A couple of weeks ago I made a formal complaint to the council about my job as a reporter being hindered by the frequent use of Bengali in the council chamber.
The press are there to report these proceedings to the people who pay for them, the taxpayers and voters in the wider world. But when some councillors switch from English into a foreign language (usually to barrack each other), it’s not only rude to the viewing public and against all rules of government conduct, it also renders those parts of the proceedings secret and inaccessible to all but a few. How on earth, for example, are full and accurate minutes meant to be recorded when not everything is understood?
I’m amazed that councillors have not been warned before about this by the likes of Isabella Freeman and the head of democratic services, John Williams. So the reply to my complaint will be interesting.
As it happens, someone else has complained, albeit for slightly different reasons.
At the full council meeting on April 17, we had one of those regular periodic bouts of uproar and outrage. Labour’s Abdal Ullah was on his feet making a point about something not terribly noteworthy when all of a sudden a word was hurled his way that made him lose his characteristic cool.
He alleged that Lutfur’s close friend, Cllr Ghulam Robbani, called him “Shurer batcha“, which means a “Son of a Pig”.
I’m told this is highly derogatory for Bengalis and Muslims at the best of times, given that pigs are haraam in Islam. But Abdal had not long returned from an Umrah to Mecca–as had Robbani, Mayor Lutfur Rahman and several others sitting nearby.
Robbani shook his head at the accusation but I’m told that Lutfurite councillor Maium Miah said he heard it, as did Ohid Ahmed and the Speaker, Rajib Ahmed. Even Lutfur sympathised with Abdal, I understand.
The following week, Abdal wrote to Robbani to say his “offensive outburst” had been “entirely unbecoming”, and that he had insulted his late father. He demanded a public apology both to him and his family by Friday, May 3.
He heard nothing.
I suspect he’ll be lodging his compliant with the Standards Committee within days.