Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Power of One

As the President Professor Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed appointed himself the head of the Non-party Caretaker Government, many cried foul. No intelligent interpretation of our constitution would put the President at the head of the caretaker government (CG) without exhausting a bevy of other appropriate alternatives. However convoluted his reasoning may have been, AL showed restraint and gave him the benefit of the doubt. The nation gave their President a chance to prove himself to be neutral and rise over the petty politics that had gripped the nation. We reasoned that mild mannered educationist will appoint an able body of advisers and they, like their predecessors before, would turn out to be impartial and more so, effective.

The Chief of CG (CCG), as the constitution allows him appointed 10 respected members of the society as advisors. With the exception of a few, the “wow” factor it seemed was missing from the line up. It was widely reported that the advisors were drawn up from a list submitted by the major parties. While the question was raised, about if they met the Constitutional provision of being “non-party”; the society, and to its credit the main political groups accepted the choice and hoped that this will end most of the controversy in this regard. Unfortunately when we thought it could not get any worse, it did! A few questioned the composition itself. Why did the business community not have a representative? The citizenship of a certain advisor was questioned. And then it got a whole lot more serious.

Common citizens quickly complained that the Advisors did not show the energy levels expected from them. Of course they did not have time to do the homework required for the job and therefore took some time to find their “sea legs”. But it seemed that they were kept in the dark about many of the decisions that the constitution entrusted to them to take. The President, it was obvious, was politically too inexperienced to differentiate his role as head of the nation to that of his duty as the CCG. Worse, accusation levelled against the Bangabhaban was that the President’s politically appointed minders were calling the shots. They were present at advisory council meetings and refused to heed opposition demands to step aside. Any person even slightly knowledgeable of the workings of the government could easily point out that there was backroom politicking happening in scales that has not seen in our young democracy in many years.

The difference between the CCG and rest of his advisors was soon out in the open. Many believe that the advisory council painted themselves into a corner when they openly said that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) had to go. While it bought them time from the AL, political manoeuvring by the President’s secretaries ensured that this could not be translated into actionable deeds. And then out of the blue came the most damning action of all. The Home Secretary without the knowledge of the CG (it is not known if the CCG was aware of this move) attempted to call in the Army. How could such a bold and potentially course altering decision be taken without consulting the CG? More so when they had met that very same day? More than a few questions are raised. Did the President / CCG know? Did he comprehend the gravity of the action? Was there someone else calling the shots? And the most worrisome of the questions, was the constitution itself violated?

While I cannot answer the first few of these questions as I am not privy to what goes on in the great mind of the President, I believe the last is easy to dissect. The Article 58B [3] states “The executive power of the Republic shall, during the period mentioned in clause [1], be exercised, subject to the provisions of article 58D [1], in accordance with this Constitution, by or on the authority of the Chief Adviser and shall be exercised by him in accordance with the advice of the Non Party Care-taker Government.” Basically this clause states that the executive power (i.e. the responsibility of day to day functioning of government) rests with the Chief Adviser (as opposed to the President) and can only be done with the agreement of the remaining of the Advisors. “…in accordance with the advice of the Non Party Care-taker Government.” These words are very important. “Advice” in this case is not same to the one my wife takes when she asks which sari she should wear. This “advice” is not open to acceptance or rejection. This “advice” is the legal wording that says, “Must do”.

Now I know, some might be thinking “hey, the CCG is the same as the PM in a normal time. So isn’t the PM’s wish supreme? Could she not have disagreed with rest of her cabinet on a topic and still come out on top?” Well that logic, though enticing, breaks down in two counts. In a Parliamentary system the PM is Primus Inter Pares – Latin for First Amongst Equals. That means the PM is one of the many ministers of the cabinet, who while having the overall responsibility of the co-ordination of the cabinet does not supersede remaining of the members of that body. It is another matter that in our fragile democracy PM acts as the defacto President of yesteryear with complete authority.

