TAMING THE JUDICIARY

The Terror Olympia

F R Chowdhury

In Pakistan, after the Supreme Court verdict on Panama papers corruption charges, the prime minister resigned without a word. Not only that, he was scared of being arrested, and he left the country. In Bangladesh after the verdict of the Supreme Court that went against the government, the chief justice had to leave the country. This shows the position of the judiciary in these two countries.

In the last election in Bangladesh, we saw how General Ershad was sent to Combined Military Hospital as a sick man so that his party could participate in the election to provide some credibility to the election. Despite all that 154 persons (majority seats) were elected as MP even before a single vote was cast. The ruling party was anxious that if the same chief justice remained in power, he might one day declare the unelected government illegal. The BAL (Bangladesh Awami League) had to act fast. The process was similar to which the security forces were fully trained and conversant. However, the CJ (chief justice) complicated the situation at the time of his departure by declaring himself to the pressmen as physically and mentally fit. To the utter surprise of the government, the CJ returned Bangladesh before the expiry of his leave. This put the ruling party BAL in new research – how to ensure that the CJ does not join back to his duties, feels encouraged to go abroad and finally feels scared of returning to Bangladesh once he is abroad. Their conspiracy succeeded.

Once the CJ was air-borne, the government declared 11 charges against him. The obvious question is why it was not announced before the departure of the CJ. Why such a criminal was allowed to leave the country without question being asked. This time the complications are created by the BAL government. The government also came with another new theory – the judges in the Supreme Court refused to join him in any bench. This was difficult to digest because of only a few days back the same judges gave a unanimous decision against the government.

In Cambodia, the Supreme Court gave a verdict for which the government had to do nothing. Mr. Hun Sen made sure that the judges behave like good obedient boys. The Supreme Court in Cambodia dissolved the main opposition party on charges of plotting a coup against a democratically elected government. Not only that – the court also barred all opposition political leaders numbering more than 100 from any future political activity. With such a big helping hand from the court, the government is doing the rest. Most political leaders who oppose Hun Sen are either already under arrest or have run away for their lives. Some democratically minded journalists have also been placed behind the bar. Now there is nothing that can stop Hun Sen winning the election. Despite being a multi-party state, it is like a one-party state. Hun Sen is the undisputed leader because the country may not survive without him – at least he thinks so.

At the start of this article, I drew a comparison between judiciary in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Now I shall do the same between Bangladesh and Cambodia. The readers can easily understand that it is far easier to keep the judiciary under control in Cambodia. Thank God, the judiciary in Bangladesh is still better off than Cambodia.

Those of you who read one of my previous articles under the title “The country cannot survive without me” will recollect three names mentioned there. They were Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Hun Sen of Cambodia and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh. They are again in the headlines. Mr. Mugabe is stripped of power and is under house arrest. He is now likely to be impeached. Sheikh Hasina has done with CJ and judiciary something that was never done before. The position of Bangladesh as a civilized country has been severely tarnished. Hun Sen made it public that judiciary is nothing other than an obedient servant of the government.

Hun Sen of Cambodia remains the champion. Those who think (Hasina of Bangladesh included) that the country cannot do without them and that they must remain in power until death and that they are succeeded by their chosen successor can learn a lesson or two from Hun Sen unless lessons learned from the fate of Gaddafi and Caucescu are not enough.

London, 20-November-2017 <fazlu.chowdhury@btinternet.com>

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