– Sohrab Hassan*
In the 48 years Bangladesh got 11 Parliaments. I think that out of these Natinal Assemblies the Parliaments that were formed during the military or half military periods have not much necessity for discussion. But the effectiveness of parliaments formed during the democratic rule require to be discussed and analyzed. The second voyage of democracy in the country started in 1991 after the departure of autocratic ruler Ershad in 1990.
But there is no such an example of working together full term by government party and opposition in any succeeding parliament specially in the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th ones. BNP and its associate parties while Awami League was in power and Awami League and its co-operating parties while BNP formed the government took boycott of Parliament sessions as the only means for ‘restoration of democracy’. And with this chance the government conducted the parliament at its will, enacted laws. Up-to 9th Parliament this practice continued.
Coming to 10th Parliament the people faced a new experience and reality. This Election was boycotted by BNP on the protest against annulling the care-taker government system. Jatiya Party of Ershad had a run of luck. The party staged a new-fashioned drama and sit in the seats of opposition party in the 10th Parliament. Simultaneously the party became partner of the Awami League government. In the opinion of the political scientists virtually there was no opposition party in that Parliament. As a co-sharer of Mohajote Jatiya Party participated in the Election on the basis of an understanding with Awami League. In parliamentary democracy the opposition party not only identify the faults of the government, they also carry out the responsibility of the Shadow or Alternative government. In Britain the opposition party announces the name of a shadow minister/state minister against every ministry. If any policy of the government is not liked in the concerned issue, they not only criticize the government and thus complete their responsibility they also present an alternative proposal. In the 90’s Awami League and BNP started the practice for a certain period. Afterwards, the ‘care-taker storm’ messed up everything. Mutual seeing of the faces almost stopped between the two parties.
Against this background the picture of the 10th Parliament that came up in the study of the Transparency International (TIB) though undesired but not abnormal. In the Parliamentary democracy government so to say the Executive Department is compelled to be accountable. Again the Members of Parliament are also accountable to the people. In many countries there is provision of withdrawal of public representatives. Up-to 9th Parliament as the right of the voters was definite they could have replied clearly by the end of the term although they had not the right of withdrawal. The diametrically opposite results of the Election of 2001 and 2008 substantiate the proposition.
After the 10th Parliament Election none thinks that the government can be changed by vote. Awami League leaders try to make self defense by laying the blame of one-sided election of 2014 upon BNP. They say that if BNP would come to election competition and equitable contest would have taken place. But why in 2018 although BNP participated in the Election, no contest took place? Why the number of winning seat did not reach the figure of 10 (out of 300 seats BNP alliance won only 7 seats). There is no reply to this question. In digging earth-worm snake make may come out- on this fear the Awami League leaders don’t utter a single word on the issue.
According to the study of the TIB in the 10th Parliament passing of a Bill required 31 minutes on an average. 45 percent of the Bills needed 21-40 minutes per Bill to pass. To pass 8 percent Bills required 40-60 minutes. 1-20 minutes time was required to pass 46 percent Bills. Making of law required a time of 12 minutes. Even a Bill is passed in one minute in Bangladesh, a Country of all possibilities. In drawing up of a law our MPs spend 12 percent time. Whereas in the House of Lords of U.K. 48 percent time is spent for making laws and in the Loksava of India this ratio is 32 percent. Although a number of 193 Bills was passed in the 10th Parliament, no non-government Bill was passed. 16 non-government Bills were presented.
The Bill that is mostly criticized- Digital Security Bill became effective immediately after the passing. On the other hand the Bill that government passed in the name of Road Transport Bill remains ineffective in the face of demand of the students-young groups. Mafia circle of transport sector is waging movement against this law. Both the passengers and the government are hostage in their hands. Moreover, such a number of sections has been annexed to the Foreign Grants Regulation Bill that have hardened the control more on the Non-Government Organizations.
The main function of the Parliament is to make laws. But how many MPs are eager to possess minimum knowledge- although TIB has not mentioned anything about this matter, the mass people know things more or less. In the 90’s when BTV and Bangladesh Betar at first telecast and aired directly the proceedings of the Parliament the people then fell headlong, so to say. They now even don’t make a look. That our honorable MPs have been able to do the work efficiently, thanks are due to them.
TIB says the presence of MPs in every working day was 63 percent on an average. Out of them the presence of female MPs was 71 percent and that of male MPs was 62 percent. In the 75 percent working days 31% of government party MPs and 31% of opposition parties were present. The presence of the Leader of the House was in 82 percent working days and that of opposition party leader was 59 percent. Quorum crisis everyday on an average was 28 minutes. This figure is somewhat less than that of the last Parliament. In total during 23 sessions 194 hours and 30 minutes time for quorum deficiency the money value of which amounts 165 crore, 57 lac, 55 thousand & 363Taka. Virtually, those who now comes in our Parliament, the fundamental work of majority of them is not law making. Their key works are to purchase cars without tax, allotment of government land or flats and availing various other state facilities. Why would they be interested to go to the Parliament?
What is the way to bring them into the cover of accountability who misuse public money being their representatives? The whips make the MPs vigilant about their presence in the parliament. But in a parliament where a Bill is passed in 31 minutes there is little scope to speak in that Parliament. None has any work to do except hand raising to express the victory of the ‘yes’. It is very difficult to differentiate between Parliament and a party meeting. Moreover the Section 70 hangs over the head. Saying anything against the party should ensure ‘sentence to death’. Although up-to 9th Parliament the opposition party boycotted the Parliament sessions Parliamentary Committee meeting would take place properly. In the 10th Parliament this also did not happen. As per rules of the 50 Parliamentary Committee, one meeting per month per Committee would have to hold 3000 meetings. But in practice 48 Committees held 1,566 meetings. No meeting was held by the Committees on Work Procedure Rules and Committee on Special Rights. In 8 Committees the Members including the Chairman had Committee-concerned business connection. This is a clear breach of Parliamentary working rules.
TIB says, as because a major political party boycotted the Election the 10th Parliament was not a representative one. But in the 11th Parliamentary Election BNP participated and their representatives also went to the Parliament. But the countryman has noticed with astonishment that the 11th Parliament Election was worse than the 10th one without participation of BNP.
Immediately after the publication of the research by TIB, the way in which the Awami League Ministers-Leaders started clamoring, it reminds us of the Bengali proverb: ‘Who is in the temple, I don’t eat banana’. One Minister has said, TIB has given one-sided information. TIB should beg pardon for its past faults. An influential leader of the party has said, passing of a Bill in 31 minutes is not ineffectual. Then would you kindly say that when the Parliament turns fruitful?E
* Joint Editor, Prothom Alo and Poet
** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.