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23 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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People voted against graft, terrorism

PM Sheikh Hasina tells Indian CNN-News18 in an exclusive interview
Staff Reporter, Dhaka
People voted against graft, terrorism

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her party Awami League has come to power with a historic mandate for the third consecutive time as the country’s people have realised that only this party works for the people and the country’s development whenever it gets elected to power. She also said that the Bangladesh Awami League was formed to establish people’s right and under the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the party had organised the country’s people to achieve independence.

Sheikh Hasina made these comments during an exclusive video interview with Indian TV channel CNN-News18, hosted by news presenter Zakka Jacob on Sunday.

In the elaborate interview that lasted almost half an hour, Sheikh Hasina touched on a number of issues including the country’s democracy and the recently held general election, Bangladesh-India relations including cross-border terrorism, migration and Teesta water sharing agreement, globalisation and China’s OBOR, SAARC and Pakistan and the upcoming election in India.

The prime minister said people have rejected Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the 11th parliamentary polls because of its corruption, money laundering, terrorist activities and alliance with Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders were convicted for war crimes.

Asked about what lesson she has drawn from the just concluded general election after her party had already been in power for 2 consecutive terms, she said, “If anybody can achieve people’s confidence, then the question of incumbency does not arise. Our people have accepted us. Only we can do well for them. When our Father of the Nation was assassinated in 1975, a military dictatorship came to power and got involved in corruptions, nepotism, terrorism, money laundering and so on. When our party comes to power, they found that we work for the people. That’s why people did not reject us. Otherwise, our people are very much alert about their voting and democratic rights. If we did anything wrong, they would not have voted for us. We could achieve the confidence of the people which was very, very important for the victory.”

Hasina addresses criticisms by opposition, int’l community

Asked about how she would respond to the criticisms that comes from opposition parties of Bangladesh, some international NGOs as well as a few foreign governments questioning the legitimacy of the election and whether the election was rigged or the opposition was barred, Sheikh Hasina said, “Criticism is a common thing in a democratic system. In our country we have press freedom. Everybody can say and discuss anything. The international community can criticise but they should understand what the reality is. I think those who criticise us or the election, they should go through the election history of this country. This time the election was held peacefully except for some stray incidents. No doubt about it. But such incidents were also carried out by the opposition groups.”

“People including women and first time voters came out of their houses to cast votes for the Awami League. They (other parties) can criticise but they should show what wrong has been done. Then we can be cautious about it in the future. The main problem with our opposition is that they could not identify who is their leader. If they come to power, who would be the head of their government? They could not place it,” she added.

The prime minister also claimed that the opposition has done a nomination trade during election. “Those who gave money, the opposition gave them nomination. It’s a trade of nomination.  Besides, Jamaat-e-Islami is a war criminal (party). Many of their leaders face trial. When they take Jamaat with them, our people totally rejected them. People did not accept their corruption, money laundering, terrorist activities. Why people will vote for them? People know that when our party will come to power we will work for them and country,” she said.

People have rejected Jamaat-e-Islami

Asked about the concern about Jamaat-e-Islami that if the party comes to power the security concerns will increase and Bangladesh will further be radicalised, she said, “Jamaat is very much with the BNP now. They have their alliance. Jamaat is not registered with the Election Commission. But BNP chose them despite a court order and gave nomination to them. But people rejected them. Leadership problem was their big problem. Because those who have been convicted or are fugitive, when those persons become leaders of that party, why people will vote for them?”

Hasina vows zero tolerance on cross-border terrorism

Asked about the bilateral relationship with India about massive crackdown against anti-Indian forces operating from Bangladeshi soil, and will she continue such crackdown, Sheikh Hasina said, “We declared zero tolerance to terrorism. Anybody involved in terrorist activity whether inside the country or in our neibouring country, we will not tolerate it. We would combat it. I declare that we will now allow anybody to use our soil to launch any kind of terrorist activities on our neibouring country be it India or Myanmar. We want a peaceful environment for the development of the people and the country. Action against any kind of terrorism will continue. No doubt about it.”

