MPs engaged in 'negative activities'
Ninety-seven percent of the 149 sitting MPs surveyed were involved in "negative activities" while 70 percent of them were engaged in "criminal activities," a TIB survey has found.
The negative activities include involvement in or being supportive of criminal activities, misuse of government funds and influencing government decisions. The criminal activities include killing, land and river grabbing, extortion, tender manipulation and cheating, says the survey report published yesterday.
Contacted by The Daily Star, two MPs of the Awami League-led ruling alliance blasted the TIB survey, describing it as a national and international conspiracy against the country's democracy.
But two opposition MPs termed the report an "appropriate reflection" of what the ruling alliance had been doing.
According to the study, 53.5 percent of the 149 MPs carried out criminal activities in person. Of them, 24 percent were sued by the victims and in the rest of the cases either the victims dared not file any case or, if they did, the police refused to accept it.
Of those involved in "negative activities," over 80 percent were involved in controlling the decision making process of local administrations, and appointments and transfers in different national and local organisations. Seventy percent of the MPs were engaged in government tenders, using licences of their relatives or other people.
Of the surveyed lawmakers, 141 are male and eight female while 136 are treasury bench lawmakers (27 ministers or state ministers) and 13 opposition lawmakers. However, the surveyed MPs were not named in the report.
More than eight percent of the 149 legislators who have government plots or flats in Dhaka in their or their wives' names have taken plots or flats for a second time by submitting false statements.
Titled, “Analysis of positive and negative role of lawmakers of the ninth parliament," the survey data was collected from, among other sources, 44 group discussions in 42 districts. With the participation of more than 600 discussants, these meetings, held between July and September, discussed the out-of-parliament activities of the MPs.
The participants included local teachers, lawyers, media persons and other professionals and those selected were apparently impartial. The survey was done on 149 MPs as they are well-known to the participants. The lawmakers about whom the participants had little or no information were not discussed at these meetings, says the report.
In its analysis, the TIB said lack of intra-party democratic values, a tendency towards doing anything to win elections and a culture of impunity might have inspired the lawmakers to get involved in negative activities.
On the right side, 53.7 percent of the surveyed MPs had "positive contributions" outside parliament.
These activities include their role in education, health and agriculture sector, keeping cordial relations with the opposition and voters, constructing infrastructures, solving local problems, ensuring relief distribution on personal initiatives, maintaining law and order and encouraging women's empowerment.
The opposition lawmakers are better connected with the voters compared to their ruling party counterparts. But in the case of "negative and immoral" activities, the ratio of the ruling and the opposition MPs is almost the same.
The study reveals that the lawmakers spent a little over nine percent time of the total 254 sittings (till the seventh session) for legislation, which is their main task.
“The reason is that the MPs spend most of their times interfering in local administration work and local development projects. The TIB therefore recommends making a law to stop MPs from engaging in local development activities,” TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told a press conference in the capital's Brac Centre Inn.
According to him, MPs will devote more time to the law making process if they are legally barred from engaging in local affairs.
The study shows that all of the 149 MPs secured 4 points on an average out of total 10 by the electorate.
“Only 3.36 percent lawmakers could secure score 7.6 out of 10 by the electorate and 68.45 scored less than 5,” the study report says.
It shows 27 percent of the time spent in legislative purpose was used to amend bills by rephrasing sentences instead of debating core issues.
Nearly 24 percent of the time of the 254 sittings was spent in question answer sessions of the prime minister and other ministers. While these sessions were important, ministers tended to avoid "embarrassing" questions.
Due to the lawmakers' delay in attending the session, there was a regular quorum crisis from January 2009 to December 2011. The duration of this quorum crisis amounts to 7,785 minutes (about 130 hours). MPs are late as they remain busy with out-of-parliament activities, says the report.
The financial value of this loss of time would be Tk 32.67 crore, according to the report.
The TIB reiterated its recommendation for banning en masse abstention from the House through limiting the maximum time for remaining absent from parliament to 30 days and the highest seven days in a row.
It also called upon the government to elect a deputy Speaker from the opposition and making it mandatory for the Speaker and the deputy Speaker to resign from party posts before taking office.
In addition, the anti-corruption watchdog recommended amending Article 70 of the constitution, allowing members to vote against their parties on issues other than impeachment of the president, the national budget and national security.
TIB Senior Programme Manager Shahajada M Akram presented the study report. TIB Chairperson Sultana Kamal and Trustee Board Member Hafizuddin Khan were also present on the occasion.
Reacting to the report, AL lawmaker Abdul Matin Khasru said, “The study is totally unacceptable as its method is unscientific.”
Khasru, also a former law minister, said: “The TIB published a similar study report just days before the 1/11 changeover in 2007. It [TIB] has again engaged itself in likewise conspiracy. We strongly condemn such objectionable move by the TIB.”
Hafizuddin Ahmed, a lawmaker of the Jatiya Party, an ally of the AL, doubted the accuracy of the statistics but said the survey was not "completely bogus".
Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque said, "We [the opposition] are only a few. The opposition does not get any allocation. So the question of our involvement in irregularities does not arise."
He said most of the ruling alliance lawmakers were now running after money, but added, "Not that all of that is bad."
Terming the report accurate, BNP lawmaker Mahbub Uddin Khokon said most of the politicians were now using politics to make money.