Monday, December 4, 2023

Forgotten JS pledges

BNP, Jamaat remain absent from House for 38 out of 59 working days already; Khaleda attends only 3 sittings; no effective initiative of ruling party to make JS functional
The main opposition BNP and its key ally in four-party alliance Jamaat-e-Islami remain absent from joining the House proceedings, paying no attention to their electoral pledges made to the people before the December 29 parliamentary election.
In their election manifesto, both BNP and Jamaat promised that if voted to power, they will take strong stance including the ones for bringing amendment to the constitution, if required, to bring an end to the pervasive culture of boycotting the parliament sessions.
Though the four-party alliance failed to return to power in the polls, they got around 38 percent of the total vote cast in the elections.
Ignoring their electoral pledges, the opposition lawmakers remained absent from the current budget session without taking the opportunity of reviewing the government’s policy through participating in the ongoing general discussion on proposed budget for the new fiscal year.
It is uncertain whether the opposition lawmakers will join the current session that already have passed 20 working days as BNP’s top leaders are divided over joining the House proceedings “in the current situation,” a policymaker of BNP said.
The national budget for 2009-10 fiscal year was passed in parliament on Tuesday in absence of the main opposition party.
A lawmaker of BNP said Chairperson Khaleda Zia is not much interested in joining the House since she feels the government is not respectful to her. But many of its lawmakers want to join the session, the lawmaker said, adding seating arrangement in the parliament is not that big a problem right now.
In the inaugural session of the ninth Parliament, the opposition lawmakers joined on only 21 working days out of 39 sittings while Khaleda Zia was present only on three working days.
“We will return to the House when we will be convinced that the government really wants the opposition to play their due role. Unfortunately, our impression is that the government does not care whether there is any opposition in parliament,” Moudud Ahmed, a standing committee member of BNP, told The Daily Star.
He said if they really realise that the government would respect the opposition and it would not evict the opposition leader from her cantonment residence, they will return to the House.
The BNP policymakers are debating over joining the House as a number of issues, including the seating arrangement, reducing security of Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia and government’s move to evict her from her cantonment residence, remain unsettled while Jamaat is just following the BNP.
“At this stage, we will follow the BNP whatever it decides on parliamentary affairs,” a Jamaat leader said. “We don’t want to annoy the BNP in the current situation,” he added.
The BNP in its electoral manifesto said steps would be taken to create an environment of consensus to bring an end to the culture of parliament boycott, if the party is voted to power.
All lawmakers will abide by the rules of procedure of parliament; no one of the lawmakers can remain absent for more than 30 consecutive sitting days without leave of the House. Jatiya Sangsad will be focal point of all political activities, the BNP promised in the manifesto.
According to the current constitutional provision, membership of a lawmaker falls vacant if he/she remains absent from House proceeding for 90 consecutive sitting days without leave of the Parliament.
So, amendment to the constitution is required to implement the BNP’s electoral manifesto to end the culture of House boycott, said a legal expert.
Jamaat in its electoral manifesto also promised that rules of procedure of parliament and constitution, if necessary, will be amended so that partisan or independent lawmakers cannot make the House ineffective by remaining absent.
One may say that the BNP and Jamaat are not bound to abide by their electoral manifestos since they were not voted to power. But political analysts and legal experts said it is the moral obligation of the two parties to honour their electoral pledges as many people kept confidence in the manifestos and cast votes for them.
Even ruling Awami League (AL) that promised in its electoral manifesto to take all-out measures to make the House effective has yet to come forward with an appropriate effort to ensure opposition lawmakers’ participation in the budget session.
In absence of any effective measure of AL particularly of Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Abdul Hamid has been urging the opposition lawmakers to join the budget session for raising their voices.
In his inaugural address to the budget session on June 4, the speaker expressed hope that constructive opinions from both treasury and opposition lawmakers would play an important role in making the next budget realistic, development-friendly and a document for improving fortunes of the country’s people.
But the speaker’s move failed to yield any result as only ruling party lawmakers participated in the discussion on proposed budget.
However the opposition lawmakers are attending the meetings of the parliamentary standing committees, which is part of entire parliamentary proceedings.
But their absence from the parliament session virtually puts the government in a comfortable situation as the opposition bench is not playing the role of ‘Shadow Cabinet’ to pass criticism on the current government and its legislations, as well as offering alternative policies, political analysts and legal experts said.
Explaining the constitutional responsibilities of parliament, eminent jurist and former attorney general Mahmudul Islam said deliberation and discussion is an important function of parliament. Parliament debates public issues and shapes and influences the government’s policies and ventilates public grievances, he observed.
“Not only in making legislation but also in making appropriations parliament has opportunity of reviewing the government’s policy and its administration…. Government’s policies and their implementation are invariably brought into focus whenever Parliament discusses financial matters,” the former attorney general wrote in his book titled “Constitutional Law of Bangladesh”.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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