BGMEA leaders reluctant to step down despite end of tenure

Logo of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association

Complications shroud the next election to the board of directors of the readymade garment owners’ body Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Last April, the incumbent BGMEA president Faruque Hassan took the approval of the commerce ministry on a six-month extension of the current board, which ends in October. Thus, the election must be held within September.

As per the law, an election board must be formed 90 days before the election and an election schedule must be announced 80 days before the polls, which the current board did not do. Instead, they have tried to extend their tenure once again.

Meanwhile, the Forum, a poll-time coalition, demanded that the election to the BGMEA be held on time. The coalition formally made a complaint to the commerce ministry’s Trade Organisation Wing on 3 July. The Forum leaders alleged the incumbent president did not start the process of election within the stipulated time violating the laws and requested to take legal action to this end.

When asked, the Forum panel leader and BGMEA director Faisal Samad told Prothom Alo, “Election to the traders’ apex body Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) was held last week, and amid such circumstance, we feel embarrassed as the process of the BGMEA election did not begin. The president is not clarifying why the election process is not being started within the stipulated time violating the law. If he has no answer, then initiative should be taken for an acceptable solution for the sake of the industry and it is necessary to announce an election schedule as soon as possible.”

Prothom Alo tried to reach BGMEA president Faruque Hassan over mobile phones several times in the past two days, but he did not respond. Prothom Alo also texted the BGMEA president on WhatsApp with a copy of the Forum’s letters to the ministry, and he did not reply either.

The Sammilita Parishad, a poll-time coalition, won the last BGMEA election held in April 2021. Led by Faruque Hassan, a board was formed for the next two years. But the board applied to the commerce ministry at the beginning of this year for a six-month tenure extension on the ground of the existing situation of the RMG industry, and keeping labour movement and labour situation stable during Ramadan.

On 27 February, the Trade Organisation Wing approved the tenure extension of the BGMEA board with a set of conditions. The permission letter stated the tenure of the current board was extended until 12 October and election must be conducted 15 days before the tenure ends. Tenure will not be extended anymore for an election.

As a result, a three-member election board and a three-member election appeal board will have to be formed 90 days before the elation. Besides, the election board will have to announce the election schedule 80 days before the election. Yet nothing happened.

It has been learned that leaders of the Sammilita Parishad do not want to hold the BGMEA election before the national election. They have informed the government high-ups on this matter and received a green signal. A fresh extension to the tenure of the current board requires an amendment to the Trade Organization Act 2022 because the director general of the Trade Organization Wing can extend the tenure of a trade organisation body no more than six months.

Regarding this, a BGMEA leader, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo the commerce ministry has taken the initiative to amend several sections of the Trade Organization Act 2022 in order to extend the tenure of the current board of the BGMEA. The draft of the Trade Organization Act is now with the cabinet, and that is likely to be passed in the next permanent session.

In 2013, the board of BGMEA was elected by the direct vote of its members for the next two years. The next time, the Sammilita Parishad and the Forum negotiated. A committee was formed led by Siddikur Rahman of Sammilita Parishad on 22 September 2015 in the first phase of that negotiation, and the committee carried out the charge for 43 months on various pretexts. Both collations also tried to negotiate for the next term, but finally, Swadhinata Parishad fielded several candidates. As a result, the election was held for formality in Dhaka. In 2021, the Sammilita Parishad bagged 25 posts and the Forum led by ABM Shamsuddin won 11 remaining posts in Dhaka and Chattogram.

In the meantime, the Sammilita Parishad and the Forum finalised Arshad Jamal, managing director of Tusuka Fashion Limited, and Faisal Samad, director of Surma Garment Limited, as the panel leaders respectively.

When asked BGMEA vice president Shahidullah Azim said, “We have no problem holding an election, but the election board was not formed as we did not receive a green signal from the commerce ministry.”

Regarding this, commerce secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh told Prothom Alo, “The current board of BGMEA sought a tenure extension again. It will be scrutinised whether a fresh extension can be approved, but the ministry has not taken any decision yet.”

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna