Amid widespread criticism over his smile and remarks on Sunday's road accident, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan yesterday offered his apology, saying he was “saddened and ashamed”.
He said if any driver drove recklessly and killed people, he would get his due punishment as per law and no organisation would stand by him.
“If anyone do any wrong and commits a crime, he has to take the punishment,” the minister said at a meeting of Bangladesh Sramik-Karmachari-Peshajibi-Muktijoddha Shamannay Parishad, a pro-government organisation, at the BCIC auditorium in the capital's Motijheel.
On Sunday, a bus of Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan ploughed into a crowd waiting for transport near the Airport Road flyover ramp in the city's Kurmitola, killing two college students and injuring at least nine others.
Shajahan, also the executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, apparently tried to downplay the incident that day.
When reporters asked him about the deaths caused by an unhealthy competition between two buses, the minister grinned and threw a counter question at them.
“A road crash has claimed 33 lives in India's Maharashtra; but do they talk about it like the way we do?”
This caused uproar among people as many expressed their anger on social media.
Yesterday, Shajahan said he was at a programme on Sunday for signing a deal related to Mongla Port and at one point a journalist asked him questions about the road accident.
The minister said he smiled in the context of the remarks of journalists. “However, I am saddened and ashamed. I am requesting all to accept my apology for my remarks.”
“My fault is that I smile. People and God love those who smile…. However, if you consider my smiling an offence, I won't smile anymore,” he said.
Shajahan, also the convener of Shamannay Parishad, said he had been involved with the workers federation for the last 47 years. “It is not true if anybody said I always take a stand in favour of a driver after an accident.”
The minister blasted former president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury and Nagarik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna over the issuance of a statement criticising him. He, however, said he would not comment about the other signatory to the statement, ASM Abdur Rob, president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal.
The Samannay Parishad organised the meeting to press home their six-point demand which includes expelling members of Jamaat-Shibir and anti-liberation people from government jobs and not appointing such people to government posts.
Almost all the speakers, mainly leaders of different workers unions, accused Jamaat-Shibir men of tarnishing the image of Shajahan. Some of them also blamed a few media outlets for “overplaying” the issue.
Maj Gen (retd) Helal Morshed Khan, chairman of Muktijoddha Command Council, actress Rokeya Prachi, Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, among others, spoke at the programme, with Ismat Kadir Gama, co-convener of Shamannay Parishad, in the chair.