Hasina plays on people's expectation for a change | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 27, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 27, 2008

Hasina plays on people's expectation for a change

From highly-secured dais she pledges to contain food prices, graft, crime; winds up Dhaka campaign

Awami League President Sheikh Hasina delivers her speech from behind bulletproof glass and surrounded by bodyguards at a rally at Paltan Maidan in the capital yesterday.Photo: STAR

Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina yesterday said her grand electoral alliance wants to bring a change to the country to establish a rule of honest people and economic freedom for the people, with a popular mandate.
"We want to restore democracy and establish economic freedom for the people of Bangladesh through the upcoming election, and for that change is needed. We want a rule of honest people, not politics of criminality, extortion and corruption. We want peace, not criminal activities, we want security for the people, not militancy," Hasina said.
She was addressing a massive election campaign rally at the capital's historic Paltan Maidan amid unprecedented security measures including bullet proof glass fitted on the lectern and on almost the entire length of the front stage where she sat through the rally organised by the city unit of AL.
The former prime minister urged the audience to vote for the AL-led grand alliance nominees in the December 29 parliamentary election in order to save the country and its people from the 'looters, corruptionists, and patrons of militants and criminal activities'.
"We want to root out corruption and criminal activities from Bangladesh. Bangladesh should be developed and emerge with dignity in the global arena," Hasina said.
Thousands of AL activists and supporters as well as a large number of non-partisan people joined the rally.
AL supporters arrived at the venue from different parts of the city, with colourful processions, chanting slogans for AL's election symbol 'boat', singing songs, and dancing to beats of drums, turning the meeting venue and its adjacent areas into a sea of crowd.
Introducing AL nominees for the parliamentary seats of Dhaka city, the AL chief urged the people to be united and to decide whether they will vote for corruptionists, criminals, and militants, or for those who will establish peace and security, and reduce prices of everyday essentials.
As the crowd expressed their support for the grand alliance in the election by raising their hands, Hasina said, "InshAllah, people will vote for the boat and ensure grand alliance's victory and will free themselves from the clutches of the patrons of criminals and corruptionists."
"We want to say, this country is for the people. We liberated the country through the war of liberation. So, there will be no place for looters, corruptionists and criminals in this country. The country must be saved from their hands," she said.
Hasina urged the crowd to go from door to door to convey AL's message seeking votes for the boat.
A four-tier security measure was arranged with deployment of around 3,000 law enforcers including the Special Security Force, Army, Rab and police. A number of intelligence officials were also on duty in and around the venue.
People were allowed to enter Paltan Maidan only after passing through several metal detecting archways. The meeting venue had been swept by Rab's dog squad and bomb disposal unit before the rally. Law enforcers were posted on top of buildings around the area with binoculars, and a number of closed-circuit TV cameras were also set up in an around the venue.
In her 22-minute address, the AL chief scathingly criticised the immediate past regime of BNP-Jamaat alliance for 'resorting to wide scale corruption, misrule, criminal activities, for sponsoring militancy in the name of Islam, for hiking up prices of everyday essentials, and for plundering thousands of crores of taka'.
She also urged voters not to vote for war criminals and anti-liberation forces.
"We want to build Bangladesh in the sprit of the war of liberation, free from poverty and illiteracy," Hasina said greeting the crowd in the month of independence.
She pledged to reduce prices of everyday essentials, increase power generation, make education free up to the level of bachelor's degree, ensure community health care in every village, and to create employment for the youth, if voted to power.
The AL president said, "We will make Dhaka a modern city free of criminal activities, traffic congestion, and power, water and gas outages, and will improve communication with other parts of the country."
Addressing the first time voters, Hasina said her electoral alliance wants to present a developed, prosperous, and digital Bangladesh to the new generation by 2021, when the country will celebrate the golden jubilee of its independence.
"We will build a developed country full of possibilities and free of poverty, where all will have access to health care and education, there will be food security, so no one is deprived of food, and the challenges of the 21st century will be faced boldly," she said.
Criticising the immediate past BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance government, Hasina said the BNP-Jamaat alliance, after assuming power in 2001 'through vote rigging', hiked prices of all essentials and 'looted thousands of crores of taka which they siphoned off to foreign countries'.
She also alleged that former prime minister Khaleda Zia and former finance minister M Saifur Rahman 'whitened crores of black money'.
Hasina said the four-party alliance chief and Saifur Rahman 'will have to account for whitening their black money'.
The BNP-Jamaat alliance tarnished the image of the country abroad through extorting foreign telecom companies, Khaleda's son's siphoned off money was even traced abroad, she alleged.
The AL chief was also highly critical of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, BNP's key partner in the four-party electoral alliance, saying Jamaat is guilty of mass killings and rape of thousands of women during the country's war of liberation, and it is now trying to grab the state power in the name of the religion.
Saying that Islam is a religion of peace, the former premier urged voters to beware of war criminals who are only using Islam for political gains.
She said the people do not want to see the national flag flying on the cars of anti-liberation war forces.
At the end of her speech Hasina became rather emotional when she was talking about the assassinations of her family members and about the curse of poverty on the poor people.
She said she has been in politics for the welfare of the poor and the needy.
"I want to give the poor and the distressed relief from poverty and misery, and want to bring happiness to them to fulfil my father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's dream of building a golden Bangla. No matter how many threats and attempts are made on my life, I will continue to be in politics for their welfare."

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