Accusing the government of reneging on its election pledges, Gano Forum president Dr Kamal Hossain on Wednesday called for a national unity of all conscious citizens and parties for ‘initiating an all-out political reform programme’ ahead of the next national election.
“We still have 14 months left before the national election. There’s still enough time,” he told a press conference, organised by Gano Forum at the Jatiya Press Club.
“We want the 14-party alliance to fulfill all the reform pledges it made in 2008,” he said, adding, “As citizens of the country we need it hard to ensure an effective parliament, strong and independent Dudak (Anti Corruption Commission), independent judiciary, election commission and strong police administration to save our ailing mother.”
The veteran jurist pointed out that the state and society now plunged into turmoil due to various incidents, including the communal attack at Ramu, indiscipline in the administration, particularly the police administration.
He said, “What we need now is a cure through political reform that will ensure the basic principles of the constitution, although I must also admit there’ll be differences of opinions among parties in a multiparty democratic system.”
“The judiciary has to fulfill its constitutional obligations and ensure the proper use of the constitution. It has to perform the duties without being influenced by political parties,” he added.
“We must also ensure that the election commission doesn’t work for any party,” he continued.
Dr Kamal called on the media to spread the message that the current government is not functioning as per the 23-point pledge of reforms that was made in 2008. “Convey to people that the government is not running on the basis of the 23-point. They’ll come forward.”
“We call on the people of the country to unite for the reforms to resist the move to establish autocracy. We want a free and fair election. The election commission has to function independently for it. It shouldn’t be influenced by the outgoing government,” he said, “But we see all the outgoing governments apply various techniques to influence the election.”
Guard the guards
Dr Kamal, also revered as the ace constitution expert in the country, observed that the parliamentarians are expected to play an active role in investigating irregularities in handling bank money, particularly the Hallmark scam.
“It’s the duty of the parliamentarians to look after whether the ministries are performing the duties they are meant for. The standing committee should oversee whether the ministries are ensuring the transparency and precision in dealing with the public sector projects,” he said.
The relevant parliamentary standing committee should undertake enquire about the approval of 60 new banks, even after the Hall-Mark scam, he said.
“They had to submit Tk 400 crore for the approval. I wonder where from the money is generating. Is the money legitimate, or is it coming from illegal sources such as Hallmark,” he added.
The standing committee should ask the ministry for the relevant files, he continued. “They (standing committee) can arrange public hearing and we lawyers will be there on the backseats,” said Kamal.
“You can give punishment to a thief or a decoit, but you must also ensure that the guards perform their duties with responsibility,” he added.
“I urge you to guard the guards so that they perform their duties with seriousness in future,” he said.
People want change
Responding to a query whether the formation of the much-talked-about third force is in his mind or not, Kamal replied: “We’ll make our decisions after receiving opinions of all.”
“It’s evident from media reports that people want a change. The present government has failed to live up to its pledges after the polls,” he added.
Asked about his attendance at a dinner hosted by the World Bank and about the speculations that he along with some ‘senior citizens’ are trying to create another ‘1/11’ in the country, he said: “It’s baseless. It’s not at all a civilized manner to comment on who received whose invitation where.”
Gano Forum presidium members Mofizul Islam Khan Kamal, Subrata Chowdhury and general secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu were also present at the press conference.