A good beginning, but…
WE watched a lively first session of the ninth parliament, dignified change of guard in the speakership, and a decent speech by the president that did not go out of the way to denigrate the previous government, which has been the norm. The newly elected MPs, many of them new faces in parliament, applauded the goings on quite enthusiastically. It was for the first time since 1991 that we had such a fully participated, vibrant first session of parliament.
The leader of the house Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves a round of plaudits for her mature handling of the occasion. And we must also commend opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia for showing her constructive mood on day one, at least up to the walkout.
It was a good beginning. However, the ruling grand alliance's decision not to go by its pre-election pledge of giving the position of deputy speaker to the opposition cast a shadow on the proceedings. We feel it was absolutely unnecessary and also that the Awami League has done itself a great disservice by changing its posture on the issue.
It is not known why the promised position was not delivered to the BNP-led opposition and what thought weighed so heavily in the minds of ruling party decision makers while backpedaling on it.
We were taken by surprise at the suggestion that a new position of deputy speaker would have to be created to meet constitutional requirements. But that was certainly not the initial public understanding.
A deputy speaker from the opposition would have presided over the parliamentary proceedings only when the speaker were absent, and one wonders how many times he would have got this chance. Yet, the ruling alliance could not rise above partisan thinking -- a poor beginning for the ninth parliament. Politically speaking, the BNP's getting the position would not mean much but refusing to go by a prior announcement could really diminish the grand alliance's credibility.
The indiscreet decision of not sticking to its commitment could cost the grand alliance more than the BNP. It is not an instance of fulfilling the high expectations of people generated by the elections.