More importantly one needs to look at the clause giving executive power to the PM during normal time of functioning. Article 55[2] states “The executive power of the Republic shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be exercised by or on the authority of the Prime Minister.” Full Stop! None of the “advice” of the council of minister business. She has, according to our constitution, the last word on what is correct for her Government to take. Of course she has to get it ratified by the Parliament but she and she alone bears the ultimate responsibility of any government decision or action. And if her ministers do not like it, she has the liberty of firing them.

That is not the case with the advisors. The President or the CCG has no authority to remove them (except in extra-ordinary circumstances). And while the CCG is the person who chooses the body of advisors, once they take the oath, their roles are equal.

So here we stand, the CCG has to work in accordance to the collective (or at least majority) wisdom of the Advisory council of which he is another member. This body is entrusted by the Constitution and by the nation to carry out the responsibilities of government. The onus is now on the Non-party Caretaker Government to take responsibility for their action. As Dr. Yunus said, it is time to be strong and hold steady. The framers of our constitution (and of its amendments) did not give complete executive power to the unelected CCG but to the body of eminent members of the society. It is now upto them to show leadership. It is upto them take the necessary steps required to faithfully execute the decisions that will lay course to our prosperous future. They cannot hide behind the excuse of powerful bureaucracy or Bangabhaban bullies. If someone puts up a roadblock or if someone believes he is above the Constitution, it is within the power of the CG to take that person to task. There is no need to be afraid. Hold steady, and no one can move you from the path of righteousness. It reminds me of the Bangla saying “Doshay milay kori kaaj, hari jitee nahi laaj”. (A rough English equivalent being “United we stand…”)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Younus’s recent utterances need some rebuttals. He said just prior to the dissolution of the parliament that he intended to float a political party. Then he left the country on a world tour by dodging the national political situation. He resurfaced again after the caretaker government took over. And this time he attended a ceremony thrown in his honor by the partisan BNP nominated president Iazuddin. His empty speech had applauds from a spineless president who has been subserviently carrying out strategies designed by Khaleda, Tarek and Nizami to set the stage for massive rigging of polls in 2007. The function was hardly attended by any notables of the country except for some BNP loyalists trying to associate themselves with him to give some boost to their waning popularity. He again attended a function arranged by the mayor of Dhaka at the parliament house premises. The audience was mostly former BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami ministers and their supporters. Dr.Younus had the audacity to propose his solution for resolving the current political turmoil. The solution was a ridiculous proposal that will not only derail the nascent democratic process in the country but also prepare the ground for illegitimate juntas headed by pseudogurus like Dr.Younus to sell off the country to his foreign masters. It would then be easier for him to invite PSCs from his masters to siphon off our 45 tcf of natural gas reserves at a cheap price. Petty commission from that pilferage will end up in his grameen account to fund his high interest banking venture.

He further went to the extent of advising one of the major parties to call off their agitation program against naked injustice and unfairness of Khaleda-Iazuddin duo while keeping mum on the rampant corruption the outgoing government had indulged in over the last five years. It seems that he has been devising some graceful exit strategy for BNP after their disastrous performance in governing the country. It is almost clear that BNP will be routed if a free and fair election is held. The majority of the village folks would come out in droves to pulverize BNP this time for its myriad failures.

By attending these two partisan occasions Dr. Younus has clearly identified himself as a BNP-Jamaat leaning so-called intellectual. He should know that the Awami League is a populist party that enjoys tremendous following at the grassroots level in especially rural Bangladesh. If Dr. Younus thinks that he can somehow slip into power through some illegitimate way with the blessings of a junta then he should think twice. It is not unlikely since he had his grameen operations authorized and launched during the autocratic rule of Ershad. His political solution will actually give reprieve to the dacoits and killers who had plundered the economy and vandalized all branches of the government machinery by politicizing it. He is more intent on helping BNP to get away with its crimes. He has never said a word about the atrocities against minorities, assassinations of opposition MPs and assassination attempts for annihilation of the top brass of Awami League, and irregularities in all spheres of governance. By keeping silent he has exposed his weakness of strength of character to speak out against lies and falsehood. He has clearly identified himself with BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami and it is for sure he will never be trusted by Awami League in future. His escapist opportunist tendencies to evade facts have been exposed. I wonder if his family had collaborated with the Pakistani Army during our War of Independence in 1971because his homeland district area had produced a lot of Razaakars in 1971.

