Frank Domenico Cipriani

Dear Madam Prime Minister…

July 8, 2012
Photo: BSS

Photo: BSS

I have often written about my fantasy of having a hotline to your Prime Minister, and being able to give my opinion any time I choose. I once (in those internal dialogues of mine) even suggested that she go hunting with onetime US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin! Now, thanks to her attempt to communicate directly with the people, I (along with every other lunatic on earth) actually have her phone number and email address.

I’m not going to call her.

However you consider the gesture, one thing’s for certain. The Prime Minister’s intention was to speak with you all. Her private information was meant for Bangladeshis. So, that’s one reason I wouldn’t call her. Also, if I do call her, and she’s not in and? She would have to call me back.

See, I keep losing my cellphone.

Imagine placing that call. The Prime Minister, the actual Prime Minister, calls you back and you’ve misplaced your phone? You’d be kicking yourself for a very long time. Still, it’s fun to speculate on exactly what you’d say if you were to speak with the Prime Minister. What would any of you all say? Is there one among you, my Dear Readers who has already dialled the number?

What would I say? Would I ask her to walk to the border and erect a monument for those innocent young Bangladeshis who are killed every day on the border because they lack the bribe money to pay the Indian border guards? Would I suggest my idea of canals instead of roads to move goods inside Bangladesh, an idea that might make some sense in a floodplain? Would I talk about the dozens of crazy ideas that I’ve already shared with you all over the past seventy-one articles? And if I did have the opportunity, I would have to ask myself, “Would she listen? And … what would it change?”

So here’s the email I’ll never send-

Dear Madam Prime Minister,

imagesBefore I begin my missive to you, I just need to ask, do our words count? I mean, I know mine should not. This is an invitation to a domestic dialogue, and I’m an American halfway across the world. A foreigner’s words should not count so much as the will of your own people. I am not worthy to be spoken to — until you speak to the hundred forty-nine million people you really gave your number and email address to. I am not worthy to say “our”, when I speak about Bangladesh, because though my contact with Bangladesh has moved me and changed the way I see things, I only travel virtually to your shores. So when I say “our,” I really mean my readers and me.

Madame Prime Minister, your people have provided me tremendous insight in their commentary over the course of my involvement with bdnews24.com. From afar, I stand back and watch. I write, and I read the accounts from Bangladesh. The eloquence and common sense of those whom I have “met” in the commentary section replying to my articles make me understand why you might be compelled to publicise your number and email address. Your people have good advice to give, and are not afraid to call a friend to task when need be. Their words should, by all means, count.

My prognosis, at least from all that I have read in their commentary, is that many of these learned, accomplished individuals believe that progress has been stymied by politics. I would say that the theme I hear most often is that Bangladesh can be better than the sum of its politicians. Two admirable women have been reduced to fighting like two cats, who fighting in an alleyway, disrupt the peace and quiet progress of the whole neighbourhood. Honestly, no offence intended, but when I first read the translation of Azam Khan’s song, “Alal o Dulal,” I thought it was a political metaphor for the current political situation. I quote Mr. Kabir, who commented last October, that “Unless they (you two) have some common enemy, there is no way that they will sit or seriously discuss something together.”

Madame Prime Minister, Bangladesh actually does have some serious issues that two bright women can take on together. Any bridge is an important goal, both metaphorically and actually. The fact that the accusations of corruption slow the progress on the Padma Bridge, well, how poetically does that sum up the whole crux of the political problem in Bangladesh? Is it possible that the behaviour of the World Bank towards Bangladesh mirrors the behaviour of the AL towards the BNP and vice-versa? I know you believe that you must prosecute corruption, but national unity trumps even that. After all, even if a bridge begins to be built on only one shore, it eventually does have to span both sides of the river, or it will be useless.

Photo: BSS

Photo: BSS

The World Bank has now provided you a “common enemy”. So issue a challenge to your opponent to a friendly competition to the benefit of the whole nation — let her partisans start on one bank, and yours on the other (metaphorically, of course) and build this bridge with your combined industry, so when it’s opened, both sides can share the credit equally. After all, who cares who gets the credit as long as the thing gets built?

