• Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

Frankly speaking

  • Published at 03:54 am May 17th, 2013
Frankly speaking

Our newly appointed Speaker has come into her job with good credentials and sufficient credibility. Her reputation as a lawyer and a parliamentarian is essentially without controversy, but her decision to consult the prime minister on how to do her job crosses jurisdictional lines and undermines the neutrality, as well as the authority, of her office.

It’s understandable that Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury might need advice on how to run parliament; after all, she’s never done it before. However, regarding the budget sessions at least - one of the topics she discussed with the PM - there is a mechanism for it in the form of the business advisory committee.

The committee, which is comprised of a range of stakeholders, including the opposition leader and party whips, is the more appropriate, constitutionally-approved way of discussing these matters.

But if the new Speaker does need general advice about her job, she could go to President Abdul Hamid, her immediate predecessor and someone also occupying a non-partisan office.

In fact, Abdul Hamid’s reputation as a neutral and even-handed Speaker is something Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury would do well to remain mindful of. Filling his shoes would require her to appear at least as neutral as him. 

Unfortunately, her decision to visit the PM at her office and even ask her for directions about allocating a seat for a newly elected MP, a decision that should be taken by the Speaker alone, doesn’t quite do that.

Instead it makes her look beholden to the prime minister, an impression that is compounded by the fact that she was chosen by Sheikh Hasina herself, amidst grumblings within the AL about it.

As head of parliament during such a divided and hostile period, restoring faith in the neutrality of the House should be among the Speaker’s key priorities, but she will find this difficult to do if she appears to be pandering to the leader of a single party.

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