JS splits DCC in 4 minutes
Ignoring widespread criticism and protests, parliament yesterday hurriedly passed a bill to split Dhaka City Corporation into two.
It took only four minutes and a few seconds to pass the bill, bringing about some major changes to the Local Government (City Corporation) Act, 2009. The president could even sign the bill today, thus making the amendment effective.
Once effective, the government will appoint administrators for the DCC and the current mayor and councillors will be out of office.
Lawmakers of the Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, components of the ruling Awami League-led grand alliance, and the lone independent lawmaker in the JS had moved to oppose the bill, but they could not do so as the House passed the bill even before they joined the proceedings. This caused severe resentment among some lawmakers yesterday.
Some legislators of the Jatiya Party, another component of the alliance, said they could not protest the bill as they did not get any last-moment directives from the party chairman.
After the bill was passed, LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said the government this week would appoint administrators for DCC North and DCC South and request the Election Commission to take measures for holding polls to the two corporations in the next 90 days.
A senior official at the Parliament Secretariat said yesterday the bill might be placed before President Zillur Rahman for his assent today. On the presidential assent comes through, the bill will be published in the official gazette, thereby completing the procedure to give effect to the changes brought into the act.
With the changes to the law taking effect, incumbent DCC Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka and all DCC councillors will no longer be able to remain in office. The government will appoint administrators to run the corporations. Under the 2009 act, representatives were able to stay in office until new elected representatives were sworn in.
Elected in 2002, the mayor and all the councillors of the DCC are still in office even though their tenure expired in May 2007.
Polls to the DCC could not be held for many reasons, one being the state of emergency in 2007-2008. Assuming office in January 2009, the Awami League-led government also opted not to allow the Election Commission to hold the polls and finally came up with the move to split the DCC.
The government placed the bill in parliament on Wednesday and passed it even before a week had elapsed.
Yesterday, the House was scheduled to pass the DCC-split bill and another bill seeking to bring some amendments into the Upazila Parishad Act, 1998.
It began proceedings at 4:20pm and according to yesterday's business schedule, an hour-long question-answer session and disposing of call-attention notices were the order of the day. These two would have taken enough time to take the session close to the magrib prayers. After the prayer break, the DCC-split bill was supposed to be discussed and passed.
But yesterday's sitting was completely different. Speaker Abdul Hamid picked the agenda for passage of the bills immediately after the House went into session by placing the scripted questions and their answers on the table and suspended disposal of call-attention notices.
He invited LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam to propose the passage of the bill seeking to bring amendments to the Upazila Parishads Act, 1998. The bill was passed within five minutes, thanks to absent Workers Party MP Rashed Khan Menon and lone independent lawmaker Fazlul Azim, who had submitted notices proposing amendments to the bill.
The Speaker then asked the minister to place the proposal for the House to consider the bill seeking to split the DCC.
The proposal was placed.
At this stage, the MPs of Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and the independent lawmaker were scheduled to place their proposals against the passage of the bill. They wanted publicising of the bill, public opinion sought on it and have it sent to a select committee.
But when the Speaker called out their names and found them absent, their proposals were not placed before the House.
"I submitted notices and also prepared to speak against the passage of the bill. But the bill was passed hurriedly without giving us the scope to participate in the process. I am very much annoyed," Rashed Khan Menon told The Daily Star.
He said he had assumed that the House would begin the process for passing the bill in the evening. "I could not imagine that the House would begin the process in the afternoon."
Menon said he was then at Dhaka University attending a programme for the visiting German president. But he left the programme to attend the House as two major bills were scheduled to be passed, he said.
"But on my way to parliament from the university campus, I heard over the car radio that the process for passing the bills had begun," Menon said. "But when I moved to enter the chamber of the House, the process for passage of the bills was over," he said.
Menon said he would talk to the Speaker to know why the bills had been passed so hurriedly.
A number of BNP lawmakers, who are boycotting the House, also had submitted notices opposing the passage of the DCC-split bill.
Independent MP Fazlul Azim too thought the House would start the process for passing the bills after magrib prayers. "I was returning from Savar. But when I was in Mirpur area I heard over the radio that the bills had been passed and the sitting adjourned."
"I will raise the issue in parliament tomorrow," he told The Daily Star over the telephone.
An exasperated Azim said it was the character of the Awami League-led government to hurriedly address national issues. "They passed the constitution's fourth amendment bill that introduced one-party BAKSAL in just 15 minutes. They even passed the constitution's 15th amendment bill hurriedly that abolished the caretaker government system," Azim said.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal MP Shah Jikrul Ahmed was also on the same boat. He said, "As soon as I got out from my car to enter the parliament building, I saw lawmakers coming out."
While talking to The Daily Star yesterday Jatiya Party MP Mujib-ul-Haque said these lawmakers personally opposed the bill and wanted to speak against its passage. "But we could not do so as we did not get any directives from the party high command," he said.
The Jatiya Party MP said he had talked to the Speaker about the rush in passing the bills. Claiming to be quoting the Speaker he said the Speaker dropped other scheduled business of the day so that MPs could attend a dinner at the Bangabhaban.
Treasury bench chief whip Abdus Shahid, however, claimed the other scheduled businesses were dropped to allocate more time for discussion on the bills. "It's not our fault if they do not give importance to the parliament's business over others."
The presence of ruling alliance legislators was poor during the passage of both the bills. The number of lawmakers present was between 75 and 80. Prime Minister and Leader of the House was not present. Only two lawmakers, including Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, were seen in the front row, which has 23 seats for ruling alliance MPs and ministers.
The 150-square-kilometre mega city has 92 wards. After the split, Dhaka North City Corporation will get 36 wards (1-23, 37-47, 54 and 55), while Dhaka South City Corporation will get 56 wards (24-36, 48-53 and 56-92).
Uttara, Gulshan, Badda, Mohakhali, East Rampura, Tejgaon, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Pallabi and Kafrul will be under the North while Dhanmondi, Ramna, Motijheel, Sabujbagh, Demra, Khilgaon, Sutrapur, Kotwali and Lalbagh will be under South.