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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2011
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Caretaker system abolished

JS passes constitution's 15th amendment bill amid BNP's absence

Parliament yesterday abolished the caretaker government system allowing general elections under elected partisan governments, with the main opposition BNP terming it "throwing the country into a political confrontation".

Islam's status as the state religion was retained and the Arabic phrase "Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim" with its translation "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful/ In the name of the Creator, the Merciful" was made a part of the constitution with the passage of the 15th constitutional amendment bill.

The latest amendment also allowed religion based politics which had been banned on papers last year after the cancellation of the fifth amendment. The fifth amendment's cancellation had restored the ban imposed by the original 1972 constitution.

Yesterday's amendment however restored secularism as one of the four fundamental principles of the state which had been omitted by a martial law regime after the 1975 bloody changeover.

The House took a bold step against military takeover of state power and suspension or cancellation of any provision of the constitution by such usurpers. It made a provision for stringent punishment for such moves terming those as "sedition".

The 15th amendment also imposed a ban on amending the constitution's preamble, basic structure, and some other specific provisions including the just introduced one which makes it mandatory to display the portrait of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in all government offices.

After yesterday it is now clear that the next parliamentary election will be held under the Awami League-led government.

According to the latest amendment, the next parliamentary election will be held within 90 days prior to the current parliament's dissolution.

This means the 10th parliamentary elections will be held at the end of 2013 or at the beginning of 2014 as the tenure of the current parliament will expire on January 24, 2014.

During these 90 days, the parliament will remain, but it will not have any activity as the latest amendment limited its power and functions for that period. But the amendment did not limit the power of the outgoing cabinet during the election.

After the election is held, the lawmakers-elect will not assume office until the five-year tenure of the outgoing parliament expires.

The constitutional amendment act passed yesterday will come into effect on consent of the president.

The amendment introduced new provisions to make the Election Commission stronger to hold parliamentary polls. In case of any election dispute, courts must hear the EC's view before issuing any order.

During passage of the bill, the House however rejected a proposal for forming an election time interim government, consisting of ruling and opposition lawmakers of the outgoing parliament for holding parliamentary polls.

A Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) MP, Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal, proposed that the interim government would be formed consisting of 10 advisers and a chief adviser, and none of them would be able to contest in the immediate upcoming parliamentary election.

Badal in fact echoed one of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposals that she had given on April 27 participating in the consultation organised by the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment.

"There is no reason to accept any proposal for amending the constitutional amendment bill," Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed said in response to a number of proposals seeking amendments to the bill.

All proposals seeking the bill's amendment were rejected in voice vote as the ruling AL did not have any decision to accept any such proposal.

The House passed the bill with a huge margin of 291 to 1 votes.

Lawmakers belonging to ruling Awami League and its alliance partners -- Jatiya Party, Workers Party, and JSD -- voted for passing the bill. The lone independent lawmaker Fazlul Azim opposed the passage of the bill and staged walkouts three times.

He termed the cancellation of the caretaker government system as a "suicidal" step of the current government, and said the nation will have to pay a high price for "this mistake".

Lawmakers belonging to Workers Party and JSD initially refrained from joining the voting as they were opposing a number of crucial issues including maintaining Islam's status as the state religion, and allowing religion based politics.

The left leaning parties' MPs piloted some proposals for amending the bill on the issues, but their proposals were rejected in voice vote. Finally they cast their votes in favour of the bill following some AL bigwigs' persuasion.

"We wanted to register our objections on different amendment proposals while signing in the vote," Workers Party chief Rashed Khan Menon told The Daily Star.

"As we refrained from participating in voting, some of the senior MP's of Awami League including Tofail Ahmed and Syed Ashraful Islam talked to us over the issue," Menon said.

The House took around three hours since 11:45am to complete the entire process.

Immediately after passage of the bill, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the floor and said through this amendment her government ensured empowerment of the people.

But the cancellation of the caretaker government system, introduced in 1996 by the then BNP-led government, triggered stiff protests from the BNP-led opposition.

