Is Sheikh Hasina harping on the same string?

by Abdul Quader | November 10, 2008 4:18 pm

On her return to Bangladesh from the United States on November 6 Sheikh Hasina received rousing welcome from her party loyalists. As reported in the news media, the Awami League and its associated organisations put up a strong show of support to the party chief.

While talking to journalists at the Zia International Airport in Dhaka Sheikh Hasina appeared to be very enthusiastic about the upcoming national elections. She said, “Under no pretext, the election should be delayed or no conspiracy would be allowed to foil it” (The Daily Star, November 7). She, however, did not mention who would conspire to foil the elections scheduled for December 28. Hasina was virtually critical of BNP’s recent position on elections as the party had demanded fresh polls schedule.

At her press briefing at the airport, Sheikh Hasina talked about the current state of the economy and was of the view that the country is going through economic problems, including hunger and lack of jobs. According to her, an elected government is best placed to deal with the problems now facing the country and bring about welfare for the people. She was of the view that “unity, cooperation and conciliation are a must to save the nation from crises and bad time and for this all will have to forget personal interests and get united to find out solutions to the crises”. So far, so good.

Then came the usual blame game – the harping on the same string, so to speak. Sheikh Hasina said, “People have been passing days in fear for the last seven years – five years of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government and two years of the caretaker government”. She further said that the Awami League does not believe in the politics of confrontation, violence and clash. She, however, did not say what does her party really believes in.

It appears to me that even after two years of what had happened in the country Sheikh Hasina did not change her approach to politics and governance of the country. She blamed BNP and the caretaker government for problems and crises facing the country at the present time. But what about the five years she was in power (1996-2001)? Was it an era of peace and prosperity in the country; an era in which people had no problems of fear, terrorism and unemployment; and an era when there were no crimes, corruption and political violence that caused damage to the country’s economy and harm to people’s welfare?

Elections are no solution; only good governance can help solve the enormous social and economic problems now facing the country. Free and fair elections are just a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition to bring about people’s welfare in the real sense of the term. What the country needs is responsible and accountable government who will govern the country in the best national interest. The elected government is expected to rise above petty party politics and give up the old practice of fostering corruption and encouraging violence to protect its own interest.

I wonder if the politicians need professional training that may help them to carry out their duties and responsibilities in a more efficient and civil way. Officers working at different ministries, departments, corporations and other government organisations undertake various types of training on public and development administration at home and overseas. Some officers get specialised technical training. Teachers at educational institutions, including universities, also get training/ advanced education in Bangladesh as well as in overseas countries. Any such training aims to improve the efficiency and productivity of the trainees in their own fields of work.

To improve their performance, both in and out of government, politicians also need professional training, I reckon. This training may help them to better understand how political activities should be carried out in a modern age aligned with people’s needs, hopes and aspirations.

It is fair to say that politicians need to understand the dynamics of policy impact and interplay of relevant factors that need to be taken into consideration in developing policies and programs for social and economic development. It is the politicians (party in power) who are ultimately responsible for all the actions taken by the government. Public servants or bureaucrats just serve the government of the day and are accountable to the government for their actions. The government takes advice from the public servants and makes policy decisions for which it is accountable to the people through the parliament.

Politicians of all shades of opinion, especially those in government, should think about how to improve their own performance through training just as the public servants are supposed to improve their performance through personal development and training measures. Right training is designed to increase capabilities of the trainees that help develop innovative and effective solution to problems.

Even an opposition leader and other politicians need open-mindedness and an analytical capacity to criticise a government policy or action in a constructive way. Political training can assist them in this regard. In many cases, administrative, development and engineering consultants are engaged with overseas aid. Is there a need for political consultancy in the context of bringing about behavioural change in politics? It could be a food for thought.

We should understand that the blame game does not serve any purpose of unity, cooperation or reconciliation. It simply alienates one party from the other and has the potential to increase political animosity, discord and confrontation ending up in violence. This is likely to destabilise the political atmosphere again – a scenario of status quo and no change.

If the Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina really believes in the politics of unity and cooperation, she should avoid playing the old blame game but rather concentrate on developing a credible platform for her party to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections. She should present a solid and pragmatic political agenda to the people arguing why her election agenda is better than those of other parties in terms of generating positive impact on economic growth, social development and job creation. She should also spell out how she would implement her election agenda, if her party is elected to govern the country.

People expect more mature, responsible and civil behaviour from the politicians at a time when the country is passing through enormous political challenges. Harping on the same string is of little use, I believe.

Source URL: