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07th-Apr-2014

Nation is anxious for a way to be found

By MAINUL HOSEIN

The Chief Justice of Bangladesh Mr. Justice M. Mozammel Hossain has assured the nation that nobody is above law, not even the judges. But for the people of Bangladesh it is less important to know who is above  the law and who is not, more important is the protection of people against  abuses of law  and who can get away with. Instead of providing protection of law, the reality is that the people are most helpless in the hands of those who have power of law with them and who feel free to abuse law. The people's desire is to find the judiciary as the last hope for the safety of them. The constitutional power of the judiciary has remained untruncated.When the people can be effectively and easily disenfranchised, they are bound to be easy victims of lawlessness and that is what we find all around. The politics looks like a  conflict between two families over who is what and who should be where.  The political leaders have ceased to be the people's representatives after 5th January voterless election and not  feeling the need of saving them from all kinds of injustices and abuses. That is the crisis for the rule of law and good governance when the people's representatives are not what they claim to be.  In any other country there would have been deep concern over the realization of the crisis where the government continues under the threat of constitutional illegitimacy. The election of 5th January was held in violation of all the requirements of a free and fair election. In a parliamentary system when the parliament is devoid of constitutional legitimacy, all its laws and other acts have no legal basis unless saved by the judiciary.But all our democratic institutions are suffering from lame duck situation in various degrees because both the major parties whether in power or in opposition acted jointly in dismantling the democratic institutions. If not entirely, it is true enough that the damage done is too deep to be of any help when democracy itself is sinking.The government has become too much centralized among few and others exist to be obliging. The last national election and later the upazila elections are proof beyond doubts that the democratic institutions have no meaningful role to play. Laws need not be obeyed. The power of money and selfish subservience are all that matter.In one of our neighbouring countries, Thailand where experiment with democracy is comparatively new, a mid-term national election was held under a caretaker government in February in the face of mass movement for reform. But the election was boycotted by the opposition. There also the national elections were not held without dissolving the cabinet and the parliament. Now there is the fear that the judiciary will declare the sitting government unconstitutional. Already the Prime Minister is facing a corruption case not directly for cash but for wrong judgment in a business deal. If found guilty, the Prime Minister of the caretaker government will have to go.Some in Thailand expect the judiciary could offer opportunities for a political compromise.Since 2006, judges have ruled that two governing parties controlled by Yingluck's brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra be dissolved, $1.4 billion of the family's assets confiscated, two election wins annulled and nearly 150 politicians banned for five years, including a prime minister whose appearances in a TV cooking show cost him his job. The prognosis doesn't look too good for Yingluck either. If five months of crippling street protests haven't been enough to contend with, her fate is now in the hands of Thailand's topsy-turvy, at times bewildering, checks and balances system. Though the reason was different than ours, but what is important is that the constitutional court in Thailand found justification and courage in declaring that the election was no election  and illegal. In our country, the present leaders have failed to save the Constitution and democracy. Now the question is how and by whom people can expect to restore constitutional legitimacy to establish the people's supremacy. An eminent writer of leftist persuasion has suggested a new Constitution for Bangladesh. There is nothing to be surprised. As Bengalis, we are by nature more enthusiastic about breaking and undoing than building and creating. There are some people now who are not happy with Bangladesh as it is now. The democratic Constitution we have given ourselves in Bangladesh has been rendered ineffective for democracy to survive. Instead, what we are having is family fight for continuing family rule and not constitutional government or the rule of law. What is clear is that the country has lost its way leaderlessly and waiting anxiously for a way to be found for constitutionality and sanity.