They have been reiterating that they will never participate in a parliamentary election under the AL-led government, fearing that the incumbent will manipulate the poll in its favour.

Under the just scrapped caretaker system, after dissolution of a parliament the elected government would hand over power to a non-partisan caretaker government that would provide all sorts of cooperation to the EC to hold a general election within 90 days of the parliament's dissolution, to constitute a new House.

Introduced in the constitution in 1996, the caretaker system has overseen holding of three parliamentary polls, including the last one in 2008 that was swept by the AL-led grand alliance.

All the three parliamentary elections were considered by and large free and fair by local and international observers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina insists that the repeal was necessary after the Supreme Court struck down the 13th amendment to the constitution as illegal.

It was Hasina, the opposition leader in 1994, spearheaded the campaign for installing a non-partisan caretaker government to oversee free and fair polls. The then ruling BNP vehemently opposed the idea until it was forced to bow to the opposition pressure in 1996 in the face of a tumultuous movement.

Yesterday's amendment to the constitution brought a significant change to the charter, according to which, the legality of trials of war crime suspects, who were not part of any armed force or auxiliary force in 1971, cannot be challenged in any court.

The amendment also restored the original preamble of the 1972 constitution, and included Bangabandhu's historic March 7 speech, his declaration of independence, and the proclamation of independence.

Bangalee nationalism was restored, while citizenship was maintained as Bangladeshi.

It also repealed the provision of displaying portraits of the president and the prime minister in government offices.

The amendment increased the number of reserved seats for women in parliament to 50 from current 45, and restored the original article 70 of the constitution allowing MPs to remain absent from the House if she or he does not want to cast vote on any issue in line with her or his party's decision.

It introduced a new clause for safeguarding and developing the environment and wildlife, under which the state will protect natural resources, biodiversity, water bodies, forest, and wildlife, and preserve and develop the environment for the present and future generations.

According to another new clause, "The state shall take steps to protect and develop the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects, and communities."

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The ban of caretaker government system may lead the country to a violent situation. We do not understand why the two parties can not be consensus for the betterment of society. Why will it be secularism if Bismillah and Islam remain intact?

: Ashik Mahmud

General elections will be held under political government. How is it possible to make a fair, peaceful and impartial election in that process?

: Anisha Parvish


  • I See Hope
    Friday, July 1, 2011 11:59 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Surprisingly the 15th amendment bill was passed unchallenged in JS with the exception of only one MP. But a large number of MPs from oppositions could come to stand against the amendment and to initiate a long discussion. This is the failure of them and our politics.

  • Shamima Begum Shelley
    Friday, July 1, 2011 11:49 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    After waiting 11 months, not 9 months, the Parliament has delivered the change. The nation cannot be divided for an indefinite period. 51 issues were addressed and BNP only objected one of them. AL went forward keeping the people's hope. AL can control politics very well and it would successfully deliver an election through the present EC. The amendment bill will not last forever. AL should now deliver services to the people and address the economy without delay.

  • Natasha Ahmad
    Friday, July 1, 2011 11:00 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Sad. AL did not recognize other cultural ethnic groups living in Bangladesh. Islam should not be our state religion.

  • Mn
    Friday, July 1, 2011 10:41 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    It is a plan of AL to implement it by all means. AL only do their favorable things even destroying democracy and peoples' inspirations and hopes.

  • ShamimH
    Friday, July 1, 2011 10:41 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    The caretaker government served the country well and the Court approved at least next two elections under the system. This move of the government will lead them to a downfall. It is a pity for the government. Power always belongs to the public. AL's this move was a blunder.

  • rahim
    Friday, July 1, 2011 10:38 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    It is a process of moving towards a one-party government. Civil society should move and AL should know its a country for all not only for them.

  • zerosopher
    Friday, July 1, 2011 09:54 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Almost 71 percent as per poll do not accept abolition of the care taker government system. The government took action against absolute majority turning itself autocratic. And an autocratic government does not last for long.

