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Dhaka Tribune

Gono Forum to reach out to civil society?

Dr Kamal Hossain said the new platform wants more civil society members in parliament to better represent the interests of the Bangladeshi people, although his Gono Forum party had yet to finalize the names who will be offered the nominations

Update : 24 Nov 2018, 12:30 AM

The founder of the new Jatiya Oikya Front wants to invite civil society members to contest the upcoming 11th parliamentary election in order to “change the face of politics in Bangladesh”.

Dr Kamal Hossain said the new platform wants more civil society members in parliament to better represent the interests of the Bangladeshi people, although his Gono Forum party had yet to finalize the names who will be offered the nominations. 

“People are not talking about their rights and are being compelled to be cautious while speaking up,” he said. “The mass media’s voice is also being stifled by the parties in power. This has to change as soon as possible.”

Dr Kamal - one of the architects of the Bangladesh constitution - told the Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday that political parties which come to power are “two sides of the same coin”. 

“They fill the government with politically biased people and push out qualified candidates for the job,” he said. “A judge has been appointed (to the Supreme Court) who has never practiced as a lawyer, but who has somehow ended up as a top 25 senior lawyer.”

Dr Kamal also lamented the repeated re-elections of ageing lawmakers who do not want to leave their position to the younger generation. 

“We want people from civil society to participate in the polls from the Oikya Front but we haven’t offered them a proposal yet,” he said. “We have just expressed that we would be delighted to welcome them here.”

The Front has been forced to deny recent media reports that claim Dr Kamal’s Gono Forum will ask key alliance partner BNP to make way in 50 seats nationwide - leaving 25 for its party leaders and 25 for civil society members. 

According to the reports, the 25 possible civil society members to be invited to join the platform include eminent jurist Dr Shahdeen Malik. However, Shahdeen Malik said the Forum had not approached him yet. 

“Accepting nominations means joining politics,” he said adding: “Had I decided to join the party then I would have announced it myself at a press conference, but I still have no interest in joining politics.”

Other names being touted include Dhaka University Professor of Law Asif Nazrul, who also said he was unaware of the interest in him.

“If a person like Dr Kamal thinks I am worthy of running on Oikya Front’s ticket, then I will think it an honour,” he said.

“But, considering the present political situation I want to humbly say that it’s not the best time for us to join politics. I doubt whether the political environment and practices prevalent in the parliament can accommodate civil society as members.” 

At least one leading civil society figure has already accepted the invitation, however. 

On November 17, it was announced that Reza Kibria Reza - the son of assassinated former finance minister and Awami League leader, Shah AMS Kibria - will contest the polls from Habiganj 1 constituency on a Jatiya Oikya Front ticket. 

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