Migration within neighbours common phenomenon, not a problem

Asked about her comment on the migrants from Bangladesh to Assam of India on proving their citizenship, she said, migration is a common phenomenon in this world. It is also a common thin in the neibouring countries. “At present, our economy is growing. We have job opportunity. We have reduced poverty level and our social safety net is working. Then why our people will go to India and stay there I don’t understand. However, we will discuss this matter. In 1996, when we formed the government, I found that we had 64,000 people in India as refugees. I brought them back. We would look into it. I think they (India) should not harass anybody because of religion or any other issues because inside our country we have religious harmony. As a neighbour, I always expect in India, as a big country, every people should live peacefully.

PM says Rohingya issue a matter of concern, seeks India’s cooperation

Drawing her attention to Rohingya issue about her expectation from the neighbouring countries, she said, “Rohingya issue is a big matter for us. Over one million Rohingya people are living in Bangladesh. We want that this problem would be resolved soon and these people will get back to their country. India is a big neighbour and it has a role to play because India has good relations with the Myanmar government. They can take some pragmatic initiatives so that these people should go back. We need cooperation of India on this issue.”

Hasina appreciates Modi over Teesta deal, says Didi a hurdle

Asked about the unresolved and pending issues like Teesta water agreement – and whether she believes it will be resolved this time, the prime minister said, “Definitely we expect it. We want this issue to be resolved but it depends on India – their state government and central government. I appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his pragmatic steps. But the problem lies with Didi Moni (Mamata Banarjee). I talked to her and she agreed, but it has not materialised. I hope in future it will be solved.”

PM suggests India can join China’s OBOR for economic benefits

Talking about China’s one belt, one road (OBOR) or belt and road initiative where India has reservation about it – and what she would say to the Indian government in this regard, Sheikh Hasina said, “The world has become a global village nowadays. We need connectivity for economic development. China, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar have already signed an agreement for establishment of connectivity. I think there is no reason to worry for India about the BCIM economic corridor.  Rather I feel the business and trade will increase. Every country will be a beneficiary out of it. India can discuss it. If any issue they feel worried about, that can be discussed. China and India are our neigbours. You know India is our next door neighbour. We never forget that India, during our Liberation War, supported us. Then after 1975, they gave shelter to us and our family. Then, we solved land boundary problem after 65 years. We exchanged the enclaves. You see, it was a historical event. In many countries such exchange of enclaves is done through fight, but we did it in a very festive mood. I think India is a big country with a big economy. They should not worry about it (OBOR). They can also join it for economic benefits.”

Role of India and Pakistan on SAARC Summit

About SAARC summit, which is not being held for the last couple of years primarily because India has its own issues with Pakistan and Bangladesh also has its issues with Pakistan, and Imran Khan now hopes to host it. When asked about her optimism on holding the SAARC summit in 2019, she said, “I congratulate Imran Khan. I admire him as a cricket player. He used to play very well – every time he used to hit sixes. Now I am waiting to see what he will do in his tenure (as PM). Definitely our expectation is very high. I feel under his leadership Pakistan can do well. In SAARC, we cannot raise the bilateral issues. SAARC itself can discuss other issues. The main matter is that Pakisan and India - they have some problem. We are an independent country. We have our own programme and agenda. But I feel regional cooperation is very very important for economic development. We have some sensitive issues with Pakistan. It now depends of prime minister of Pakistan on how he comes forward and resolves all these issues and makes a congenial atmosphere so that SAARC can be resumed.

Human rights issues

Asked about what she would say now after getting a historic mandate in the election, she said, “We have ensured peace, harmony. We ensured food security, education, health care. Now people are enjoying the benefits of our government. Some people raise the issue of human rights. When this country was under terrorist attack, what was their point? We combat these terror activities. We ensure people’s human rights. We always value human rights. Human rights do not only mean safety or security. It also includes security of food, education, housing and well-being. That means what a person wants for a better life. If we can do it, it also means we are ensuring human rights. Some NGOs and people are criticising. I know as a politician, there will be criticism. If you work more, you will face more criticism.”

Wishes to Modi in the upcoming Indian election

Drawing attention on the India’s upcoming nation election whether she would convey her wishes to Modi and hopeful of working with him in future, she said, “Definitely I wish him all the success. The relationship between our two neigbouring countries will continue. At present, we have a wonderful relationship between us. It will continue. I am very much hopeful.”

“We have a very good relation with all the parties of India. We always, with gratitude, remember their support during our Liberation War,” said Sheikh Hasina.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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