New mayors to receive minister rank?

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Rozina Islam | May 06, 2015

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Discussions are on as to whether to give the three newly elected mayors of Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong city corporation, the rank and status of ministers or state ministers. They will be sworn in on Wednesday.

The government wants to give the three newly elected mayors this status and the legal aspects of the matter are being studied. The nine city mayors elected previously during this government had not been given ministerial rank.

Two senior officials of the local government department have told Prothom Alo, there is nothing mentioned in the law bout giving the mayors the rank of minister or state minister. During the BNP rule, such status was given outside of the law. Dhaka mayor Sadeq Hossain Khoka had been given the rank of a full lawyer.

Local government secretary Abdul Malek told Prothom Alo, no final decision has been taken on the matter as yet. The cabinet division will post a notice in this regard. However, as the Dhaka mayor had ministerial status before, the matter is under consideration. It will be finalised before or after the oath-taking.

An official of the cabinet division said they are awaiting the prime minister’s instructions. Cabinet secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told Prothom Alo, the prime minister hasn’t given any instructions in this regarding as yet. The moment she does, the president’s approval will be taken and then a gazette notice will be issued.

The three new mayors are being sworn in by the prime minister at 10 am Wednesday morning at the prime minister’s office. The newly elected councillors will be sworn in on the same day by the local government minister Syed Ashraful Islam.

It was Naziur Rahman in 1990, during Ershad’s rule, who was first given the rank of a state minister.

In 2013 the matter of giving the nine newly elected mayors such a rank was discussed. Finance minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhit had even written to the local government division, asking that the mayors be kept “above” the members of parliament.  He had said that the mayors of cities outside of Dhaka had been given the rank of state minister, but the new mayors had not been given such status. As a result, they were positioned below members of parliament and secretaries. They should be given a higher position.

Newly election Dhaka North city corporation mayor Annisul Haque said, “The matter is not important to me. I do not know anything about this. Whatever rank had been given to others, will be given to us.”

During the last term of Awami League (in 2013), Awami League candidates had been defeated in eight of the nine city corporation elections. In 2008 during the caretaker government rule, the Awami League candidates Talukdar Abdul Khaleque in Khulna, AHM Khairuzzaman in Rajshahi, Shawkat Hossain in Barisal and Badruddin Ahmed Kamran in Sylhet, were elected as mayors.

On 9 September 2008 the cabinet division declared that the mayors of Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet city corporations would be given the rank and facilities of state ministers. Four and a half years later the same division declared, “It does not seem that the monthly allowances and other facilities of the mayors have any semblance to that of the ministers, state ministers or deputy ministers.”

On 6 January 2009 the Awami League-led mahajote (grand alliance) formed government. In the first city corporation election of that government n 17 June 2010, the BNP-backed M Manjur Alam was elected mayor of Chittagong. On 30 October 2011, Selina Hayat Ivy was elected mayor of Narayanganj, defeating Awami League-backed Shamim Osman. On 5 January 2012 Comilla BNP leader Monirul Huq defeated Awami League-backed Afzal Khan. on 19 December 2012 in Rangpur, Sarfuddin Ahmed was elected mayor.

On 3 November 2011, the local government division sent a letter to the cabinet secretary stating, the cabinet division had issued a notice giving the mayors of Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet city corporations the rank and facilities of state minister. While determining the rank of Narayanganj mayor Selina Hayat Ivy, the local government division had spoken of taking necessary action. However, later this was not done. The mayors of Narayanganj, Comilla and Rangpur have not been given any ministerial status.

In 2013, BNP-backed candidates won the mayoral offices in Rajshahi, Sylhet, Barisal, Khulna and Gazipur. They too were not given ministerial rank. On the contrary, during the 20-party alliance’s movement, various charges were filed against them and they have had to go into hiding.

Sylhet mayor Ariful Huq Chowdhury and Gazipur mayor MA Mannan have been sacked from office. A proposal to dismiss Rajshahi mayor Mosaddeq Hossain has been sent to the local government ministry, bringing various charges against him, including possession of explosive substances. Two cases have been filed against Khulna mayor Moniruzzaman. An inquiry committee headed by an additional secretary of the local government division is looking into allegations brought about by Shamim Osman against Narayanganj mayor Selina Hayat Ivy. Even she is being put into a difficult position.