Vol. 5 Num 794 Sun. August 20, 2006  

Alliance govt pushing country towards constitutional crisis
AL leaders tell seminar

Top Awami League leaders yesterday said the alliance government is pushing the country towards uncertainty and constitutional crisis as it is unwilling to implement electoral reforms, which are a must for free and fair elections.

The ruling alliance is also playing a political game over the issue of dialogue with the opposition and has made all the preparations for 'election engineering' by politicising the civil administration, Election Commission and even the judiciary, they said.

"We have put forward a number of reform proposals and called for discussion on them, but the government has created confusion about the issue," said AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil at a national seminar on 'Practice of democracy: Importance of free and fair elections in Bangladesh'.

Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (Bilia), Bangladesh Heritage Foundation, Democracy and Human Rights Research and Citizens' Council for South Asian Solidarity jointly organised the seminar at a city hotel.

Speaking as a panellist, Law Minister Moudud Ahmed said the country has all the pre-conditions for democracy and that the democratic institutions only need to be strengthened.

He urged all to brush aside bitter experiences of the past in their speeches and look forward to strengthening the democratic institutions and making the parliament effective.

The minister also suggested making the Speaker of parliament neutral, giving the opposition lawmakers in parliamentary committees better status and creating an environment for them to play their due role in making parliament accountable.

AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil said, "We, the opposition, submitted about 2,000 questions to the PM in parliament, but none of them was answered while the Speaker has played a partisan role by not allowing us enough time to speak."

Separation of the judiciary was not possible until now, as the government does not want it, he said.

Referring to the formation of an election monitoring group with the NGOs, Jalil said, "The international game with the politics of Bangladesh must be stopped."

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, political secretary to the leader of the opposition, said if proper investigations into all the bomb blasts, including August 21 grenade attacks on an AL rally, and arm hauls are not conducted and the culprits not punished, there will be adverse impact on the next elections.

Stressing the need for dialogue on the reform issue, he said that while BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan speaks of one-to-one meeting, the prime minister says there is no need of dialogue.

Due to highly politicised civil administration, the ruling alliance will virtually remain in power even after its term expires, Saber said.

The government has appointed DCs (deputy commissioners), SPs (police superintendents) TNOs (Thana Nirbahi Officers) on political considerations and politicised the EC, he added.

AL presidium member Suranjit Sengupta said the voter list being prepared by the EC is acceptable to none but the ruling alliance. "So, I don't see any possibilities that elections will be in time, which would lead the country to crisis."

In his keynote speech, Justice Naimuddin Ahmed said the first and foremost reform that is needed is not in the law, but in the composition of the EC that must be composed of men of unimpeachable integrity and character, who are fearless, thoroughly impartial and not purchasable at any cost.

Supreme Court Advocate Dr Shirin S Chaudhury, Waliur Rahman of Bilia presented two keynote papers while Justice KM Sobhan and Barrister Amir-ul Islam presided over the sessions.

AL presidium member Amir Hossain Amu, AL lawmaker Promod Mankin, Forrest E Cookson of Research and Development Centre, Dr Owen Lippert of National Democracy Institute and Kim McQuay of The Asia Foundation also spoke at the seminar.

Law Minister Moudud Ahmed and AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil discuss a point at a seminar at a city hotel yesterday while Wali-ur Rahman of Bilia and Forrest E Cookson of Research and Development Centre look on. PHOTO: STAR