Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Thursday, October 29, 2015, Kartik 14, 1422 BS, Muharram 15, 1437 Hijri

Can TIB demean JS?
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published :Thursday, 29 October, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 23

Transparency Interna-tional Bangladesh has certainly done disservice not only to the country but also to itself. Its new report on the Jatiyo Sangsad makes dismal reading because of the aspersions it casts on the nation's legislature. That TIB has chosen to describe the JS as a theatre of puppetry is a direct assault on one of the three pillars of the state. One wonders what the consequences might have been if TIB had gone for a similar assault on the judiciary. That said, one cannot but go back to the fundamental principle of democratic politics, which is that the legislature, being the representative of the people's aspirations because the elected representatives of the people define its authority, cannot be subjected to humiliation.
Unfortunately, TIB has done precisely that. It has clearly strayed from its principal objective, which is research and analyses, and opted to adopt a position which clearly pits it not just against the government of Bangladesh but also against the body empowered to legislate and deliberate on national issues.
Parliament is the fulcrum of social activities or, in a larger sense, the centre from which democratic power flows and to which popular conceptions of the issues of the day flow. That a parliament, any parliament anywhere in the world, will have its low moments is surely to be acknowledged. Certain lawmakers might act in ways that do not do justice to their position. But nowhere in the world, especially in a democratic dispensation --- and Bangladesh certainly does not have a rubber-stamp legislature or one that is in thrall to a higher authority --- is a legislative body carelessly dismissed as an exercise in theatricality. And those 'puppets' TIB has spotted in the Jatiyo Sangsad happen to be in the chamber on the strength of constitutional provisions.
By doing what it did, TIB has done grave damage to itself. Worse, it has not only undermined Bangladesh's parliament but also, without ambiguity and with full awareness of the consequences, demeaned it before the country and before the rest of the world. TIB obviously did not remember or simply ignored the fact that two of the 'puppets' in this parliament, Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury and Saber Hossain Chowdhury, happen to be playing leading roles in some of the most prestigious international parliamentary organizations these days. These two leading lawmakers of the country, along with their colleagues, have now been dismissed by TIB as being of no consequence. They are puppets in a theatre. And surely there is someone pulling the strings that make them dance to the tunes set for them?
This gross act of TIB striking at the dignity of the Jatiyo Sangsad calls for a purposeful response from the Speaker of the JS. One does not mean to be vituperative or vindictive on the issue. TIB's role so far has by and large been a well-meaning one, given the fact that it has acted as a serious watchdog on the various issues which have assailed the nation. But this latest report has pitted TIB against the political process now prevailing in the country. It has pointed out the shortcomings of parliament, which is just as well. But to have overstepped its limits and opted for expressions which are an unmitigated attack on the dignity of the JS is an act that must not be taken lightly. If it is, a bad precedent will be created, with institutions of the state being ridiculed by individuals and organizations in future.
While on the subject, we cannot but draw attention to another controversy TIB has raised through its report. It has suggested, from what clearly seem like Olympian heights, that the issues which the country confronts today can only be resolved through a general election. Really? An election barely two years after the present parliament was elected? If the insidious purpose here is to suggest that the election of January 2014 does not matter, indeed that it was no election because a major party deliberately stayed away from it, one has a question for TIB and everyone else whose view coincides with the TIB's: should the election of January 2014 have been shelved? There are other questions as well. Had the election been deferred, where would the Constitution be, with all its provisions relating to the working of normal political processes in the country? And who or which body might have stepped into the vacuum created by a postponement of the election at a time when a fresh election had become mandatory?
TIB has, of course, a right to its opinion. But, then again, all opinions must be backed by credible, logical arguments that leave no room for questions. TIB has laid itself open to a whole lot of questions about its integrity. It has demeaned Bangladesh's parliament. It has, in so many subtle ways, questioned the legal basis of the government. It has carefully stayed away from letting us know why and how governments and nations abroad have seen nothing wrong in doing business with the present political dispensation, have never for a moment questioned the legal authority on which the Bangladesh government was constituted and has operated since it was returned to office in January last year.
These are points one needs to mull over, especially within the corridors of TIB.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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