in a virtual standstill in trade and investment. Its unquestioning compliance to the prescriptions of the multilateral lending agencies led to the closure of one state-owned enterprise after the other. All this while, as unemployment rose and people’s income dwindled, the price of essentials embarked on a relentless climb upward. The net result of its numerous arbitrary actions has been the loss of livelihood for a significant section of the populace, drastic decline in the nation’s average protein intake, complete breakdown of informal economy and overall stagnation in the economy.
The interim government needs to realise that it has itself become the single-most formidable barrier to the nation’s overall well-being. Of course, the political parties in particular and the political process in general need to undergo a positive change; however, for that to take place, the people and the politicians, who, by the commerce adviser’s own admission, are the important stakeholders in this regard, have to be afforded the freedom to engage freely. Therefore, if the interim government is really committed to bringing about a qualitative change in politics, it should immediately withdraw the state of emergency and arrange for the general elections to be held, so that the primary stakeholders can once again take over the reins of the political process. We admit that there is the possibility of the political parties going back to their old ways. However, we believe if the intelligentsia lives up to its expected role of maintaining pressure on the political parties to desert their old habits and the political workers sustain the demand for programme-based activities, instead of hollow rhetoric, of their leaders, politics will be on its way to undergoing positive changes.