Moving backwards in terms of good governance

In view of the virtual absence of all opposition political activities due to Covid-19, we have decided to run a series of interviews of political party leaders who are not in the AL-led ruling alliance. The interviews will highlight their assessment of the overall situation of the country, discuss their own party’s activities and the plans they have for the future. We hope our readers will find the interviews informative and helpful in moving towards the future. We are running the interview of GM Quader, chairman of Jatiya Party, today to be followed by Communist Party of Bangladesh Secretary General Md Shah Alam. -Editor

Jatiya Party (JP) founder and late president Hussain Muhammad Ershad has been regarded a dictator, though he never admitted it, till his death. Even the current leadership of the party does not acknowledge it. Now, his younger brother Golam Mohammed Quader has been made party chairman.

JP has been in the parliament since 2008 as an Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance partner. It is now acting as the opposition party in the current parliament, though it participated in the 2018 national elections as a part of the AL-led alliance.

Jatiya Party chief GM Quader, also deputy leader of the opposition in parliament, has recently talked to The Daily Star over different contemporary issues, including the current political and democratic situation, article 70 of the constitution and his party’s political stance.

The following is an excerpt of the interview taken by The Daily Star.

The Daily Star (DS): There has been a lot of confusion around for quite some time about whether the JP is a part of the government or an opposition party.

GM Qauder: It is true that there are some confusions among the people. We joined the AL-led grand alliance before the election in 2018. No other political party save JP could secure a significant number of seats in the parliament. For that, the necessity of an opposition party became urgent in parliament and that’s why we have decided to act as the opposition party.

DS: Has that decision improved the JP’s image? 

GM Quader: It varies from person to person. Some realities cannot be overlooked. We could act as a party in government. In that case, it would be somewhat of a one-party parliament, where everybody would speak similarly with no one opposing the decisions of the treasury bench. I think our decision is helping the country.

DS: But many think the JP cannot or does not act like an opposition party.

GM Quader: What is the basis of the assessment that we have failed?

DS: People do not see JP’s strong voice against many public interest issues like the price hike of daily essentials and a lack of good governance in the country.

GM Quader: We have raised our voice regarding all these issues. We have talked about the election, corruption, extra-judicial killings and other issues in parliament, and these are all documented and recorded.

DS: How do you evaluate the country’s prevailing political, social, and law and order situation?

GM Quader: We are looking at those issues like the people are looking at it. We don’t take these issues positively. We have raised our voice against all these nuisances — both inside and outside parliament.

DS: What is the state of governance in Bangladesh?

GM Quader: We have talked about different problems. We have had a parliamentary democracy since 1991 to make the government accountable to the parliament. But the reality is different. Good governance cannot be established without ensuring accountability, the absence of which also began in 1991. No government since then has let the parliament function properly. All the governments after that year have failed in establishing good governance. We are moving backwards as far as good governance is concerned.

DS: One thing that had been established in political circles is that corruption took an institutional shape during the regime of HM Ershad. Later, the situation worsened during the subsequent BNP and AL rules. What is your take in this regard?

GM Quader: We have been saying for a long time that the level of corruption during Ershad’s regime was far less than it is at present. 

DS: It is alleged that now the trend of votes being cast the night before the election day has taken over. How do you look at it?

GM Quader:  Everybody likes a good deed and dislikes a misdeed. I think a fair electoral process is mandatory for a democratic country like ours. We have restored parliamentary democracy. But it is dysfunctional. How much democracy prevails in a country can be measured by observing how fair the elections are. When elections become the single standard for measuring democracy, the situation is called “Democracy for one day”.  We could not even maintain that system. All governments failed in this regard.

DS: Once the JP had a lot organisational strength at the national level. Later, it was noticed that the party had a strong hold in the country’s northern region. Is the party turning into a regional political party from a national one?

GM Quader: The Jatiya Party has its own image and strength. It was never a regional party. The people of northern region consider the JP as their own party. They think they are deprived of their rights and other facilities as they do not have the kind of leadership like that of HM Ershad. That is why they loved Ershad. But the JP works for the betterment of the entire country. We have organisational strength and lawmakers everywhere in our country.

DS: What type of electoral system you expect in the future?

GM Quader: I dream of an electoral system where people really get the chance to exercise their voting rights and freely choose their leadership.

DS: Do you think a one-party presidential rule is better than parliamentary democracy?

GM Quader: Parliamentary democracy did not bring any good for our country. There is no system of accountability in the parliament. Article 70 of the constitution has scrapped the process of accountability. That is why we made some proposals for reform. We asked for a system where all the elected parliament members will be general members except those in the cabinet. The cabinet members, including the prime minister, will be accountable to the general members, who will raise questions against any misdeeds.

According to Article 70, a person elected a member of parliament (MP) in a national election in which he or she was nominated as a candidate by a political party shall vacate his/her seat if s/he a) resigns from that party or b) votes in parliament against that party. 

The provision has created the path for the Prime Minister’s decision to make the ultimate decision. When the process of accountability goes missing, parliamentary democracy starts malfunctioning. So, our demand is to revoke that article to allow all the parliament members to speak freely.

DS: If article 70 is abolished, will it not create an opportunity for underhand dealings like buying out a lawmaker’s vote?

GM Quader: That is why we proposed to amend the provision.


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