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Jan 25

JS rides on hope to session today

Filed under Bangladesh Local, Business & Politics

SThe long awaited ninth parliament begins its journey this afternoon with the responsibility to deliver on people’s high expectations that it will put the country on the right track towards prosperity.

The magnificent Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban comes to life at 3:00pm after over two years as the new parliament sits in its first session with enormous crucial tasks, including taking decision about the fate of the 122 ordinances promulgated by the immediate past caretaker government within 30 days.

The ninth parliament, which was supposed to be formed around two years ago, will have to deliver on people’s expectations for changes in the culture of destructive politics and letting the corrupt and criminals go unpunished, which largely paralysed the country’s economic progress.

The constitution empowers parliament, the focal point of all activities, to ensure transparency and accountability of the activities of the executive and enact new laws and modify the existing ones to address the changing situation. So, the functions of the new parliament will dictate the fate of efforts to establish long cherished good governance in the country.

But, it is the attitude of the ruling Awami League (AL)–which got an overwhelming majority in the December 29 ballots–that will determine if it can discharge its constitutional tasks effectively.

It is also the responsibility of the ruling party to end the previous culture of making the House dysfunctional and come forward with patience and tolerance and allow opposition lawmakers, who are very small in number this time, to play their due role.

The ninth parliament begins its journey with only 31 opposition lawmakers of the BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP). The number might increase if the opposition wins the by-elections to the two seats vacated by Khaleda Zia and participates in the election to the reserved seats for women in parliament.

As per the electoral laws, the main opposition BNP may get five out of the total 45 seats reserved for women.

The Election Commission (EC) will hold the election to the reserved seats and has already started making preparations to that end.

Bringing the opposition lawmakers into confidence to make parliament effective, instead of pushing them to the streets, is also a challenge for the ruling AL-led alliance, experts on parliamentary affairs said.

The opposition of the eighth parliament did not join the inaugural session but the BNP-led alliance announced to join parliament from the very first day.

The Business Advisory Committee of the new parliament will be formed today with the new speaker as its head. The committee will decide the tenure of the inaugural session and other businesses of parliament.

The standing committees on different ministries are likely to be formed in this session. Experts said the government will have to refrain from interfering in the functions of the crucial standing committees through which parliament can effectively oversee activities of the executive and fight against corruption.

In previous parliaments, the ruling party with overwhelming majority failed to a great extent to deliver on people’s expectations while the opposition parties opted to take to the streets most of the times rather than staying in the House.

Moreover, lawmakers spent most of their time and energy in fruitless criticism of their colleagues, lacking patience and tolerance, dodging responsibilities of making policies, enacting laws, overseeing the executive and bridging insights from their constituencies.

President Iajuddin Ahmed will address in the inaugural session, outlining some steps the newly elected government has to take in the days to come to make parliament effective and ensure good governance for the welfare of the country’s people.

The newly formed cabinet led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already approved the presidential address.

Meanwhile, curiosity is running high about what the president will say on his controversial assumption of the post of chief adviser at the end of 2006.

Iajuddin Ahmed, who was elected president in the eighth parliament on BNP’s nomination, ignored constitutional provisions and assumed the office of the chief adviser amid strong opposition of the AL-led grand alliance.

His failure to discharge duties neutrally worsened the political situation. Finally, he was compelled to step down from the post declaring the state of emergency, which suspended the January 22 parliamentary election in 2007.

Election to the presidency will be held in the next 30 days as the tenure of the incumbent president expired long ago. The EC will hold the election and has already started making preparations for that.

Veteran AL leader Zillur Rahman is going to be elected the president of the country as the ruling party chief has already announced his name as party nominee for the presidency.

The session will begin with the outgoing speaker Jamiruddin Sircar in the chair. Sircar’s partisan role was also one of the major obstacles to making the last parliament effective.

At the very beginning of the session today, parliament will elect a new speaker and a deputy speaker. They will swear in their new offices immediately after being elected.

Sources said last night that the AL high command nominated advocate Abdul Hamid for the election to the post of speaker.

In the first sitting, the government will place an unprecedented number of 122 ordinances promulgated by the immediate past caretaker government for parliament’s decision whether to ratify those within 30 days.

Recommendations of a legal experts committee formed by the government to review the ordinances have meanwhile given hints that many of the ordinances might not be ratified, in which case their validity will automatically expire with the end of the 30-day timeframe.

Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday said a few ordinances promulgated during the last two years were not necessary and they were promulgated without discussion with the stakeholders.

He said a few ordinances concerning election, finance and budget will have to be made into laws through parliamentary debates.

The inaugural session is also likely to clear the uncertainty over the fate of the local government institutions, particularly upazila parishads, city corporations and municipalities, as the newly elected government opposes some crucial provisions in the ordinances on them promulgated by the caretaker government.

These ordinances regarding formation and functions of these local government bodies curtailed lawmakers’ power to interfere in the activities of upazila parishads and inserted provisions for their resignation from party posts before taking oath to the bodies they get elected to.

The new parliament will also have to decide the legitimacy of the immediate past caretaker government’s unconstitutional tenure of around two years.

Disposing a writ petition on the matter, the High Court has already given its observation that the new parliament will take decision on this.

Many experts have observed that the constitution requires to be amended to indemnify the caretaker government’s term.

The law minister, however, said yesterday that the last caretaker government does not require ratification by parliament for failing to hold general election within 90 days and staying in power for nearly two years.

Of the previous parliaments, only seventh and eighth parliaments completed the five-year tenure.

The fifth and seventh parliaments had strong opposition benches in terms of number of lawmakers. But they failed to play due role and took to the streets blaming that the treasury benches pushed them to boycott the House.

In the eighth parliament, 74 lawmakers were from the opposition bench while the fourth parliament had 33 lawmakers in the opposition.

The first parliament had the lowest number of seven opposition lawmakers and none was recognised as the leader of the opposition. Nevertheless, that opposition played a very strong role to put pressure on the treasury bench to do the right thing.

All entries filed under Bangladesh Local

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