WHAT Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina noted in the statement she made at a reception offered to her by the US section of the Awami League in New York about preserving the image of the Bangladesh both at home and abroad is important and should, therefore, be noted with the utmost seriousness. While protests against a visiting head of government for undemocratic practices in his country are not unique phenomena and Awami League activists have done so on several occasions when they were in opposition , undisciplined and indecent protest demonstrations, indeed, affect the image of the country in a foreign land. But the ruling Awami League and the government it chairs should first do some soul-searching about maintaining Bangladesh’s image. It appears that there are a number of issues, usually centered around governance, which have been largely ignored and which the ruling party and government dealing with these issues, in fact, would largely maintain the country’s image. both at home and abroad. The main ones are questions of democratic dispensation and electoral culture. The boldness with which the government responds to any dissent, in the real world or on social media, has almost always reduced the space for people to speak out against injustice. The degeneration of electoral culture, as evident in voting, electoral fraud and the uncontested election of candidates, mainly from the ruling party, slowed down the electoral process, leaving people disenfranchised.

Problems left unattended have turned voters away from elections, as evident in voting in the recent past, and made the elected public officials less accountable to the electorate. The growing use of digital security law as a means to muzzle dissent at every opportunity has also made matters worse. Endless tales of torture in detention, extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agencies and enforced disappearances have so far left a poor imprint on human rights issues. The way the government deals with media issues has also exposed the so-called Fourth Estate to risk, thus weakening the media’s explicit advocacy capacity and the implicit capacity to formulate political questions. Weak governance, especially in the fight against corruption and irregularities, coupled with weakened institutions of accountability, has degraded society so much that in almost all global rankings of any kind, Bangladesh remains almost systematically in the lower echelon. The din at functions, usually hosted by members of the ruling party, in other countries at the head of government, also tarnishes Bangladesh’s image in the world community. The ruling party, the Awami League in this case, and the government should therefore deal with a number of issues to automatically enhance the image of the country vis-à-vis the outside world.

Bangladesh has so far had a number of issues it can be proud of and boast of since independence, but all achievements become blurry when issues of democratic dispensation, electoral culture, weak governance, corruption, etc. poor human rights situation, torture in detention and murder, enforced disappearances and limited freedom of expression come to the fore. The ruling party and the government must fix all of this to preserve Bangladesh’s image.