On behalf of the Jatiya Sangsad, Speaker Abdul Hamid yesterday regretted the recent “unwanted discussion” in parliament, criticising noted litterateur Prof Abdullah Abu Sayeed using “unparliamentary words”.
“Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed is a respected person of this country. Therefore, I will expunge from parliament proceedings all the unparliamentary words used in the discussion on him,” he said in a rare ruling.
“The undesired discussion was held following the publication of misleading news items in some newspapers and some unparliamentary words were used [by some MPs in the discussion]. I sincerely regret it on behalf of the Jatiya Sangsad.”
Treasury bench lawmakers welcomed the ruling by thumping desks.
The Speaker urged legislators, intellectuals, civil society members and the general people regardless of their political affiliation to uphold the dignity of the House.
“Everyone should refrain from publishing such news and making such comments which undermine the dignity of parliament,” he said, adding, “There may be good and bad people in every profession. So it is not appropriate to make sweeping remarks.”
On June 3, a number of ruling alliance MPs in parliament launched a blistering attack on Prof Sayeed for his reported remarks about MPs and ministers. Independent MP Fazlul Azim piloted the attack in which Awami League MP Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim and Jatiya Party lawmaker Mujib ul-Haque Chunnu also joined.
Citing news reports, they alleged that Prof Sayeed had told a programme of Transparency International Bangladesh on June 2 that lawmakers and ministers act like “thieves and robbers”. They also demanded that the House take action against Prof Sayeed.
Ali Ashraf, who was presiding over the sitting then in absence of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, even demanded that Sayeed apologise to the House.
The attack on Prof Sayeed sparked uproars and drew huge criticism.
Later, The Daily Star and some other newspapers published in details what the noted litterateur had actually said.
Prof Sayeed, founder of Biswa Sahitya Kendra, had said it was not corruption when a thief stole. But when a man, who pledged to follow ethics and rule of law, indulges in stealing it is corruption.
As an example, he said when a minister or a lawmaker who took an oath to act in a fair and ethical manner failed to do so, it "is corruption".
In his ruling, the Speaker said TIB's Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman on June 4 sent the transcript of Prof Sayeed's speech in the programme and a compact audio disk of the programme.
“I read the transcript and listened to the CD,” the Speaker said, adding, “It seems to me that there is no consistency between the reports published in [some] newspapers and his actual speech. He did not make any remarks that ministers and MPs do not have ethics.”
The Speaker said the reports were baseless. The readers were misled by the baseless reports and the matter was discussed in the House.
“Those newspapers published the reports without checking the authenticity, and it has demonstrated lack of responsibility. I hope those newspapers will act responsibly in future and publish news after checking the authenticity of the news.”
Hamid, however, defended the MPs who criticised Prof Sayeed and said the lawmakers spoke on the basis of newspaper reports.
“As elected public representatives it is the moral duty of the MPs to protect and maintain the dignity of the House. I think they spoke from this sense of responsibility and proposed taking steps to avert recurrence of such incidents in future,” Hamid, a seasoned MP, said.
He said democracy and the media complement each other. Media flourishes if democracy remains functional. Therefore, the media people are to work with responsibility for democracy to flourish and for the welfare of the people and the country.
“Media people have to be more cautious in publishing reports. They should keep in mind that publishing baseless, imaginary and motivated news reports may mislead people and may bring misfortune to the country and the people,” he said.