Ashraf’s Column

Sunday, October 18, 2009

ACC: The toothless tiger

The respectable Chairman of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), after having worked in the organization for about three months, has expressed his helplessness in dealing with the corrupt people. He called the ACC a “toothless tiger”. He did so not quietly, but loudly in a press conference. Our media people took it as a bombshell and treated it as such in their respective newspapers and TV channels. The present Chairman of ACC, Mr. Ghulam Rahman, is known for his personal honesty and efficiency, which is a rare quality among our present day bureaucrats. I do not believe a responsible officer like him has not called his own organization ACC for a gimmick. He must have done it, I believe, to let the countrymen know why he cannot do his job. It’s a wakeup call to the present government of Sheikh Hasina.

If we take a close look at the history of the ACC we find that since its inception it has been getting a very shabby deal from the people who ruled us from time to time. It has always been a paper tiger. Many of our political leaders, senior bureaucrats, and leading businessmen who in connivance with one another have been sucking the blood of our people for decades never allowed ACC to have its biting teeth and claws. These people and their representatives who sit in the parliament would never, as it appears, pass laws necessary to make ACC an effective organ of the state. The reason is not far to fetch. An effective ACC would verily stand on the way of these people to indulge in rampant corruption.

During the last two years rule of the caretaker government (CT) the people of Bangladesh witnessed with awe and horror how deep rooted and wide spread corruption was in our country. The ACC at that time unearthed many cases of corruption involving trillions of taka and took the corrupt ones to the court of law for trial under some ordinances passed by the CT. It is true that while doing so some ACC officials committed some avoidable excesses, and some innocent people were harassed. But the public perception at that time was, and still is, that most of those who were caught by the ACC were highly corrupt. People of Bangladesh are shocked and surprised to see that almost all the persons indicted by the ACC came out, and are still coming out, of the courts totally unscathed. Many such people are audaciously showing ‘V’ sign to their supporters while embarking on or disembarking from the prison van. Our media are also showing such pictures with a kind of fanfare to glorify these people. Still there are others who were accused of corruption are now trying to be heroes in TV talk shows and also in the parliament. It happened so, not for the fact that all these people were not corrupt, but because of the loopholes in the relevant laws, and shortage of efficient manpower in the ACC. If the laws were pro people, instead of being pro corrupt, and the ACC were equipped with competent officers, if not all, many of those who were caught by the ACC would have been punished by the court. It all happened so because the honourable members of the parliament who were elected in the general election held in December, 2008 were all united in not ratifying the anti corruption ordinances promulgated by the former CT. If the Establishment Division could be made to post suitable officers to the ACC things would have been different. But unfortunately the senior civil servants who head the Establishment Division, like their political counterparts, do not want to see an independent and strong ACC for reasons well known to us.

It now all depends on the honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who in her party’s pre election manifestoes promised to the nation that she and her party would fight tooth and nail against corruption. No less a person than the Chairman of the ACC has now publicly expressed his helplessness by calling the ACC as a “toothless tiger”. Notwithstanding what her political and bureaucratic advisors tell her on the subject, history will hold Sheikh Hasina personally and solely responsible for not doing enough to make the ACC a tiger with teeth. Her party will also have to pay a heavy price in future elections. There is no good reason to think why should Sheikh Hasina take the responsibility for such a bad consequence. Let’s have no more of rhetoric from our leaders.

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