Parliament is not for discussion, but for decision

by Sainul Hossain

I often found myself clueless to see that our leading commentators, political analysts are blaming the opposition alliance (and to some extent, the ruling coalition) not to bring up the urgent issues of Bangladesh in parliament and discuss there. I think we need to make a distinction between discussion and decision.

I understand ordinary people are so much habituated to political discussion that they would feel tempted to see “lively” debate in parliament and thereby, feed their own subsequent chat with friends. Some topics-hungry editors may also find tempted to serve a palatable editorial by blaming the politicians for worthless (and in some cases, harmful) discussion.

However, my pain is why our intellectual class would harp on the same tune and hide the gruesome unpleasant truth that Parliament is more a place of formal decision and is far from a place of discussion. And this is true both in theory and of course, in practice.

Article 70 of our constitution disproves any debate on any important issue to decide. Why should I listen to the argument of my opposition when it won’t change my vote on that topic if my party-chief has already made clear the position about the issue? What is the discussion for other than entertaining people engaged in living-room conversation or live talk-show in TV?

By theory (i.e., if we want our member of parliaments to follow the constitution), an MP can’t vote against that MP’s party’s decision. So, what is the use of having that MP try to initiate a “reasoned” debate with his peers, be they in position or opposition. No MP is allowed to change their mind after the argument or debate or whatever we name the discussion. For whose sake, should I, a humble tax-payer, spend money for useless discussion on a forlorn conclusion? There is a theoretical limit here. This can’t be (or at least, should not be) crossed how much sincere our public representatives are.  Period.

Now, the less said about the practice, the better. History tells us that discussion in our parliament is something where reasoning is the number one absentee. People tend to resort to the past, side away the topic, make the conversation at best as irrelevant and at worst as chaotic and so on. Again, this practice simply happens not because our public representatives are not educated. Most of them are highly educated, talented and rich. They just do not have any other alternatives. They have the theoretical limit.

So, there is no use of lamenting on why our opposition do not attend the parliament and talk for the people or why our governments MPs are not making the parliament “effective”. What I would expect from the media is to take a one-step back and inform the people how the government or opposition party is making their decision outside the parliament. Journalists should ask these questions to the respective party chiefs to make open their internal decision-making process within their party. Public deserves that as public has trusted with the article 70 on them (as of today, officially). If our media-intellectuals can demand such transparency more and more, this will help to establish and grow our democracy.

Some may argue that we already know how this decision is made within the party (or to be specific, who is actually makes the decision unilaterally within the party). But lets not go for assumption. For the sake of democracy, let us unearth it, establish the transparency and provide oxygen to our own public representatives to grow. Parliament is a place of decision for official record and as such only some cosmetic attendance by the public representatives would suffice. For discussion, our media really need to chase the internal decision process within a party. If that process is in shambles (and many believe, indeed they are), let us go after it, rather than asking for happy pastime in the parliament under the disguise of discussion.

One final word, just in extension or as an example. The debate on caretaker government must happen anywhere outside the parliament. I have already explained before why. Only, in that way, we can provide meaning to the opposition for coming to the parliament for the “formal” decision and consequent legislation. Otherwise, we may see the funny game of “kontho-bhote” followed by funnier discussion.


The author is a post-liberation-war generation and is currently working in an International Telecommunication company. This article reflects author’s personal opinion. Comments/criticisms are welcomed