12:00 AM, November 21, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 21, 2012


Why demonise TIB?

Don't castigate the messenger, heed the message

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The strongly-worded denunciation in parliament of the TIB on Monday, even so much as accusing it of committing sedition by one MP, comes as a severe jolt to public sensibilities. This has been disproportionately reactive rather than proactive on the part of the Jatiya Sangsad. The fault of the transparency research body was that it had released data and analysed trend largely about MPs' negative activities outstripping positive ones outside the parliament as they transpired from a focused research exercise.
Ruling party MPs' outbursts in parliament need to be evaluated on the following counts: First, the methodology of the TIB study which the MPs have all the right to know about; second, the territorial spread of the research activity; third, any deliberate bias detected to the content; and last but not least, the spirit with which the entire exercise was undertaken.
As for the methodology, it was focused group discussion engaging locally known persons of integrity and credibility in eliciting their opinion on local MP. This is an interactive scientific method of soliciting public view, an established and acceptable modality for opinion gauging. There were 44 such group discussions spread over 37 districts and eight upazilas. They took an overview on conduct of 149 MPs in which 97 percent were perceived to be indulging in 'negative activities' and 53.7 percent figured for their positive deeds.
In all democracies, recently in India and the UK, public opinion polls have been exposing abuse of power and corrupt deeds by ministers and MPs. Few months back the UK press exposed the gross misuse of public funds by British MPs hugely over-billing personal allowances. Neither the Lok Sabha nor the British parliament reacted the way that our parliament has to the TIB's revelations. The threat of stopping the functioning of TIB amounts to throttling the voices that bring out unpalatable truths to public knowledge.
If the TIB has only conveyed public assessment of the MPs' conduct, why take it out on the transparency body rather than taking the feel of the public pulse and making amends?
We humbly submit that the whole exercise was undertaken to help the parliament by providing public feedback about the MPs. In fact, parliament as the central institution of democracy should be grateful for the service done to it through informed analysis of independent observers and oversight bodies.
The question is: do we want members of parliament to maintain high moral and ethical standards? If the answer is yes, what do we really consider more important -- the feedback about MPs' conduct outside the parliament or running down the body that serves the cause of accountability and transparency for the greater good of the country and democracy?
We urge the Speaker to take a sagacious view of the whole matter and thereby raise the parliament in public esteem.

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