Monday, May 21, 2012

Has logic taken leave of our politics and politicians?
As I see it column
The Independent
18 May 2012

M. Serajul Islam

Our politics is beginning to defy logic. Many things are happening in our politics that makes one feel that we are living in a surreal world or we are having a bad dream. The way the Ministers are attacking Dr. Mohammad Yunus leaves one to conclude that with logic even decency and sanity have taken leave of our politics. A senior Minister of the Government trashed his achievement in winning the Noble Prize claiming that such a prize can be won by anyone sipping white wine with chips in the rights quarters!  Believe it or not, Dr. Yunus is a teetotaler; he does not drink or smoke! 

Dr. Mohammed Shahidullah who was well known for his wisdom had once said that a nation that cannot show respect to its worthy citizens would soon have no such worthy citizens born to it.  He was expressing his frustration at our national trait of dishonoring those whom we should honour and respect. We are seeing this happening in the country in the way   the government has again started humiliating Dr. Yunus with renewed venom and pack of lies following the visit of the US Secretary of State. 

Many individuals have won the Noble Peace Prize. Dr. Yunus has been different from most of them. The Grameen Bank (GB) for which he was awarded the Prize has attracted the attention of important countries and leaders of our times in a very positive manner. Both Dr. Yunus and the GB have become household names worldwide where many today know Bangladesh as the country of the Noble Laureate. For a country suffering endemic image problem, Dr. Yunus, the GB and his Noble Prize could have been heaven’s favour to Bangladesh to change its image. The Italian Ambassador has again reminded us of this image problem bluntly when the EU Ambassadors met the media recently.

A lot of this image problem is due to the nature of our politics. Nevertheless a lot of good things are happening in the country that we are failing to project. Any other country with an image problem such as ours would have thanked the stars for someone like Dr. Yunus. His name and fame could have branded Bangladesh in a manner that would have helped overcome a lot of the country’s poor image.   

Dr. Yunus’ value is not just in the fact that his name has become synonymous with Bangladesh in a positive way. His friendship with the world leaders could have been a bonus in pursuing the country’s foreign policy goals.  Those who pursue these goals know how difficult it is to be heard in capitals where our foreign policy interests lie. Dr Yunus’ friendship with the world leaders could have helped our foreign policy managers reach these leaders and be heard if they wanted his help. If only the Government had not humiliated him and the GB in absurd manners, his friendship with the US Secretary of State would have led her recent visit to Bangladesh to end as a crowning success of its foreign policy instead of being the failure it has been! 

In fact, the new round of vicious attacks on Dr. Yunus started only after the US Secretary had expressed her “deep respect” for him and the GB. Their sarcasm, the body language, in the renewed attacks makes one wonder what made them do it. The LGED Minister, in attacking Dr. Yunus, humiliated and ridiculed all who respects   him. He said that   the Irish Noble Peace Laureates Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan went to court to resolve their fight over prize money to underscore that the Noble Peace Prize is a cheap one. In his eagerness to humiliate Dr. Yunus, he failed to check facts on the Irish recipients. Their organization was the “Committee of Peace People” and not “Motherland Peace” as the Minister said. The Noble Peace Prize money is distributed to the recipients directly by the Committee. Hence he also incorrectly mentioned about their court battle over the Prize money.  

Truly, what we are hearing from our Ministers on Dr. Yunus and GB defies logic, common sense and decency.  The “attack Dr. Yunus campaign” is again underscoring the truth in what Dr. Mohammad Shahidullah had said about our national trait in dishonoring our best sons and daughters, in this instance best even in the world context. Dr. Yunus is only the 7th individual in world history to have won the Noble Peace Prize, the US President’s Freedom Medal and the US Congress’ Gold Medal to be in the company of Aung Saan Suu Kyi; Norman Borlaug; Nelson Mandela; Mother Teresa; Elie Wiesel and Martin Luther King! The only way to even try to justify the attacks of the Ministers would be to believe that they have a deep grudge against Bangladesh; that they want It humiliated because by their actions they are doing exactly that! 

It is at least heartening nevertheless to find that Dr. Shahidullah was correct only partially in regards to what he said about respecting our eminent citizens. It is only these Ministers and few around the government who are humiliating Dr. Yunus; that the people have not taken leave of their senses. When Barrister Rafiqul Huq joined other eminent citizens to trash the attacks of the Ministers, every word they said resonated deeply in the minds of the people who cannot help wondering about the reasons for which this government is going against Dr. Yunus in this absurd fashion, defeating  logic and defying decency and common sense.

The same defiance of logic and common sense in the actions of the Government is being seen in the government’s handling of the resignation of Sohel Taj. In a   recent TV programme on newspaper review, the guest was an Editor. The host asked him whether the Speaker’s interpretation that the resignation of the former State Minister from the parliament was not in accordance with the constitution and hence unacceptable was correct. The Editor was clearly uncomfortable with the question. He did not want to give a clear answer.   

He said at first that the Speaker was right because according to him the Constitution required that a member must submit his resignation in person. The host then asked him whether it mattered that he did not submit his resignation in person when he did not want to remain in the parliament. The Editor fumbled and said that perhaps as Sohel Taj was the son of former Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed, a different set of laws applied to him for resigning from the parliament! 

A simple reading of the relevant part of the Constitution would show that both the Speaker and the Editor are wrong.  Article 67 (2) says: “A MP may resign his seat by writing under his hand to the Speaker, and the seat shall become vacant when the writing is received by the Speaker..” There is no mention that a member must present his resignation in person to the Speaker. If this is not clear enough (why is a million dollar question!), then by terms of Article 67 (b), Sohel Taj has vacated his membership because he has unlawfully abstained from parliament for 90 consecutive days.  

Therefore when Sohel Taj submitted his resignation, he was in fact not a member of the parliament!  The Speaker’s action in not accepting his resignation can thus be described only as a game of procedure, a wrong one at that, that he is playing that may not be entirely on his own choice.  Common sense, decency and logic have  all taken leave of our politics, truly. 

The writer is a retired career Ambassador to Japan and Egypt.

No comments: