"Asked whether her party supported the demand to recognise the tribal population of Chittagong Hill Tracts as indigenous, the Prime Minister replied that tribals in the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot be considered as indigenous.
“History shows that the origin of the tribal people was outside the boundaries of this country. It is we Bengalis, who are indigenous to this land,” says Hasina.
Hasina pushes 90-day cap on caretaker governments By Mizan Rahman/Dhaka
The ruling Awami League (AL) has put forward a proposal to the special parliamentary sub-committee on constitutional amendment, according to which, general elections would be held under the immediate past government, if a caretaker government fails to hold polls within 90 days.
“Such a step would at least prompt political parties to take part in the election. Polls must be held within 90 days. We have put forward specific proposals about it,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who led her party’s delegation to a meeting with members of the special parliamentary committee on Wednesday, said yesterday.
The prime minister disclosed this while talking to reporters, at her official residence Ganabhaban, after the talks.
Sheikh Hasina said that after 1/11 (when the immediate past interim government was installed in 2008), a “constitutional expert” had showed the way to the army-backed caretaker government to hold on to power for more than 90 days, taking advantage of ambiguities in the constitution on this issue.
The prime minister said her party is determined to stop power being grabbed by extra-constitutional forces and wants to ensure transformation of power through free and fair elections.
Sheikh Hasina said that AL had recommended several options for selecting advisers to the caretaker government. “The government and the opposition can propose five names, each, through discussions in Parliament. These 10 persons can select someone among them as the chief adviser,” she said.
“Another option may be the selection of advisers from the parties, on a proportional basis. We have not given any specific proposal on this issue. We have told the committee to assess several options and to pick the most suitable one.”
She pointed out that her party supported the argument placed by some former chief justices and jurists that the existing system of appointing the immediate past chief justice as the chief adviser, harmed the judiciary.
Hasina said that the caretaker government system was the outcome of her party’s long movement, but, due to bitter experience in the past, AL wants to modify the system, so that polls are not manipulated.
Asked whether AL had endorsed the idea to provide Parliament the authority to impeach judges, the prime minister said that since Parliament has the power to impeach the president, who appoints the judges, it would be logical to provide the legislature with such powers over judiciary.
“But, we are not rigid about the issue and want the committee to take a final decision on this,” she added.
Regarding her party’s stance on keeping Islam as the state religion and retaining ‘Bismillahir Rahmner Rahim’ in the constitution, Hasina said that since religion is an emotional and sensitive issue, her party does not want to change the provision. “But we want to add a provision which would ensure the rights of people following other religions,” she said.
In this connection, Hasina said that the state doesn’t have any religion, but human beings do. To attract the sympathy of people, this provision was incorporated in the constitution by a parliament formed through a voter-less election, under a dictator.
“People do know how pious that person is. I don’t want to elaborate, as that person is part of our alliance” she added.
Replying to a question, the Sheikh Hasina that AL had not made any proposal to amend Article 70, which barred lawmakers to vote against their own party in Parliament.
“We’re in favour of keeping the provision, for the sake of stability, as most of us know the chaotic situation unleashed in 1954 and 1956, when such a provision was not there,” she argued.
Asked whether her party supported the demand to recognise the tribal population of Chittagong Hill Tracts as indigenous, the Prime Minister replied that tribals in the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot be considered as indigenous.
“History shows that the origin of the tribal people was outside the boundaries of this country. It is we Bengalis, who are indigenous to this land,” she said.
Hasina said that the excuses given by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia, for not joining the special committee meeting were not acceptable as copies of the reprinted constitution had been distributed to all lawmakers.
“Even if the BNP joins now, we’ll appreciate that,” she said, expressing apprehension that the BNP may not join the consultation meeting at all.
Sheikh Hasina said that they had held discussions on ensuring balance of power during the term of a caretaker government, so that the president’s powers to promulgate emergency without the approval of anyone, during a caretaker government’s tenure, would not be misused. “We haven’t made any specific proposals on this.”
The opposition BNP and its allies have refused to join the committee and the talks, saying that a mid-term poll be held first and changes in the constitution could be considered.