Pedagogy of Elite Diplomats in Bangladesh

Manirul Islam

Manirul Islam

Belligerent behavior of the diplomats of first world countries, posted in the third world countries, regularly crosses distinct silver line of diplomatic etiquette, but this is often well received by the tamed and leashed political leadership of the victim countries. These elite Ambassadors mutually determine their esoteric roles and rites to implement their grand design of hegemony. Western meddling in Bangladesh affairs initiated soon after victory of 1971 to settle a ‘blood libel’ fermented by the humiliating defeat of the West-Middle East alliance in our blood-drenched liberation war that also bisected Pakistan, the most trusted regional partner of the West. Second imperative was the necessity to politically correct the emerging secular-left deviation of the post-liberation government. Relentless attack on the weak, exhausted, inexperienced and nascent post-liberation government yielded a great success in 1975 – pro-liberation socio-political forces were brutally banished from power base and replaced by Pakistani model of military-political hybrid shrouded by Islamic cloak. Like the typical ploy of hegemony in other Muslim majority countries, to make democracy perpetually dysfunctional, imperialist forces have brought two adversaries of liberation war face to face as the two contenders in the democratic political process – with un-confessed, un-diminished, un-repented wartime animosity. In the process the nation has been reshaped to become a holy abattoir of democracy attributing to periodic military interventions and perpetual meddling of the holy alliance of the west. Eventually, for the sake of survival in the new caustic reality, like the old Sandinistas of Nicaragua, our pro-liberation political forces crawled past the apocalyptic tragedy, replaced their secular socialist jersey with free market haute couture and waved olive branch in allegiance to the old exterminators turned neo-guardians – as a survival strategy. This is the status quo of our politics with precarious triangular equilibrium between three factors; stalemate between two major political parties, hyperactive military and external guardians holding control joystick. Now let us bring into context few instances, when these guardian angels or their diplomats issue directives and instructions on our complex national issues, particularly on democracy and human rights, which are fraught with contradictions and fallacies.

In Saudi Arabia, association with or formation of any sort of Islamic political party is punishable to medieval death. In Bangladesh Saudi Embassy plays the role of the logistic and spiritual Guru of Islamic politics with a view to implementing divine ordain of physically exterminating secular genesis of Bangladesh.

EU is the custodian of our human rights. During last one-eleven crisis, UK played as a mastermind to orchestrate military sponsored political reform. On 27th October,2010 European Union Ambassador Stefan Frowein, at his farewell meeting at Dhaka Reporters Club, has reiterated his demand for world class fairness and transparency in the trial of our war criminals and also urged pro and anti-liberation political forces to work in harmony under the canopy of democracy. In Nuremberg trial the Nazi war criminals were denied their right to appeal against their verdict, but in our trial war criminals have the right to appeal. Nazi or Fascist supporters – do they have any fundamental political rights in the EU democracy even today, sixty five years past the war! What happens to an old eighty plus frail Fascist or Nazi cadre or even a supporter if discovered today in a cave or in a jungle hideout – does he receive any clemency on humanitarian ground or he is shoved into the dungeon, no matter what! In the most recent US engineered ‘War on Terror’ EU member countries unlawfully executed US sponsored ‘extraordinary rendition program’ by applying excruciatingly inhuman torture procedure like ‘water boarding’, ‘frequent flight’, ‘electric shock’ on the prisoners of war brazenly violating Geneva Convention and UN Human Rights Charter. Initial clamor of dissidents like Portuguese MP in EU Ana Gomes triggered few mind-soothing setups of investigations which eventually were buried in the oblivion. What is EU’s point of view about Omar Khadr, a 15 year old boy picked up, mortally wounded, from the ruins of Kandahar, tortured and has been detained since in the solitary cell of Guantanamo as an ‘enemy combatant’, without any chance of receiving fair trial, he is now 23. All these historical references have been drawn in to prove how disingenuous is the farewell sermon of HE Ambassador Frowein in the context of Bangladesh vis-a-vis the role of EU in the global context on issues pertinent to human rights and democracy.

