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An eye-opener

Publication Date : 16-10-2012


So it is now clear. Clear as to who are responsible for the damage done to the image of the current parliament of Bangladesh. It was none but MPs who did the job by indulging in various criminal and unethical activities, as revealed in a survey of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).

The shocking findings of the TIB, disclosed on Sunday, also raise a serious question: Haven't the surveyed lawmakers involved in criminal and negative activities violated the constitution by breaching their oath of office?

Before assuming office, each of these lawmakers took an oath of faithfully discharging their duties as a member of parliament and not to succumb to their personal interest while doing so.

As per the constitution, they are supposed to make laws and hold the government's executive branch accountable to parliament. They are also supposed to oversee the functioning of the government.

But, alas, 97 per cent of the 149 sitting MPs surveyed by the TIB were involved in "negative activities", including being involved in or supportive of criminal activities, misuse of government funds and influencing government decisions.

And 70 per cent of them were engaged in "criminal activities" like killing, land and river grabbing, extortion, tender manipulation and cheating. Even many MPs used their position to boost their income.

The TIB findings also demonstrate how the ruling Awami League has failed to honour its own promises. Amending the party declaration, the AL at its 2009 national council announced that MPs' role would be to focus on making laws and policies. But many of the AL MPs were rather more interested in controlling the decision making process of local administrations, and appointments and transfers in different national and local organisations.

No wonder that the ruling party and the government have rejected the TIB findings and launched a blistering attack on the anti-graft watchdog, terming the survey a "conspiracy against the government". Governments in the past have reacted in the same way.

On many an occasion in the past four years or so, ruling party MPs and ministers have come down heavily on the media and civil society personalities and accused them of undermining the dignity of the House. Whenever the media and civil society members spoke of the wrongdoings of lawmakers and ministers, they came under verbal attack, at times from the highest level of the government.

Indeed, a culture of non-action against the wrongdoers has bred a culture of impunity.

Such a culture has yielded nothing positive for the government and the ruling Awami League. The unethical activities by the MPs have in no way brightened the image of the government.

With only about a year left before the nation goes to the polls, anyone can now sum up the performance of the current government by just looking at the wrongdoings of the MPs. And one need not go through any other documents or reports.

In a parliamentary democracy, the role of MPs largely determines the fate of good governance and rule of law. So, when the MPs themselves involve en masse in criminal and immoral activities, it goes without saying that they will be unable to perform the duties they are entrusted with. And the failure of the House to perform only heightens the risk of spreading unbridled corruption.

People are not ignorant, one might add, of what has happened in the last four years.

Shakhawat Liton is a senior reporter of The Daily Star.


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