Commissioning corruption?

padma1Those who dream of seeing properly-functioning public institutions in a democratic setup perhaps do so too idealistically

It was not expected that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) would act otherwise, especially when the case is as high-voltage as this. Thanks to its leadership, the ACC has affirmed the perception of it being subservient to the political masters. The Padma Bridge corruption case has been disposed of, finally, never mind the discretionary judgment from a beheaded body.

The ACC can, at least, boast of its achievement in arguing it is contributing to brightening Bangladesh’s image. Since Syed Abul Hossain and collaborators were not found guilty of conspiracy of corruption, they have been granted absolution.

And please remember, the authority to define corruption and implicate people is vested in the ACC. It still can’t sacrifice national dignity to interference by outsiders and has accordingly assumed additional responsibility of protecting the prestige of the patriotic.

Therefore, who is the World Bank to put forward allegations of corruption, or what is the jurisdiction of the Canadian court to try the accused in a case in which the place of occurrence is said to be Dhaka? After all, the ACC as the authority proper has not found any merits in the allegations and thus had set aside the case, which cost us more than the billion-dollar concessional loan.

In a Bangla daily’s online opinion poll published on September 3, a significant portion of respondents – 39.15%, or 1,779 out of 4,544 – agreed with the ACC’s theory of no proof of corruption. However, a higher percentage (59.62%, or 2,709 participants) showed no confidence in the ACC’s verdict. Also, a report raised questions about the ACC’s hurried approach and the lack of cognisance to the trial process in Canada and the WB’s investigations and complicity of the politically important individual.

The critics have been so cruel to the “hapless” ACC men. The curent chairman, Mohammad Badiuzzaman, and his colleagues must serve those they are supposed to, and they are not blessed with more than one life to do the right thing. They have deliberately maintained the legacy of the organisation’s functioning – trying only the weaker parties, and in compliance with the desires of the party in power.

Those who dream of seeing properly-functioning public institutions in a democratic setup perhaps do so too idealistically and somewhat naively, without critically reading the profiles of and the temptations in the individuals at the helm of most institutions.

Former ACC chairman, Ghulam Rahman, and current Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin earned their reputation of being the gentlemen in their civil service careers. But the former presided over the declining status of the ACC and the latter as the about-turn of the electoral process, despite historic opportunity for them to improve on earlier progress.

We may wonder why they were unable to reach the mental height of running the constitutional bodies independently without fear and favour. Just as pitiful, they didn’t possess enough love and respect for themselves after their backbones of basic human qualities such as courage and integrity had been removed through common political surgery.

Conspicuously, a gutless ACC has challenged global players, pretending to prove them wrong. It has done something which may cause laughter in the best-case scenario, and more likely embarrassment for the entire nation. The Hallmark scam has already drawn global attention, and we fear the Padma Bridge case may be referred to as another disgraceful example for innocent Bangladeshis.

The ACC has missed a few points in its arguments while showing allegiance to the patron. It probably forgot the public statement by the WB on June 29, 2012, which said it had “credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC Lavalin executives, and private individuals.”

When the ACC stated that it had received no evidence from the WB, which claimed the opposite to be true, it indicated that either of the two was lying. When you cannot even ascertain whether some people are guilty or not, what exactly is your job and capacity then? To save its own face, the ACC could have requested the prime minister’s office to disclose evidence of the WB investigations submitted to the government.

The prosecution in Canada, scheduled for next year, may undermine Dhaka’s position and bolster criticism that the government, which lacks popular legitimacy, is out to politicise public institutions.

The ACC’s status has been downgraded further with its latest performance, as if it’s there to offer immunity to the ruling party men. It continues to expose its original face through leaks in its mask, which just reads its terms of reference: Combating corruption.

Are there any credible institutions left in this country to prevent corrupt practices?

Khawaza Main Uddin

Leave a Reply