Parliament session resumed on Sunday after two days’ recess, and witnessed an uproar caused by the opposition bench with criticism of the government for “massive corruption,” the arrest warrant against BNP’s senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman and the caretaker government issue.
Remarks by opposition lawmakers, including two made by reserved seat MPs, directed at the prime minister and several ministers animated the House and prompted the treasury bench to intervene repeatedly to demand expunction of the statements, which they called “un-parliamentary.”
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury urged MPs several times not to make aggressive, indecent or unpleasant statements in parliament.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was present for a while in the House, but the opposition leader and BNP chief Khaleda Zia was absent.
BNP MPs, led by the party’s standing committee member MK Anwar, joined the session after being absent when the budget was placed on Thursday. Two other opposition MPs - Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) chief Oli Ahmed and Jamaat-e-Islam’s ANM Shamsul Islam - also joined the session.
Speaking on point of order, BNP reserved seat MP Syeda Asifa Ashrafi Papia started to attack the prime minister when they took part in the supplementary budget discussion, while another opposition MP Rehena Akter Ranu lambasted ministers and members of the ruling party.
Ranu alleged a Canadian firm offered 12% commission to get the contract for Padma Bridge, and the part that remains unpublished in the media, is that 2% of it was allocated for family members of the prime minister.
She said: “The World Bank cancelled its funding for the Padma Bridge as soon as news was leaked in different media over 12% commission in the project, even before the construction of the bridge began. Names of those who are involved with the 10% have already come in the newspapers. But the names involved with the 2% are yet to be known. Recently, a Canadian television report implicated the prime minister’s family members with the 2%.”
She said one person was “killed” over distribution of the money “extorted” in the name of raising funds.
The opposition MP called on the speaker to intervene in the matter of the next general elections to ensure no one can use force when the polls are held, and said: “Some are saying the prime minister will be chief of the election-time government while rumour has it, it could be you [speaker].”
Ranu reverted to the dialect of her constituency, Feni, when she spoke in the colloquial language to warn the government that the opposition would not allow any “game” over the caretaker government system and there would be no elections without a caretaker system.
In 2011, the AL-led government abolished the caretaker government system with the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.
Regarding the arrest warrant issued against Tariqur Rahman, BNP’s Senior Vice Chairman and the eldest son of the BNP chairperson, the MP said: “When our leader [Tarique] talked about the caretaker government system, the government issued an arrest warrant against him. This is the government’s political dishonesty.”
She cautioned ruling party MPs not to waste time manoeuvring against Tarique, instead “they should waste time on saving their skin”. “What you have done with Jamaat and Hefazat…you will have to pay for it.”
She called the information minister a “big enemy of the media” and alleged members of a certain agency were taking up positions in media outlets. She was critical of Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, and said though the AL leader was tortured during the tenure of the last caretaker government, he did not take them to task; instead he was “harassing members of the opposition.”
Ranu alleged the collapse of Rana Plaza recently was a mark of the government’s corruption.
Later, treasury bench whip ASM Firoz took the floor and requested the speaker to expunge Ranu’s statements. In response Speaker Shirin Chaudhury said she would examine the speech and if anything “un-parliamentary” were found she would expunge it.
At the start of Sunday’s afternoon session, BNP’s Shahiduddin Chowdhury Annie on point of order demanded the “un-parliamentary comments” made previously about the BNP founder Ziaur Rahman by the Minister for Jute and Textiles Abdul Latif Siddique should also be expunged. To which the speaker said measures would be taken after scrutinising if any un-parliamentary statements were made.
Annie said: “The disaster management and relief minister is discriminating against opposition lawmakers because allocations for TR [test relief] and ‘kabikha’ [food for work] were not given to any opposition lawmakers’ constituencies.”
He then requested the speaker to give opposition lawmaker Papia a chance to speak on point of order.
Papia condemned the prime minister’s comments about Tarique and said: “The BNP does not do politics giving undertakings to anyone.”
She alleged the prime minister and her colleagues were making misleading statements regarding the opposition party. “The prime minister has an agenda behind setting up Tarique Rahman and ignoring the opposition’s demand for the caretaker government system.”
She criticised Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni and called her a “hybrid leader.”
While Papia was speaking, ASM Firoz, LGRD State Minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Fazle Rabbi Miah of the treasury bench drew the speaker’s attention to be permitted to speak, and at one point, deputy leader of the house Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury also drew the speaker’s attention.
Fazle Rabbi Miah demanded Papia’s statement be expunged, claiming it went beyond rules of procedure, while AL MP Firoz took the floor and said: “The opposition lawmaker [Papia] made un-parliamentary statements in the House which are out of parliamentary culture. She disrespected women.”
He urged the speaker to expunge the statement and issue a ruling in this regard. The Speaker said she would expunge the “indecent and un-parliamentary statements.”
Taking the floor to discuss the supplementary budget, BNP lawmaker Mahbub Uddin Khokan said his party did not trust the prime minister and a credible election was not possible under her leadership.
Khokan said the BNP government at the time introduced the provision for caretaker government because the public demanded it, and said: “The Awami League has absolute majority in the House. So, they will have to bring up the bill on the issue of caretaker.”
According to the opposition MP from Noakhali, the ACC was serving as a front for the government. “The ACC withdrew the cases against the home minister and other ruling party leaders but it did not withdraw a single case against the opposition leaders.”
He said the BNP leader Tarique did not own any property at home or abroad. “This government as well as the prime minister has failed to find anything he owns despite their frantic search.”
Khokan criticised the prime minister for comments made at a recent meeting of AL’s parliamentary party alleging she said Khaleda Zia’s two sons would not be “spared” if the opposition chief’s actions were excessive.
During the discussion on the supplementary budget, senior AL leader Suranjit Sengupta admitted the budget was ambitious and huge, but hoped the AL-led grand alliance would once again assume power and successfully implement it.
He said: “The government does not hold the elections rather it is the Election Commission conducts the polls.”
The AL advisory council member said that nobody was above the law, and asked the BNP leader Tarique to surrender in court.
Among others, Home Minister MK Alamgir, Syed Abul Hossain and Golam Mostafa of the treasury bench also spoke during discussions about the supplementary budget.