the parliament is the nucleus of a
democratic state, then the committee
system within the parliament is the
heart of the nucleus. The role of
the parliamentary bodies dictates
the fate of the parliament, so the
committee system must be strengthened
in building a democratic state.
is also true that the committee system
is the effective way of ensuring the
executive accountability to the legislature.
The committees have the in-built advantage
of being the smaller bodies with greater
time available to them to examine
an issue in detail. It is indeed remarkable
that while consensus often eludes
the House, the committees are, by
and large, able to produce unanimous
reports. It is therefore no exaggeration
to say that the real work of parliament
nowadays is performed in the committees.
our country the committee system has
started to function for seven years.
The achievement by this time could
have been more than the visible if
the process was not hampered because
of negative culture of politics.
reintroduction of the democracy in
the country through the mass movement
of 1990, we have already lost another
seven years. Five years during the
BNP government, 1991 to 1996, for
appointment of ministers as the chairmen
of the parliamentary standing committees
on various ministries. Being dominated
by the ministers the committees did
not discharge their over seeing duties,
as the ministers were reluctant to
discuss about alleged irregularities
and corruption in their respective
the Awami League government wasted
about one and a half years to form
the standing committees in seventh
parliament after its inception, the
government took step to break the
tradition. The ministers were dropped
from the posts of chairmen through
amendment of the rules of procedure
of the Jatiya Sangsad.
positive role of the committees was
very much visible though the then
main opposition BNP had not nominated
its deputies to different standing
committees on the ministries at commencement
of the bodies. After a few months
of the formation of the bodies though
the party nominated its deputies to
the committees but it started to boycott
the current parliament is still in
limbo, the main opposition Awami League
has not nominated its lawmakers to
all parliamentary standing committees,
including 39 committees on the same
number of ministries. About 21 months
after inception of the eighth parliament,
most of the vital bodies are functioning
very poorly -- often following the
positions of the respective ministries
than having their own voice.
the 51 parliamentary bodies, 39 represent
various ministries, the Awami League
(AL) has participation in only five
committees that were formed immediately
after the eighth parliament was formed.
These committees deal with the preliminary
functioning of the parliament -- and
do not represent any ministries.
and a quarter of year has already
passed, but it is still uncertain
that whether the AL will nominate
its lawmakers or not.
neglect of the government and parliament
is also responsible to keep the vital
bodies inactive. Four financial standing
committees of the Jatiya Sangsad have
recently raised the allegation.
the ruling and the main opposition
party are blaming each other for the
ineffectiveness of the bodies as well
as they are blaming each other from
the very beginning over the formation
of the bodies. The AL refrained from
nominating its deputies to rest of
the bodies afterwards on the ground
that the ruling party was ignoring
them in forming these committees.
ruling party went ahead without Opposition
participation and held over 200 meetings
of standing committees upon forming
the remaining 46 committees within
the last three months.
it is not the ruling BNP that alone
practices unilateral decisions on
the last parliament, the-then ruling
party AL formed standing committees
after one and a half years keeping
slots vacant for the then main opposition
vital issues are not being raised
on discussion table. The opposition
could have availed the scope to discuss
vital issues like law and order, price
hike of essentials and thus serve
the nation playing a positive role.
But AL shrugs off playing such roles
saying that the ruling party doesn't
permit such discussions, as 'it does
not let us discuss in the House'.
has also been raised that some committees
are dominated by the ministers concerned,
as chairmen of these bodies are junior
to the ministers politically and also
inside party's chain of command.
has been raised over the effectiveness
of some committees as these echo the
same voice of the government. Ruling
party Lawmakers do not raise their
voice against any ministry's activities
in the House fearing loss of membership,
although they are allowed to do so
at the committees.
at least 50 bills have been passed
without scrutiny by the committees,
as these committees were not formed.
Question of legality was raised at
the process of passing bills.
none of the 39 parliamentary standing
committees on the same number of the
ministries holds its meeting in due
time as per the rules of procedure.
The speaker Jamir Uddin Sircar has
not taken initiative as per the rules
of procedure to resolve the stalemate.
to lack of understanding between the
ruling and opposition parties the
committee system cannot ensure government's
accountability and transparency. It
has also been difficult to balance
power between the executive and the
legislative. As a result the question
has been raised that how is it then
possible to strengthen parliamentary
democracy without balancing executive
scenario could have been different
if the AL participated in committee
and raised its voice in the current
activities of the different ministries.
the visible ineffectiveness of the
committee system can we say the Jatiya
Sangsad is functioning effectively?
this regard, the rules of procedure
of the Jatiya Sangsad should be amended
incorporating some provisions like
-- the formation of the standing committees
at inaugural session of the each new
parliament, some vital chairmen posts
including public accounts committee
should be nominated from opposition
lawmakers, the tenure of the chairmen
and members of the committee should
be elected for a specific time etc.
The author is a staff correspondent
of The Daily Star.