Once upon a time, Singapore Island was inhabited by fishermen. It had a lot of problems. Additionally, the country had an ethnic conflict. Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman decided to leave Singapore as he thought no need for Singapore to build a modern Malaysia. He convened the parliament session and told parliamentarians his plan for Singapore. All lawmakers approved his proposal. As a result, Singapore seceded from Malaysia on 9 August 1965 and got liberation. Malaysian prime minister took the decision considering the situation. None opposed his proposal in the parliament. Tunku Abdul Rahman told Singapore is a burden for Malaysia in the tough journey of the country’s economy. So, we have to release them as we have no other means.” In this situation, Singapore started its new journey with uncertainty. The people of Singapore became very gloomy. But they have nothing to do. They never thought Malaysia will release them. From this perspective, lawyer Lee Kuan took the charge of his country and became prime minister. Lee Kuan started thinking about his just-seceded country. Once, Singapore was a British colony. British businessmen took the control of Singapore in 1819 and set up commercial establishments. They (British) occupied all of Singapore gradually. During World War II, Japan attacked Singapore. One day Singapore got relief from the British empire and joined the Malaysian Federation. But they didn’t get any outcome. Rather, some critical issues including development discrimination rose within two years. After assuming power Lee Kuan thought about the past of his country. He cried before the world media with a saddened mind. He tears and said, “What will be our future as they (Malaysia) left us in a helpless condition? World media also expressed concern about the future of Singapore. The main profession of the Singaporeans was fishing. They also produce green coconut and vegetables. The country had water problems also. Lee Kuan dreamt of a beautiful future. But he didn’t know how he will implement it. He tried to understand. Visited many developed countries and observed their developments. Then, he built a model for the development of Singapore. But his starting was not so easy. It was so tough. Singapore has upheld its past at Sentosa Island. Its museum describes the history of its turning. Currently, tourists from all over the world visit Singapore. They visit everything on walking. What a beautiful and charming country. When we walk on the Singaporean street, we feel that we are walking in a glittered garden. Lee Kuan fought to build this town. He had faced many allegations including an absence of human rights and opposition parties. There were only four pro-state media. But Lee doesn’t listen to these criticisms. He used to say, “Democracy prescribed by the Western world would not work in my country. I have to work in my way.” He was very stern about discipline and law. He showed zero tolerance against corruption and established good governance. Lee turned Singapore into a get-together of meritorious people of the world. He used to call experts in a specific field and make a long-term plan. Bangladesh is a development partner of Singapore. Lee didn’t find experts here but he hired many labourers who have been working in his country. Currently, Bangladeshi people are going for jobs in other professions in Singapore. Many Bangladeshis are doing business there. Singapore has become the centre point of the world's people. Lee Kuan has changed the whole scenario. Singapore is now the commercial hub of the world. It has world-standard hospitals and a modern tourism sector. The country is competing against the Western world in technology. Many big organisations from across the world gather Singapore in for different events and fairs. It is now a role model of development. Lee Kuan ruled Singapore for a long. That’s why he could have developed the country. In old age, he handed over power to successors and he was the main guide of the government till his expiration in 2015.
During his first 22 years term, Mahathir travelled all over the world and implemented the best creations of the world in his country. In an interview with CNN, Mahathir told, “We were a British colony. Then, the Japanese came. They hand over us to the Thai people. We were just like football. Every foreign force kicked us out. Nobody respects us. I feel that this situation can’t be continued. We deserve respect like others.” About the Western world and its media, he said, “I was never an autocrat. Malaysian people elected me as a five-time prime minister. Autocrats never resign willingly. But I was. It was good for the nation.” All leaders don’t tell like him. Mentioning his foreign travel, Mahathir said, “I have seen they are doing very well. I thought if they can why not we? Only one incantation is ‘Why we don’t do it? And he changed Malaysia. He always works based on position, capacity, wealth and practical situation. Mahathir studied in Singapore. He was a physician by profession and married to classmate Siti Hasmah. He built Malaysia to compete with the whole world. There was controversy about his political career, opposition oppression and violation and human rights. He never thought about critics at home and abroad. He just worked 24 hours with integrity. Mahathir was highly praised for his honesty, loyalty and discipline. He was non-alcoholic, non-smoker and religious. Like Lee Kuan, he invites meritorious people and listen to their suggestion for the better development of the country. Like Singapore, Bangladeshis have also contributed to building a modern and developed Malaysia. Bangladeshi workers are the development partners of Malaysia.
Nothing is happen in a shortcut way. The stories of changes across the world are different. One government should give time. Sheikh Hasina became the chief of the Awami League when Mahathir became prime minister. Now she is serving the nation for 14 years at a stretch. Although she became prime minister in 1996, Sheikh Hasina emphasized development works in her 2009 tenure. She has developed the country by facing many difficulties. Now we hear the development praises from the British government who once ruled us. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based economic research organisation, Bangladesh is in the 41st position in the world economy. The position will be upgraded to 34th in 2025, 28th in 2030 and 25th in 2035 by surpassing many countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Norway, Argentina, Israel, Ireland, Austria, Nigeria, Belgium, Sweden, and Iran if the current economic trend continues. The report was published in 2021 and Bangladesh is in the 41st position in the world economy in the 2020 index. These achievements will have to be continued. For this, the government should bring some changes and utilize the merit of Bangladeshis staying abroad.
Economist Dr Jamal Uddin came to my office a few days ago. He told me that “Allah gives long life to Sheikh Hasina. She will change many in the next five years. Wait and see. The world is struggling economic crisis. Bangladesh is also struggling economy of war after Covid-19. The government would have to think about our meritorious students staying abroad. They should be brought back offering lucrative jobs and positions. After World War II, Japan brought back their meritorious students from worldwide. Malaysia did the same job. Now, Saudi Arabia is providing economic assistance to students studying abroad on the condition of returning home after the completion of their studies. We also think about the matter. Many foreigners are working on various projects in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi students who studied abroad will have to give the job at these projects a priority basis. After the Koran Peninsula war in 1950, many thought that they has been destroyed. But after World War II, Japan astonished the whole world with development within 10 years of the mass destruction. The US gave conditions not to build a helicopter. But in 1965, Japan made a bullet train. Everyone doesn’t do like this way. One dream and a dreamer are needed for the work. All leaders have no such dreams. A real leader should be farsighted. Bangladesh now stands in a position led by Sheikh Hasina. To continue this development trend, zero tolerance against corruption is a must.
The writer is the Editor of Bangladesh Pratidin