Friday, April 06, 2007

Bangladesh power not tilted towards any family or dynasty

SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh's army chief says the country should not go back to being run by an "elective democracy" and said that the military-backed interim government would build a new brand of democracy to overcome the country's chronic poor governance.

Army chief Lieutenant General Moeen Uddin Ahmed launched a scathing attack against the country's corrupt politicians on April 2, 2007, saying they had to be rooted out in the graft-ridden country if the nation was to move forward.

“...own brand of democracy”
He explained that “Bangladesh must build its own brand of democracy”, recognising its social, historical and cultural conditions with religion being one of the components of its national identity.

It makes Moeen's first clear public statement on the shape of governance with new leadership at all levels, which he thinks Bangladesh should have in place.

He said democracy in Bangladesh had so far led to corruption, rights violations and criminalisation threatening the state's survival.

Bangladesh, now being ruled by an interim government headed by Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed and strongly backed by the military, has been under a state of emergency since January 11.

The new caretaker government, headed by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed, has pledged to clean up Bangladesh's notoriously corrupt politics in order to hold credible elections.

As part of a massive graft crackdown, scores of high-profile politicians, security forces have detained more than 160 key political figures, including Tareque Rahman, son of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, for extortion and misuse of power.

He has caught the emotions of millions in Bangladeshi and their expatriates in Europe, North America and Australasia when he remarked last week of March that after “36 years after independence, politicians…did not…give due recognition to the national leaders" referring to founder of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also the country's first president.

Goes Public on Politics
Recently the army chief has been making public statements on state politics, society and good governance which caught media attention, mixed reaction of the civil society and criticism from political leaders.

Some observers see General Moeen is speaking his mind to emotional charged Bangladesh citizens at home and abroad. He is described as a military hawk aspiring to capture state power with a ploy of good governance and implement their military-democracy agenda.
Gen. Moeen did not elaborate on the new brand of democracy. But he appeared to be sending a message to the political parties that there would be no election before political corruption is eliminated, or drastically curbed.

He reasoned out that a redesigned democracy was necessary as he said the previous political system bred massive corruption in society.In his address to a conference in the presence of President Prof. Iajuddin Ahmed at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, the army chief said the ancient Athenian democracy was not even "remotely achievable today".

In his keynote paper on "The Challenging Interface of Democracy and Security" presented at the regional conference of International Political Science Association, Moeen said: "I believe the aspiring democratic process of Bangladesh and the current transition period allow us an opportunity to develop a new concept and find a new sense of direction to the future politics of Bangladesh."

He did not elaborate on what kind of a system should be introduced as replacement.

He also widely blamed the corruption generated by continuous political turmoil as the reason behind Bangladesh's stunted economic growth.

Economic growth
"Had poor governance not been a conspicuous phenomenon in our democratic politics, the per capita income would not have stagnated to its current level of $482 but reached a more respectable $920 with every possibility of breaking the $1,000 barrier in the coming years," Moeen said.

"By its own merit, the country has a principle to live by and a purpose to strive for, and this needs rethinking so that we can reinvent a system of governance with new leadership at all levels."

"We do not want to go back to an elective democracy where corruption becomes all pervasive, governance suffers in terms of insecurity and violation of rights, and where political criminalisation threatens the very survival and integrity of the state," Gen Moeen told the conference.

Moeen took few questions from the media and political activists after the inaugural session of the conference. He said the Armed Forces were the "silent" partner of people.When asked whether he has ambition to float a political party, he said it is the people who would have to decide whether they need a new political platform to achieve the agenda he has spell out.

"We have tried the presidential form of government and parliamentary form of government and people will judge which was better," he said.

He defined the "own brand of democracy" as a "balanced government, power not tilted towards any family or dynasty". #

With reports from bdnews24.com, Reuters, AFP and BBC online