Vol. 5 Num 19 Tue. June 15, 2004  
Front Page

AL makes JS comeback
Main opposition joins House today; sends MPs to JS bodies; accepts proportionate distribution of women's reserved seats

The Awami League (AL) joins the budget session of parliament today and moves to participate in the House activities including nomination of party deputies to parliamentary standing committees in a major shift in the main opposition party's position.

The AL at its parliamentary party meeting yesterday also agreed to accept proportionate distribution of women's reserved seats in parliament and contest the upcoming by-election to Gazipur-2 constituency that fell vacant with the killing of AL lawmaker Ahsanullah Master on Many 7.

Introduction of 45 reserved seats for women in a set of provisions in the 14th constitution amendment bill that the Jatiya Sangsad passed on May 16 drew flak from the AL and other opposition parties.

With the crucial decisions, the main opposition has apparently shifted its focus onto parliament from street agitation, although Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina said AL leaders would also be out in the streets to launch a fresh antigovernment movement.

"We will debate important issues in the House and gear up a street agitation against the ruling alliance's misdeeds including political killings, other crimes and corruption," said Hasina, emerging from the three-hour meeting at the Sangsad Bhaban.

"We will try to speak for people …We want to unmask the corrupt and criminal face of the government," Hasina, also AL president, told newspersons.

In a change of heart, the main opposition party agreed to send a list of its lawmakers to Speaker Jamir Uddin Sircar for induction into the parliamentary standing committees, a decision that came about one year after formation of the parliamentary bodies.

The committees were formed in July last year, but the AL did not nominate its members, saying the committees were constituted without prior discussion with the opposition.

Of the 51 Jatiya Sangsad bodies, 39 represent ministries and the AL has participation in only five committees that deal with parliamentary functioning and do not represent any ministry.

"The present parliamentary standing committees became illegal without the opposition's representation. A list of Awami League MPs is ready for induction into the committees," Hasina said, once again demanding proportionate committee chairmanship.

She directed her party deputies to play active roles in the House discussion and meetings of standing committees on ministries to bring to light what she said was corruption of the ruling coalition.

Hasina said the opposition lawmakers would demand discussions on the hot-button issues such as the killing of Ahsanullah Master, a grenade attack on the British high commissioner to Bangladesh, arms seizure and terrorist training camps in Chittagong allegedly run by a state minister's cousin and activities of Bangla Bhai.

The AL marks its participation in the House, taking part in a discussion on the supplementary budget for the fiscal 2003-04 that opened on Monday.

Most AL lawmakers returned to parliament on May 12 after an 11-month boycott and took part in the obituary reference to Ahsanullah Master, gunned down at a roadside rally in the industrial town of Tongi. But Hasina could not join the House then, as she was in the United States.

Hasina said she would raise a question to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in her question time in parliament on Wednesday on the government's failure to curb law and order downslide, killings, violence, arms smuggling and corruption.

"We hope the speaker will allow the opposition MPs to speak on these issues and run the House in line with the rules of procedure," she said.

The AL began the House boycott on June 25 last year for what it said were abusive words by treasury bench members against Hasina. The AL lawmakers demanded an apology from the ruling BNP lawmakers as a condition for their return to the House.

"Despite ministers' abusive words against the Awami League president, we are going to parliament to speak for people," Deputy Leader of the Opposition Abdul Hamid said.

Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina presides over a meeting of the parliamentary party of Awami League, which she also heads, at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban yesterday. PHOTO: STAR