RPO given a dodge
Ruling Awami League lawmakers ASM Feroz and Rahmat Ali were supposed to be declared disqualified as candidates in the ninth parliamentary election for defaulting on phone bills, according to the Representation of the People Order.
At least four former lawmakers also contested the general election in 2008 despite being bill defaulters. They, however, were defeated in the polls.
Feroz, a whip, and Rahmat Ali, chief of a parliamentary body, are still bill defaulters, according to information provided by Post and Telecommunications Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju in parliament yesterday.
Replying to a query, the minister informed the House that Feroz has yet to pay Tk 1.46 lakh in phone bill he defaulted on as a lawmaker in the seventh parliament in 1996-2001.
Likewise, Rahmat Ali has not paid Tk 3,411 in phone bill as a member of the eighth parliament in 2001-2006.
Both Feroz and Rahmat Ali should have been declared disqualified for the December 29 parliamentary polls in 2008, according to some changes made to the Representation of the People Order before that election.
Section 12 (n) of the RPO, laws regulating conduct of parliamentary polls and related issues, says a person shall be disqualified for election if he fails to pay phone, gas, electricity, water or any other bill for service provided by any government organisation within seven days since submission of nomination paper.
However, a number of contestants including Feroz and Rahmat Ali managed to get around the legal provision to compete in the December 29 polls.
After the election, Feroz was appointed a whip while Rahmat Ali was made chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the LGRD and cooperatives ministry.
Contacted, Feroz said he did not know that he had such a large amount of phone bill unpaid. After knowing this, he paid 10 percent of the amount and obtained a no-objection certificate from the then speaker Jamiruddin Sircar. He has been paying the outstanding bill in monthly instalments.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Rahmat Ali claimed he did not owe a penny in phone bill. “It's a blatant lie. I will protest it.”
However, a senior official at the parliament secretariat said the information provided by the telecommunications minister was correct.
In scripted answer to a query from AL's Shahiduzzaman Sarker, the telecommunications minister told parliament that 21 members of the seventh and eighth parliaments have yet to clear telephone bills of over Tk 38 lakh.
According to the minister's answer, 12 lawmakers including Feroz of the seventh parliament have not yet paid bills amounting to over Tk 18 lakh and nine lawmakers including Rahmat Ali of the eighth parliament have Tk 20 lakh outstanding as phone bills.
All of them, however, regularly took their telephone allowances.
Of the phone bill defaulters from the seventh parliament, AL's Joynal Abedin Hazari has not yet paid Tk 1.97 lakh, Wazi Uddin Khan Tk 1.07 lakh, Dr Mizanul Haque Tk 3.03 lakh, Syed Masud Reza Tk 1.89 lakh, Panna Kaiser Tk 1.76 lakh, Khaleda Khanam Tk 4,748 and Farida Rouf Asha Tk 24,591; BNP's Nadeem Mostafa Tk 3.97 lakh, Khairul Anam Tk 69,952 and Ziaur Rahman Khan Tk 10,006; and Jatiya Party's Ahsan Ahmed Tk 1.78 lakh.
Of the defaulters from the eighth parliament, BNP's Ashraf Hossain has not yet paid Tk 4.07 lakh, Nadeem Mostafa Tk 5.03 lakh, Rozy Kabir Tk 13,658, Shamsuzzoha Khan Tk 7.07 lakh, Ali Kadar Tk 1.86 lakh, Shahidul Islam Tk 838 and Shahidul Islam Biswas Tk 1.46 lakh; and Jatiya Party's Golam Habib Dulal has Tk 31,274 outstanding.