Speech of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed
I have come before you at a time when our beloved country is held hostage by terror, corruption, rising prices, poverty and acute insecurity and 14 million people are helpless in such dangerous times.
Firstly, I would like to remember with respect the greatest Bangali of all time, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the martyrs of August 15, and the four national leaders who embraced martyrdom on November 3 in jail.
Today, I remember the martyrs from the 1952 Language Movement to our 1971 Liberation War who gave their lives for the struggle to achieve democracy.
I remember Bangladesh Awami League's women's affairs secretary Ivy Rahman, who was killed in the barbaric attack on August 21 and who played a leading role in the women's movement in Bangladesh. To the wounded we extend our compassion, to the thousands at home and abroad who have stepped forward to assist the families of the deceased and in the medical treatment of the wounded, we extend our gratitude.
Today, October 10, three years of the misrule of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government is complete. How have they kept the people of Bangladesh? How are you?
I know that you will say you are not well. Even the voters who voted for the BNP-Jamaat coalition in the last election would admit that no-one can live well under the current circumstances.
No-one can be mentally at peace having seen the pictures of the bodies of a father and son in 150 pieces or even today the news of five-year-old Aankhi, raped and murdered, splashed across our newspapers.
No patriotic citizen would accept the way the BNP-Jamaat coalition government has taken the country with potentials on the brink of disaster in three years.
The coalition government has failed to provide security to people in its three years. When the primary and minimum demand of people has been security, the BNP-Jamaat government itself is being considered as a threat.
According to the figures given by the minister concerned on July 6 in parliament, 9,737 people had been killed. When the government itself is admitting to such huge numbers of murders, it can be easily understood that the real number of murders would be many times the official figure.
There is no security in mosques, temples, churches, hospitals, educational institutions, workplace homes, roads and even in the lap of a father under this government. The crisis is so terrifying that foreign envoys are victims of grenade attacks while donor representatives have to flee the country in fear of their lives.
All parts of the country including Dhaka, Narayanganj, Bogra, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sylhet, Chittagong, Feni, Lakshmipur, Gazipur, Mymensingh, Natore, Naogaon, Dinajpur, Pabna, Khulna, Jessore, Kushtia, Bagerhat, Jhenidah, Chuadanga and Cox's Bazaar have now become valleys of death.
Infant Nausheen, Jamal Fakir, Tushar, Azam, Simi, Mahfuza, Chabirani, Gopal Krishna Mohuri, Imam Hazrat Ali, four devotees of a Malibagh mosque, journalists Harun, Manik Saha, Humayun Kabir Balu and Dipankar, who are among 29,000 people murdered and oppressed, are the symbol of an insecure and helpless Bangladesh.
The women of Bangladesh are preferring suicide after falling victims to rape and acid attacks, as they know that they would get no justice. According to various human-rights organisations and newspapers, 62,889 women and children have been either abused, abducted, trafficked or assaulted in the last three years. The BNP-Jamaat government has created a new record with policemen unleashing unprecedented torture against female activists of Awami League in custody.
Heightened activities of fundamentalist and extremist terrorists have eroded the nation's secular, democratic character.
The policy of the BNP has been to withdraw 70,000 cases, acquit hundreds and thousands of marked criminals and sheltering murderers and criminals.
Twelve hundred foreign and local journalists have been tortured for revealing the criminal acts and corruption of the prime minister, ministers and MPs. Ten people have been killed. An unwritten censorship has been imposed on private media while the private television channel Ekushey TV has been shut down. The coalition government is at the top when it comes to repression of journalists.
The BNP-Jamaat coalition government has even rewarded and reinstated in job with full benefits an accused in Bangabandhu murder case. They have promoted an accused in the Jail Killing Case and delayed the verdict.
Today the call for justice cries in Bangladesh. There is no value of people's lives. Everyone's desire is to see killers and criminals brought to justice and punished. But everyone has the right to take shelter under the law.
Why are people being inhumanely murdered in custody under the pretences of heart failure or crossfire by the Rapid Action Battalion or under Operation Clean Heart?
Three hundred and seven people have died in custody in the past three years. The real killers of Manzurul Imam of Khulna, Manik Saha, Humayun Kabir Balu, and Shamsur Rahman are being killed in so-called crossfire to save the masterminds who ordered the killings. The witnesses to the crimes of godfathers of the BNP-Jamaat government are being purged.
