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 New law restores MP powers over Upazila.....................

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PostSubject: New law restores MP powers over Upazila.....................   Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:53 pm




Parliament passed the Upazila Parishad Act 2009 on Monday restoring powers of MPs over the councils and making the elected chairmen virtually toothless.

A parliamentary watchdog last month recommended passage of the bill making it mandatory for chairmen to accept recommendations of MPs as ex-officio advisers to the country's 482 Upazila councils.

According to the new law, recommended by the parliamentary standing committee on local government, elected chairmen will mainly be in charge of planning and monitoring development programmes at the grassroots.

'Caving in to MPs'

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said only last month her government would strike a balance between the MPs and Upazila chairmen.

An earlier draft bill, placed in parliament on Feb. 24, gave MPs advisory roles but their recommendations were not mandatory. This led to a delay in passing of the bill as MPs protested.

Hasina, who was not in favour of the mandatory clause, eventually had to cave in to MPs' demands.

"[The prime minister] had deleted the section making MPs' recommendations mandatory," chairman of the standing committee Rahmat Ali told us at the time.

"But the MPs questioned what the point was of being advisers if their recommendations were not accepted."

Ali said the bill was placed in parliament for the revival of the Upazila Act 1998, and as such the MPs must have the role specified in the act.

"The Upazila chairmen have enough powers as per the schedule of the 1998 Act," he added.

Unconstitutional: CEC

The past caretaker government passed an ordinance in 2008 that amended the 1998 law.

The Local Government (Upazila) Ordinance 2008 deleted the section of the Local Government (Upazila) Act 1998 that originally forced the local councils to accept MPs' suggestions.

The chief election commissioner said Monday that vesting MPs with such powers was unconstitutional.

"So far as I know, it will be unconstitutional if MPs are given power over Upazila councils by law. We don't want anything which will create constitutional problems," ATM Shamsul Huda told a workshop on updating voter rolls in Manikganj.

He urged the government to reconsider the issue.

Elections of chairmen, vice chairmen and vice chairwomen to 481 Upazila were held on Jan 22 this year.

Successive governments since passage of the Upazila Act of 1998 had failed to hold the Upazila polls in the face of strong opposition from MPs who became accustomed to controlling 'development activities' at the local level in absence of Upazila councils.
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