January 17, 2004
consensus needed to increase parliament seats
January 17, 2004
Leading academics, professionals and civil society members have
expressed the view that the ruling four-party alliance should have
taken the decision to increase the Jatiya Sangsad seats on the basis
of discussion with all political parties.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, they observed that the
unilateral decision to raise the number of parliamentary
constituencies would widen the gap between the ruling and opposition
parties and put additional burden on the public exchequer.
"It is not right on the part of the government to take a
unilateral decision on raising parliamentary constituencies as it
requires constitutional amendment," said Professor Mozaffar
Ahmed, member of the trustee board of Transparency International,
The government should first decide the number of people to be
represented by a member of parliament in the light of growing
population, he said.
"A referendum should be held before increasing the
constituencies and we also need to consider a bicameral parliament
as the existing system is not functioning up to people's
expectation," Mozaffar Ahmed said. All these things should be
considered before bringing any amendment to the constitution, he
About proportional representation of political parties to the
reserved seats for women, he said, "Proportional representation
is not bad if it is implemented properly but democracy always
encourages direct election."
University Grants Commission (UGC) Professor Sirajul Islam
Chowdhury pointed out that the ruling alliance and the opposition
usually do not sit in the parliament at a time. So, mere increase of
constituencies will hardly improve the existing parliamentary
It is not only an unnecessary but also a wasteful exercise as
people will have to bear the expenses for more MPs, he said.
Professor Chowdhury suggested direct election to the reserved
seats for women in parliament.
Former vice chancellor of Dhaka University Prof Muniruzzaman Mia
said, " Increasing the constituencies is definitely going to
put an extra burden on the public exchequer."
He went on, "Since the number of parliament members will be
larger, they may be more accessible to people and can serve people
better if they so desire."
He suggested a national debate on the issue before taking a final
decision on it.
President of Dhaka University Teacher's Association ( DUTA) Dr
AAMS Arefin Siddique said as population has increased over the
years, parliament seats need to be increased.
"But the way the ruling alliance has taken the decision is
not proper as the opposition parties were not consulted," he
The decision to fix the number of constituencies should be based
on the size of population or area, he said. So, raising their number
to 450 from the existing 300 is not a well considered decision, the
DUTA president said.
The opposition parties must be involved in the process, he felt.
On women's reserved seats, he said democracy always encourages
Barrister Tania Amir said parliamentary constituencies should not
increased arbitrarily, rather it should be based on some criteria,
especially the size of population.
She favoured direct election to women's reserved seats. In
indirect election, party loyalists, not deserving candidates, get
elected, she noted.