The government is committing national terrorism for a political agenda. On the other hand, the Speedy Trial Act is being used to suppress the opposition.
Sumon, witness to the murder of Ahsanullah Master, has been killed in safe custody to protect a certain "Bhaban-backed" Juba Dal leader -- the murderer of Master.
The children of the abducted BNP leader and businessman Jamaluddin of Chittagong have blamed a BNP MP for the crime. A Chhatra Dal leader of Dhaka University has been killed by the cadres of Chhatra Dal itself.
The terror of the coalition government goes on unabated at numerous educational institutions where teachers, students or staff are not being spared.
The level of failure and misrule of the government is so high that through 'election engineering' the ruling coalition is "trying to come to power by circumventing people's mandate."
As parts of the process, they are:
1.Strengthening methods of vote rigging and false votes, specimens of which you have seen in Dhaka-10 by-election,
2. Using illegal money to influence and rig elections.
3. Trying to create an obedient executive through politicisation,
4. Repressing the minority to discourage them from voting.
5. Trying to influence and control the media.
6. Selective killing of potential opposition election candidates, honest and popular leaders, parliamentarians and skilled party organisers.
7. Arresting and torturing Awami League leaders and activists under false charges to keep them off the scene and spread panic among people.
The government has failed to arrest a single individual for the killing of 153 people and injury to 1,304 in 12 bomb blasts and smuggling into the country of huge numbers of arms, ammunition and bombs.
The real criminals have been spared, while the blame has been shifted on the opposition after each incident. Even national security is under threat due to the massive numbers of illegal arms being smuggled into the country.
The targets for all the bomb and grenade attacks have been pro-liberation, democratic party rallies, Bangali cultural festivals, fairs or shrines. Which means people who are against the Liberation War, progress and democracy and people who spoke against the shrines are the real perpetrators of the attack.
The bomb blasts that took place during the rule of the Awami League have been investigated. Chargesheets were framed and the judicial process was initiated. Later, the coalition government stalled the judicial process, removed the names of the accused from the chargesheets including the names of ministers and MPs.
Human rights are being violated regularly. The religious minorities and ethnic people are falling victim to torture. Eleven members of a minority family including a four-day-old child have been burnt dead in Banskhali.
Common people are being detained in the name of mass arrests. Attacks on female students' dormitories at the dead of night and attack on lawyers, teachers, writers, journalists, intellectuals at court premises in presence of the prime minister are naked examples of human-rights violation of the alliance government.
NGOs and their organisers are being harassed through false cases, arrest and torture.
People are at a loss at the uncontrolled rise of the prices of essentials and yawning gap between income and expenditure.
The prices of everything including rice, pulse, oil and salt increased one and half times to twice, while living cost increased 80 percent.
Prices of green chilly rose to Tk 110 from Tk 16 and onion to Tk 24 from Tk 12. A rickshawpuller or day-labourer now finds it impossible to manage pantabhat with onion and green chilly.
Indiscriminate imposition of VAT and income tax on people of meagre income have turned lives miserable. Traders are at a loss at the slapping of taxes, VAT, extortion and abduction.
Salaries of the prime minister, ministers and lawmakers have been increased on the grounds of price hike. But none of government officers and employees, teachers and police was given a pay hike.
Earning of 1.5 lakh labourers-officers and employees was stopped by retrenchment at different corporations, factories and industries including Asia's biggest jute industry Adamjee Jute Mills. Unemployment increases by the day as new industries and job opportunities are not created.
Awami League earned success in eradication, expedition in rural sectors, subsidy in agriculture, making easy agriculture loan, increase in productions, export expansion and establishing of a static and firm economy by flourishing the industry and IT sector.
Economic growth rate reached the highest 6.6 percent during our tenure and inflation was only 1.59 percent.
The growth rate went down to under 5 percent and inflation reached 6 percent during the BNP-Jamaat alliance government.
Food production reached 2.7 crore tons in 2000-2001. The target is yet to be reached during three years of the alliance government.
Foreign investment reduced by 70 percent. Export declined and import increased. ADP has been cut in several phases. Net foreign aid and loan reduced by Tk 5,500 crore during 2003-2004. Government loan from internal sources increased about Tk 2,000 crore.