One final point, Madame Prime Minister. As a father, I believe that one of the most important, pressing issues of all has to do with the very roads you seek to expand. I can’t help thinking of how many horrors I will have to continue to read about, the untold human suffering and sudden loss of life because of car crashes on your roads. When the bridge opens, how soon before I read of some preventable tragedy on the bridge? Could you ally yourself with Khaleda Zia, to work on improving traffic safety, which should be the common goal of all politicians? That would be so much more productive than political squabbling. Your opponent wants a role, couldn’t you invite her to be “traffic czar”, and allow her the accompanying credit when she succeeds? You’d work together to save lives — is that such a pipe dream? If she accepted, it would be way better for the country than the endless hartals. I sometimes dread getting online for fear that the news will include the avoidable tragedy that plays out on the roadways of Bangladesh.

Traffic tragedy is made all the worse by the fact that it is preventable. My readers will undoubtedly label me naïve to even hope that the two of you could join forces in order to do some greater good for your people, especially over a civic issue that affects everyone directly. I, myself, am sceptical that it wouldn’t simply break down into finger pointing and sabre rattling. Still, you are a woman of great accomplishment. Perhaps detente for the sake of your nation is not beyond your skill set?

In any case, I’d like to think that now that Khaleda Zia has your number, if she does give you a call, you ladies could put aside your considerable and hurtful differences and work together. Perhaps I’m misreading my readers, but I think that most of them would agree that of all the people whose phone call you could answer, hers could do the most potential good.

I ask again, do our words count? The seat of government often isolates a leader from the people she serves. You may find yourself surrounded by people who tell you what you want to hear, or are so removed from “life on the street” that they cannot offer you the kind of advice that comes in the form of a wake-up call from everyday people. Even if your gesture was politically motivated, I urge you to let the words of your people reach not just your heart, but your calendar and To Do List as well.

In any case, thank you for your time. If you ever need anything, feel free to drop me a line.

Oh, and maybe I can arrange that hunting trip for you and Sarah Palin…

…As soon as I find my cellphone.

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Frank Domenico Cipriani writes a weekly column in the Riverside Signal called “You Think What You Think And I’ll Think What I Know.” He is also the founder and CEO of The Gatherer Institute — a not-for-profit public charity dedicated to promoting respect for the environment and empowering individuals to become self-taught and self-sufficient. His most recent book, “Learning Little Hawk’s Way of Storytelling”, teaches the native art of oral tradition storytelling.

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19 Responses to “ Dear Madam Prime Minister… ”

  1. Hasina on July 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Mr. Capriani, I was so taken by your article and the insight about the predicament that exists in the Republic of Bangladesh! It would be excellent if your email could change the thought process of prime minister Sheikh Hasina. But unfortunately it will most likely fall in to deaf ears. Issues you have so eloquently written in your piece will go over her head. With all due respect to the politicians in Bangladesh they know only how to malign each other; asking them to work together for the good of the country is a tall order at best.

  2. Nurun Nahar on July 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    It’s quite surprising to see someone other than of Bangladeshi origin could be so shamefully right on the face about the current political situation prevailing in Bangladesh. From my previous experience and also in this case I would like to believe all Bangladeshis would consider the fact that no matter how much we criticize the actions of the government in order to put forward the opinions concerning the welfare of the citizens for which the government has come to existence and power in the first place, it always has fallen into deaf ears unless… I repeat unless… it becomes an international affair after crossing all tolerable boundaries and as a matter of fact becomes another issue of foreign criticism centering our nation’s highly corrupt political and social instability once again!

    In my opinion Mr Frank Domenico, I guess you have given yourself one more reason as to why you should forward the letter to the Prime Minister…

    I’m hoping you will find your cellphone as well and share your conversation with the Prime Minister with us.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Well, Nurun, let’s start with an email…. I think I’m a little shy on the phone, even under the best of circumstances. Among my friends, I’m famously bad about utilizing the device. But the more I think about it, the more convinced that perhaps I should email her and forward her answer to you all.

  3. Ali on July 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Good and timely write-up.
    But PEOPLE, about whom a lot of talk and labelling is done, are repeatedly IGNORED. This word is in between and the tug-of-war goes on, claiming both the parties ‘own’ their support. The ‘in between’ gets crushed, yet the game doesn’t get over. But if anyone is ignored of their most basic little ‘comfort’ in the roads, or anywhere else, it is they who are NEVER SERVED by any quarter!

    Why go on listing or ‘barking’, No listeners at all.

    Hence we shut up and pray. If the current circumstance is a cause for rapprochement, it will be welcome by everyone.

    But we who do not belong anywhere, have become fatalists.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 10, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Fatalists, or libertarians. The fact is, I believe any population that relies upon its government for answers and solutions is doomed to suffer disappointment. I think that only when government gets out of the way of the energies of individuals can a country really thrive. Just my very eighteenth century American opinion.

      • Ali on July 11, 2012 at 2:23 am

        Yes, we are both; and more of libertarians.

        The culture here is politicians are larger than life. So, the masses are merely in the receiving end — take it or leave it.

        What you may have thought in the 18th century, we are just having a distant vision of that; may be one day we sure will ‘participate’ and the government will become accountable.

        We are optimistic that we will graduate one day.

        Frank, please keep wishing us well.

  4. Jabed on July 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    This is the first time I am reading your article on Bangladesh. To be honest I am really surprised to see your knowledge on these two leaders and what general people of Bangladesh think of them. It is a pity staying so far away you can read what’s in the mind of good people of Bangladesh but they can’t. Or is it that they just don’t want to hear anything?

    Whatever it is, I like to dream about Bangladesh and I can clearly see you do so as well. But when I think rationally I just don’t see any hope of seeing these two women getting together to talk about people and their life.

    God bless you!

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Thank you for your blessing, and welcome to my weekly musings, Jabed. In one way, I don’t see it happening on their own initiative. However, odder things have happened in the world. I never thought I’d see the Berlin wall fall either. Many Americans never believed there’d be a black president. So perhaps there’s some hope.

  5. Golam Arshad on July 9, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Frank: Great piece!

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you Golam! Although we have never met except in this commentary section, I have begun to think of you as a friend.

  6. Wasi Ahmed on July 9, 2012 at 2:08 am

    This is precisely how most people in this land wish things should be. But wishes when fantasy-driven, just as yours are, fulfillment is not what one looks for. Best.

    Wasi Ahmed

    • Nashid on July 9, 2012 at 3:21 am

      Wasi Ahmed, you are spot on.

      Nashid

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 10, 2012 at 11:46 am

      Sad, but true. Still, stranger things have happened. In 1947, could anyone have anticipated an independent Bangladesh? I ask honestly.. Was it on the radar? So, perhaps some unanticipated good is just around the corner. Here’s hoping. We writers are a very fantasy-driven lot, but we’re not always wrong.

  7. Golam Arshad on July 9, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Frank: Can’t agree more! What it matters to call or not to call! The Prime Minister must build bridge with the other leader former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. The whole exercise of interaction is welcome to that point of “Stump Speech” in the American traditional politics. The will to accept wrongs and redress it makes the difference. The traction of National Unity is at stake! Madam Prime Minister, please come up soon with your candid plea to serve the Nation, and lead it in the right direction. Divisive Politics must end! Revenge and vendetta must be stifled. The Nation waits to see the beacon of a New dawn of consolidation and corruption free Bangladesh. Thank you Frank, this note I might not have send to the Prime Minister as you did! Good job!

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 10, 2012 at 3:03 am

      Golam, your commentary makes me reconsider- should I send this to the Prime Minister? Should I include the end comments? I did not email her, because I thought that she did not do this for foreigners to intervene, and I’m sensitive to that. I think that it’s important that the Prime Minister should address her own people before even the best intentioned foreigners. However, if you think it could possibly make a difference, what do you say, should I send it?

      • Golam Arshad on July 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

        Frank: Please do send asap! I know she will listen to your thoughts in parlance to your wishes and concern for Bangladesh and its beloved people. Thank you for your kind words of compliment. Yes I consider you to be a friend in good stead. Thanks Frank. God Bless you and family!

      • S S Anam on July 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        Frank, please do send and wait for the reply which may come or may not come.

  8. Sazzad K. Mehdi. on July 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Pretty interesting and inspiring. If the PM does take these themes in mind in positive sense and act accordingly to overcome from the worst situation in Bangladesh politics together with the opposition party leaders, other than being critics of each other.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani on July 10, 2012 at 11:54 am

      So many see it clearly. How powerful Bangladesh would be with a consensus or a compromise!!

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