Thursday, July 25, 2024

Anti-graft hope hinges on JS

Parliamentarians, civil society warn against changes to ACC law without proper consultation
Amendments without having the opinion of the public and experts will weaken the Anti-Corruption Commission law, parliamentarians and civil society members observed.
Former and current parliamentarians gave their reactions after the government on Monday placed a bill in parliament proposing some changes to the ACC law.
The government, enjoying two-thirds majority in parliament, is expected to pass the amendments unopposed with ACC chairman Ghulam Rahman himself in the dark about what changes are being made.
Currently the bill awaits further scrutiny at the parliamentary standing committee on law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry, the final authority to scrutinise the amendments before it is made into law.
“Abrupt amendments without having proper consultation with experts and the people likely to be affected by the law can make the law worse instead of making it stronger,” said eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain.
Kamal, who was a member of parliament between 1972 and 1975, explained that one of the most important aspects of making an effective legislation is to review public opinion and talk to people who know about the issue well.
“Otherwise more will be lost than gained,” he added.
“The effort to amend the law is unnecessary and it is the politicians’ overreaction to the activities of the last caretaker government,” said former adviser to a caretaker government Akbar Ali Khan.
He said had parliament wished to gauge public opinion or discuss the matter, it would have organised a public hearing on it before sending it for scrutiny.
Workers Party lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon said the amendment proposals were wrong, particularly the provision of mandatory prior permission before filing corruption case against public servants.
“Elected representatives and government officials are the main people involved in administrative and political corruption. Limiting the ACC’s power to move against them would make the commission ineffective,” said Menon.
Underlining the necessity of discussion in parliament, Awami League praesidium member Abdur Razzak said this is why the presence of the opposition is necessary in parliament.
He, however, gave reasons for the provision for taking mandatory permission before filing a case against public servants. “Public servants are involved in many secret matters of the state. Filing corruption case against them might put those at risk,” said Razzak.
Opposition politician and senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed has no sympathy for the ACC, which, according to him, was used as an agent of the last caretaker government. Moudud Ahmed stands accused in a corruption case filed in connection with amassing wealth beyond his known sources of income. The case was filed during the last caretaker government’s rule in September, 2007.
“It is a one-party parliament now as we are not attending. Now it is up to the government to decide over the ACC’s fate,” he added.
BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir expressed concern over the proposed amendments.
“The government is encouraging corruption. The amendment to the ACC law is an effort of the government to avoid punishment in future for the corruption they are currently involved in,” he said.
He said the opposition will protest the amendment inside and outside parliament. He did not mention when they are going to join parliament.
Chief of the parliamentary standing committee on law justice and parliamentary affairs Suranjit Sengupta could not be reached for comments. He is not in the country.
Former law minister Abdul Matin Khasru, a member of the committee, said, “A comment at this moment would be premature as the matter is not yet examined. It has not been placed before the standing committee for discussion yet.”
“Criticism is a positive sign. It helps us work in the right direction and points out our mistakes,” said Abdul Matin Khasru, adding, “Our purpose is to eliminate corruption by formulating an appropriate law. We will rectify mistakes, if found.”
Regarding the mandatory prior permission issue, another member of the standing committee Awami League lawmaker Fazle Rabbi Mia said, “Any bill can be tabled. The committee would decide after discussion what its fate would be.”
He also mentioned that the committee should talk to all stakeholders before making any decision over the amendments.
The committee would place a report with final recommendations in parliament.
Meanwhile, Transparency International, Bangladesh sent a “policy brief” to the standing committee with an 18-point demand and opinions of the ACC chairman, former caretaker government advisers, civil society members and legal experts.
The ACC in its official response to the proposed amendments in October, 2009, expressed strong reservations about six proposed amendments and it even met law minister Shafique Ahmed asking him to consider their observation before amending the law.
The proposed changes provoked an outcry among civil society members and anti-corruption stakeholders since 2009 when the proposals first surfaced. The government kept on saying that it is committed to making the law stronger and pro-people.
In the end the government finalised all the amendments that the experts said greatly compromise the independence and effectiveness of the commission.


Via: The Daily Star

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