In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune’s Nawaz Farhin Antara, Barrister Rumeen Farhana - the only reserve MP seat from BNP speaks about Bangladesh’s need to bring massive changes in the three state organs – legislative, executive, and judiciary – to get rid of the culture of patrimony, for a better future and sustainable growth
Why did you join politics despite being a lawyer?
My father (Oli Ahad) was frustrated, he never wanted me to become a lawyer or a politician. He was a legendary politician himself with a lifetime of work to show for. He was a language movement hero and one of the founders of East Pakistan Muslim Chhatra League in 1948.
Nevertheless, I decided to join politics when I was six or seven. And here I am now.
According to me, the profession that goes hand in hand with politics is law. Since politics has a connection with lawmaking, I have been able to relate politics to this profession. Considering the history of the subcontinent, it can be seen that many big politicians were lawyers as well.
What made you chose BNP to work for?
The people who believe in open-minded politics and liberal democracy, in my observation, are connected to BNP. This is one of the biggest reasons for me to join the BNP.
My father died in 2012, I have been directly involved with BNP since then. It was BNP, who introduced me to politics. I was the youngest member of a committee.
On the first day in the meeting room, I could only see people who were my father’s age or his friends. But our chairperson Khaleda Zia chose me at that time.
How would you assess the current political affairs of Bangladesh? Who are now doing politics truly?
Politics has become a money-making scheme. A system has been created to earn millions from nothing. I suggested in the Parliament that all the members can only draw their salary when they have worked properly for the betterment of the society”.
I shall bring some more proposals to the parliament. I know that all 350 members will be disappointed at my proposals. But I will not stop until and unless the people of my country have achieved happiness.
Why do the MPs have the facility to import cars tax-free? Like government officers, a car will be allotted to them within five years. MP’s are now tempted to utilize these facilities. It is said that black money is scattered all over in politics. These people believe that investing Tk2 crore in politics will give them a return of Tk200 crore. The whole process has to change for politics to become clean and corruption-free.
Unless, politics ceases to be a place of expensive investment, people with a good thought the process will never enter politics.
Politics or practising law, in which field are you focusing on more after being a lawmaker from a reserved seat?
I had a very bright future which I sacrificed to join politics. My current salary is one-tenth of what I used to earn. I was very keen on my law practice before actively engaging in politics.
I was fortunate to work on the cases filed from 1/11 period. ranging from our current prime minister, my leader Begum Khaleda Zia to all other political figures.
Practising law is my profession but politics is my craze. After finishing my barrister’s degree from Lincol Inn of United Kingdom, I joined Advocate Dr M. Zahir, in 2006. After one year I started working with Barrister Rafiq-ul Haque till 2011. Then I opened my law chamber in Bijoy Nagar.
Ever since you took oath as an MP, many of your controversial comments started to become viral. Do you think it would help your voice reach the policymakers?
According to me, the comments only went viral because these words reiterate the words of people of Bangladesh. I’m speaking about the things that people are unable to speak. Our Parliament cannot handle people with different opinions, thus I don’t get the chance to speak for even 10 seconds.
Since I get this opportunity I want to fully use it. And this is why I try to raise matters in Parliament.
I don’t know whether my voice can reach the policymakers or not. Although, it not is possible for me to correct the wrongdoings of the government, I will keep on speaking my mind; it solely depends on the government if it wishes to listen to whatever I am saying.
Are you hopeful about bringing changes in the country’s political arena?
It’s not possible to bring any change all by myself. But I’m hoping to initiate the process.
And I want to be a pioneer in this case.
What are the most preferred areas that you emphasise for smooth development and proper economic growth of the country? What are the key challenges to getting the jobs done?
Our executive, legislative and judicial services are resting on one individual now. People demand justice from the prime minister. We can’t even see the irrationality in that. We are becoming an authoritative state. Our constitutional agencies are breaking down. We have to fix these issues. Parliament is teaming up with businessmen. I’m not the first one to say this. Our president also said, 80% of the MPs are businessmen. We are shifting to an extractive economy. One individual’s wealth equals to the sum of the rest 99.
Bangladesh needs to bring massive changes in the three-state organs for a better future and sustainable growth, and I want to try to bring these situations back. I want to work to eliminate irregularities.
What is your stance on Jamaat? Could you please explain your take on BNP maintaining a healthy political relation with Jamaat in the 20-party alliance, despite the party being accused of opposing Bangladesh’s independence?
If Awami League is so worried about Jamaat-e-Islami, why don’t they ban it? Hijbut Tahrir was banned by an executive order. Why isn’t Jamaat-e-Islami banned in such a way? She also said that the current government is using Jamaat-e—Islam to create unrest in the country, as joining Jamaat’s name with BNP makes people believe that BNP is against the Bangladesh’s independence.
What did BNP gain after joining hands with Oikya Front?
BNP and Oikya front coalition gave at least one message clearly to all, unlike the Awami League everyone has a right to freedom and no party is small or big in the eyes of BNP.
Does BNP have any specific plan to get its imprisoned chairperson Khaleda Zia freed?
Before her imprisonment, in the executive meeting, she gave clear instructions, to have peaceful movements in case she is imprisoned. We didn’t do anything but that. As a lawyer, I can say that considering the merit of the case, her age…physical condition, social status and her gender - she is entitled to get bail immediately. It is her right to get bail.