In 2010, I wrote a book on Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Bangla. That time, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia was passing his days attending various seminars and meetings all over the world. During writing that book, I had to meet him a number of times. Even I included a chapter on the suggestions he prescribed for the development of Bangladesh. I would like to begin this writing referring one of those suggestions.
Since the independence of Malaysia in 1957, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) had been leading the coalition government till May this year. In UMNO led governments, Dr. Mahathir served as the Prime Minister of Malaysia for more than twenty two years (16 July 1981- 31 October 2003). According to Dr. Mahathir, due to the continuation of state power, it was possible for his party to carry out all the plans of the government. As a result, Malaysia's development activities were never interrupted. This issue has played a major role to uplift Malaysia's development at the present level. Being at the helm of power for such a long time, he was able to implement his thoughts and plans aiming to make Malaysia a developed country. In addition, because the same party was in power, he was able to complete the projects adopted by his predecessors, and his successors were also able to complete his unfinished works. However, he told that a political party should give priority to the interests of the country and the people. The party should work for the people. Party's internal discipline and involvement with the people make the party trustworthy to the people. Therefore, in a democratic system, the role of the party as well as its leaders and activists is very important for continuation of the party in the government.As opined by Dr. Mahathir, such continuity of a party in the government has never been seen in Bangladesh. Although the country had achieved independence under the leadership of the Awami League in 1971, unfortunately that party did not get the chance to run the country for such duration like Malaysia. Political parties or military generals came in power, ruled the country and left. Due to the lack of continuity, the implementation of development plans suffered, the country's development was interrupted. He said that Bangladesh could have developed like Malaysia, if it had such continuation of government.
We can understand the fact without referring Dr. Mahathir. We know that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman devoted himself in building the country immediately after his return to Bangladesh on 10 January 1972. It was not a country we think now; it was just a pile of ruins. The stain of blood was still there on the soil. The smell of decomposed corpses was in the air. There was no money in the government treasury, the Pakistanis had looted all. The roads and bridges were badly damaged. That was a tough time. Bangabandhu started working with all those odds. Because, his dreamt ‘Sonar Bangla’ must be placed before the world community with dignity. But he could not finish his works. On 15 August 1975, Bangabandhu was killed. The shining sun dropped from the sky of Bangladesh. We were drowned in the dark. The foundation of development that he had established was completely wandered. The beginning of a black chapter in the history of Bangladesh became evident.
Then the military generals continued to rule. General Zia came, hold the power till he was assassinated. General Ershad was also in power for a few years. No visible development of the country was seen. In fact, they had no time to think about the development of the country. Rather, they were in tension fearing military coup d’état that might happen any time. They knew that people would not tolerate military rules for long. The military rule imposed on the people had to stop somewhere and that was through a mass upsurge, in 1990. The people of Bangladesh once again got the opportunity to see the light of democracy.
BNP was in charge of running the country for two terms of five years (1991-1996 and 2001-2006). In between, Awami League was in power from 1996-2001. We did not see any such development works, particularly larger development projects, taken by the governments during those tenures. It might have happened due to their contrast ideology and policies, or political rivalry. Once a new government came, it crushed the previous government's plans, might be those plans were good for the nation. For obvious reason, there was no continuity in the development work of the country. Our political leaders also know that once a party leaves the government, the other party will not continue their development projects while running the government. Therefore, each government had to be confined within short-term development plans. We know that overall development of the country could not be achieved without long-term planning. For this reason, despite the existence of democratic environment, we do not see the expected development of Bangladesh.
Awami League, once again, won the general elections held in December 2008 and formed the government in January 2009. From then onwards, the country is being led by Awami League. The continuation in the government for the last ten years has given Awami League the opportunities to implement many long term development projects for the benefits of the country and its people. Not only did the pace of the country's internal development have been created, Bangladesh has earned fame in the international arena. Today, Bangladesh can think of placing itself as a middle-income country due to Awami League led government's continuation. Padma Bridge, flyovers, metro rail, nuclear power plant, Karnafuli tunnel, thousands of megawatt electricity generation, social security, poverty reduction, etc. - these all are the crops of the party's continuity in power. However, the scepticism remains about their future, if Awami League fails to win in the coming elections.
We know very well that people are the source of all power in a democratic country. And a political party can only form the government after winning in the elections. The party in the government has to leave at the end of its term. The party will get the opportunity to run the country again, if it participates at the elections and wins. A political party has to depend on the people to keep this continuation of forming the government. A party cannot do this on its own will. No political party posses that authority.After being in the middle-income group, our dream is to place the country in the line of the developed countries. It is not, at all, an easy task to achieve that goal. It will not only be difficult for a party to do that in its five-year duration, it will be impossible. We must understand the probable situation from the reality of Bangladesh's development. Considering the future of Bangladesh, the people should allow a party to run the government for a few consecutive terms. The development of Malaysia reminds us the continuation of the same party in the government for many years. Like the people of Malaysia, we, the people of Bangladesh, can also give Bangladesh Awami League that opportunity. And thus our dream to build a developed Bangladesh would be fulfilled. However, it is the people who will decide ultimately.
(Note: The Malaysian general election, held in May this year, has allowed the opposition coalition led by Dr. Mahathir, for the first time in the history of Malaysia, to form the government.)
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary