Speaker Abdul Hamid and some ruling alliance MPs in parliament yesterday launched a blistering attack on TIB, terming the graft watchdog's recent survey on the activities of lawmakers “flawed” and “ill-motivated”.
In response to lawmakers clamouring for action against TIB for “undermining the dignity of parliament”, the Speaker said he would come up with a decision later in consultation with some senior MPs.
Some lawmakers, including Tofail Ahmed and Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, requested the Speaker to convene a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on privileges, and to summon TIB officials to appear before it to defend the survey.
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) report, released on October 14, said 97 percent of the 149 sitting MPs surveyed were involved in "negative activities” that include being linked to or being supportive of criminal activities, misusing public funds and influencing government decisions.
And 70 percent of those involved in "negative activities” were engaged in "criminal activities" like murder, land-grabbing, extortion, tender manipulation and cheating. Many MPs even used their position to boost their income, the survey added.
Contacted yesterday, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said, "I have full respect for parliament. If something is decided or discussed in the House, it should be consistent with democracy.”
What TIB did was for the sake of democracy, he said, adding that if any adverse decision is taken against TIB, it must be considered how different quarters at home and abroad will take it.
Before taking any decision, MPs should consider whether it goes with their image and democracy, Iftekharuzzaman added. “The parliamentarians should have the mentality to tolerate criticism as critics are also well-wishers."
The ruling alliance MPs participating in an unscheduled discussion for over 40 minutes, rejected the survey and challenged the watchdog to prove its findings.
Speaker Abdul Hamid, who was presiding over the sitting, questioned the method of the survey, saying TIB took opinion of only 600 people. “Who are these people? Are they commoners? Or are they employees of TIB?”
Both ruling and opposition MPs are bad as per the TIB report, Hamid said. “Then who will run the country? TIB or civil society? I am asking them again to join the next election and win people's mandate if they want to run the country.”
The Speaker said it was unfortunate that a section of the media desperately and deliberately was trying to undermine the image of the Jatiya Sangsad and MPs.
Veteran Al leader Tofail Ahmed said TIB had prepared the report by taking the opinion of only 600 people out of 16 crore. “TIB's whole survey is unethical. Did it set up a court to judge MPs?”
Jatiya Party lawmaker Mujibul Haque said releasing such a report ahead of the national polls was ill-motivated.
AL leader Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, who piloted the discussion, said, “It is a shameless attack on parliament and it is tantamount to sedition.
“TIB has crossed its limits. It wants to control parliament, state and judiciary. It considers itself a superpower.”
He added, “I request you [Speaker] to convene a meeting of the privilege committee and summon them [TIB officials] to prove their findings. If they fail, the government has to take action.”
Selim alleged some NGO officials live luxurious lives and some NGOs bring crores of taka from abroad in the name of running their activities. “I will ask the finance minister to check how they spend the money. If they spend their money against the state, government and democracy, beyond their jurisdiction, then ban all their activities and expel them from the country.”
He said TIB had undermined parliament and the government as well as by releasing an imaginary report. “Our privileges have been violated.”
TIB was conspiring against democracy and was in favour of undemocratic forces as it got privileges with an unelected government in power, Selim added.
“Those who patronised the minus-two formula are now engaged in conspiracy to promote a third force as they do not get importance during the tenure of an elected government.
“In the name of searching for honest and competent candidates, they are launching attacks on parliament,” he said.
A total of eight MPs participated in the discussion and many others sought the floor to speak on it.