Retreat from the ‘71 commitments
For expression of dissent there should be unqualified freedom to express oneself, and not having this is a significant retreat from the commitments made during the time of the country's liberation, said Prof Rehman Sobhan, chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue.
He was speaking at a conference organised by CPD and the South Asia Program, Cornell University, to mark 50 years of Bangladesh.
"The capture of our electoral institutions by the business elite, the dominance of money and force in our electoral contestation have further moved us away from Bangabandhu's vision of a just democratic order where the voices of the less privileged members of society could be clearly heard in our institutions of governance," said Prof Sobhan.
"Over the years, the machinery to conduct elections have become increasingly partisanised," he said, adding, "Such deficiencies in governance originate both in the incapacity of the government to discharge its commitments and in the emerging political economy where an increasingly powerful business elite, patronised by the state, is empowered to influence policies and public action."
The widening inequality is impacting the rights of others across various sectors, observed Prof Sobhan.
"We are witnessing the emergence of a new ruling class that is divided by education rather than assets. Unless you can enhance the quality of public education, you will have serious problems," he also said.
Besides, Prof Sobhan spoke how inequality plays out in the financial sector.
"The financial sector is largely made up of lending by private banks and the policy of using these deposits for long term lending is creating a serious structural crisis within the financial sector. There is a community of regular defaulters who can get loans rescheduled and written off -- certainly they are not competing on a level playing field with the rest of the competitors in the marketplace -- and these loans may end up outside the country," he said.
Unless laws are uniformly observed there will always be people who believe that they have the resources needed to circumvent the law, he added.
Dr Rounaq Jahan, distinguished fellow at CPD, chaired the event, while Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the organisation, also spoke at the session.