Inaugural session of 9th Parliament168 new MPs add festivityStaff CorrespondentFestive mood prevails in the Parliament Bhaban on the inaugural session of the ninth parliament on Sunday. This festivity further increased in the presence of some 168 new faces in the parliament out of some 300 electoral constituencies. Most of the new parliament members (MPs) are young. Of them, some 132 members are from Awami League, 14 belong to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), 14 MPs from Jatiya Party Ershad, two from Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami two others Independent. About 56 percent new MPs have been elected for the ninth parliament.According to AL sources, the new parliament members belonging to AL would be given training about the rules and procedures of the parliament so that the new members can play a positive role to make the ongoing parliament effective.Second meeting of AL Parliamentary Committee, held at the Parliament Bhaban, reiterated this issue. Hasina asked all new MPs to build up the capacity for serving the people and assured them to arrange a workshop for the new parliament members immediately Talking to this correspondent after the AL Parliamentary Meeting, Zunaid Ahmed Palak (28), one of the youngest MPs, elected from Natore-3 constituency in the December 29 General Election expressed his satisfaction for his being elected by the people of his locality.Expressing his desire to work for the people, he said, "We are taking advice from the senior parliamentarians and reading different books, which would be helpful to increase knowledge level .Our leader in the Parliament wants to see new members as time-befitting law makers, who will be able to contribute for the party and the country as well." Another new MP elected from Narayanganj Nazrul Islam Babu said, "It's a feeling what I cannot express in language but I' am very happy. At the same time, I am really in a fix what to do or not to do. I'm closely observing the overall situation in the JS session."Dignitaries from both home and abroad, and visitors - mostly relatives of the cabinet members and lawmakers - were present in the parliament building. Meanwhile, talking to The Bangladesh Today, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad said, "The Government was earlier prepared to elect Deputy Speaker from the Opposition but no proposal or no name has come from the opposition side. If the BNP-led opposition had sent any name for Deputy Speaker even before one hour of the parliament session he would have been elected."
CommentaryUpazilla election and stonewalling realityMahmud ur Rahman ChoudhuryIn continuation of my last week's commentary, I wanted to write about something else but the Upazilla election came up and I was so caught up in it that I jumped out of bed at 3 AM on 23 January to write this piece. I hope it grabs you as much as it did me.The Upazilla elections are over, to the dissatisfaction of almost everyone, most of all the electorate who didn't turn up in any considerable numbers to vote. Chaos, violence, rigging, forgery, intimidation and hijacking of ballot boxes were significant enough to make news headlines, elicit protests and condemnation from the BNP and suspend voting in 6 Upazillas. Law-enforcing agencies supported by the Army, deployed for the purpose of ensuring security did not seem to have done much to check the intimidation and violence or to ensure security of voters. As was expected the AL supported candidates won well over 65 percent of the chairmanship and other seats with the BNP and others trailing well behind. It therefore, comes as no surprise that the AL spokesperson and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam expressed satisfaction over the course the Upazilla polling has taken. Addressing a press conference, right after the voting closed in the evening of 22 January, he said, "Our government provided all out cooperation to the EC for smooth holding of the election. Normalcy prevailed throughout the country. Law and order situation was very satisfactory" - this inspite of images, of near-empty polling centres and people fighting, splashed all over TV screens and newspapers. That the AL government, after all the much publicized big talks about "change", would stonewall realities comes as a frustrating surprise, particularly when the so long well-regarded AL spokesperson Syed Ashraful Islam attempts to justify the irregularities and violence by claiming that "…clashes and many untoward incidents were reported in past elections across the country also." Taking issue with the EC's dissatisfaction with the election, Syed Ashraf further added, "The election commission tried to depoliticize Bangladesh earlier. Election to the local government without political identity won't bring any good results…So far I know the EC has suspended polls of some 6 upazillas but no major untoward incidents have been reported till now." By invoking the past to stonewall the present Syed Ashraful Islam disregards the fact that people have so massively voted for the AL in the parliamentary election because it is exactly the past which the "people" do not want a repetition of. The point which Syed Ashraf and the AL fail to grasp is that nothing can be made to justify a single incident of violence, rigging, forgery, intimidation and suspension of voting because it deprives people of their most basic and fundamentally important right of being citizens of Bangladesh - that is, it prevents people from exercising their right to franchise in a free and fair manner. Don't Syed Ashraful Islam and the AL understand that it is not just voting in 6 Upazillas which was suspended; what was suspended was the right, of thousands of people, to be citizens. Stonewalling reality can be as bad as that. "Take away my right to vote and you deprive me of the right to be a citizen of Bangladesh" - if the AL flouts this and expects us all to believe in their justifications for flouting it, the AL is on a tack which within 2 years will take us again to another 1/11. So, where really is the "change" the AL has promised us to get our votes or was it just a chicanery, a fraud perpetuated on the Nation.