Three years of governance by coercion

Three years of governance by coercion - Holiday 16 October...

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Holiday, 16 October, 2009 DESPAIR TO DEPRESSION Three years of governance by coercion Salauddin Quader Chowdhury Politicians complaining about the media have been compared to sailors complaining about the sea. The media is a major contributor to the creation of popular perception. Perception is a dominant factor in populist politics. Perception and reality are not always consistent. Most political syllogisms in the political arena are based on major premises that are popularly or parochially perceived - often suggested or supported by the media - and may not be related to facts but products of our respective pride or prejudices. The vehemence with which most political perceptions are argued demonstrates the degree of our fervour rather than the passion of any substance. Yet, it is perception that prevails over facts. Samuel Butler claims that, "The public buys its opinions as it buys its meat, or takes in its milk, on the principle that it is cheaper to do this than to keep a cow". This hypothesis makes the public opinion vulnerable to the cheapest and most convenient suggestions presented to it, by the media - which in the nature of things is certainly vulnerable to manipulations in more ways than one. As we enter the month of October, we seem poised to complete three years of government by coercion. The first quarter of the past three years starting from October 2006 was dominated by coercion of political violence. The following eight quarters starting from the infamous military intervention of January 11th 2007 consisted of coercion by the might of the armed personnel in uniform. The past three quarters of 2009 has been marked by the coercion of a civilian government claiming an absolute majority as a consequence of an election result that defies imagination and challenges credibility. The advent of the rule by coercion that commenced in October 2006 was certainly not a novelty in Bangladesh. There are numerous schools of thought that can point fingers at when and how the concept of rule by coercion started in independent Bangladesh. Some are inclined to trace this back - perhaps, rightly so - to even the days of erstwhile Pakistan. Yet others can trace the genesis of the rule by coercion to the colonial era of British India. Without engaging in any argument as to when this offensive phenomenon was introduced in our country, it is possibly fair to suggest that the emergence of the rule of coercion after a stretch of 15 years of government by consent must be attributed to the monumental failure of our political leadership. We could not recognise that "in making the great experiment of governing people by consent rather than by coercion, it is not sufficient that the party in power should have a majority. It is just as necessary that the party in power does not outrage the minority." It is possible to engage in an animated argument as to whether it was the spirit of "barbarity of tyrants" or the "fatuity of idiots" that inspired the enactment of the 14th
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Three years of governance by coercion - Holiday 16 October...

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