Monday, December 5, 2011

Administrators Replacing Mayors ‘Unconstitutional’

Politicians and rights activists have observed that appointment of administrators replacing an elected mayor is unconstitutional and a violation of the Supreme Court ruling.

They have also termed the provision for replacement of the elected mayor by an administrator ‘double standards’ of the Awami League-led government.

The government on Sunday appointed administrators to the two city corporations in Dhaka, formed by splitting the Dhaka City Corporation by the amendment to the Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009.

Jatiya Sangsad passes the bill on November 29.

Section 25 of the amended act empowers the government to appoint administrator to a city corporation after its formation or after the expiry of the tenure of the elected mayor.

The politicians and rights activists, whom New Age talked to, observed that the provision was unconstitutional and a clear violation of the Supreme Court verdict that had scrapped the provision for an election-time caretaker government on the plea that unelected persons could to replace an elected government.

They also said that amendment to the 2009 act exposed the ‘double standard’ of the Awami League, which had dropped the caretaker provision on the same plea.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that the amendment to the 2009 act was ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘ill motivated’.

Workers Party leader Rashed Khan Menon, also a ruling alliance lawmaker, said, ‘We strongly oppose any provision for replacing an elected body by an unelected one. It goes against the spirit of the constitution and the Supreme Court verdict.’

‘I suggested that public opinion should be solicited before the passage of the bill, but I could not place
my argument in Jatiya Sangsad, since the bill was passed before the scheduled time,’ Menon said.

Communist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim said, ‘It is curious that the ruling party which is against the caretaker government, at the same time wants an unelected administrator to lead a local government body like the city corporation. One of the stands can be correct – but not both. To me they have taken such a contradictory stand just to fulfill their unethical political interest.’

Awami League leader Suranjit Sen Gupta, however, defended the new legislation.

‘In the case of formation of a new city corporation, the provision for appointing an administrator is not contradictory to article 11 of the constitution,’ he said.

When asked about appointment of an administrator after the expiry of the tenure of a mayor, Suranjit said, ‘After the end of the tenure of an elected mayor, that person also becomes “unelected” so he should voluntarily leave the office.’

Former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal, also a rights activist, said, ‘Awami League itself is responsible for not holding the Dhaka City Corporation election in time. So they cannot make such statements.’

She said, ‘When the government is so serious about ensuring the rule of an elected government, why their stand is exactly the opposite in the case of local governments. In fact, their political motive is to put the people of their choice in office replacing an elected body.’

Section 25 of the amended act is against the spirit of the Supreme Court verdict, the 15th amendment to the constitution, which has dropped the provisions on caretaker government, and against the political stand of the ruling party on the issue, Shahdeen Malik, a senior lawyer and constitutional expert, told New Age.

‘In fact the amended section is a breach of Article 11 of the constitution that ensures effective participation of the people through their elected representatives in government administration at all levels and also against the spirit of Articles 59 and 60 of the constitution that deal with local government,’ he said.

Historically, political leaders and bureaucrats have always tried to control the local government bodies, he said adding, ‘The amended Section 25 of the 2009 act is just a reflection of such mentality.’

Tofael Ahmed, a local government expert, also found the government’s step ‘highly contradictory’.

‘In fact, the government is taking contradictory decisions for political gains,’ he said.