THANKS to the TIB again for giving us a performance report of the parliament, the focus being on the 9th Parliament, which, as appears from the report, had become sinecure for most MPs. Most of them were having a cushy job doing very little of what their primary job obligated them to do. At least that is the impression one gets from the TIB findings of a study that was presented to the media on Tuesday.
The report covered the performance of the 9th Parliament and commented on the current one regarding its efficacy, with more than half of the members being elected unopposed, and an opposition the character of which has convoluted the entire concept of parliamentary democracy.
The suggestions of the TIB merit strong rationale, particularly of banning the boycott of the parliament. It seems odious that people elected on public vote and sent to do a job, and for which it is the public who pays them, should choose not to do so.
Predictably, the report has been trashed by a minister as being 'biased and 'unexpected.' We shall come to that some other time, but the TIB, and the general public, who would like to know how their money is being spent by their representatives, and what use of the valuable time they are making of, can take comfort from the fact the report is highly informative. And those who really want to serve the people and give them their money's worth should absorb the report instead of dismissing it summarily.
The TIB, I am certain, has been doing something very right, the measure of which is the fact that over the many years that they have been working in Bangladesh, their reports on politics, economic and social issue etc, have covered the tenure of the both the BNP and AL. And they have been hauled over the coals unjustly by both the parties when they were in power, even in more cruel a manner than of the law minister. And in equal measure the TIB received effusive approbation from these parties when they were in opposition. Lack of instant support from the BNP is missing this time for understandable reasons. Their shoddy performance in the 9th Parliament admits of no excuse. Whatever may have been the AL provocations, abdicating their commimitment to the voters to represent them in the parliament is unacceptable.
But if the opposition BNP had chosen to boycott the parliament almost entirely, why the parliament, that had more than 300 ruling alliance members, suffered from lack of quorum and thereby lose a total of 222 hours.
It seems too that those who chose to attend parliament have done very little of what they were supposed to do, legislate. One is constrained to ask if only 8.2% of the 1331 hours in 19 sessions spent during the tenure of the said parliament was devoted to legislating, what was the rest 91.8% spent on? And even more remarkable is that only 7% of the more than 300 MPs had participated in the law making process. Is it not nice to see our MPs become good listeners? Nowhere in the world is so little time spent debating a bill than in our parliament, only 12 minutes per bill on the average.
As for the current parliament, its continued relevance will be questioned in the absence of a real opposition. In the days following the January 5 election and formation of a so- called opposition coerced into being one, one had heard some warped and weird arguments about having opposition in the parliament at all. It was argued that since the erstwhile parliament saw an ineffective opposition who had played no part at all, the 9th Parliament was virtually without an opposition almost for its entire tenure, it may not be a bad idea not to have an opposition. And some talk show masters have tried to reinforce that argument in the last two days. These are grotesque and bizarre thoughts and anyone propounding such views ought to be committed immediately.
For the AL it may have little motivation, and find even less rationale, to call for another election any time soon. But one is sure that even the staunchest AL supporter feels that the current parliament is bereft of moral authority. And given the display of violence in the third phase of UZ election, where the party did literally 'fight back' the parliamentary polls have to be held under a neutral dispensation. And this issue the AL must revisit without delay.
The writer is Editor, OP-ed and Defence and Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.