Can't force any party to join election: PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said it was up to a political party to decide whether it would participate in an election.
“I cannot impose my decision on any party... I cannot say to any party that you have to participate in the election,” she said at a press conference at the Gono Bhaban.
She was responding to a question whether the government would take any initiative to bring the BNP to the next parliamentary election.
The event was organised to inform the media about the outcome of her just-concluded visits to Saudi Arabia, Australia and the UK. She visited Saudi Arabia and the UK from April 15-23 and Australia from April 26- 29.
Hasina said the BNP did not take part in the 2014 election and it tried to resist the polls through vandalism and killings.
“You saw how the BNP, after assuming office in 2001, had pushed the country to the path of destruction... if they [people] don't want to push the country to the path of destruction again like in 2001, they will definitely cast their votes for Awami League and the party will come to power again.
“If they [people] think the development of the country should continue, they'll cast their votes for the 'boat' [the electoral symbol of the Awami League], and we'll come to power again.”
About the BNP's demand of releasing Khaleda Zia from jail, Hasina said she did not send Khaleda to prison. "The court pronounced its verdict. It won't work placing demands before me.... They [BNP] have to fight back legally to free her from there.”
About bringing back BNP acting chairperson Tarique Rahman from London, Hasina said the government would surely try to bring him back as a convicted criminal. “We are in talks with the British government.... we will surely bring back a convicted criminal, and for that, we will carry out the necessary process as per law.”
She also ridiculed the BNP for its “political bankruptcy” over picking Tarique as its acting chairperson despite the fact that he had surrendered his Bangladeshi passport to the British government seeking political asylum. “Didn't they have any other capable leader for this particular post?”
About quota in government jobs, the PM said she had accepted the students' demand.
"There was nothing to get angry... the boys and girls placed the demand and I accepted it."
She, however, mentioned that the freedom fighters were disrespected during the movement.
"The way they were ridiculed and various derogatory remarks were made about them is just a dishonour to the freedom fighters. I won't tolerate any disrespect to them."
She said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman engaged himself in rebuilding the war-ravaged country after the independence. "For that, he provided special benefits to those lagged behind as well as the freedom fighters through the quota system. That was very much realistic."
Mentioning that some students started the movement against the quota system out of nothing, the PM said, "They put up barricade on roads and prevented patients from going to hospitals. We tried to convince them and let them know the real scenario of the quota system."
In 1972, the Father of the Nation kept aside 30 percent quota for the freedom fighters, Hasina said. "But after 1975, there was no one to apply for government jobs under that quota. At that time, jobseekers were afraid of disclosing their freedom fighter identities as they knew they wouldn't be eligible for jobs if they disclosed this."
Hasina alleged that although Ziaur Rahman was a freedom fighter, he formed the government illegally.
She further alleged that Zia had stopped the war crimes trial process, took the killers of Bangabandhu along with him, gave indemnity to them and awarded them by posting them in various foreign missions. "At that time, the 30 percent freedom fighter quota had remained unfilled."
She asked the agitating students whether they do not know these things.
Hasina said the AL government started filling the 30 percent quota after coming to power. "But by the time, the freedom fighters had crossed their age limit for applying for government job. Then I made that quota available for the family members of the freedom fighters."
'RAISE AWARENESS AMONG PASSENGERS'
The PM urged all, particularly the media, to help raise awareness of passengers and pedestrians about abiding by traffic rules to curb road accidents.
“Drivers have to be punished. Well, we'll do it. But you should create awareness so that passengers and pedestrians abide by traffic rules.”
In the event of an accident, it is never considered that passengers and pedestrians might also be at faults, the PM added.
Hasina said there are footbridges and underpasses, but pedestrians hardly used them. “If anyone crosses a road by raising a hand before a bus and he or she falls victim to an accident... whom will you hold responsible....?
She urged television channels to raise awareness about crossing streets safely. No one should dangle his or her hand outside the window while travelling by a bus, she said.
Pointing at recent incidents of losing arms in road accidents, Hasina said people were making an outcry for a person who lost a hand, but they did not think that the person did not follow the traffic rule.
The Prime Minister went on saying: "Motorcycle riders don't use helmets and passengers don't fasten seatbelts in many cases...Why does a mother moving with her child runs suddenly while crossing a road? ...A speedy bus can't be stopped right away."
Hasina said sometimes drivers tried to speed away even after a minor accident fearing public wraths, which led to further fatal accidents in many cases.
The PM said there would not be a major pressure on the country's economy for sheltering a million Rohingyas.
“For that, we've taken up a Tk-2,500 crore project ... we've already started the work, we're getting support and cooperation from all. So, there'll be no big problem for us....The people of Bangladesh are well-known for their hospitality and humanity.... I don't think we have to face huge pressure for it.
The PM, however, admitted that all were coming up with their assistance as the issue was still at the initial stage.
“But it'll come down in the course of time and then the pressure will be mounted on us. We're taking preparations gradually to face that situation.”
She said the ultimate target of the government was to repatriate the Rohingyas to their homeland, Myanmar, as quick as possible.
About the recent visit of the UN Security Council team to Bangladesh, she said several UNSC permanent members expressed their willingness to construct homes for Rohingyas after their repatriation to Myanmar.
Hasina said the recent visits to Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Australia further brightened Bangladesh's image in the international arena.
"The three visits have taken place in a short time. All the visits were important and I firmly believe that through these visits the image of Bangladesh in the world has brightened further."
On her tour to Australia, Hasina said she went to Sydney at the invitation of Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull to join the Global Summit of Women 2018.
At the summit, she received the prestigious Global Women's Leadership Award-2018 conferred by the US-based Global Summit of Women for her leadership role on female education and creating women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh and Asia-Pacific region.