People against confrontational politics

Shamsuddin Ahmed

The meaning of democracy is rule of law by those elected by the people for the welfare and progress of the nation. But in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, democracy is everything sans its definition. A survey conducted by UNDP revealed in 2002 democracy in South Asia was getting unpopular because of widespread corruption and inefficiency of politicians. The situation was getting bad to worse.

In Bangladesh, the people have been suffering under the whims and caprices of political leaders. Confrontational politics has sadly turned into cruelty. The nation is reeling under continued blockade and hartals for nearly two months. Scores of people have been killed and many wounded in confrontational politics. Secret killing and death in gunfights are reported from different parts of the country every day. People suspected involved in such activities are picked up from home at dead of night by non-uniformed persons. Economy is going downhill. The people are anxiously looking for a template to overcome the crisis.

How to solve the impasse?
Eminent newspaper columnists, TV anchors and civil society have been suggesting reconciliation through dialogues among conflicting parties.  Alternative to peaceful resolution through dialogue is army intervention, which is not unknown in this country and also in some other Asian countries where democracy failed. Famous political historian Charles Dickens had said: If you have a conflict between two parties who are like a wolf and a lamb, you must have a third party in the room, just to make sure that one does not have the other for dinner.
As it is, dialogue to resolve the crisis seems impossible. The ruling party has outright rejected the talks with the opposition. Prestigious British magazine The Economist narrating the situation in Bangladesh wrote on January 10 Hasina (Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina) controls the courts, the security apparatus and the press. She is not interested in compromise and confident she can hang on for four years. On the prospect of army intervention it said: They are kept happy by lucrative UN peace-keeping operations and business deals. Sheikh Selim, front ranking government leader in parliament issuing a stern warning a couple of days ago reminded the constitutional provision of death penalty for those dare to attempt a military coup.
Army coup to restore normalcy and peace is not unknown in Bangladesh. We have had two military coups. The first one was in 1975 in the backdrop of famine and introduction of one-party system.  The second one in 1983, accusing corruption and inefficiency of the government, which many doubt was engineered by an alien force (India) beginning with assassination of President Ziaur Rahman a year ago.

The Thai example
The recent example is Thailand. The army intervened in 2006 and again in May last year when the country was roiling in political confrontation. Shut down Bangkok protesting against the ruling party for several months led to the overthrow of elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Earlier in 2006 elected government of her brother Shinawatra, was overthrown in a bloodless coup, accusing him of corruption and favouritism. Now the Junta says this time they will not return to the barracks before political reforms ensuring rule by men of honesty, integrity, ethics and morality.
Army denies it was a coup.  They intervened to restore peace when democracy has failed in containing confrontational, destructive politics. The junta told democracy loving USA to mind its own business when Washington pressured the army to withdraw, hold early election to return to democracy. But China and Myanmar extended moral and material support to the Thai Army for political reforms.
Finding the pitfalls of democracy in neighbouring countries, Myanmar’s former junta in 1988 cracked down on pro-democracy movement. In tiny Maldives, the first democratically elected President Mohammad Nasheed was quietly overthrown by army-police in 2012. People agitated against Nasheed for his activities against the interest of the country and promoting secularism violating the constitution of the Islamic state where non-Musliams are barred from citizenship. The coup leaders did not care western criticism. They did not come to rule but installed vice president Dr Mohammad Waheed into power.

Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore
What happened in Nepal? Burying the centuries old monarchy the country was made republic in 2006. But deeply divided politicians could not write the constitution of the country in seven years. Two constituent assemblies were democratically elected one after another but the country is still running under the interim arrangements made after overthrowing the monarchy. Disenchanted to western type of democracy and disgusted with atrophied politics the people of Nepal are now seeking return to monarchy for peace and stability. If a referendum is held tomorrow, you will find vast majority will probably vote for return to monarchy, said a senior journalist in Kathmandu.
Malaysia and Singapore have democracy but different from the western type. A banana democracy, former Malaysian strong man prime minister Mahathir Mohammad had sarcastically commented on Westminster type of democracy. Mahathir ruled for about than three decades and is adorned as the builder of modern Malaysia. Lee Kuwan Yew, respected leader of Singapore, held similar view. None in Singapore has the right to hold rally or street procession, incite people to destabilize the country.
In Bangladesh, people are wary of politicians. How long they would endure miseries wrought by confrontational politics?

Source: Weekly Holiday


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