The Gono Bhaban yesterday denied The Daily Star reporter access to cover the press conference of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina without giving any reason. The Daily Star, however, carries the report based on information obtained from secondary sources.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday denounced the outcry against the purchase of subpar crests awarded to foreign friends and organisations for their contribution to the country's Liberation War.
"You will damage your own image by making a hue and cry over the issue. You will establish yourselves as thieves. It will earn the country no honour,” she said.
The prime minister was speaking at the Gono Bhaban at a press conference on her Japan tour.
About the demand for disbanding the Rapid Action Battalion, she said the force had turned into an institution in all these years, and it was not possible to disband it all of a sudden.
She also said it was not possible to file a case against the Jamaat on war crimes charges when a case over the party's registration was already pending with the Supreme Court.
She, however, urged people not to worry over the Jamaat issue and the trial of war criminals. “Have trust in me.”
Rejecting the call for disbanding the elite force, Hasina said, “Didn't the Rab kill more than 1,000 people in a year after its formation in 2004? But no criticism was made then. Everyone praised them then. But we've put them [Rab members] on trial whenever they've committed crimes.”
About Narayanganj and Feni incidents, she said her government acted instantly. “We won't spare criminals whoever they might be or whatever the party they belong to. We are not sparing anyone.”
On whether Shamim Osman helped Nur Hossain, the main accused in the seven-murder incident, flee the country, the premier said Shamim asked Hossain to surrender. “Is asking someone to surrender is helping him flee?"
She also questioned the authenticity of the news reports that claimed Shamim helped Hossain flee the country.
Hasina defended Shamim and said the telephone conversation between Hossain and Shamim would be investigated.
The PM also talked about a High Court bench order for arrest of the three dismissed Rab officials for alleged involvement in the abduction and killing of seven people in Narayanganj.
She said, "When we were still investigating the matter … and before that investigation was complete … you tell us how come a High Court bench orders arrest of the three [Rab officers] ?… Now if you want any evidence, seek it from the judges of that court … they must have evidence as to what extent they [the three] were involved … how much guilty they are, etc ... they [judges of the bench] can say it better. Collect information from them; give that [to us]. It will help us as well ... . If the two judges of the bench that gave the arrest order provide detailed information, it will help expedite the case."
She continued, "When we struggle to take one step, some of them there take two/four steps and create such a situation that does not allow conducting a probe properly. It is a problem. I know my words are getting a bit harsh … but what is real and true must be told."
As a reporter rose to ask a question, the PM said, "What? Scared? Will it warrant contempt [proceedings]? Doesn't matter. I don't care."
SUPPORT FOR LAW MINISTER
Defending Law Minister Anisul Huq, the PM said her government can do nothing with regard to banning Jamaat until the apex court delivered its verdict. “Everything depends on the decision of the higher court.”
On Thursday, the law minister said the existing war crimes law was inadequate to try and punish any political party for its alleged crimes during the Liberation War in 1971.
Hasina said the minister's observation was realistic and correct from the legal point of view.
CREST FOR FOREIGN FRIENDS
About the crest issue, the prime minister said, "They are questioning the quantity of gold [in the shields] … . I think this is to bring it [the initiative to honour foreign friends] into question. Just like the Jamaat does not support our independence … . This is similar."
She added, “It is not important how much gold was there; it is important to honour the foreign friends and we did it.”
Hasina, however, said those involved in the fraudulence would face action. She also went on to remind the journalists of the age-old proverb that goldsmiths steal gold even from their mothers' earrings.
The scandal triggered huge outcry, after the media reported that the BSTI in 2012 found each crest had only 2.363 grams of gold and 466.237 grams of brass. Each of those was supposed to contain 22.5 grams of gold and 339 grams of silver.
This forced the government to form a probe body that found the media reports to be true.
In its report, the committee said the government was robbed of around Tk 7.04 crore through the forgery. It held former state minister for Liberation War affairs ministry AB Tajul Islam and 12 others of his ministry responsible.