Upazila reps threaten to declare MPs unwanted

Upazila parishad chairmen, vice-chairmen on Wednesday threatened a tough movement, including declaring personae non gratae lawmakers on upazila parishad premises if the sweeping authority of the lawmakers over upazila parishads in constituencies are not scrapped.
   They demanded amendment to the Upazila Parishad (Reintroduction of the Repealed Act and Amendment) Act, passed by the parliament on April 6, scrapping the provisions, which give the lawmakers the authority to control the decisions made and work done by upazila parishads.
   They placed the demands at an exchange of views among themselves organised at the National Press Club by the newly floated Bangladesh Upazila Chairmen Forum.
   The Biswanath upazila parishad chairman, Muhibur Rahman, who chaired the programme, said, ‘We would like to solve the problem first by holding talks with the government. If the discussion fails, the forum will announce its next course of action.’
   About 100 representatives of upazilas from across the country attended the meeting and extended their support for the forum. The decided to install a full committee of the forum to carry forward their movement until the demands could be met.
   Most of the representatives who addressed the meeting suggested both a legal battle challenging the act in the High Court and a movement to ensure the freedom of upazila parishads, the most important tier of the local government in accordance with the provisions stipulated in Article 59 of the constitution.
   The parliament on April 6 unanimously passed the Upazila Parishad (Reintroduction of the Repealed Act and Amendment) Act, making it mandatory for upazila parishads to consult lawmakers and to accept their recommendations in planning development in their constituencies.
   The act repealed the Local Government (Upazila Parishad) Ordinance 2008, promulgated by the immediate-past interim government, which repealed the Upazila Parishad Act 1998.
   The Upazila Parishad (Reintroduction of the Repealed Act and Amendment) Act reintroduced the Upazila Parishad Act 1998 with some amendments.
   The act has delegated more power to the lawmakers as advisers to upazila parishads than they had under the Upazila Parishad Act 1998. The 1998 act had made lawmakers advisers to upazila parishads in their constituencies, but had not made it mandatory for the local government bodies to accept their suggestions.
   The Bangladesh Upazila Parishad Association, another association of the elected chairmen of the local government bodies, earlier observed that strong and functioning upazila parishads would not be possible under the new law passed by the parliament.
   The association at a meeting on April 7 vowed action programme if the prime minister would not heed their demands and retain the questionable provisions which take away the freedom and autonomy of the local government bodies.
   The Nabinagar upazila parishad chairman, Ziaul Huq Sarker, at the exchange of views urged lawmakers not to interfere in the activities of upazila parishad and said the local government representatives would launch a movement to regain their power.
   ‘I think the lawmakers have lost directions and finding no jobs, they now want to interfere in our tasks,’ Ziaul said.
   Jaipurhat sadar upazila vice-chairman Titas Mostafa urged the forum leaders to take a resolution declaring the lawmakers personae non gratae in upazila parishad complexes.
   Cox’s Bazar sadar upazila chairman Salimullah Bahadur subscribed to the views of Titas Mostafa. All the upazila representatives attending the meeting echoed the proposal, by raising hands and clapping.
   Bhanga upazila chairman Sudhin Kumar Sarker urged the forum to declare the act a black law as it provides lawmakers with sweeping authority over upazila parishads.
   ‘It [the new law] was a clear violation of the constitution and non-fulfilment of the Awami League’s electoral pledge. It will destroy the status of the upazila parishad as an independent local government body,’ he said.
   Asma Begum, a woman vice-chairman elected for the sadar upazila in Jaipurhat, said the elected upazila representatives had the powers to paralyse life in the constituencies so that lawmakers could not be able to visit their areas.
   ‘Do not compel us to resort to tough action. Please do your own job and leave us to discharge our duties freely as people voted us for their betterment,’ Asma said, referring to lawmakers.
   After the meeting, Muhibur Rahman was made convener and Ziaul Haq Sarkar member secretary of the forum.
   The forum will announce a 16-member central committee soon and hold exchanges of views in divisional headquarters.
   Local government experts, academics, rights activists and some political parties observed the new upazila parishad act was a clear violation of the constitution.
   They said it would weaken the local government bodies and create a political and administrative crisis.

Source: The Daily New Age, 16 April 2009


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