  • Abu Zubair
    Friday, July 1, 2011 09:54 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Democracy is based on creating a consensus among all political parties. But AL, particularly PM closed that door entirely in question of the amendment. And the whole process was unbelievably hasty. The question is about purpose. Still there is time. AL and PM should take effective steps to repair the political damage.

  • AnoBangalee
    Friday, July 1, 2011 08:57 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    AL can compel the voters to vote for them. That situation is coming for the people.

  • shah abdul hannan
    Friday, July 1, 2011 08:47 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    It is a sad but happy day. It will lead the country to a conflict as the amendment bill was passed hurriedly against the will of majority thinkers and people.

  • Dev Saha
    Friday, July 1, 2011 08:18 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Please do not insult our intelligence. When does a state go for a state religion? It has in a sense abandoned the path of secularism. The state has basically marginalized it's religious minorities with this discriminatory act.

  • Jarina Rahman Hossain
    Friday, July 1, 2011 07:18 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    People were not consulted in the process of 15th amendment. We all should resist it. In future, there should be no constitutional amendment without referendum.

  • MAS Molla
    Friday, July 1, 2011 06:57 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

  • Anonymous
    Friday, July 1, 2011 06:47 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    There can not be any state religion and people have religion of their own. Secularism and state religion are contradictory.

  • Anonymous in USA
    Friday, July 1, 2011 06:07 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    According to the amended constitution, the parliamentary election will be held under the party government. It is surprising to see that the power of the court will be curtailed during the election. We still do not what powers will be curtailed but does not seem to be an ominous sign. We do not understand why the power of the court will be curtailed only during the election.

  • A Bangalee Expat
    Friday, July 1, 2011 06:00 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    The government has shot down free and fair election in Bangladesh with the abolition of the caretaker government system. With this it will strangle the democracy of the country.

  • Drkarim
    Friday, July 1, 2011 05:48 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Jonathan swift has written Gulliver's Travels long ago. Our politicians are basically playing roles of Lilliput and unfortunately they do not know their identity yet. We are again starting from questions arisen during 1960. As if last 40 years the nation was in a long hibernation. Our parliamentarian, bureaucrats and politicians probably need a short course of nationalism, secularism, sociology and basic.

  • Samina
    Friday, July 1, 2011 02:27 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Hasina wants to remain PM for lifetime.

  • An Expat
    Friday, July 1, 2011 02:01 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Bangladesh had a lot of problems regarding election under party government. There were violence and corruptions of all kind and lives were lost.Ballot boxes were stolen and allegations of false votes took place. In order to get rid of that Bangladesh introduced the caretaker government system for fair and peaceful election. Now the system is abolished and the future elections will be held under a political government. Nothing is more dangerous than this. Bangladesh should find out a way to hold a fair, impartial and peaceful election. Election under a political government will be disastrous for the country.

  • Rubo
    Friday, July 1, 2011 01:54 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    This is another example of misusing two-third majority in parliament. The current political culture will never allow a free and fair election under any political government. As a voter I will never feel safe to go to any poll held under AL or BNP. I want a neutral caretaker government and I think majority of the people will also be agreed with me. In the name of going back to 1972 constitution, AL has cheated the people of the country.

  • Anonymous in USA
    Friday, July 1, 2011 12:39 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    Election under a political government was never fair. There were corruptions of many kinds like stealing and stuffing ballot boxes, bribing and intimidating voters, forgery of ballot papers, using the administration to get votes and so on. To get rid of these the caretaker system was introduced. Under a political government these things will happen once again. Democracy will be at stake.

  • Sharmin Sharfuddin
    Friday, July 1, 2011 12:32 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    We voted AL to take the country towards peace, progress and prosperity. But now they are busy to change unnecessary things. People know the actual reasons behind any change. AL have to pay for it in the upcoming election.

  • Anonymous
    Friday, July 1, 2011 12:31 AM GMT+06:00 (241 weeks ago)

    We do not need a caretaker government. We need a neutral elected government for the transition period.





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