One attribute of Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, is that she never fails to recognise a person in his or her true character. Since she is a great public leader and has been exercising sate power for a long time, she has to work even with those whom she dislikes and probably does not let them know that she does not like them. This art of recognising those, whom she dislikes, is probably a lesson she learnt from her great father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. I had the opportunity to work with Sheikh Hasina in the Prime Minister’s Office for four and a half years.
I know Sheikh Hasina since she was a student of class two. I was then residing in Fazlul Haque Hall, only 500 yards from Bangabandhu’s residence at 14, Hazi Abdul Gani Road. I used to pay a visit to the house at least once a fortnight. My contact with Bangabandhu started in 1953 and continued it till his assassination on 15 August 1975. He was killed by some ambitious army officers on that day. I started protesting since that day and am still doing the same.
I had the experience to work with Bangabandhu, the founding father of the nation, whom I found working with some sort of compromise. Once I told Bangabandhu as a member of his parliament, if he could drive away the most corrupt elements of his party and government. I found him quiet and calm. He placed his palm on my head and told, “None would land from the moon as an angel to serve your country. I had to liberate the country by them. They are to serve the people. There is no factory to manufacture honest people.”
Yet, Bangabandhu had to take some tough decisions and stringent measures against them. He expelled 23 members from the party. He removed many corrupt officials from the administration to make it corruption-free. Bangabandhu strongly felt that corruption is the main hindrance to development. He wanted to eradicate it completely from the society and the state administration. He rightly said that those who resort to corruption are not the common poor people who have little learning. The corrupt people are certainly those who are educated and in charge of state responsibility.
It has been a long time since the death of our great leader. I got to feel the truth of his version. What I could tell to Bangabandhu, I cannot tell it to her daughter (Sheikh Hasina) for whom I reserve all my affection. But my feeling about her is just like what I had for her father. From the highest position of governance, one has little scope to be intolerant and aggressive.
The government of Sheikh Hasina inherited a corrupt system which could not be removed overnight. But her commitment to eliminate corruption will bring some positive results to build a corruption-free society. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the chief of her party -- Awami League, has already started reshuffling Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) to restore the lost image of the organisation. By dint of her authority, she has taken a hard action on Chhatra League leaders. She has removed both the president and general secretary of BCL in one go on the basis of a report against the two involving in corruption. More organisations are expected to go through a similar cleansing operation.
The question is: why has such an unwanted situation appeared? Why should the student leaders, whose responsibility is to look after the academic pursuit, be involved in the administration of a university? If we go through the report published in newspapers, we would see that irregularities happened in some universities like Janhangir Nagar University, Islamic University of Kushtia, Maulana Bhasani University of Tangail, Science and Technology University of Noakhali, Begum Rokeya University of Rangpur.
It is reported that the nexus between a section of the university administration and BCL leaders is involved in the irregularities. They created a syndicate to share the booty from the development works. This act cannot be acceptable. If they are found guilty in a proper investigation they should be brought to book.
It is true that vice chancellors of the universities are made under duress of the powerful group having political backing. The president is the final authority to give approval to appoint the vice chancellors. It is the responsibility of the vice chancellors to run the university with honesty and utmost sincerity. But it is unfortunate that some VCs fail to do that. There are allegations that some VCs created syndicates involving BCL leaders just to hide their wrongdoings. The situation that is going on in the public universities now is really awful. The VCs are less interested in providing quality education to students. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is not playing its due role. When Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been relentlessly trying to make corruption-free society, some VCs are doing just the opposite. This is really unfortunate for the nation.
The entire world knows it well that the prime minister of Bangladesh is an honest head of the government. Although she has been given third position in the list of honest global leaders in a fair judgement, she probably deserves to be at the top. My experience tells me that she is one of those who have no personal interest in the affairs of the state. In course of my tenure, I got some corruption charges against a few high-ups of the administration. As it was brought to the prime minister’s notice, actions were taken forthwith. She is very soft to reason but uncompromisingly hard to corruption. I have seen people talking behind that she is a dictator and she listens to none when she decides on something.
But I must say, as a former adviser to her, that I have never seen her asserting on me anything that I differed. She gave me absolute freedom to do anything I liked provided that was a just one. She is exceptionally talented, sharp and really assertive. She is simple and does not hesitate to speak the truth. She is brave and committed to her people. She inherits almost all the qualities of her great father Bangabandhu. In fact Sheikh Hasina journey in politics started in an adverse situation that was created following the assassination of her father.
Sheikh Hasina is out and out against corruption. She knows it well that it is corruption that stands on the way to development. The way she has been able to develop the country during the last 11 years is just extraordinary. Bangladesh is a model of development in the globe. We are now a prestigious nation. So, she cannot allow the country to be spoiled by some corrupt people. Her government’s “zero tolerance” policy against corruption is not just empty words. She certainly means it. The anti-corruption commission has been doing a splendid job. The big guys are being caught. The prime minister herself has started cleansing corrupt elements from the party and the state administration. A strong message has been sent to the nation through her actions against BCL leaders. This will continue. No wrongdoers would be allowed to do mischief. Nobody would be allowed to destroy the rapid pace of development. Let the entire nation stand in solidarity behind the prime minister who is governing with honesty and sincerity.
Dr SA Malek is former political adviser to the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, Secretary General of Bangabandhu Parishad and a columnist