Contribution of agriculture and fish sectors to GDP is reducing continuously for government negligence and lack of skill.
There won't be quota system in the garments sector from 2005 in global market. Garment sector, the leading export sector, will have to face the open challenge and problems without any government preparation and plan.
Chittagong seaport has been identified as the world's second most risky port, TIB report said Tk 763 crore bribe is transacted a year during product loading and unloading at the port.
Common people have been deprived of the opportunity of savings due to closing savings project and reduction of interest rate in the state-owned banks.
While about Tk 12,000 crore lie idle at banks for want of investment, the government blows its own trumpet for increase in national foreign exchange reserve.
Under the directives of a certain 'Bhaban,' rules and regulations are being violated for promotions. A record number of contract-basis jobs, mass postings, forced retirement and random sacking have made the bureaucracy ineffective. The brilliant, meritorious and patriotic officers are being deprived.
The sedition charge against prime minister's secretary proves that they consider disobedience to a certain family as sedition.
Corruption has been institutionalised in the last three years. Bribes and commissions for Hawa Bhaban play a regular role in each development project, international tender and transactions.
Corruption is rampant in education, agriculture, industries, social welfare, environment, and communication ministries. Scandals in textbook purchase, wheat, fertiliser, sugar, jet fuel, hajj flights, F-28 and airforce plane purchase, involvement of influential minister in gold smuggling, CNG purchase, and land grabbing by a minister's wife are the reasons why Bangladesh leads the way in world corruption.
Unabated politicisation and corruption are taking place in flood relief programmes, agricultural credit disbursements, and VGF card distribution. Coalition cadres are looting what the poor were supposed to receive.
Japan, Denmark, Spain, Norway, WHO, ADB and various donor countries and agencies have directly accused the government of corruption. A Dutch court has fined the government Tk 31 crore. No country with self-respect wants to bear such an identity.
Despite non-cooperation and hostile attitude from the government, we had made a concerted effort to participate in parliament. But we were not allowed to voice our opinion in parliament, and 2,413 of our notices were rejected. The prime minister refused to answer 921 questions served to her in parliament during question-time.
When Awami League was in office, we made parliament the centre-point of all activities and started the prime ministerial question-time. We gave the chairmanship of parliamentary committees to parliamentarians instead of ministers. As the highest expression of generosity, we offered the deputy speaker position to the opposition, which will stand as a rare example in the history of our parliamentary democracy. The BNP-Jamaat coalition government does not really believe in parliamentary democracy, they are afraid of accountability.
The coalition government have completely failed in their foreign policy. Bangladesh is blacklisted because of terrorist activities. To the international community Bangladesh is a country synonymous with human rights violations. The Muslim world has rejected the nomination of a war criminal and a smuggler as the OIC secretary general. Bangladesh is losing friends every day.
In 1996, we conducted state affairs with the mandate of the people. People regained self-belief after we worked with dedication and sincerity to face the challenges of the 21st century, to change people's fate, to create a society free from poverty and to establish a democratic structure of state.
We proved that Bengalis can stand up with their heads high in the world with the sincere intentions of the leadership Bangladesh.
Focusing on poverty alleviation, our housing project for the poor, one house one farm programme, community health clinic, union parishad complex, Karmasangsthan Bank, and microcredit programmes played a positive role in the socioeconomic development of the country.
We introduced allowances for the elderly, widows, freedom fighters, and education stipend to ensure social security. We strengthened government-NGO partnership for the socioeconomic development of the people.
During our tenure the literacy rate had jumped from 45 percent to 66 percent and per capita income rose from $245 to $390.
Bangladesh was internationally recognised as a role model in disaster management after the successful management of the devastating 1998 and 2000 floods.
We increased electricity generation from 1600 to 4300 megawatts, repaired and expanded national electricity grid, ensured coverage of electricity to 14,000 villages and 25 lakh new consumers and took the giant task of bringing 34,000 more villages under the rural electrification programme.
We have delivered telephones and mobile phones to the rural population. We have made computers easily available to the younger generation. Including the Bangabandhu Bridge, we have built 2 lakh metres of bridges, culverts and nearly 50,000 km of roads.
By signing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord we were able to put an end to a long-drawn bloody conflict. We were able to secure our Ganges water rights by signing a 30-year treaty with India.
