The political leaders are theoretically the vessels of the desires and dreams of the citizens of a country. People look up to them for guidance and support in solving their issues. The leaders actually carry out the roles of a guardian for the residents of their own constituencies. Their whole role or existence is based on the concept of responsibility and leaves no scope to work outside that concept. It becomes horrific if a leader proves to be unaccountable to his duties as well as for his words. But unfortunately the Bangladeshi politics have recorded many irresponsible words of different leaders and that trend is getting stronger day by day. These reckless remarks actually express the embedded arrogance which is derived from denials due to inner conflicts of a leader. Hence, it can never be a characteristic of a good leader.
The 11th national election of Bangladesh is only 5 days away. The whole nation is eyeing on Dec 30 – the day which will shape up the future of our country and fellow countrymen. There have been several comments, actions, accusations, exchange of words surrounding this election during the last few months. And quite unexpectedly few irresponsible words were exchanged or expressed which actually questioned the level, moral, tolerance and integrity of our leaders.
The upcoming election is in reality a competition between the current ruling party Awami League and Dr Kamal Hossain led Jatiyo Oikyo Front. Country’s largest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is also a part of Jatiyo Oikyo Front. The top leader of this alliance Dr Kamal Hossain is a very experienced campaigner and a famous lawyer though he is not directly participating in the polls. He had been an important member of Awami league and was imprisoned with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by the West Pakistani junta during the liberation war. He even held law ministry during the time of Bangabandhu’s government.
Later Dr Kamal founded his own party ‘Gonoforum’ and recently called for national unity – a movement against the ruling party in reality. BNP-led alliance and few others joined him and despite their inability to put any substantial pressure on the government, they are actually contributing in having an election with all party participation. Looking at the illustrious career of Dr Kamal, we can expect him to be responsible especially when he is considered among one of the most learned politicians of Bangladesh. But unfortunately, he was found to make irresponsible and insensitive remarks several times during the last few days. Dr Kamal recently advised his fellow mates to take him to the polling centres and to use his fingerprint for voting in case he is dead on the polling day. He might have intended to mean that whatever the case is the people should go to vote. But it was a very foolish remark considering his status.
Constitutionally, dead people cannot vote. There is no voting right bestowed upon a dead person in Bangladesh or anywhere else around the world. Though on several occasions, we had seen votes of dead people were cast in previous elections but those were acts of vandalism on the polling days and was not a sensible situation. Dr Kamal, who was a member of the constitution drafting committee, making such a remark is unbelievable and it shows the sheer negligence of our leaders with their words as they are often carried away by their emotions and seldom denies using their heads.
This is not the only instance when Dr Kamal was irresponsible with his words. Several times he attacked the media with his harsh words. He has used words like “khamosh” (meaning be silent) upon receiving questions uncomfortable for him to answer. Moreover, when he was asked a question over allegiance with an alliance of which banned Jamaat-e-Islami is a part, he got furious and questioned the integrity of the journalist. He asked the journalist how much money he received for asking such questions and also threatened him. It was a sheer example of reckless use of words from him. Though he later expressed grief over his own behavior, from an honorable politician like him who has also sworn to ensure media freedom, such words cannot be expected.
Not only Dr Kamal, another top leader of Jatiyo Oikyo Front Barrister Mainul Hosein is currently imprisoned due to his wrong words as he attacked a senior female journalist by calling her ‘characterless’. Despite him later saying sorry to the journalist, cases were filed and he is behind the bars right now on defamation allegations. Barrister Mainul, who has served as the advisor of the caretaker government previously, is supposed to be careful about his words but he acted lower than an ordinary person which uttering those words.
Few months ago, before the safe roads movement of the students, minister of shipping Shajahan Khan tried to justify the killing of two school going teenagers by reckless driving of a bus driver. He, also being the executive president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, brought example of India to justify road accidents in Bangladesh. He also managed to give his charming ‘smile’, which showed he has no grief over the situation. The students got furious with his words and smile and the safe roads movement started. It was a complete display of insensitive behaviour which is never expected from a leader.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia on several occasions made some humungous remarks. While she was restricted by the law enforcers to come out of her residence after the election of 2014, she personally attacked an official by calling him ‘Gopali’ as he hailed from Gopalganj, the home district of PM Sheikh Hasina. She also promised to erase the name ‘Gopalganj’ if ever retained power – sheer irresponsible words from a three-time prime minister. Her son and BNP’s acting chairperson Tarique Rahman also crossed all lines when he called Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman a razakar (traitor), murderer and Pakbondhu (friend of Pakistan) from a program at London and questioned his role during the liberation war. On several instances, Tarique tried to warp the history of Bangladesh.
This type of irresponsible words has become a common practice in Bangladesh. Former home minister of BNP government Altaf Hossain Chowdhury once said God has taken away His own property while he was visiting the family of a child who was shot dead by the hooligans. Former state minister of home from BNP Lutfuzzaman Babar said he would bring out terrorists from under the ground despite now being sentenced to death for being part of terrorist plotting. In an interview with the BBC Bangla service former Home Minister of Awami League government Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said that the hartal supporters of BNP-Jamaat shook pillars and other parts of Rana Plaza in Savar that contributed to the tragedy claiming over hundreds of lives.
The Finance Minister AMA Muhith on several instances made irresponsible remarks, attacked the media and when questioned over alarming issue, uttered “rubbish”. These are only a few among hundreds of irresponsible remarks made by our politicians and this brings grave question over the quality of our politics and politicians.
It is sad that our politicians are never held responsible for the consequences of such irresponsible words. Often other leaders from their respective party try to justify such comment by calling it their ‘personal’ opinion. We also accept such justification. There must be a clear line between political and personal comments. When someone is hailing from a political party holding an active political identity presents a comment in front of media or the people or a certain audience – that cannot be his personal opinion. That definitely represents his and his party’s position. There is no way to ignore irresponsible words as their emotional comments are often damaging to the image of our politics as well as our country.
Another national election is at the door and we are about to choose our leaders for the next five years who will be responsible for our future progress and that requires concrete adoption of responsibility. We hope in the heat of the election, our leaders will keep calm and will not make emotional wrong remarks. They should never forget about their accountability as well as the importance of their words to the fellow countrymen. If they learn to be responsible with their words, that will help them to act responsible in every matter related to the country. We hope our leaders become more responsible in works and words as that will definitely help us to progress from all aspects.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)