Vol. 5 Num 1100 Thu. July 05, 2007  
Front Page

Suranjit for powerful president, not PM
Wants abolition of PM's sectt

Awami League (AL) Presidium Member Suranjit Sengupta yesterday announced a rather sweeping proposal for bringing reforms to the body politic of the country including party reforms.

His proposal suggests that the executive power of a government should lie with the country's president instead of the prime minister, which should be exercised by the president through the cabinet instead of the prime minister.

"The state should be run based on the principle that the prime minister is the first among equals, instead of a prime ministerial dictatorship," Suranjit said in his written reform proposal announced to the media at his Jhigatola residence in the capital.

Announcing the proposal to a crowded news briefing the AL leader suggested that the Secretariat of the Prime Minister should be abolished in line with the presidential system of government, and all important decisions should be taken in the cabinet through lively debates.

In the past, it was seen that presidential clemency was taken from the president even for persons sentenced to death for a double murder and the president was forced to sign the clemency helplessly, he said suggesting that persons competent, respectable and acceptable to all only should be appointed as presidents of the country.

In the past the country's presidents even appointed controversial and incompetent persons to the states' key constitutional posts, said the AL leader suggesting if the president disagrees with any appointment for constitutional posts, he or she should be able to send those proposals to the prime minister. Suranjit also suggested in his reform proposal that proper deference should be ensured for the president's opinions about the affairs of the state, and national and international affairs.

In recent past under the prime ministerial system of government, the president had no power other than to visit graveyards for special prayers, but current President Dr Iajuddin Ahmed do not even have the power to decide whose grave to visit, the former parliamentarian quipped.

In the last five days three reformist leaders of AL including Suranjit announced their party reform proposals, all of which have considerable amounts of discussions on reforming the body politic of the country. On party reforms, Suranjit expressed views similar to the two proposals of his colleagues Abdur Razzak and Tofail Ahmed, which preceded his, emphasising democratisation of the party, decentralisation of power, establishment of accountability and joint leadership in the organisation.

Amir Hossain Amu, who is spearheading the campaign for reforms in AL, which many say is aimed at bringing Sheikh Hasina down from the post the party president, is likely to place his reform proposal on his return from Singapore, said AL sources.

Suranjit claimed that his reform proposal does not intend to minus or plus any particular individual in the party.

He suggested changing the system of having party units at district and upazila levels, and proposed introducing constituency based party units to make the party more modern and transparent.

Saying that totalitarianism, dictatorship and unilateral leadership have no place in democracy, Suranjit advocated joint leadership, which he said will rather bolster the image of the party chief. "We all are for the leaders and they are for all of us," said the veteran AL leader.

Suranjit also said the current Election Commission's (EC) move to make registration of political parties with the commission mandatory, and some other reforms brought to the electoral laws will help democratisation of the country.

The EC should monitor and ensure that political parties properly practice intra-party democracy, he said adding that establishment of practice of democracy within political parties and the ensuring government's accountability have been delayed due to a delay in appointing ombudsmen. He demanded immediate launching of the system of appointing ombudsmen for every ministry and government organisation.

He also suggested amendments to the national constitution making way for appointing neutral and impartial speakers of the parliament. All parliamentary standing committees should be formed during the first session of the parliament comprising lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties, he said.

The state should be ruled by the parliament instead of the government and for that frequent parliamentary sessions should be called instead of occasional ones, he emphasised.

All development projects and proposed laws should be discussed in the parliament before implementation. Standing committee reports must be discussed in the house of the parliament, he added.

No decision involving national interest, policies and development should be taken without consultation and agreement with oppositions in the parliament, said the AL leader.

He also said the 12th amendment to the constitution should be scrapped amending clause 70 of the constitution to ensure free debate in the parliament. He simultaneously demanded a ban on exercising Clause 70 of the constitution except for voting purposes in the parliament. He also suggested formation of a parliamentary reform commission.

Suranjit said his reform proposal aims at making sure that democracy is practised at all levels of AL, and at establishing collective leadership to promote transparency and accountability in the decision making process of the organisation.

He also emphasised on changing the mentality of politicians for having a meaningful democracy in the country besides bringing reforms to political parties.

Suranjit Sengupta