by F R Chowdhury
Even though I have been living in the United Kingdom since 1991, I still keep in touch with every development in Bangladesh. I do watch those TV programs and frequently read locally published Bengali papers. Perhaps it is difficult to forget the roots.
With thousands of Bangladeshis living abroad, Bangladesh not only receives generous foreign remittances but also many news and ideas from abroad. The development of satellite TV channels and low-cost mobile phones has enabled Bangladeshis to know so much more about the outside world. Bangladeshis have now better ideas about freedom of expression, human rights, rule of law and democracy. They can see on the TV screen what is happening in the streets of Bangkok and the response of the Government.
In the United Kingdom, we have a constitutional monarch which means to say that the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom has defined what the monarch can do or not. The country has a parliamentary democracy where the majority party government appointed by the queen runs the state on behalf of the queen. Queen remains the head of the state and everything operates in the name of her majesty.
The queen opens the parliament in a very ceremonial way where she addresses the house (and through the house the nation as a whole). She uses the term “my Government” because she appoints the government to run the state on her behalf. This is the reason why the cabinet members (full ministers in charge of respective departments) are referred to as “secretary of state”. Traditionally the queen acts according to the advice of the prime minister. Her speeches always reflect the policy, planning and work of her Government. However, we never heard of the British cabinet approving queen’s speech. British society is educated and cultured. They would never accept such humiliation of their queen. It would never happen in the United Kingdom.
Such thing can only happen in Bangladesh and it has happened. Watching news in one of the Bengali TV channels I heard the news that the cabinet approved the president’s speech. I was shocked. We all know state is higher than government and the head of the state (president) is certainly higher than the head of the government (prime minister). The act of announcing publicly that the cabinet has approved president’s speech is by all standards beyond decency and courtesy. Though the president is non-executive yet, he is the highest authority to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and the constitution. He is the figure head symbol of democracy. The Government, in this case, has made a mockery of the president. It is not only insulting to the president but to the nation as a whole.
I urge upon the politicians to learn more about democracy and governance – more about democratic and diplomatic etiquette and decorum. Stop making mockery of the president.
Pay due respect to the number one citizen of the country. The prime minister should not and must not divulge the contents of her advice to the president for his speech. Let the president deliver his speech as the president of the republic. That is where the beauty of democracy lies.
London, 19-January-2014 <firstname.lastname@example.org>