Apologise to nation, PM
Lawmakers in parliament last night said the World Bank must apologise to Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for maligning the government by raising the false allegation of corruption conspiracy involving the Padma Bridge project.
They also called for actions against Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus and others who were “behind the World Bank's cancellation of funding for the project”.
Several MPs, including Health Minister Mohammed Nasim, demanded that Yunus, TIB and others who “sided with the World Bank” be summoned by the House Speaker for quizzing.
Ten lawmakers took part in the two and a half hours' discussion initiated by Jatiya Party MP Kazi Feroz Rashid.
"The World Bank must apologise to Bangladesh, the prime minister and the people who were accused in the case,” said Law Minister Anisul Huq, urging the finance minister to issue a note of protest to the lender if it does not offer an apology.
Despite repeated attempts, WB's Dhaka office could not be reached for comment last night.
Citing the Canadian court's acquittal of the three accused in the case on February 10, Anisul said, “It [the case] was filed on the basis of fabricated stories and rumour. It definitely affected us. Now, we've retained our dignity."
Those affected can now seek redress from courts here or in Canada, he added.
Anisul claimed that the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had “put pressure for filing the case at the behest of Dr Yunus”.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed described former communications minister Abul Hossain, who resigned in the wake of the allegation, as a patriot.
“It's now proven that he's innocent," Tofail said.
When the WB cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the Padma Bridge project, Hasina took the bold step of building the bridge with “our own money” and asked the bank to prove the corruption conspiracy, he said. “With the Canadian court's verdict, the prime minister has finally won the challenge and the World Bank has lost.”
He also equated the critics of the Rampal power plant with those who brought or bought the corruption conspiracy allegation, saying they were the same people.
The people who tarnished the image of the country are the “enemies” of the nation, he said.
Coming down heavily on Yunus, Nasim demanded that Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury summon the Nobel laureate, the TIB and others who raised the allegation to quiz them about the information they claimed to have had.
“Serve them with a notice to appear before the parliamentary standing committee. We want to hold them accountable.... We want to make sure that no one dares assassinate anyone's character and undermine the country's image in future by making such false allegations,” he added.
“Why he [Yunus] had provoked the World Bank to stop funding the Padma Bridge project?” he sought to know.
Hitting out at the BNP and others who “acted” from behind the scenes to persuade the WB to stop the funding, the health minister said they wanted to stop the country's progress.
Nasim also demanded that the House pass a condemn motion criticising the WB so the “world knows that the World Bank lied”.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury and AL MP Dipu Moni claimed Yunus was the behind-the-scene player in the cancellation of the funding.
“Because the World Bank raised the allegation of corruption even though it knew there was no corruption involving the Padma Bridge project, they [the WB] are corrupt,” Matia said.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon suggested that the government file a case against those who “acted against the interest of the country”.
Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim took a swipe at civil society members and the Transparency International Bangladesh, saying they publicised the issue widely. He demanded that the WB pay the additional cost of the Padma Bridge, now under construction.
He also criticised Yunus for his “involvement” in WB's cancellation of the funding and called on the finance minister to dig out the source of the Grameen Bank founder's “huge money”.
Jatiya Party MP Zaiuddin Ahmed Bablu and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal MP Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal also took part in the unscheduled discussion.
The WB raised the allegation of a corruption conspiracy in 2011 and subsequently suspended the loan deal.
In moves seen as government efforts to have the loan revived, Abul Hossain resigned, bridges division secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan was sent to jail and PM's adviser Mashiur Rahman was sidelined, though he held his post.
Even so, the WB cancelled the credit in 2014, saying it had proof of corruption conspiracy involving Bangladesh officials, several executives of Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin and some individuals.
In Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pressed charges against five people, but charges against two people -- Mohammad Ismail and Abul Hasan Chowdhury -- were eventually dropped, according to the Globe and Mail newspaper.
The case against the remaining three accused -- former SNC vice-president of energy and infrastructure Kevin Wallace, former SNC vice-president of international development Ramesh Shah, and Bangladeshi-Canadian businessman Zulfiquar Ali Bhuiyan -- ended on Friday when the Canadian court acquitted all three.
Earlier in October 2014, a Dhaka court acquitted all seven Bangladesh government officials, including former bridges division secretary Mosharraf Hossain. The same year, the Anti-Corruption Commission cleared all the seven of the graft charges.