Arafat A Islam

Parliament boycott: a political ritual

October 25, 2010

parliamentParliament is a sacred institution in a democratic state where the ideology, “Of the people, by the people and for the people” exists. With a legitimate parliament in effect, we, the people of Bangladesh always feel the need for an equitable representation of our voices. After all, the essence of democracy certainly lies with an even distribution of power, through people’s mandate that is bestowed upon the members of the parliament. But, the unfortunate part of our country’s parliamentary system is that the members of the opposition party literally do not pay any heed, to even attend the parliament sessions. This is one of the very few understandings the two major political parties have between them. Both, the Awami League and the BNP have maintained this negative trait, during their tenure as the opposition. They feel the need for a vibrant parliament only when they are controlling the house.

However, the interesting fact is that the boycotting members of the house never forget or forgo their remunerations and other fringe benefits. They do not even feel embarrassed to pocket the taxpayers’ money without doing their one and only job — enacting laws in the parliament in favour of the people. The members of the parliament never forget to avail the benefits offered to them by the state. They never forget to waive the import duty for their cars and they never hesitate to travel abroad with taxpayers’ money. However, they certainly and frequently forget to attend the parliament and as a result, they decline to represent the people from their constituencies.

In a civilised society, the elected members of the parliament are considered to be men with dignity, self-respect and presence of clean conscience. Unfortunately, ours is a society where the politicians are considered the very opposite. They do not respect themselves, they do not respect their voters, and certainly, they do not respect the core principle of a parliamentary system. Our politicians exercise acts that can put the whole system of democracy to shame and as a result give incentives to any unwanted force, waiting for exploitation. Like all developing nations, Bangladesh too carries a significant amount of threat to democracy from different quarters. Undemocratic/military rulers ruled a significant amount of time in Bangladesh’s history, with the 1/11 government being the recent one. During that time, we have heard from people of all walks, stressing the need for a healthier political culture, in order to avert ways in which grabbing power through the backdoor is an option. Obviously, it remained a mere talk only!

A parliament without active participation of the opposition often leads to a ‘tyranny of majority’. Members of the opposition tend to suffer as much as possible in the hands of the government so that in due time, they can return the political vengeance, they carry between themselves. The saddest part is that the political figures that once fought for a parliamentary system in our country are themselves showing no respect for the house, as an institution.

A lot has been said, written and discussed, and now it is time for our politicians to consider changing their mindset. Gone are the days of ‘jalao porao’ and gone are the days of huge political gathering at ‘Paltan Maidan’. The days of ‘Oligarchy’, ‘Monarchy’ and ‘Anarchy’, too are gone. Today, the only proven system of governance is ‘Democracy’. And, in a democracy, the parliament is the centre of all discussions, confrontations and debates. This should be the prime place where problems are discussed and solutions are invented. The members on the other hand, should be tolerant, and not intolerant, united, and not divided. There should be a minimal level of understandings between the two major parties. There should be inter-party discussion and not intra-party discussions, at least on matters concerning national interest. We feel the leader of the house, and the leader of the opposition should be talking in term and have fruitful conversations between them, in building a better and prosperous society. The people of the land condemn the way in which the current prime minister and leader of the opposition interact, and have become each other’s eyesore. They do have any interaction between them, and hate each other like sin. These in-differences are also illustrated in the lower hierarchy of their respective political institutions. Differences are ought to take place in a free society but there are better ways to deal with it. Otherwise, our society will incline more towards being a divisive, alienated and at worst, a failed state.

We have had enough of accusations and counter accusations. Today, we are tired of such double talks, and demand an immediate explanation from all political parties regarding this bane act of negligence, from the part of the political parties.  I hope citizens from all corners of Bangladesh will put pressure on the lawmakers so that one day our leaders will be morally bounded, not to boycott parliament proceedings, in a way contrary to the fundamental principle of a parliamentary system. It is high time they decided their due role in strengthening the pillars of democracy. If they fail to do it, we shall have no option but to repeat Oliver Cromwell’s words; ‘You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!’

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Arafat A Islam is a student of Independent University.

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