Standing committees must be active and effective


The 11th national parliament of Bangladesh has been sworn in. The election took place with the participation of almost all registered parties including BNP. The participation had initially created an enthusiasm, but that soon fizzled out with the results. With the virtual one-sided victory of Awami League, there is hardly any chance of party-based representation in the parliament. And with the Jatiya Oikya Front coalition, including BNP, not taking oath, the hope of a representative parliament has diminished.

When it comes to a representative, effective and meaningful parliament, our hopes have been dashed to the ground. We rarely have had such a parliament in our country. Even when there had been a strong opposition, the parliament had been marred by boycotts, the opposition’s microphones being shut off and repeated walkouts. And some parliaments saw shameful quorum crises.

Even the recent past 10th national parliament was not representative in a true sense. It was, in effect, a parliament devoid of opposition. And if Jatiya Party joins hands with Awami League to be part of it, then the same situation will prevail this time too. Does that mean Bangladesh’s parliamentary democracy has entered stage where there will be no representation of any opposition? The political parties should give serious thought to the matter. This is also important to lend credibility to the majority in parliament.

The sweeping majority of one particular political party in the parliament can be restrictive to the growth of the democratic system. And also, there should be scope for debate and dissension over important issues raised in parliament, even from within the same party. Adhering to Article 70 of the constitution should not be obligatory.

The main function of the parliament is to promulgate laws and to review and ensure accountability of government activities. In the 11th parliament, the ruling party members will be more or less entirely in charge of this. It is natural that the members of parliament will look into the needs of the people of their respective constituencies. At the same time, they are to enact new laws and amend old ones as required. We want to particularly stress upon the responsibility of the parliamentarians to ensure the accountability of the government.

When it comes to enacting laws, public interests are priority. No new laws should be enacted if they go against public interest. We also call for the abolition or amendment of any existing laws or certain sections of any laws that have been strongly opposed by the people. We make this appeal to the members of the ruling party in parliament. Let there be debate over these issues in the House.

One way of keeping the parliament effective is to ensure that the standing committees are continuously active.  In a parliament bereft of opposition, the standing committees are the last hope. These committees can play an effective role in stemming corruption and addressing important national problems. We hope that under the watch of the new parliament, the new government will actively work for the welfare and advancement of the people and the country.

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