Photo Credit: The Independent.
Caption: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today demanded enhanced assistance for developing countries from developed nations, while she was addressing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit, reflecting Bangladesh’s centrality in the process.
The entourage of PM Sheikh Hasina on any state visit always turns fizzy with gossips, rumors and with a twist of controversy. At a glance, the huge size of the entourage will attract anyone’s attention with a bold question mark stuck on the face. What is the justification of this imperial luxury which can only be seen in vogue with Arabian Ameers and Maliks! Those rulers of Arabian fiefdom do not directly tax citizens, but thrive in luxury due to vast hydrocarbon resources. To the contrary, the vast majority of the tax payers of Bangladesh with skin clinging to the skeleton take the tab of these expenses. Always the entourage includes family members of the PM and there is a ritualistic clarification from PM office about the self-financed trip of these non-governmental private members of the delegation. But clarification has never been heard from the government about the high visibility of these members alongside the PM in formal and working meetings between the two head of the states. Does protocol permit that?
Almost all the heads of the states will parade the UN sponsored Millennium Development Goal (MDG) summit on this occasion. Perhaps except the Middle East, there will be no numeric match to our 103 members strong entourage that includes sixteen family members of the delegate head. And certainly our delegation is the lone example where the family members will have high profile presence in every meeting.
Five other countries received MDG award. Our neighbor Nepal is one of the recipients for significant contribution to improving maternal health. The permanent representative of Nepal to the UN has received the award on behalf of the Nepalese government. The new popular President of Philippines, Benigno Aquino III refused to stay in the pricey Waldrof Astoria hotel initially reserved for him. He rather chose to head a lean delegation and stay in a less luxurious Sofitel Hotel instead. Philippines’ envoy to the UN has pulled together all resources of the mission to accept the challenges of the President’s directive to make his first overseas trip frugal and efficient. The envoy openly lauded President’s austerity measures. The visit of Canadian PM to UN is doubly important – first, to play lead role in global poverty reduction program in MDG summit and second, to campaign to secure two-year seat in the UN Security Council. He is heading a modest but highly energetic 16 members delegation and living in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence.
One self-financed member of this team, living in Canada and having no known involvement with income mechanism raised question how he could afford to join this stately tour. Only twenty five of the delegate members will be allowed to enter into the MDG session where world leaders including our PM will deliver speeches. Already our UN office is frenzied by the absurd task of preparing the list of the participants. By downgrading and traveling in the economy class, the three national poets have not only saved taxpayers’ money; they established a praiseworthy paradigm unknown in the power circle of Bangladesh.
The democratic government should take into accounts few facts before designing any future entourage of the PM. The governance of the country is based on democracy and streak of dynasty might spoil the show again. Our politicians particularly those who have inherited politics should not forget the most popular message came out of 1/11 fiasco – politics should be declutched from family monopoly. The success in foreign policy of this government can be accurately measured in terms of how many killers of Bangabandhu could be repatriated from overseas countries to Bangladesh so far. If the answer is zero, so is the figure written on the foreign policy scorecard of this government. Therefore this huge eclectic formation of delegation of PM has little or no impact on our stale foreign policy. The delegation looks more like a family picnic party.
If our democratic government is still under obsolete delusion that big crowd makes a better party, then I would suggest government to find private sponsors of this kind of tour in future. It will not be difficult to find sponsors in Bangladesh where thousands of millionaires have sprouted almost overnight with ever increasing political cravings.
Against massive opposition and resistance internally and externally this government has taken up critical challenges and corrective imperatives for our nation building from the scratch once again. They must work with due diligence to stay above all controversies and indulgences to keep their main agenda up and running with the solid public support. Elitism and royalty has no place in democracy for the poor, rather it breeds mistrust and despair in public mind. Public always want stringent austerity measures in spending public money.
PM’s 103 members delegate to MDG summit is not only a gross misrepresentation of Bangladesh; it creates a massive burden on the nation. Unless source of earning is known to the public, no member of PM’s family or relation should be allowed to join a government delegation. And if at all PM has to include any individual in the government delegation on personal level, then they should discreetly stay behind the line of protocol, just as an observer at their own expenses. Public want this government to be the role model in every aspect of life. Though public does not have any lofty ambition, but they are pragmatic in assessing the cost the nation will have to incur if this government fails.