Despite the end of the Dhaka City Corporation in 2007, an election has not been held resulting in the suffering of countless numbers of people. On the other hand, the Zila Parishad election has also not been held despite a constitutional obligation and a favorable voting environment. “These two elections are essential for the welfare of the people,” declared the leaders of SHUJAN–Citizens for Good Governance during the round table discussions on the Dhaka City Corporation and Zila Parishad elections, held on 11 December 2014, at the VIP lounge of the National Press Club, Dhaka.
Justice Kazi Ebadul Hoque and Ali Imam Majumder, executive members of SHUJAN, Professor Asif Nazrul, politician A.S.M. Akram, Humayun Kabir Hiru, ex-member of parliament, Dilip Kumar Sarker, central coordinator of SHUJAN, Fariduddin, ex-commissioner of Dhaka City Corporation, and professors S.M. Siddique, Kartic Chandra Mondol, Camelia Chowdhury, and Rezaul Alam, participated in the round table discussion which was presided over and moderated by M. Hafizuddin, president of SHUJAN, and Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of SHUJAN, respectively.
Dilip Kumar Sarker, central coordinator for SHUJAN, presented a keynote address on behalf of Dr. Tofail Ahmed, an executive member of SHUJAN. “Seven years from 2007-14 have passed. A general election of Dhaka City Corporation was held five years ago before Dhaka became divided into two parts of City Corporation. Though four years have passed, an election has not been held”, Sarker indicated in his speech. He stated that even though more than 40 million voters and more than 10 million people live in Dhaka, it does not seem there is a concern for elections. The constitution, court orders, rules and regulations of democracy, are all in favour of an election. Sarker posed the question, “How far away is the Dhaka City Corporation election?”
“Zila Parishad is not only a very successful local government in Bangladesh, but also within the history of the [Indian] subcontinent as a whole. However, Zila Parishad has become a victim of narrow politics and long-term conspiracies of democracy. Powerful political parties have become involved with unlawful games in the Zila Parishad election with the hope of gaining power through shortcut techniques and in an attempt to keep control within the party,” Sarker declared.
He continued, “Many changes have been taking place in administrative activities and in the nature of responsibilities within the district. The continuation of methodology from former division seems to be expensive, unnecessary, and burdensome, especially in light of the modernization of materials and information. In this regard, in spite of having a favourable environment for infrastructure, atmosphere, and conditions in every district, there is no excuse for the formation of a full Zila Parishad. Zila Parishad is also running smoothly in India. Presently, administrators are appointed in the district according to the section-82, Zila Parishad laws, 2000. Administrator appointments can be a short term interim system, but it currently seems to be a permanent system. If this is the fact, what’s the necessity of a constitution?”
Sarker went on to conclude, “Administrative reformation is a must as a part of election manifestos and stable endeavors to strive for. Elected and real pro-people representatives in the Zila Parishad and Dhaka City Corporation elections are needed in the truest sense. Active thinking of all political parties and civil societies in this concern is sought after. Creation of a time-based Zila Parishad act before an election grounded on the basis of dialogue is indispensable.” Hafizuddin Khan added, “We all, being dwellers of Dhaka City Corporation, are suffering due to the lack of elections over such a long period of time. Suffering by the city dwellers is becoming severe due to the present conditions of roads and streets. Quoting the honorable Prime Minister, “No unelected government even for one day,” Khan questioned why unelected administration in local government is not desirable. Dhaka City Corporation is suddenly divided into two parts with no dialogue. If a government has goodwill, elections can be held at any time. “This election is being delayed due to reconsideration of constituencies which is a lame excuse. If we are able to arrange parliamentary elections after reconsideration of constituencies, so why not in the case of Dhaka City Corporation?”
Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar stated, “Local government in every administrative unit of the Republic shall be entrusted to bodies, composed of persons elected in accordance with the law. This means the presence of locally elected administrators is constitutionally mandatory in all administrative levels. If there is no elected Zila Parishad in the district, then there is a need for amending the constitution. The cause behind this is that a Zila Parishad election has not yet been held in an independent Bangladesh. All the governments are committing abuse of the constitution. Not only in the constitution but there is a court order as well in this concern. We also abused these orders. “For whom is this state being governed: citizens or others?”
Justice Kazi Ebadul Hoque opined, “Government has to ensure the provision of elected pro-people in every local government system for the welfare of the country. Not only this, but political interference has to be stopped as well.”
Expressing grief, Ali Imam Majumder declared, “Though our elected representatives are not able to act according to the desires of the people, we want democracy and elections. Like others, we also want an elected Zila Parishad. We want elections, but duties and responsibilities of these Parishads must be confined.” He urged government to hold elections without delay.
“Central administrative power is responsible for the present situation of this country. The formulation of laws is the main duty of the parliamentary members but they are doing nothing except providing “yes” or “no” concerns during law formulation. Draft laws are prepared by the bureaucrats. As a result, parliamentary members have nothing to do but to interfere in the matter of local governments. Sector-wise responsibilities should be confined,” added A.S.M. Akram.
“The trepidation of elections and people seem to be present in the existing government. The government is not willing to hold elections because they are sure that they will be defeated in these elections…The present situation of local government, especially Dhaka City Corporation and Zila Parishad, is contradictory to the constitution and human rights,” concluded Professor Asif Nazrul, urging all to work together in this concern.