Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday assured the opposition that it will be allowed to criticise the government without any obstacles in the 11th Jatiya Sangsad.
“I would like to tell the opposition leader and all opposition lawmakers that criticism is always important in a democratic process. I can assure you that the opposition party will be able to make enough criticism,” she said in a speech in the first sitting of the opening session of the 11th JS.
Hasina, the leader of the House, gave the speech felicitating Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah on their re-election.
She made the comments minutes after Deputy Leader of the opposition GM Quader sought the treasury bench's assistance and sufficient time for opposition MPs to make the House effective and lively.
“We will not create any obstacles [to criticising the government] ... We never did this in the past and will not do so in future,” Hasina mentioned.
Referring to the Speaker, she said, “As the leader of the House, it is my responsibility to uphold the rights of all lawmakers while you as the Speaker will ensure that the lawmakers of the treasury and opposition benches get equal opportunity in parliament.
“We will extend all sorts of cooperation to you [the Speaker] in this regard.”
The people have confidence in the government as the previous parliament was run smoothly, she said.
The premier mentioned that her government has been able to maintain the continuation of democratic process, overcoming many obstacles.
Earlier, taking the floor to greet the newly elected Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, GM Quader said, “We want the parliament to be lively ... It has to play an effective role. The people expect so.”
He sought the Speaker's assistance for playing an effective role in the House.
Noting that his party has only 22 MPs against 258 lawmakers of the ruling AL in the House, the JP leader said, “We expect this will not create any obstacles to criticising the government.”
He hoped the treasury bench would pay heed to logical suggestions from opposition MPs.
Taking the floor, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon said he was embarrassed over the confusion regarding his party's role in the JS.
“The start of the 11th parliament is pleasant for us on one hand and also a matter of embarrassment on the other hand. This is because we are facing questions from all about our role in the House.”
Menon, who was re-elected as a lawmaker with the AL's electoral symbol “boat” in the December 30 polls, claimed that no one (from the ruling party) discussed with them about their role in parliament.
“It appears that a decision has been made and we will have to abide by that.”
He mentioned that his party will support the government's development activities to take the country forward and will also be vocal against corruption and disparity.
SPEAKER, DEPUTY SPEAKER RE-ELECTED
At the beginning of the first session at 3:00pm, Shirin was re-elected Speaker uncontested and unanimously by a voice vote for a record third consecutive term.
Rabbi was re-elected Deputy Speaker for a second consecutive term.
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader put forward Shirin's name for the position of Speaker while ruling party Whip Atiur Rahman Atik proposed Rabbi for the post of Deputy Speaker.
Chief Whip Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury seconded the name of Shirin, and Iqbalur Rahim that of Rabbi.
Shirin and Rabbi were sworn in by President Abdul Hamid at his office in parliament.
CONDOLENCE FOR ASHRAF, OTHERS
The House unanimously adopted a condolence motion on the deaths of AL presidium member and lawmaker Syed Ashraful Islam and other distinguished personalities.
Participating in the discussion on the motion, Hasina paid a rich tribute to Syed Ashraf, also a former minister and AL general secretary, who died at a Bangkok hospital on January 3.
Hasina broke down in tears and said his death was an irreparable loss.
JP lawmaker Raushan Ershad, and ruling party MPs Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed and Abdur Razzaque, among others, recalled Ashraf's contribution to the country's politics.
The Speaker moved the obituary references separately with brief resumes on those who died after prorogation of the last session of the 10th parliament.
CHIEF WHIP, WHIPS APPOINTED
Before the start of the session in the afternoon, Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury, AL lawmaker from Madaripur-1, was appointed by the president as the chief whip of the 11th JS.
The president also appointed six whips -- Atiur Rahman Atik from Sherpur-1; Panchanan Biswas from Khulna-1; Iqbalur Rahim from Dinajpur-3; Mahabub Ara Begum Gini from Gaibandha-2, Shamsul Hoque Chowdhury from Chattogram-12 and Abu Sayeed Al Mahmood Swapon from Jaipurhat-2.
The parliament secretariat issued separate gazette notifications in this regard.
Atiur and Rahim had served as whips in the 10th parliament.