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Dhaka Tribune

TIB: Parliament has no opposition

Update : 18 Mar 2014, 08:37 PM

Corruption watchdog Transparency International, Bangladesh has observed that there is no opposition in the current 10th parliament.

“There is no opposition in this parliament. There is a ruling party. If Jatiya Party is the opposition, why are they part of the government?” TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said while placing its “Watch Report on the Ninth Parliament” yesterday at a press conference in the city.

The Jatiya Party, led by Prime Minister’s Special Envoy HM Ershad, has not been able to play the role of an opposition as they are yet to clarify what their roles exactly are, the TIB says.

The organisation believes that the current parliament will not run its full five-year-term, and if not, the country can get an active opposition. Iftekhar hoped that the present situation would be temporary. He said: “Literally they [Jatiya Party] are the opposition party. But we do not see them playing that role in the House.”

Iftekhar said: “Before the election, they [ruling party] said there will be talks after the 10th parliament election and the 11th election will be held in a convenient time. But the time was not fixed.”

The January 5 election was held as part of a “constitutional obligation” – to hold the election by January 24. “But we cannot say there is any opposition in this parliament in a real sense,” the TIB executive director said.

The JaPa formed the opposition with its 34 MPs, led by Presidium member Rawshan Ershad, also the leader of the opposition. There are also two ministers from the party.

The study also found that quorum crisis in ninth parliament caused the country over Tk104 crore. Of the amount, Tk4 crore was incurred because of the opposition’s absence.

Former opposition leader Khaleda Zia made a record of having the lowest attendance – 2.39% of the total sessions. According to an estimated account, around Tk78,000 is spent every minute the parliament is in session.

The TIB has recommended that the government enact a law to resist the absence of lawmakers or parties with a provision to scrap membership as penalty. It suggests that the maximum absence of a lawmaker could be 30 days instead of 90 days at present.

TIB Trustee M Hafizuddin Khan was present at the occasion. Researchers Morsheda Aktar, Fatema Afroz and Juliet Rozeti presented the report.

Hafiz, adviser of a caretaker government, said there was controversy surrounding the 10th parliament election and the country’s democracy was at some risk. He said there was no alternative to a strong opposition.

Quorum crisis, boycott culture a waste

A total of 222 hours and 36 minutes were wasted during the 19 sessions of the ninth parliament.

According to the study, only 8.2% or 109 hours and 44 minutes was spent enacting laws during the ninth parliament. Many important laws were enacted following discussions of only three to four minutes.

In the Indian Lok Sabha, 53% of the total time is spent enacting laws.

Iftekhar said this culture of absence was unique in the democratic world.

“It is embarrassing and also a sign of indifference to the people’s votes.”

According to the report, the opposition party’s absence was 34% of the sessions during the fifth parliament, 60% of the eighth and down to a record breaking 82% of the ninth.

However, there were some positive sides to the last parliament including an increase in the presence of lawmakers, especially from the ruling party, to 63%.

The TIB also finds that the number of businessmen turning into lawmakers increased in the ninth parliament – to 57% from 17.5% in the first parliament. On the other hand, the number of lawyers decreased to 14%.

The Berlin-based graft watchdog has recommended that lawmakers cannot remain absent in the House for over seven days without leave. It also asks the government to finalise the bill on code of conduct for lawmakers, publish information of sessions and standing committee decisions on websites, discuss international accords in parliament and fix the minimum session at 130 days.

Law Minister Anisul Haq terms the report “biased.”

About TIB’s prescription to hold fresh elections and make the parliament effective, the minister yesterday asked: “Where has the TIB brought the prescription from? What is its validity?

“I am sorry to say that the report is biased and it is not expected from TIB,” he said while talking to reporters at the Secretariat after a meeting with Norwegian Ambassador Merete Lundemo. 

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