The national parliament of a country is meant to be the powerhouse of national hopes and aspirations, where elected representatives sit together to debate and discuss plans and policies in the best interests of their country and people. In our case, the national parliament has been virtually nonfunctional for many years. The ruling parties have strongly dominated parliament, while the opposition parties avoided attending its sessions. Right now, the national parliament of Bangladesh exists in an absurd condition when it is hard to tell the difference between the two sides. The opposition also sits in the government, while maintaining a subliminal presence.
But more disturbing is the growing tendency of using parliament’s time to engage in un-parliamentarian behavior. While people’s representatives spend very little time on important deliberations, they spend more time to settle political scores, undermine the opponents, and eulogize their party bosses. In a nutshell, the country and its people hardly get the space they deserve in the national discourse that is supposed to pervade parliamentary proceedings.
Even worse is the use of profanities by parliament members to attack and vilify their opponents. At times in the recent history of parliament, exchanges between the two sides got so vulgar and tasteless that those who heard had their ears burning in shame and embarrassment. Not to say, the sanctity of parliament was seriously compromised.
This week’s cover story has listed some of the most inglorious moments in our national parliament. It is true that parliaments of other countries have occasionally turned into pandemonium. There are many examples of heated discussions and fistfights amongst the lawmakers on the floors of their respective parliament houses, but most were triggered by fierce issue-oriented demands and disagreements. Agreeing to disagree is one of the pillars of a democratic government.
The problem in our national parliament ever since its creation has been quite the opposite. The two sides disagree to agree, always looking for an excuse to demean each other. What fuels that animosity is unheard-of foul language on both sides of the aisle. And the invectives hurled have not even spared dead leaders of the country who should be enshrined in the national pantheon, revered by all.
It is probably a reflection of the general despair prevailing in our national politics. The limitless hatred and anger that our politicians harbor against each other is visceral. The lengthening trail of that unmitigated rivalry is nourished by political passions rooted in historical anomalies. The leaders of our country have been fanning the fire instead of stamping it out. The vulgar choice of words flying in parliament is the soundtrack of a political scene acting out vengeance and violence.
So far, next-to-nothing has been done to ensure that parliament will not see repetitions of past indiscretions. Obscenities included in parliamentary dialogue not only foster an unhealthy relationship between the treasury and the opposition benches, but also seriously impair the chances of forging a mutually respectful relationship between them. This habit also sets a bad example for future generations for whom many of the politicians should become role models.
It is not fair to blame the speaker and the deputy speaker for failing to curb indecent behavior and the speech of parliament members. The onus also falls on the leaders of parliament, chief whips, and whips, to rein in their respective lawmakers so they do not indulge in unbecoming conduct and filthy language.
We hope that everyone in parliament will work together to uphold the prestige of this iconic institution, giving democracy a viable chance to take root in this country of ours.