Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain, an eminent jurist and one of the authors of the Bangladesh constitution, talks to Dhaka Tribune's Nawaz Farhin Antara about his goal of ensuring democracy in Bangladesh and recent issues regarding the party's factional feud.
How did Gono Forum start its journey as a political party?
Dr Kamal: Officially, Gonotantrik Forum started its journey in June 1992, when I was still a presidium member of the Awami League. It was just a citizens’ forum then, not a political movement. One year after leaving Awami League, I announced the formation of a political party -- Gono Forum -- on August 29, 1993, at the three-day national conference of the Gonotantrik Forum.
I had no desire to form a party at the time. But, the civil society wanted a party to be formed under my leadership. Thus, Gono Forum was formed 27 years ago.
From the beginning, our intention was that we would not take part in any kind of power politics.
Who were the members of the civil society at that time?
In the first program of Gonotantrik Forum, former attorney general Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed, Dr Mozaffar Ahmed, Prof Rehman Sobhan, Prof Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, Barrister Amir-ul Islam and many more were present.
Abul Maal Abdul Muhith once served as general secretary of the party, after the death of Saifuddin Ahmed Manik. Veteran politicians Advocate Zahirul Islam, Mafizul Islam Khan Kamal, and former education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid were also part of Gono Forum.
Besides, many prominent like-minded people were supporting this initiative at the time.
Where does Gono Forum stand after 27 years?
I have said before, this party was not formed to take power in the field of politics. We have been working from the beginning to talk about human rights.
The party still is working to raise voice against the irregularities, anarchy, and corruption in the society. We are working for democracy. However, it is true that there is a need to increase our presence in the parliament. And for this, we have to participate in the election and with all other activities associated with such participation.
It costs a lot to participate in elections in this country. If this trend continues, Gono Forum will not be able to stand in any election. We are not businessmen. We do not have enough money to spend Tk10 lakh to Tk15 lakh.
Corruption is on the rise in this country and those in power are now desperate to recover the money they spent on elections. If our politics cannot come out from this cycle, a party like ours cannot lead in the political field.
However, our success is that the people have been supporting us. They know, we are working for them. We must continue protesting against any issue that goes against the people.
Gono Forum's MP-elect Mokabbir Khan from Sylhet-2 constituency is in parliament. Our goal now is to strengthen our position in the parliament through healthy politics. But, in no way can we hold elections with money. We need time for that. On the other hand, Gono Forum has shown the way on how to work for people without assuming power.
Since the beginning of this year, there have been various internal conflicts between party members. What is the reason behind this?
The prime focus of the party is that we do not do so-called politics. We are not in the fields for power, but we do what we need to do for people with our ideals. There is no place for those who break these norms and do not follow the discipline of the party. We expelled some such members. They have been expelled for allegedly violating organizational discipline and engaging in activities contrary to the party's interests.
No one has the power to expel anyone without the consent of the party president. The expelled leaders told the media that illegal expulsion of some active leaders of the party had taken place. This is completely fake news.
After the expulsion, is the party splitting into two?
The expulsion of only four members cannot break any political party. Newcomers will come as they came before. Only leaders, who share our ideology, will be in the party. People outside the political ideology of Gono Forum cannot stay, so if new or young people come, that is good for the party.
The central committee of Gono Forum was dissolved in March to remove the organizational stagnation. Until the next council, the party president and general secretary of the convening committee will take various decisions.
Due to coronavirus, I could not get out of my house for a long time. No extended meeting was called during this period. Subrata Chowdhury and Mostafa Mohsin Montu did not say anything about their extended meeting. Leaders who have held extended meetings can form new parties if they wish. But, they cannot use the name of Gono Forum.
After Dr Reza Kibria was elected general secretary, some senior leaders claimed that he did not work nor did he have any involvement with party activities. However, being vocal on such issues was shown as breach of party discipline. How would you explain that?
I have said it before; I am giving the opportunity to the country's youth to take up the responsibility of building the nation. With the experience from the seniors, they will work for the party. If anyone disagrees or wants to leave the party, that I do not know.
We could not carry out any party activities because of the pandemic. If someone takes it to a different field, then that is their problem; but the party will not break, it will become more united.
What is your future plan for the party?
We will enter the politics of vote in full phase. We will expand our scope and activities by forming district, upazila, and union based committees.
I will get closer to the people, because we know that the people are with us. Since this party does not do politics of money, we will not be able to maintain millions behind the vote. Therefore, to increase our presence in the parliament, we have decided to work closer with the people.
Our goal is to protect the rights of the people, and return state ownership to the people. Inequality and corruption have been barring the state from moving forward.
For a long time, there has been no activity from the Jatiya Oikya Front. It was an alliance during the election. If necessary, Oikya Front can start working again.