Dozens of pro-opposition local body chiefs replaced

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The government is suspending mayors and chairmen backed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance in different local government bodies and replacing them with councillors and vice-chairmen backed by the ruling Awami League or of its choice. Councillors and vice-chairmen backed by the opposition are also being superseded by their colleagues backed or chosen by the AL in many cases. At least 50 elected local body chiefs, backed by the BNP-led alliance, were suspended from the offices in city corporations, municipal councils and upazila parishads in the past one year and a half on the grounds that courts accepted charge sheets submitted against them. Most of the cases were filed during anti-government movement on various charges, including murder, arson and ‘instigation of anti-government and subversive activities.’ In some cases, opposition-backed councillors and vice-chairmen were given charge of acting mayors and chairmen as there was no suitable elected representative from the AL to replace the mayors and chairmen. The government is suspending the pro-opposition local body chiefs citing Section 12(1) of the Local Government (City Corporations) Act 2009, Section 31(1) of the Local Government (Municipalities) Act 2009 and Section 13B(1) of the Upazila Parishad Act 1998. According to the laws, the government may suspend a local government representative if a court accepts a charge sheet against him/her. Politicians, local government representatives and experts said that the government was abusing the provision to establish AL supremacy in local bodies, in most of the most of the cases, by falsely implicating pro-opposition local body chiefs in politically motivated cases. They said that the provisions were utra vires of fundamental rights and the constitution and the laws should be amended scrapping the provisions. No elected representative should be suspended until s/he is convicted by a court of law, they said. They observed that the local government system would collapse if the government continued such practice. The state minister for local government, Mashiur Rahman Ranga, told New Age that the government suspended them for the use the development fund as they were in hiding being charge-sheeted. The Local Government Division is, however, reluctant to apply the provision against representatives backed by the ruling party, who have already been charged and even convicted and sentenced. Only one incident of suspension of ruling party-backed representatives was reported in the last year. Ghatail upazila chairman Nazrul Islam Khan, also an Al leader, was sentenced to imprisonment for one year by a Tangail court on March 11 for grabbing and destroying forest. He is still in office. According to different non-governmental organisations and newspaper reports, around half of the elected representatives in the 10 city corporations, 324 municipalities, 488 upazila parishads and 4,552 union parishads belong to opposition political parties. A good number of them are either in jail or in hiding fearing arrest being implicated in cases mostly filed for political clashes or incidents. In Rajsahahi City Corporation, the government early this month appointed a junior councillor Nizam Ul Azim, a local AL leader, the acting mayor superseding three senior councillors backed by the opposition. The senior most councillor and first panel mayor, Anwarul Amin Azam, is in jail and the second panel mayor Nuruzzaman has been implicated in a case. Though the third panel mayor, Nurunnahar Begum, deserved to be the acting mayor, police deployed at the mayor’s office since May 12 did not allow her even enter the office, she alleged. Elected mayor Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul was suspended on May 7 after a Rajshahi court took cognisance of charge sheets submitted against him in four cases. Local Awami League leader Asadur Rahman, also a councillor of Tongi area, took charge as acting Gazipur city mayor as government in April suspended mayor MA Mannan, also a BNP leader, following his arrest in a arson case filed during the recent anti-government movement. The government on January 7 suspended Sylhet city mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury, also a BNP leader, as he was indicted in former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria murder case. In May, the government suspended Boraigram upazila chairman Ekramul Alam and Naldanga upazila chairman Shakhawat Hossain, both BNP leaders, as they were charge-sheeted in separate cases. In the same month, the government also suspended Katakhali municipal mayor Majedur Rahman in Rajshahi. The BNP-led alliance-backed suspended local body representatives also include Savar municipal mayor Refat Ullah, Mirsarai upazila chairman Nurul Amin, Charghat upazila chairman Abu Sayeed, Kutubdia upazila chairman ABM Nurul Bashar Chowdhury, Gaibandha sadar upazila chairman Abdul Karim, Sundarganj municipal mayor Nurunnabi Pramanik, Sundarganj upazila chairman Majedur Rahman and vice-chairman Abu Solaiman, Palashbari upazila chairman Abul Kawsar and vice-chairman Abu Taleb Sarker, Nandigram upazila chairman Nurul Islam, Sonatola upazila chairman Ahasanul Tayeb, Dupchachia upazila vice-chairman Abdul Mottaleb, Sherpur upazila chairman Dabibur Raman and vice-chairman Ariful Raman, Ukhiah upazila chairman Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury and vice-chairman Sultan Mahamud Chowdhury, Atgharia upazila chairman Jahurul Islam, Chatmohar upazila chairman Asadul Islam, Naikhyangchari upazila chairman Tofail Ahmed, Ullapara upazila vice-chairman Shahjahan Ali, Banshkhali upazila chairman Mohammad Jahirul Islam, Tanor municipal councillor Mustafizur Rahman and Gobindaganj upazila chairman Faruk Kabir Ahmed. Local government expert Tofayel Ahmed said that the government was suspending the elected local body representatives causing people to lose confidence in the local government system. He said that the local government system would collapse if the government continued such practice. ‘I did not experience any such move during the previous governments,’ he added. Sushasoner Jonno Nagarik secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said that elected representatives were being deprived of their right to justice as the law empowered the government to suspend elected representatives before trial. ‘The same laws allow people to contest elections even after acceptance of the charge sheets by the courts against them,’ he added. He said that the government was suspending elected representatives to harass them politically and it was not acceptable. Awami League presidium member Nuh-ul-Alam Lenin, however, denied the allegation and said that they were suspended as they were involved in criminal activates and accused of murder cases. BNP standing committee member Mahbubur Rahman said that the government was working to demolish the democracy suspending the elected local body representatives. ‘Local government is the basic stage for the practice the democracy, but the government is suspending the representatives as they have relations with BNP,’ he added.

Source: New Age