JS in session again, without the opposition | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, September 08, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, September 08, 2009


JS in session again, without the opposition

BNP must end its boycott

THE Jatiyo Sangsad began its third session on Monday. To no one's surprise, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party kept up the boycott of proceedings it began months ago as a way of highlighting its grievances. Among those grievances are the grouse of the party's lawmakers about seating arrangements in the House and about the notice served on the leader of the opposition relating to vacating her cantonment residence. It is now quite clear that on a solution to these problems, one to the BNP's liking, hinges the question of its return to the House. For the nation as well as for those who voted the party's lawmakers into legislative office, it is a most unfortunate situation. For the nation, the boycott is increasingly looking like an attempt to make the JS an ineffectual and therefore an uninspiring body. And for its supporters, the BNP by not going to parliament is giving out the negative message that its politics has taken on a cavalier hue and that it pays little or no heed to their interests.
We at this newspaper have unflinchingly believed that the Jatiyo Sangsad must be the focal point of politics and governance and that all parties represented in it must ensure that they debate the issues on the floor of the House. Unfortunately, since the restoration of parliamentary government in 1991, the opposition, be it the Awami League or the BNP, has demonstrated an inexplicable tendency to stay away from the House every time it has not agreed with the ruling party.
To be sure, it falls within parliamentary norms for parties and lawmakers to walk out of the chamber, and that as a last resort, when the ruling party is unable or unwilling to accommodate their points of view. But what has been happening in Bangladesh is a wholesale boycott of parliament, for months together. That not only has been raising questions about the seriousness of those involved with the boycott but also causing worries for citizens, who cannot be blamed for thinking that the boycotting politicians are doing things less than ethical. And let no one forget that in the years prior to the imposition of emergency in January 2007, the emasculation of parliament through an opposition boycott led to little of note being done by the JS. For this reason, it was expected that after the elections of December 2008, having gone through a tortuous period under the caretaker dispensation, the political parties would set a new and dynamic political process in motion. That has not happened.
And because it has not, such issues of grave national interest as the budget, Tipaimukh, the environment, right to information and the BDR tragedy have not been focused on by the opposition. The loss has been the BNP's. At a sadder level, it has been the nation's.
If democracy is to set deeper roots in the country, the Jatiyo Sangsad must be made a vibrant and responsive body. That calls for a swift and meaningful return to it by the BNP. If its lawmakers can take part in the deliberations of the various standing committees and sub-committees of the JS, what prevents them from returning to the House proper?

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