The Bangladeshi government has called for three days of official mourning for the passing of Nelson Mandela. Politicians from across the Bangladeshi political spectrum have sent flowery condolences to the people of South Africa and flags at all government and semi-government institutions in Bangladesh are flying at half-mast to commemorate Mandela’s inspirational life and reconciliatory ideals. Sadly, the hollow rhetoric spewed by Hasina and Khaleda exposes the hypocrisy of Bangladeshi political leaders.
In an official letter to South African President Jacob Zuma, BNP leader Khaleda Zia called Mandela “an icon who chose reconciliation over revenge” while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claimed that Mandela serves as a guide for all those fighting for world peace. These empty words from two warring political families stand in stark contrast to the daily reality on the streets. How can Zia celebrate Mandela’s reconciliatory ideas while simultaneously encouraging violent blockades that have killed dozens of innocent bystanders in the past few weeks? How can Hasina laud Mandela’s peaceful example as she violently stamps out political opponents and stubbornly refuses to make a compromise that could lead to peace?
As Bangladeshi political leaders write letters and craft speeches honoring Mandela, buses are being torched with people inside, property is being destroyed, protestors are being beaten and innocent bystanders are dying…all with the silent approval of Hasina and Zia.
Rather than paying lip-service to Nelson Mandela, the rulers of Bangladesh should strive to learn from him. During a speech in 1998, Mandela issued a challenge to political leaders around the globe by stating that "Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people." To date, Hasina and Zia have not demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice for the freedom of their own people. Hopefully, someday, they will learn from Mandela’s example, forgive each other, and work together to achieve the peace and political reconciliation Bangladesh desperately needs.
I hope I didn't bore you with yet another trademark Jon Ryan political rant. I just felt like I had to get that out of my system!