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15 July, 2018 11:27:19 AM

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The unpalatable truth

Coming to power for the first time after 21 years Hasina government showed courage and determination to end the foreign control in our internal affairs
Abdul Gaffar Choudhury
The unpalatable truth

For a long time I had an impression that Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the elder son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is a technocrat not a politician. His father was a nuclear scientist.

He was brought up in foreign lands. So, naturally he could not inherit much of the political skills and intimacy with the country's politics. He is like Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India who was a technocrat rather than a politician. But gradually I am realizing Joy is not that apolitical. His political thinking is noteworthy and clear. It was proved in the election of 2008. This time old Awami League adopted a new political philosophy of building up a Digital Bangladesh. This philosophy rejuvenated Awami League, attracted new generation of voters and Awami League won a landslide victory. I came to realize that Sajeeb Joy is not only a technocrat, but becoming aware about the politics of the country when 2 years ago I interviewed him in London while making a documentary on Sheikh Hasina's life and achievements.
Of late I am realizing that he is not only maturing politically but has also inherited the courage of his mother and maternal grandfather Sheikh Mujib to utter an unpalatable political truth. Recently in a status in his Facebook he commented on the views expressed by the American ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat about the Gazipur City Corporation election. BNP complained that this election was not free and fair. The American ambassador repeated this allegation like a parrot and expressed her anxiety about the transparency of the election in Bangladesh. Almost in every election under Awami League in Bangladesh American Embassy has expressed their concern about the fairness of the election echoing the complaint of BNP.

This role of American Embassy is creating a regular interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. Almost all the American ambassadors sent to Bangladesh thought that they were not ambassadors but viceroys of their country sent to oversee its administration and direct them. This is a colonial attitude inherited from the British Raj. No country with self-respect can allow this to continue for a long time. No political circle Right or Left, even our so-called civil society has ever shown any courage to protest this Big Brother attitude of America and some of the western countries. After the death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib no government of Bangladesh, military or autocratic dared to protest against this interference. Not only the American establishment, but the World Bank also showed its big hand to dictate how Bangladesh should run its economy.

Coming to power for the first time after 21 years Hasina government showed courage and determination to end the foreign control in our internal affairs. She has developed more friendly cooperation with America and the western world, but on the basis of equal friendship not blind allegiance. World Bank thought that because Bangladesh is a small and poor country they can browbeat Hasina government on the issue of Padma Bridge. Hasina government's economic development plan removed the stigma on Bangladesh that the country is a bottomless basket. On the basis of internal resources and economic strength Bangladesh refused World Bank's offer of conditional loan and help to build Padma Bridge. Those conditions were unacceptable for the country. The Padma Bridge is now visible and its construction is nearing end.

Bangladesh is no longer under American hegemony. It has made a strong friendly tie with China and India. Even Saudi Arab is no longer hostile to Hasina government. This political and economic achievements has put Bangladesh on the way of a middle-earning country and the country now has its influence in South-Asian politics. Perhaps, Marcia Bernicat, the American ambassador in Dhaka did not realise that Bangladesh now needs friends not masters. She is still following the old policy of American Foreign Office to show hostility towards Awami League and upstage BNP and Jamaat who always follow their dictates. There is a sign that Trump administration is not hostile to Bangladesh. Perhaps, their current ambassador who will very soon leave her post could not realise this change but followed her predecessors' old habit. Our political parties of all shades and the civil society should resist this outright interference of a foreign ambassador.

This attitude is undesirable. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Sajeeb Wazed Joy for his political courage to utter an unpalatable truth to uphold the dignity and honour of his country. He said that BNP has invented irregularities in Gazipur City Corporation election. Without any probe or proof the US ambassador supported that allegation and expressed her anxiety about the fairness of the election. It seems the embassy has become the mouthpiece of BNP. Out of 425 polling centres there was irregularity only in 9. The Election Commission immediately took action and closed those centres.The present Awami League nominated mayor Jahangir Alam got more than 2 lakhs votes his opponent. This huge number of ballot papers could not be fabricated and used in an open election. Joy further said in Gazipur it was proved that BNP was engaged in creating disturbances. Mizanur Rahman, a member of BNP's central committee instructed his party cadres to create violence under the disguise of Chatra League workers. The American ambassador gave a one-sided verdict. It is the undeniable truth that they are the friends of BNP.

If Sajeeb Joy looks at the past he will find this American interference is not new in the history of the subcontinent. It started long ago during the era of Pakistan when Pakistan (Bangladesh was then a part of the country) entered a military pact with America and became its satellite state. In 1954 in a provincial election Muslim League was ousted from power and it was evident that they would take over power in the centre also. USA was alerted that if the opponent of Muslim League captured power in the centre, they will not honour the military pact and may revoke it. Immediately the-then American ambassador Hildreth declared that the result of a provincial election cannot have an effect on central government. Central government should continue. There was only one protest, in a joint statement by Maulana Bhashani and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They said that it was an unacceptable interference by one country to another sovereign state. In the later period of the 50s when people of Pakistan were making noise against the autocratic rule of the-then president General Iskander Mirza the same ambassador of America Hildreth came forward to arrange a marriage between Iskander Mirza's son with his daughter and declared America's unambiguous support for Iskander Mirza.

I will not go into the details of the naked interference of America in Pakistan and later in Bangladesh, because there is not enough space. But I will cite only one example of this interference in Bangladesh. In the election of 2001 it was the-then American ambassador Mary Ann who organised Tuesday club (the club of western diplomats in Dhaka) and almost openly took sides with BNP and Jamaat with the collaboration of a so-called local civil society of Bangladesh to oust the Hasina government. Even in the Obama administration when Hillary Clinton was the foreign minister of America, she meddled openly in Bangladesh's politics to save her friend Dr. Yunus' job in a Bangladeshi bank. Now it seems that the present Trump administration is no more interested to interfere in Bangladesh politics like his predecessors. But the present ambassador Marcia Bernicat's role reminds us of the sad and old history of the impertinence of previous American ambassadors. I do not want to repeat American embassy and the-then American ambassador Boster's role in our national tragedy of 1975.

London, Thursday 12 July, 2018

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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