By Nur–E–Emroz Alam Tonoy;
Let’s visit our recent history:
In 1991 at the very beginning of the democratic journey, it has been recorded that 44% of the total population of Bangladesh lived in poverty. Our society was ravaged by diseases like diarrhoea, polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria and many more. Basic state services for sanitation, education, and health care were negligible.
And today Bangladesh is an envy of many nations in terms of ‘miracle’ economic development. We are at the top of the UN human development index among the developing nations. The diseases once considered epidemic are now mostly eradicated.
This course of history leaves little room for argument that our recent social and economic revolution has been constructed on the foundation of democracy.
But ironically, despite such monumental progress, due to the absence of rule of law to date in the eyes of common Bangladeshis are just another power-grabbing tool for the political class, and yet to earn confidence and legitimacy.
In a contemporary sense, democracy and rule of law are seen as a natural and inseparable pair.
The concept of rule of law that no one is above the law and all citizens are subject to equal treatment, not to any exceptional or special treatment is the precondition for the functioning of a democratic society.
The undermined state of this central tenet of democracy in Bangladesh is evident through the corruption perception indexes where Bangladesh is performing shamefully worse for many years, which according to analysts is a mountainous hurdle to the further socioeconomic advancement of the nation of 160 million population.
And it has been scrutinized that the principal causes for such extreme corruption in the context of Bangladesh include lack of transparency in government dealings, procrastinated judiciary, and a defective investigative mechanism to deal with corruptions.
Being the primary victims, the main stakeholders of the democracy – the citizens – are naturally very concerned about this sorry state of the governance, but unfortunately, because of institutional deficiency and lack of participation, their voices are seldom heard.
In addition to that, the neo-political and the bureaucratic class of the country have created a political environment where the involvement of people in the democratic process has become limited just to the electioneering process of the representatives.
Led by F of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibor Rahman, the founders of our constitution was enlightened enough to acknowledge this shortcoming of a democratic system that in a democracy the interactions between the ruled and the rulers are often not immediate and direct and to close this gap the approach was to facilitate constitutionally approved offices that continuously scrutinize government actions and put effective limits on the ruling class such as Anti-Corruption Commission, human rights commission, Office of the Auditor General, various regulatory commissions, and not least, to ensure the involvement of the citizens the institution of Ombudsman.
The concept of the ombudsman, in many cases, was devolved for the transition of bureaucracy left by authoritarian regimes to a democratic system, which coincidentally, is a perfect fit for the Bangladeshi scenario.
The primary focus was that in democratic ruling if a citizen feels ill-treated by an official appointed to assist, he or she shall have a right to appeal to a constitutionally approved body, and the conflict must be resolved as quickly as possible with efficiency and free of charge.
It’s an institution that defends and empowers people and creates citizen resistance whenever a misdeed takes place.
The deep-rooted corruption in Bangladesh is directly connected to the political and administrative structure and demands a sincere reform both political and administrative, which even our leaders often promptly acknowledges in their speeches as it sounds more acceptable socially, but appropriate course of action is something we are yet to see.
Questions arise as to why our governments are so resistant about the execution of section 77 of the constitution knowing from the examples of successful democracies that it works, and neglecting it raises serious questions about their commitment to rule of law and curbing corruption.
Perhaps, it’s time to remind our political class a basic- that at the heart of the theory of democracy rests a cardinal premise: Dignity of the representatives and rights of the citizens. And in addition, a parliamentary system demands full implementation of the constitution.