Other than no confidence motion in parliament, the lawmakers should be allowed to speak their mind. Putting an end to the ‘horse trading’ in the parliament in no confidence motion is welcome but restraining the MPs from taking part in debates free from party line is not
SHAMIM A. ZAHEDY
Any recipe for food on paper or these days on youtube looks stunning and dazzling. The challenge, however, comes when one tries the recipe at home.
Since Khaleda Zia, chairperson of the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), on May 10, 2017 unveiled her party’s ‘Vision 2030’, the kind of elaborate action plans the party wants to translate into reality provided it assumes the office, it has been able to catch attention in the political milieu, especially with regard to good governance.
The BNP says it is committed to reaching the destination of democracy, justice and fair-play by establishing what it says 3 Gs- “good policy, good governance and good administration”. One of the key components of BNP proposals in this regard is to curtail the executive power of the prime minister terming it as ‘monolithic executive authority’.
The BNP’s ‘Vision 2030’ points out that the power of Bangladesh’s prime minister as it is now is ‘completely inconsistent with the recognized parliamentary form of government system’. The proposal to clip the power of an omnipresent and all-pervading prime minister as stated in the constitution of Bangladesh is indeed a feel-good idea. The BNP’s proposition of striking a balance in the republic’s executive power through appropriate constitutional amendments is welcoming.
But still more needs to be proposed: in Bangladeshi context, if the period between 1991 and 2017 is taken into consideration, the crisis is diverse. With the dynastic structure in politics taking its root deeper in Bangladesh in absence of practice of democracy within parties, especially in Awami League and BNP, the reforms should be multifaceted.
The constitutional reforms should thus aim to have a specific term limit for a person to hold the position of prime minister: may be a person should not be allowed to the office of prime minister more than twice. This system will then put a brake on the vicious cycle of cruel power politics and pave the way for much-required democracy within a party. One might argue that in Westminster system democracy, the prime minister’s term in office cannot be restrained. But as the problem in Bangladesh is homegrown the solution too must be homegrown.
The proposal to consider an upper house of the parliament keeping the existing unitary character of the state could be fine if it only makes sure that the upper house does not create a new breed of opportunists, who live on politics, making money out of politics.
The BNP has criticized incorporation of provisions to the constitution such as the system of holding parliament election keeping the erstwhile parliament alive and the authority of impeachment or removal of the higher court judges by the parliament. The party is also of the opinion of restoring the provision of referendum in the constitution to ‘reinstate the democratic right of the people’.
The party wants to make the Jatiya Sangsad, the parliament, the centre-point of all national issues by offering the chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee and Public Undertakings Committee to members of Opposition.
But the BNP falls short of expectations here. Not all issues are overtly debated in parliament. Read the Article 145A of the constitution: “All treaties with foreign countries shall be submitted to the President, who shall cause them to be laid before Parliament:
Provided that any such treaty connected with national security shall be laid in a secret session of Parliament.”
The criteria or the definition of treaty connected with national security has not been laid out.
There has also been a key concern regarding free opinions of MPs on any issues of national interest that could have been addressed by the BNP. The Article 70 of the constitution says: A person elected as a member of Parliament at an election at which he was nominated as a candidate by a political party shall vacate his seat if he – votes in Parliament against that party.
Other than no confidence motion in parliament, the lawmakers should be allowed to speak their mind. Putting an end to the ‘horse trading’ in the parliament in no confidence motion is welcome but restraining the MPs from taking part in debates free from party line is not.
The promise to instill the office and position of the ombudsman to ensure administrative accountability and transparency is heartening as Article 77 says: (1) Parliament may, by law, provide for the establishment of the office of Ombudsman.
(2) The Ombudsman shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as Parliament may, by law, determine, including the power to investigate any action taken by a Ministry, a public officer or a statutory public authority.
(3) The Ombudsman shall prepare an annual report concerning the discharge of his functions, and such report shall be laid before Parliament.
The pledges of the re-introduction of a jury system in lower judiciary on a pilot basis, formation of a high profile Judicial Commission to bring about reforms, establishment of a separate secretariat under the Supreme Court to free lower courts from the control of the executive, ensuring judicial oversight on the police, annulment of Special Powers Act 1974 and Section 57 of ICT Act 2006, abolishment of Banking Division in the Ministry of Finance and entrusting the central bank with task of monitoring the state-owned banks, making an amendment to related articles of local government act that allow the ministry to suspend a mayor or a chairman if he or she is accused in a criminal case and many more as stated in BNP’s ‘Vision 2030’ should not stand as hollow promises.
Past records are frustrating. In the 1990’s political parties including BNP during political agitation against President Hussain Muhammad Ershad regime made lofty promises including annulment of Special Powers Act 1974 and autonomy of state-run Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Radio. The final verdict on separation of judiciary came in 2001 but the government led by Khaleda Zia sought time extension time and again for implementing the order.
The most important thing needed to implement the majority of the pledges relating to good governance listed in BNP’s ‘Vision 2030’ is will, political will to be precise. People do not need to wait until 2021 or 2030.
Politicians need to react; otherwise people have to live with hope only!
First appeared : 18 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 31 May, 2017 01:32:57 PM The writer is the Executive Editor of The Independent. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org