Vol. 5 Num 1061 Sun. May 27, 2007  
Front Page

Sycophancy destroyed democracy in AL, BNP
Party leaders say on BBC Sanglap

Practice of intra-party democracy, transparency, accountability and decentralisation of power in Awami League (AL) and BNP has been quashed by the practice of rampant sycophancy in the two major political parties of the country, observed their leaders yesterday.

BNP Vice-chairman Maj (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed, and AL Organising Secretary Saber Hossain Chowdhury made the observation on BBC Bangladesh Sanglap held in Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the capital.

"There are many undemocratic provisions in the constitution of BNP. But without knowing our constitution we are blaming the party chief for abuse of power. While the fact is that as leaders we all are trying to curry favours with her," said Hafizuddin, a former commerce minister.

"Truth is not told at party meetings sometimes only to flatter the party chief. And that's how abuse of power by the party chief is encouraged," said Saber Hossain, also political secretary to AL President Sheikh Hasina.

Saber suggested increasing the number of party members, appointment of an ombudsman or a watchdog body for putting checks and balances on use of power, and establishing accountability within his party. The AL leader also emphasised on taking collective decisions in the party.

Former adviser to a caretaker government Sultana Kamal, and Editor of the New Age Nurul Kabir also participated in the Sanglap.

BBC Bengali Service in conjunction with BBC World Service Trust organised the event. BBC's Waliur Rahman Miraj and Masud Hasan Khan produced and moderated the event respectively.

Replying to a query, Saber said reform has been a continuous process within AL since its formation. Saying that the military backed caretaker government has been pressuring political parties for bringing reforms to the organisations, the AL leader claimed that feeling the necessity for political reforms they already placed some proposals to the immediate past parliament.

"What reforms we should bring to the parties have not been finalised yet. The necessity for reforms might come to the fore in the future also in changing contexts," Saber added.

Hafiz said as the council of BNP has not been held for long, discussions on reforms did not come up in BNP. "But our party chairperson said a couple of days ago that reforms will be brought to BNP immediately after the ban on indoor politics is lifted," he said.

Sultana Kamal said, "If we can compel political parties to establish accountability, then there might be a hope that they will bring meaningful reforms."

Saying that no political party in the country seems to be democratic, Nurul Kabir emphasised on decentralisation of power among the top leaders and on bringing transparency in the accounts of the parties.

Regarding the much talked about possibility of a new political party, the BNP leader observed that due to confrontational politics of AL and BNP, the people want to get rid of such politics, making real the necessity for forming new political parties.

He also blamed AL and BNP for the 'current crisis' of the country and said both parties have failed to meet the aspirations of the people.

He however said there are more political parties in Bangladesh than necessary. "We will welcome the Election Commission if it takes initiatives to scale down the number," said Hafiz.

Saber said new political parties are launched when existing political parties fail to fulfil the ambitions of the people, adding that a new political party should be an outcome of an organic demand of the time and should be formed accordingly. But if it is formed artificially, then it will run the risk of being rejected by the people.

Nurul Kabir said there are three kinds of people who are wanting to form new political parties those who could have been accused of corruption, those who are currently deprived in existing political parties, and those who are looking for a short cut to power.

About human rights violations under the current caretaker government, he said the current interim government came to power suspending all kinds of human rights, which he said is unjust. Kabir's comment prompted echoes from the other speakers who said human rights are being violated every day in the country.

About the recent promotions of the top brass of the armed forces, the speakers said it would have been better if the promotions were given during the rule of a democratic government. But they said there was a necessity for a four-star general to adjust the armed forces to its international duties.

They also recommended that the caretaker government arranges subsidies for curbing the prices of essentials and reduces tariffs on essential imports.