The Jatiya Sangsad brought low | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 17, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 17, 2010

Editorial

The Jatiya Sangsad brought low

Badmouthing and name-calling only undercut democracy

The bedlam into which Parliament descended on Monday has left the nation deeply embarrassed. And that is only natural, for like any other society around the world, we expect our legislature to be the repository of our hopes and our aspirations and all our dreams about the future. We expect, as people in other nations expect of their lawmakers, that the men and women we send to the Jatiya Sangsad to speak for us will rise above self, above party, above vitriolics through prioritising the myriad issues we face in our poverty-driven society. There are some particular reasons why, especially where the present JS is concerned, our expectations are a lot bigger and higher than on previous occasions. Suffice it to say, for now, that the present JS is the outcome of a concerted struggle on our part for a return to a meaningful and decent democratic political order after the chaos and the near slide into anarchy that was only prevented through the imposition of a state of emergency in January 2007.
The experience of those emergency times as also of the period preceding it would, we expected, be a lesson for all of us and particularly for our parliamentarians. That the ninth Jatiya Sangsad would truly turn out to be a thriving symbol of national politics was not too far-fetched a dream for the nation. And yet the badmouthing and the name-calling that dominated parliamentary proceedings on Monday have left an entire nation reeling from deep shock. We might add here that as a nation we are also outraged that our lawmakers did not at all feel or care that we were watching them, that indeed the rest of the world was watching them as they competed with one another to reach as much below the belt as they could in defence of their parties and leaders. It was plain and simple unparliamentary behaviour for MPs to raise the question of who had 'murdered' how many people during his stay in power. An opposition MP questioned the legitimacy of the 2008 elections. In all this pandemonium, Speaker Abdul Hamid was reduced, to our utter dismay, to a state of helplessness.
We appeal to our lawmakers across the spectrum to sit back for a while and reflect on the immense damage that their increasingly ferocious and tribal squabbling has been causing Parliament and indeed our fragile democratic polity as a whole. Where the nation should have by now moved on through a new spirit of cooperation between the parties in the JS, we observe with increasing levels of fear a slow clogging up of the very arteries that help democracy breathe and live. Parliamentary privileges are being abused through gross unparliamentary behaviour. In equal proportions, the spate of name-changing the government has been resorting to has only added to the flames which must be doused if ensuring people's welfare is the goal of the political classes.
To our lawmakers we say again: please do not undermine the trust the nation has placed in you. Please do not squander, through your words and deeds, this opportunity we have to reinvent ourselves as a democratic society. If you fail this time, it is a whole nation that will collapse in a heap. The resultant darkness can only be imagined.

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