Please select your preferences to subscribe.

Bangladesh parliament lurches into debate over clubs, alcohol and gambling

  • Parliament Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-06-17 14:00:13 BdST

bdnews24
File photo

A heated debate has broken out in parliament about clubs in Dhaka city, and their involvement with alcohol and gambling.

The unplanned discussion saw members of the Awami League, Jatiya Party, BNP and Tarikat Federation exchanging loud barbs over the issue.

The debate began at the start of the session on Thursday with a point of order from Jatiya Party senior MP Mujibul Haque, nicknamed Chunnu.

The Awami League’s Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, the BNP’s Md Harunur Rashid, the Tarikat Federation’s Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary, and Opposition Chief Whip Md Mashiur Rahman Ranga all joined the ensuing argument.

“We have been discussing the matter of a film actress for the past few days,” said Chunnu, drawing attention to the recent Pori Moni incident at the Dhaka Boat Club.

“Who formed this club? Who are the members? I’ve heard you need to pay Tk 5-6 million to join. Who pays that much money to join this club? It’s inconceivable to us. We don’t earn that much after a lifetime of work.”

The Jatiya Party co-chairman also brought up the names of several other clubs in the capital. “These clubs serve alcohol. There is gambling there. You need a licence to drink alcohol in Bangladesh. But these clubs serve alcohol by the gallon. If only licensed people could partake, these clubs would not sell as much as they do. How have government officials become members of these clubs? Where do they get the money?”

The Kishoreganj-3 MP also asked for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s intervention to put an end to DJ parties in the upscale parts of the capital.

“DJ parties are held in the Gulshan and Baridhara areas. People dance, take drugs and drink alcohol. These things are against our laws, our culture and our religion. I implore the prime minister to ask the home minister why these things are allowed. Why shouldn’t they be stopped? Who are the members of these clubs? The Pori Mini incident occurred at a boat club. The club has an owner. We must investigate.”

Actress Pori Moni spoke out about an alleged attempt to rape and murder her at the Dhaka Boat Club in a Facebook post on Sunday. Later that day, she held a press conference at her Banani home to discuss the matter. On Monday she filed a case with Savar Police alleging assault, attempted rape and attempted murder.

The prime suspect in the case is former Uttara Club President Nasir U Mahmood, who was also a member of the Dhaka Boat Club’s executive committee. Another suspect, Tuhin Siddiqui Omi, is also a member of the boat club. Police have arrested the two suspects.

Nasir, Omi and club member Shah S Alam have all been suspended from the club.

Pori Moni claims that, on the night of Jun 8, Omi took her to the club as part of a ‘plan’ and Nasir attempted to ‘rape and murder her’ there.

The Dhaka Boat Club, which grazes the banks of the Turag River, has come under close scrutiny since the incident. Its president is Benazir Ahmed, the chief of police.

Following Chunnu’s statement, the Awami League’s Sheikh Selim took the floor and blamed BNP founder Ziaur Rahman for being the first to issue alcohol and gambling licences in Bangladesh.

“This is a boat club,” he said. “Ziaur Rahman had a steamer club. Bangabandhu suspended alcohol and gambling licences, but Ziaur Rahman resumed the practice. Those who pave the way for crimes should be brought to justice first. We should start there.”

The BNP’s Harunur Rashid then requested the floor from the speaker and said: “A member of the opposition has made a request to the prime minister. But this senior member [Sheikh Selim] is taking it to absurd lengths.”

“Many foreigners live in Bangladesh. There are also people who follow other religions and they have a legitimate claim to partaking in alcohol. The law does not allow Muslims to drink. If you can prove that Ziaur Rahman issued liquor licences to Muslims I will give up my seat in parliament,” he said.

“Members of the government are involved with these clubs and the alcohol business. These matters must be investigated.”

At one point, the Tarikat Federation’s Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary said: “Harun Sahib should leave his post immediately. He said Ziaur Rahman did not give the Muslims permission to drink. He should show us where in the law it says that Muslims cannot drink. He should try and show us. And then he should leave his post.”

Jatiya Party leader Mashiur Rahman Ranga said: “The law was misused. The clubs get doctors’ certificates that say that people have to drink alcohol daily and then they get licences. The BNP issued these licences. And so, if a Muslim drinks alcohol there, the government can’t do anything about it.”

About Nasir U Mahmood, the prime suspect in the Pori Moni case and a member of the Jatiya Party Presidium, Ranga said: “Pori Moni has made an allegation. She has appealed to the prime minister. A suspect has been arrested. Justice will be done. If he is guilty, he will be punished.”