BNP, allies keep off JS as seat row drags on

January 30, 2009

Staff correspondent
Lawmakers of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led main opposition refrained from attending the parliament session Thursday as the speaker, Abdul Hamid, kept pending a decision on their demand to return their front row seats.
A BNP parliamentary delegation met the speaker at the latter’s office Thursday morning and demanded that the previous seating arrangement in the house be restored giving them back the five front row seats to the left of the chair.
‘We met the speaker in the morning and requested him to give back the front row seats to his left to the opposition bench,’ opposition chief whip Jainal Abedin Faruk told New Age. ‘He told us that he would make a decision after discussing the issue with the ruling party.’
Senior opposition lawmaker MK Anwar led the six-member delegation.
The lawmakers of BNP, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Jatiya Party held a meeting in the meeting room of the leader of the opposition at 4:00pm seemingly waiting for a decision of the speaker until the parliament session resumed at 4:45pm.
‘We have decided not to join the parliament for the day [Thursday] as the speaker did not convey us anything till 5:00pm,’ he said at 5:15pm after the meeting.
The opposition MPs will meet again to set a strategy before the next sitting of parliament on Sunday or Monday next week, he said.
The lawmakers of BNP and its allies on Wednesday staged a walkout from parliament in protest at the new seating arrangement giving four instead of nine front row seats to them to the left of the speaker.
The immediate-past speaker Muhammad Jamiruddin Sircar allocated the nine front row seats to the main opposition. The new speaker on Wednesday morning changed the seating layout giving five seats to two ministers and three senior leaders of the ruling Awami League-led alliance pushing BNP MPs back to the second and third rows.
Speaker Abdul Hamid said Thursday afternoon that the opposition lawmakers had initially demanded return of the five front row seats. ‘Finally in the discussion, they trimmed down the demand to three seats,’ he claimed.
‘I have told them that I can change the seating plan again if the ruling party agrees to vacate the seats,’ the speaker said. ‘Otherwise, I have nothing to do.’
Hamid said he had already conveyed the opposition lawmakers’ demands to ruling Awami League’s chief whip Abdus Shahid.
Shahid informed the leader of the house and prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, about the meeting between the speaker and the main opposition, a treasury bench member told New Age.
He also informed the prime minister about the demand of the opposition.
The prime minister and the speaker are likely to discuss the issue, possibly over phone, the treasury bench member said.
In the 2001 parliament, when BNP was in power, all 10 seats in the front row to the left of the speaker were allocated to opposition lawmakers. They were the then leader of the opposition Sheikh Hasina, senior opposition MP Zillur Rahman, present speaker Abdul Hamid, senior AL leaders Abdur Razzak, Abdul Jalil, Suranjit Sengupta, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Dewan Farid Gazi, Jatiya Party faction chairman Anwar Hossain Manju and senior JP presidium member Rawshan Ershad.


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