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Why are we still continuing with a 'viceregal' political system? - Rounaq Jahan

Eroding democratic values and Constitution - Dr. M Zahir

Democracy: An unfinished agenda - Dr Kamal Hossain

A case for proportional representation - Rashed Khan Menon

Is majority rule same as democratic rule? - Kazi Anwarul Masud

Responsibilities of majority rule - Muhammad Zamir

The issue is democratic culture - Emajuddin Ahamed

Leaders and politicians - Mohammad Badrul Ahsan

Black money in electioneering - Inam Ahmed

Party nomination on sale - Rezaul Karim

The tale of limping parliament - Reaz Ahmed

Politicians hindering progress - AH Jaffor Ullah

Whither parliamentary standing committees - Shakhawat Liton

Politicians must take blame for failures - Syed Ashfaqul Haque


Antagonism takes precedence over understanding Shakhawat Liton

Thirteen years of democratic experience: Strengths and weaknesses Reaz Ahmad

Distorted political culture Shameem Mahmud

Party constitutions: Rarely followed Rezaul Karim




Antagonism takes precedence over understanding

Shakhawat Liton

Building an effective relationship between parliament and the executive in the House depends, to a large extent, on striking the right balance between the treasury benches and members of the opposition. In this task, the role and cooperation of all sections of the House, and particularly of the leader of the House and the leader of the opposition in the chamber are of great significance.

The roles of the speaker, the leader, and opposition leader of the House have been none-too-active viewed from the standpoint of parliamentary functioning.

None of them can possibly claim that she/ he is playing a definite role in favour of strengthening parliamentary democracy.

The way that they react to their rivals' assertions in the House is not healthy for the democratic process.

The role of the speaker is crucial in the House, as the experts say, the quality most essential to Speaker is strict impartiality. He has to protect the rights of all sections of the House. As an umpire, he has to see that rules of the game are observed by all, and that before the government has its way, the opposition must have its say.

The speaker is bound to go by the constitution and the rules of procedure of the Jatiya Sangsad to run the business of the House. He takes oath to run the House as per the constitution and the rules of procedure of the Jatiya Sangsad. He will preserve, protect and defend the constitution.

By allowing judicious use of parliamentary devices and procedures, the speaker helps in building an effective relationship between the institutions of governance.

If the speaker, the guardian of the House is always accused of partial role in running parliament, then its whole purpose is defeated. The Indian national parliament Speaker Manohar Joshi convenes a meeting of leaders of parliamentary parties and groups before the commencement of every session to know their views on issues likely to come up for discussion during the session. "Such meetings are also convened from time to time during the session to facilitate amicable resolution of stalemates and impasses ".

But in Bangladesh, the parliamentary democracy never witnessed such developments as the speaker has never initiated the process of holding a dialogue among the leaders of various parties in the Jatiya Sangsad. The business advisory committee headed by the speaker sits to allocate the business and duration of the session. But the opinion from the opposition parties has never been accepted. The ruling party dominates the committee. The speaker never raises his voice in favour of any opposition lawmaker. Opposition parties always blame the speaker for his role at the House.

Speaker Jamir Uddin Sircar declared that he would arrange a dialogue between the ruling and the opposition parties before the 11th session of the Jatiya Sangsad began on January 18. But he failed to fulfil his promise.

"I don't feel any pressure from the ruling party or the leader of the House to run the parliament. I am running the House neutrally and independently", the speaker told The Daily Star. He mentioned that existing laws and provisions are enough for the speaker to discharge his duties impartially.

But the former speaker Abdul Hamid opined differently, mentioning the existing system of removal of the speaker. "If the ruling party wants the speaker may be removed without any reasonable ground. This system should be changed," the former speaker said.

"But the situation is different in present parliament from the previous parliament. I did not feel any pressure from the then ruling party to run the House. But the sitting speaker has surrendered to the ruling party. Everybody in the ruling party is in fear as the elected president has been removed without any reasonable cause," Abdul Hamid, also the deputy leader of the opposition, observed.

However, both the speaker and the former speaker agreed that the system must be introduced for removal of the speaker and the deputy speaker, if necessary, through the two-third majority vote of the lawmakers instead of simple majority.

Besides, the speaker and the deputy speaker should be elected through the consensus of all the political parties represented at the parliament. The speaker should be entitled to be reelected as a parliament member in the next general election without facing any contest. The deputy speaker should be elected from the opposition lawmakers.

In making a parliament effective in line with the expectations of the people, the roles of the House Leader and leader of the opposition are vital.

The leader of the House, also the chief of the executive popularly known as the prime minister, has to lead the whole show.

The leader of the opposition is also considered as the chief of the shadow government.

In parliamentary democracy, the Leader of the House is entitled to act as the safeguard for the ruling and the opposition lawmakers though she/ he is elected from the ruling party. The leader of the House creates concord among all the activities of the parliament and plays the main role to run the House according to the government's plan and gives suggestions to the Speaker.

On the other hand, the Leader of the opposition in the House is considered the chief of the shadow government. If his party is in power the strategy to run the state will be reflected in his and his party's activities in and outside the parliament. Consulting with the House leader and whips, the opposition leader also will give the guideline to accomplish the parliament's business with efficiency. He will build the bridge of understanding between the ruling party and the opposition through frequent meetings with the House leader.

The parliament witnessed a few days of the both leaders' presence at the session at a time. Since 1991, after resumption of the parliamentary democracy, the two leaders Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina have never sat at the same table.

The leader and the opposition leader stood face to face several times at the Jatiya Sangsad. But they have failed to develop the understanding needed to run a democratic system .The leader and the opposition leader also accused each other of 'destroying' the parliamentary democracy.

The relationship between the House leader and the opposition leader should be developed in the greater interest of democracy. The nation expects their due role in and outside the Jatiya Sangsad.
The writer is staff correspondent of The Daly Star

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