Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said her government had never interfered in any elections.
“Some 6,000 local government elections were held during the AL-led government. Nobody could raise questions about any election as we didn’t interfere in them,” she said.The premier made the claim while addressing the inauguration of the biennial conference of BFUJ-Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists at the National Press Club in the capital.
Sheikh Hasina, also the president of the ruling Awami League, said her government will never interfere in any polls as exercising franchise in free and fair elections is the right of the people
“If people cast votes in favour of us, we’ll assume office again. If they don’t, we won’t be able to,” the premier said.
She strongly criticised BNP founder Ziaur Rahman for ruining the country’s election procedure by introducing Yes/No vote and imposing curfew at every night.
“Vote rigging happened in every election. They introduced culture of corruption and loan defaults. They created an elite class to cling to power,” she said.
“BNP raises voice for democracy and questions credibility of election. We also have a question to ask who has made the country’s election procedure questionable.”Sheikh Hasina said how those who usurped power can speak about democracy.
Instead of introducing democracy, they (BNP) introduced a curfew-based democracy, she said adding they do not understand the language of democracy.
Mentioning the ongoing democratic practices, the premier said a healthy atmosphere has returned to the country and people should remain alert so that none can destroy this atmosphere.
The premier also bashed a section of civil society members for their ‘desire’ to come to power through the backdoor.
“There are some people who cannot form a party and contest the polls too. But they always dream of assuming office. If any quarter comes to power illegally, they act as important persons. Though they are wise, they always nourish it in mind,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the country has been marching forward due to democracy.
The premier said the country won the maritime boundary and conquered the space too by launching Bangabandhu satellite in the orbit.
She came down heavily on the opposition for criticising the launching of the satellite.
“As they have a little sense, they will come up with such criticism,” the premier said, adding that BNP also criticised her government when it bought submarine.
The premier said an opposition party chief criticised the government after a span was installed on the Padma Bridge.
The BNP chief at a programme asked the people not to use the bridge as it is being constructed in a faulty way.
Mentioning the statement, the premier said, “I must see whether they use the bridge or not.”
“How those, who does not have a little sense, can run the country?,” she posed a question.
The premier urged the journalists to portray the government’s positive activities for the sake of the country by discarding negative attitude towards the government.
“There is a misconception that the media will not sustain unless it takes a negative stance against the government. We have to come out of that mental sickness,” the premier said.
“We don’t want your favour, but the media must focus on the truth. If anything we have done for the country, it should be published properly, not in the interest of myself or our party, but in the interest of the country,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that the government fortnightly reviews the news contents of the newspapers and electronic media.
She alleged that most of the media outlets carried out negative stories against the government.
“The media should always play a role to brighten the country’s image by publishing true information and build public confidence to take forward the country,” the premier said.
The AL chief regretted that since she was entrusted with the Awami League’s stewardship 37 years ago, she never got much cooperation from the press.
“Other than few exceptions I had to proceed amid adversity and negative criticism from media… But it didn’t cause headache as I knew what I’m doing,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said a section of newspapers even did not want to publish the atrocities of BNP-Jammat after 2001 election when AL workers and religious minorities were facing torture and intimidation.
She, however, thanked the journalists who stood by her and gathered courage to make public the situation at that time. The premier was particularly critical of two newspapers, which she preferred not to name, for imprudent journalism and said Ganobhaban does not subscribe the papers.
“These (particular) newspapers carry no value to me as my work will demonstrate what I’m doing for the people,” she said.
The premier expressed her hope that the people could realise perfectly the differences between the AL tenure and other regimes taking into account the performance of her governments during 1996-2001 and 2001-2006 tenures.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, PM’s media affairs adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, State Minister for Information Tarana Halim joined the function as special guests while BFUJ president Monjurul Ahsan Bubul was in the chair.
BFUJ secretary general Omar Faruque conducted the opening session when presidents of 10 district units of the federation also spoke while their general secretaries jointly presented a crest to the premier.
Listing the development activities of her government, the premier said Bangladesh was no more a nation of beggars as her government always lays emphasis on development of the grassroots people.
She said per capita income rose to $ 1,752 and economic growth rate to 7.65 percent.
The premier called on the journalists to focus at least on the development of the people and the projects implemented for their welfare.
Quoting from the speech of Bangabandhu, which he delivered at the first AGM of Dhaka Union of Journalists on July 16, 1972, she said democracy and journalism have their distinctive policy.
“(And) many problems can be solved if we work keeping the policies in mind,” she said. Sheikh Hasina said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had taken steps to ensure the freedom of journalists within six months of independence.
“Journalists are enjoying the same freedom as Awami League is in power . . . the media people should recall the suffocating situation during the regime of some parties,” she said adding that her government pursued a policy of non-interference in media.
She said many journalists were killed and tortured in the past while the incumbent government would never allow repetition of such incidents. The premier said Bangladesh must sustain its success as a role model of development being imbued with the spirit of Liberation War as her government spearheaded its development campaign with short, medium and long-term plans and “never work on ad-hoc basis”.
She said after successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the government now focus on the SDG targets with a firm resolve to build Bangladesh as a developed nation by 2041.
Sheikh Hasina said the government is now working to formulate a development plan for 2021- 2041.
The premier also sought enhanced journalists’ cooperation in formulating and implementing the government’s development programmes.
Sheikh Hasina said she stepped into country’s politics on this day 37 years ago to change the fate of the distressed people of the country.
“Overwhelming people’s support coupled with untiring assistance of a section of media enabled me to bring the country to the present stage,” she added.
About the demands of journalists, including the new wage board, the premier said that many demands have been fulfilled before those were raised.
She said her government announced 8th Wage Board Award and also formed the 9th Wage Board for increasing the wages of the journalists.
“So far I am in the office, I will do it,” she said adding that she already asked the information minister to declare the dearness allowance for journalists under the 9th Wage Board.
Terming her government journalist friendly, Sheikh Hasina said they had taken various steps for the welfare of the country’s journalist community.
“I have instructed the concerned minster to take steps to announce the dearness allowance,” she said.
“You must understand the cause of delay in implementing the wage board as the representatives of the owners on the board are making obstacles,” she said.
Information minster Hasanul Haq Inu, said the proposed digital law will not be harmful for the journalist community.
He also sought cooperation of the journalist community in building a non-communal democratic Bangladesh.