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AL walks out as talks on by-polls denied

Monday July 05 2004 10:01:20 AM BDT

The main opposition, Awami League (AL), walked out of parliament yesterday as the ruling alliance refused to discuss 'controversial Dhaka-10 by-polls, conspiratorial case against leader of the opposition and persecution of political opponents', adjourning other business.

The two-minute hurried walkout followed an hour-long unscheduled debate in which the key ruling party BNP and the AL deputies traded allegations of vote rigging and systematic harassment of political opponents during their incumbencies.

The AL lawmakers came down heavily on the government for 'rigging Dhaka-10 by-election in favour of a political secretary to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia', while the treasury bench trashed the allegation, saying the polls were free and fair.

They accused the AL of introducing poll rigging during their incumbencies after 1973.

Taking floor on points of order, opposition deputies including Deputy Leader of the Opposition Abdul Hamid, Suranjit Sengupta and Mohammad Nasim urged the treasury bench members to hold discussion on the overriding national issues.

But the ruling legislators showed interest in their previous proposal for a dialogue on a ban on hartal, shrugging off the opposition demand.

Speaker Jamir Uddin Sircar said the doors of court were open to the defeated candidate in Dhaka-10 by-polls if he wanted to challenge the result.

"Courts can cancel the poll results if they find irregularities," Sircar said, adding there was a precedent of cancellation of poll result declared by the Election Commission.

Responding to Hamid's demand, he said a demand of the government for discussion in the House was illegal. "As the speaker of this parliament I will take the decision."

Without giving a specific reply, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said: "The speaker will take the decision, but we want to make parliament the centre of all debates."

On hurried publication of gazette notification and swearing-in of BNP leader Mosaddak Ali Falu as lawmaker, Bhuiyan said the Election Commission did the right thing to the derision of AL deputies.

He dismissed the allegations of massive vote rigging and said the Bikalpa Dhara candidate, aided by the AL, contested the polls only to make such allegations.

"I don't know the details of the case against the leader of the opposition. I learnt from newspaper reports that the Bureau of Anti-Corruption filed a case against her on charge of corruption, not for building a mausoleum for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman."

Bhuiyan brushed aside the allegation that police were harassing opposition activists and said the law enforcers were only stopping their unlawful activities in the name of hartal.

Law Minister Moudud Ahmed asked the opposition lawmakers to submit notices before discussing any issues in the House, prompting the AL lawmakers to wield the notices.

Water Resources Minister Hafiz Uddin Ahmed accused the AL of introducing poll rigging and persecution of opposition leaders and activists.

The deputy leader of the opposition pegged Dhaka-10 by-polls as a new 'world record in vote rigging'.

He urged the House to hold a discussion on 'the sham polls, conspiratorial case against Sheikh Hasina and persecution of opposition political activists'.

AL frontbencher Suranjit said the government destroyed country's democratic electoral process by rigging Dhaka-10 ballot in the interest of only one person.

He said the unprecedented rigging even stunned most ruling coalition members as well as people of all strata of society.

Raising the issues in a point of order, AL lawmaker Mohammad Nasim questioned the government's sincerity to sit in a dialogue with the opposition to break out of the political instability.

"The government offered the dialogue, but came up with the conspiratorial case against the leader of the opposition three days into the overtures."

State Minister for Law Shahjahan Omar and Krishak Sramik Janata League lawmaker Kader Siddiqui also took part in the debate.


The Daily Star

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