Friday, August 17, 2007

Does the President have moral ethics to lecture the nation?

MOZAMMEL H. KHAN

AS a decorated war hero, one of America's greatest presidents articulated in his inaugural speech on January 20, 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."

Imagine if the same declaration was echoed by the draft dodger President George W Bush in his inaugural lecture to the nation, how ludicrous it would sound to his fellow compatriots!

This sort of ludicrousness surfaced after two lectures delivered by President Professor Iajuddin Ahmed, one on August 6, where he lauded the role of the armed forces for "saving the country from an anarchic situation on January 11," and the other on August 12, where he extolled the virtues of democracy and political honesty.

On August 12, in the inaugural speech of a seminar organized by BIISS, he emphasised that "proper functioning of democracy required a capable, honest, transparent, and accountable administration, as well as responsible, accountable, and patriotic political leaders who would lead the country to the right direction. Without strengthening the democratic institutions, the function of democracy and its gradual maturity will remain unaccomplished."

The President went on to remind the nation that "a proper functioning of democratic norms and values and the establishment of rule of law are necessary to narrow the growing political divides and unite a fractured civil society." The contents of his speech are absolutely befitting for a head state and the first citizen of the republic. But the question is; did Prof. Iajuddin, as the president of the republic and head of the erstwhile CTG, practice even an iota of what he is preaching now?

To begin with, his assumption of the presidency was unethical in the first place, albeit not unconstitutional, since he very well knew that his predecessor was deposed only because he endeavoured to become the president of the republic rather than serve the interest of the party that elected him. Since his election to the highest position of the republic, he faithfully served his benefactors, but not so much the nation, which he was oath-bound to serve.

Since October 28, 2006, all his activities had been shrouded in secrecy, and had been averred to be conspiracies after his assumption of the role of chief adviser (CA) in violation of the constitution, which he was oath-bound to defend. This offence is an impeachable one, as clearly stipulated in article 52 (1) of the Constitution which says, "The president may be impeached on a charge of violating this Constitution" by the parliament.

Nevertheless, this was a historic opportunity for him to prove that a partisan person could rise to the occasion, specially at the fag end of his life and career, and conduct himself to uphold the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Contrary to expectations, he shrouded himself in secrecy and allegedly conspired to implement the blue print of his mentor bypassing the council of advisers, which compelled four of them to resign. Their action, however, failed to perturb the strongman, who quickly replaced them with a set of cronies.

He destroyed the sanctity of every organ of the state, including the administration and judiciary, by unprecedented politicization, putting partisan and incompetent people in constitutional positions. Never before in the history of this country had the Election Commission been manned by a group of partisan, incompetent, people with absolute moral bankruptcy.

Instead of improving the situation, he accelerated the downfall and put the last nail in the sanctity of that constitutional body. However, he was not at all disturbed by the adverse reactions, which was very much evident from his statement of January 6 when he told the nation that "the government firmly believes that the January 22 election will be held in a free, fair, impartial manner, and in an atmosphere of fanfare."

The most preposterous part of his assertions was reflected in his statement, "being a teacher, I always discharged my responsibility impartially. I had to ignore other parties in accommodating the demands of the agitating parties during the tenure of the caretaker government.

Despite that, questions about my impartiality have been raised with a motive." Yet, exactly seven months after his statement of great complacency, Prof Iajuddin Ahmed acknowledged in his speech on August 6 that the army had saved the nation from an anarchic situation. This observation is indeed a big paradox, since it was his action and inaction as the most powerful individual of the republic, especially after October 28, that had accelerated the nation's journey toward anarchy.

What really happened on January 11? The incompetent and one-eyed government headed by Professor Iajuddin Ahmed was overthrown and a new government was installed. This government has been trying to undo the harm that had been inflicted on the nation, largely by Iajuddin and his benefactors, at the expense of suspension of the fundamental rights of the people of the republic. They have no part, whatsoever, in what he and his benefactors had nefariously planned to get a free ride back to the helm of power, or the eventuality that has befallen the nation.

The least Professor Iajuddin could have done was to make a solemn apology to the nation for his part in bringing the nation to the brink of disaster, rather than lecturing the nation on transparency, accountability, good governance, and rule of law, and gone into oblivion, as he had for the last six months.

It would be extremely unwise for anyone or any institution to bring him into the lime light once again, and make him utter words which are, albeit, befitting for a head of state, but not at all befitting for a person like Iajuddin Ahmed, who does not possess the moral ground any more to lecture the nation. They would be belittling the highest office of the land, and making a mockery of the indispensable virtues required of a democratic and civilized nation that a preacher must uphold before lecturing others to adhere to. #

Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convener of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh