WHEN a government is free to do whatever it wishes to in a country, the people concerned suffer enormous amount of repressive un-freedom. The un-freedom becomes extremely painful particularly for a people, which has the history of successfully fighting a national liberation war on the high hope of realising a society to be characterised by ‘equality, social justice and human dignity’ in the independent country. Forty-six years into the national independence of Bangladesh, its people at large have now been exposed to such a difficult phase of history, where its government is free to do anything it wants to, resulting in the obvious un-freedom of the citizens, although the latter had rendered enormous sacrifices for the country’s independence in the hope of perpetually enjoying democratic freedom under accountable governments. But the government of Awami League, and its partners in the ruling coalition, which was installed in January 2014 without proper mandates from the people, has now appears free to do anything it wants to, without any accountability for its deeds and misdeeds to the people.
The incumbents have visibly grabbed, by unjustly using the coercive forces of the state, the entire public space — without leaving any scope for their political opponents of any ideological colour to peacefully protest at the undemocratic actions of the power-that-be. They are free to revive the corruption cases filed against the politicians of the opposition camp by the previous regime, while withdrawing the similar charges filed against them by the same authorities; they are free to unleash reign of terror across the country, while allowing the police to mercilessly beat up organisers of the opposing political camps trying to take to the streets against autocratic governance, maim them, sue and jail them. The incumbents are also free to use the law enforcing agencies to detain the political opponents on flimsy grounds, inflict inhuman torturers in the name of interrogation in violation of the court guidance. The incumbents are also free to allow the ‘law-enforcers’ conduct extra-judicial murders of the crime suspects, while granting presidential clemency to the proven killers belonging to ruling party. Besides, the incumbents are free to act deaf on the widespread allegations of enforced disappearances of the political opponents by the law enforcers.
Again, in terms of running the affairs of the state, the incumbents are free to publicly proclaim that none but ruling party supporters are entitled to government jobs, and continue with the implementation of the proclamations. In the process, they are free to recruit and promote even teachers in the educational institutions and physicians in the public hospitals by dint of the candidates’ political allegiance, instead of merit and experience, at the cost of the public education and health. They are also reportedly free to reward the public servants having political allegiance to the ruling party with undue promotions and punish the ‘suspect officials’ with suppressions by the juniors. At the local government level, the incumbents are free to rig the polls at will in the first place and then suspend by executive orders the wining candidates belonging to the opposition political camp, if any.
On the economic front, the incumbents appear to have been free to allow their own people to plunder Taka hundreds of thousands of crores from the public banks, to take out similar amounts from the country’s capital markets, to provide the companies run by their own people with the opportunity to make many more hundreds of thousands of crores for producing electricity at irrationally high prices, and distribute contracts among their own people to build roads and highways and flyovers at the highest rate of costs in the South Asian region, and beyond.
Under such a repressive political circumstance, the democratically oriented sections of the opposition political camps are expected to raise their voice, braving the further government repressions. But, thanks primarily to its moral weaknesses, the prime opposition camp led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party is not seen to put up any effective resistance to the incumbents’ autocratic governance — political, administrative and economic. The political consequence of such political silence in the shrinking public space is dangerous for a society, which was a very vibrant one only the other day: the people at large get politically insensitive, which would eventually led to the total de-politicisation of an entire people, paving the way for any autocratic regime to perpetuate its control of state power, and thus thwarting the historical promises of the society to get stronger in a democratic dispensation.
However, when the government of a country is free to do whatever it wants to do inside a country, it, particularly the one lacking popular legitimacy to govern the country, in fact, faces serious credibility crisis in the community of states under an imperialist globalized order — political and economic. The government, repressive at home, and therefore lacking in strength emanating from popular supports, are bound to get exposed to serious vulnerability in terms of facing illegitimate demands of the major foreign powers — ever-ready to politically, economically and strategically exploit the weaker governments on earth. Under such circumstances, the inherently weaker governments give in to the foreign pressure, for the formers are, after all, dependent on the latter’s recognition to retain power at home. That the government of Awami League of the day, which enjoys unrestrained freedom to exercise power the way it desires, has distributed gas blocks of the Bay of Bengal among the companies of American and Indian origin, bought nuclear project with questionable technology from Russia at an exorbitant price, allowed India to set up Rampal power project in the country risking the destruction of the Sundarbans mangrove forest, and now poised to enter a nationally suicidal defence deal with India — all in the face of stiff protests of the patriotic sections of the Bangladeshis at home and abroad — is the clear manifestation of the obvious weaknesses of an inherently weak government, no matter how strong it poses to be in terms of curbing the citizens’ democratic freedom to protest at its autocratic political governance, anti-people economic programmes and subservient foreign policies.
Evidently, unrestrained freedom of a government, properly elected or not, acts as the prime source of miserable unfreedom of the citizens, while an apparently free repressive government is actually too weak to protect, let alone promote, the national interests in terms of dealing with foreign powers. For the sake of reclaiming democratic freedom of the people, and thereby guarding the political and economic sovereignty of the country, the unrestrained freedom of the government at home must be curtailed. For that to happen, politically enlightened democratic resistance of the people, nothing else, remains the only historically proven weapon.Todd Fisher - brother of Carrie and son of Debbie - has organised Saturday’s service. He said: ‘The public is invited because that’s how my mother would want it.