Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has maintained measured silence and let Parliament members and her part spokespersons lambast Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) for its observations on the productivity of Jatiya Sangsad and rejection of the US State Department's views on human rights and rule of law in Bangladesh. But when she spoke out, she hit the bull's eye in exposing aspects of the Members of Parliament (MP) that not even the media dared to question.
In unveiling the newly constructed residences of Parliament's staff and employees she came down hard on the MPs. Categorically she told them that unless they used the allocated NAM flats for self and family, they would have to vacate and go to the MP hostel. In her inimitable way she came down heavily in saying these flats were not meant for the MPs' relations, cadres or their servants. It now appears from other reports that MPs would be taken to task if these flats were in a state of disrepair.
Apart from being a warning, the Prime Minister has essentially suggested that the other elements she mentioned, were indeed taking privileges they were not entitled to. Neither TIB nor the press had talked about this. The salutary by product is that she will hold the Chief Whip accountable and responsible should her instructions be ignored or not followed. ASM Firoze now finds himself with an unenviable responsibility. The sad bit is that this should have been initiated jointly by the Parliament Secretariat and the Public Works Department. If anything, the Prime Minister has more urgent matters to address.
While this isn't what TIB focused on, there's a feeling that even the Prime Minister may well be dissatisfied with the quality of debates in Parliament. TIB suggested unparliamentary words and phrases being used, all of which is the Speaker's domain, to decide whether to expunge or not. But issues ranging from the foreign reserve heist to border-killings just haven't been debated in order that full accountability may be ensured. The Finance Minister may be correct in his assertion that Tk 2.0-4.0 billion going missing isn't a big deal in a macro-economic sense but people's representatives will realise the value of such moneys as they jostle to be in line for development for their constituencies.
Ruling party spokespersons have rubbished the US State Department views on rule of law, but this too required debate given that the views were based on reports obtained from embassies, journalists, non-government organisations and think-tanks based in Bangladesh. The government may well have its own point of view and an upfront challenge of the facts and figures cited regarding disappearances and such can only help clear the air. Of equal concern is the number of people who re-appear and then are either not accessible or are unwilling to speak to anyone.