The Ambassador of USA, the leader of this club of elite Ambassadors, literally runs a parallel government in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the third world by intervening and instructing on almost all the affairs of the government. I am not sure to comment on how far this interference into our internal affairs is quintessential with reference to diplomatic manual. But public are often aghast seeing frenetic race of our politicians of all stripes, businessmen, intellectuals, civil society members and NGO kingpins scrambling to receive a certificate of compliance from the US Ambassador. In the world after 9/11- war on terror, rendition, and Guantanamo episode – USA has essentially become morally bankrupt with respect to human rights issues and protocols. US pedagogy on democracy also turns grotesque irony when you compare two recent expeditions-to-save-democracy of USA. First is the US military expedition to Iraq to replace secular dictator Saddam with democracy and it’s flawed after-effect – growing clout of religion in the state governance in exchange of the permit for invisible, unhindered and unconditional piracy of Iraq’s hydrocarbon resources by the US oil giants. Second is the first state visit of Obama to Saudi Arabia when he unequivocally declared that the demand of democracy is the internal affair of Saudi Arabia under it’s theocratic dictator. It clearly establishes the fact, US foreign policy though labeled as champion advocate of democracy and human rights, practically it is a hi-tech trap for economic exploitation of other vulnerable countries. I would like to bring these references in parallel with the recent comment of James F. Moriarty, the US Ambassador in Bangladesh on a hot national issue which has immense socio-political and economic impact and also intertwined with vital political components like democracy and human rights in Bangladesh. The issue culminated from the recent spate of labor unrest in our export oriented garments manufacturing sector vis-a-vis government’s handling of the situation and the rights of the garment workers. On 15th September, 2010, a FBCCI sponsored seminar was addressed by, among others, the Ambassador of USA, our Commerce Minister and business stalwarts. Ambassador Moriarty went on rumbling at length on axiom of democracy and guarantee of workers right and admonished government for police intolerance to wild cat street protest and vandalism. Beguiled Commerce Minister agreed quixotically to issue trade union license indiscriminately for every factory but moaned his feeble opposition to wanton vandalism in the name of street protest. Ambassador Moriarty’s comment sounds holistic but hollow in the context of the fact of fast diminishing labor movement in the US democracy.

If we take a quick insight into the history of labor union movement in the USA, the reality is appalling antipathy of the enlightened message of the honorable Ambassador. Under the torch of freedom and democracy, profound greed and reckless profiteering policies have morphed the privileged corporations and business houses in USA into defiant blood sucking exploitation machine of the workers. When the government turns it back to the countrywide foreclosures of houses of poor and disadvantaged citizens and mobilizes all national resources to rescue corporations from sinking into their sins, then democracy turns nemesis to human rights. As a consequence, today USA has become a graveyard of labor union movement.

A recent statistical analysis on the legacy of the US trade union compared percentage of unionized workers against total workforce over a swath of time – the pick was in 1953 when public sector had 32.5% unionized workers and private sectors 35.7%. The membership levels suffered a precipitous decline over the past four decades; public sector union density in 2007 has fallen to a very low of 12.1 percent, private sector has plunged even more steeply dropping to dismal 7.5 percent. If the decline continues at this rate, trade unionism will disappear in the US private sector pretty soon. For all those who support trade unions and see them as key to defending the rights of workers, this is a very worrying trend. In 2005 Hart Research Surveys conducted an opinion poll showing that 53 percent of US respondents would definitely or probably vote for a union if given the chance. In Canada, as per government survey, union membership of percentage of civilian labor force in 1998 was 26.1 and in 2008 it has dropped to 25.6 percent. In last decades, many North American business houses when moved to Asia, took undertaking from workers not to form union.

According to 2010 survey by Forbes, Wal-Mart of USA is the largest corporation in the world with about 2.1 million employees. It is also the largest employer in America, but it has a strong anti-union policy. Wal-Mart spends millions in legal fees to fight the workers movement for labor union. It also maintains largest IT network primarily dedicated to deceive workers of rightful compensations and benefits. Wal-Mart has been consistently accused of locking night-shift workers at night, poor working conditions, paying workers below minimum wage, inadequate health care, exposing workers to health hazards and so on. Wal-Mart’s high employee turnover rate, 70 percent of it’s employees leave within first year, is the crystal clear evidence that this best success story of the free market system is founded on serious and systemic exploitation of it’s vast unhappy workforces. Same is the story of global giant fast food chain McDonald of USA which also does not allow formation of any labor union, rather denial of rights is rampant. These are the showcase of capitalism where chained workers contribute their sweat and blood to write the glittering success stories of their employers.

Wildcat strike (walk out of work without prior notice) is illegal in USA and Canada, even for unionized workers. Seeking permission for a strike is often a long drawn complex legal wrangling and notification time varies on the status of the employer in the government priority list. To the contrary, the process of lay-off or lock-out of workers by the North American employers is an arbitrary and simple unilateral process. These factors along with increasingly difficult preconditions and processes of registering a new union and many other hostile elements have evidently contributed to the slow death and extinction of workers organized movements in North America. American political system or capitalist democracy has been designed to protect only corporate interest and therefore cannot sustain even the basic rights of the workers. But erstwhile repressive communist system like China is rapidly opening doors for collective bargaining power of the workers. In other words, the western democracy has redefined the status of workers as virtual slaves of capitals without guarantee of any basic right.

It is no secret that USA fought tooth and nail, used veto in UN and sent 7th fleet to Bay of Bengal, to protect Pakistan and to erase Bangalee as a nation. It is also not surprising if Ambassador Moriarty or Ambassador Rapp, or even total US administration stands up and swings their sword again to protect their time tested buddies, the war criminals of 1971 at any cost. But it is heck of a travesty and hypocrisy when none other than the US Ambassador calls upon our government to be more tolerant to the anarchism and vandalism of the workers of our biggest national economic machine while workers movement in USA is suffocated by their own democracy. Therefore HE the Ambassador’s cry for workers right is actually duplicitous, a political rhetoric with far reaching impact like a slow release poison pill to cripple our economic machine – by swallowing it our Commerce Minister has exposed typical naivety of our politicians which will eventually precipitate as an act of suicide for our national economy and politics.