We received numerous awards and prizes from various UN agencies, including FAO, Unicef and Unesco.
We ensured greater participation and role in UN peacekeeping operations and our peacekeepers brought pride to the country.
During our tenure, February 21 received the grand recognition as the International Mother Language Day with our sincere effort and hard work.
On the other hand, the coalition government has failed to take any new development programme. They are busy cutting ribbons and changing the names of various projects undertaken by us, namely the Bangabandhu Novo Theatre, Bangabandhu International Convention Centre, and various flyovers in the city.
Beloved people of my beloved Bangladesh,
What can the people expect from a government that has failed to manage floods and free the people of Dhaka from waterlogging after rains.
People want freedom from this government. Businesspeople want to be free from abductions, extortion and crime. The government workers want to be spared from politicisation. Mothers and sisters of the country want to be protected from the barbarity of rape and repression.
We want to see Bangladesh as one of the most attractive countries in Asia for investment, instead of being the champion in corruption.
Not a safehome for religious militants, but the citizens of the country want to see Bangladesh as a bright example of communal harmony with an end to all violence and conflict from political confrontation.
Bangladesh Awami League is the party of the people, it is our sacred duty to materialise people's dreams and fulfil their wants.
Awami League does not believe in political vengeance. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman conducted national affairs with beliefs of benevolence and forgiveness. We have not veered from that belief in the face of oppression and torture and we will not do so in the future, god willing.
When we came to power with the people's mandate in 1996 and was fair in allowing the judgement procedures on murder of Bangabandhu within the fair bounds of law. I want to state this again -- democratic tolerance is our ideal, not oppression and torture of our opposition.
We want to build a secure Bangladesh for the frightened people amid the horrific slide in law and order.
We want to build an economy based on developed agriculture and industrial boom where the poor can survive and everyone will have an improved life.
We want a welfare state where the elderly, women and children would have clothes, housing and healthcare ensured.
Awami League wants to create a nation for the future generation where merit not, political obedience, would be the yardstick of an individual. I want a modern generation, who would make Bangladesh proud and internationally renowned in the fields of science, technology, education and sports.
Currently, there are more than three crore youth unemployed in the country, we want to take steps for proper planning and their implementation for their employment.
We want to establish rights of the officials and staff of this republic to let them work impartially. We want to ensure rewards for the honest, deserving and brilliant officials and punishment for the dishonest and corrupt. We feel it is necessary to increase salaries and wages in parallel with the increase in the prices of goods.
We want to rescue the judiciary, last resort for the oppressed, from the path of destruction and ensure its independence.
We want to keep the military, built and developed from the liberation war, above politics and create professional and modern armed forces.
A reformed and flawless electoral system is required to protect the path of a democratic and constitutional system to ensure people's right to choose the government they want. When citizens lose their trust in a majority government, the accepted rule is to call for a new mandate. Hence, the incumbent government must resign and call immediate elections.
On August 21, there was a grenade attack on the Awami League leadership and me. Twenty-two leaders and workers and hundreds of other party faithful were wounded in the attack. The government is not investigating the barbaric attack. The evidence has been destroyed and the real culprits are being protected. People are being misled from falsifications. We want a fair and correct investigation and trial of the real criminals and that is why we have demanded an international trial.
The August 21 attack was perpetrated by a group who fears the people and wants to eliminate the people's party, Awami League. The killers do not know that Awami League cannot be destroyed by killing its leaders and workers. The Awami League has become the largest political party based on noble ideas and policies. Individuals can be killed, but ideals and policies cannot.
When I look at the helpless victims, the orphans, the elderly parents of the dead from the August 21 attack, I ask myself: why didn't they survive in exchange for my life?
Let us come to national consensus for the progress, prosperity and benefit of the people from our love for the people and the country, let us bring an end to the misrule and show the light towards people's liberation.
Bangalis brought independence in 1971 through a brave and united struggle. With the strength of that very courage, self-conviction and unity, we will overcome the crisis and despondency to build a more modern, secular and democratic Bangladesh.
Please accept my greetings for the upcoming month of Ramadan.
I also greet my Hindu brothers and sisters on the eve of the Durga Puja.
Khoda Hafez. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu. Long Live Bangladesh.
Courtesy: Daily Star