Dr. Younus’s innovation is nothing new. Similar programs have been going on in many poor countries for over four decades carried out by dedicated honest souls without any patronization by any vested interested quarters. Akhter Hamid Khan and Mahbubul Alam were the pioneers in this field. Dr. Younus had been deliberately pushed into limelight by a billionaires’ club consisting of tycoons like Gates, Soros, Branson, etc., to promote their agenda. He is just a pawn in their game-plan to penetrate heavily populated economically viable countries like Bangladesh through parallel companies like grameen phone (a sister concern of Scandinavian Telenor) to siphon out millions of dollars out of embryonic economies by enjoying unheard of tax breaks unthinkable in those countries.

Dr. Younus has powerful friends at high places. He can do a service to the nation if he can persuade his influential friends to help us recover our plundered and looted money from banks and investments in the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East. I can even name a few banks where Tarek, Mamun, Babar and a host of other smugglers and terrorists have deposited their wealth. The banks include HSBC, Citibank, Bank of America, First Virginia Bank, Swiss Bank, Standard Chartered to name a few. He should ask grameen bank financiers and promoters to finance lobbyist firms to convince legislators in enacting laws and pass bills to plug leakages in international banking to prevent money laundering by politicians. This was how Khaleda Zia had put millions of dollars into lobbyist firms in the US through Tarek, Babar and Morshed Khan to influence the Congress and the Bush administration. If Dr.Younus can get us back the booty stashed by Khaleda, her son and relatives, and cronies in banks abroad Bangladesh can easily finance its next five budgets and appreciably reduce its budget deficits. Instead of openly identifying himself with fascist forces he must help us rightfully recover 2-3% of the annual GDPs that was robbed from the nation by Dr. Younus’ buddies inside BNP. Perhaps a fraction of our retrieved plundered treasury can then be doled out to Dr. Younus to distribute among destitutes without any strings attached (for God's sake no staggering interest rates please!!).

Dr. Younus should also save the enormous amount of money he wastes on lavish trips abroad to invest on the poor and downtrodden instead of relying solely on his mentors.

Wasn’t it Dr. Younus who had partnered with Monsanto in the past to introduce the ‘terminator’ hybrid rice gene in Bangladesh to eliminate the indigenously developed wild strains of Bangladeshi rice varieties evolved through centuries of natural selection? Was it not Soros, the financial wizard and venture capitalist who had soared high over the skies of Asia in the 90s to swoop on the mighty and fragile economies alike to reap profit by devaluation of the local currencies? Dr. Younus must resist the temptation to hyperinflate himself beyond what he really is. He should not be a mere tool to let unbridled foreign profiteers raid our economies and run away with the booty through the courtesy of Khaledas and Tareks.

Dr. Younus should come out of his secure hideout and launch his next project the GrameenPolitics (GP) foundation to further the interests of the Gates-Soros consortium.

Dr. Younus must not end up on the side of the most corrupt government in the history of Bangladesh. He ought to reeducate himself on the principles of democracy. He should learn the following paragraph by heart so that he doesn’t jeopardize Bangladesh’s fledgling democracy:

“ A government-controlled media, everywhere it exists, is an anti-democratic institution. Similarly an executive branch that wields influence in the judiciary or bureaucracy poisons democracy. An educational system that does not teach economically viable skills is a disservice to the nation. Corruption denies citizens their equality, and it prevents achievement-based social mobility”.