Sheikh Hasina has urged all to forge a national unity setting aside all differences in order to carry Bangladesh through difficult times for development.
In a televised speech on Friday, she called upon the opposition MPs-elect to take oath and promised that their views and constructive criticism will be properly valued in parliament.
It was her first address to the nation after taking oath as prime minister for a historic fourth time on Jan 7 following her Awami League party’s sweeping election win.
The prime minister said Bangladesh is much more developed now than it was when her party returned to power a decade ago.
She rattled off a list of the development achievements of her government in the past two terms and revealed her future plans.
“We have much work to do because we want to further develop the country. We have a difficult road ahead of us. I believe we will be able to ride out the tough time together by the grace of Allah,” she said.
“Now we need national unity. We must move ahead together sinking our differences. The spirit of the Liberation War, secularism, democratic values, equality, justice, development and progress will be the common thread uniting us.
“We’ve formed government after winning the election. All the citizens of the country, no matter which party they belong to or what their views are, are equal in the government’s eyes. We will work for all,” Hasina said.
Her party won 257 seats out of 299 parliamentary constituencies in the elections while its rival the BNP’s Jatiya Oikya Front alliance secured only eight seats.
The BNP sat out of parliament for five years after the boycott of the 2014 polls. It contested in the last election under the umbrella of the Oikya Front alliance led by Dr Kamal Hossain with party chief Khaleda Zia in jail for corruption.
The party and its allies rejected the results of the 11th parliamentary polls.
They have demanded fresh elections alleging widespread vote rigging and intimidation of their candidates and supporters.
Their candidates, who won the elections, will not take oath as MPs, the alliance said.
The Awami League’s key ally the Jatiya Party has been made the official opposition in parliament with 22 seats.
“The number of opposition MPs in the 11th parliament is tiny. But we will not judge them by number. No matter how few their number is, any MP’s rightful and reasonable proposal, discussion and criticism will be duly valued in parliament,” Hasina said.
“I urge the MPs-elect of the opposition to take oath and join parliament,” she added, with the first session only five days away.
WHY BNP LOST?
Besides describing the Awami League government’s achievements in her address, Hasina said the Awami League’s election victory this time was widely predicted.
She also pointed out once again the reasons behind the BNP’s rout.
These included “auctioning” nomination after initially picking three to four candidates per seat while competent candidates were dropped, Hasina said.
The BNP also confused its supporters by failing to say who would be the prime minister if it won the elections.
While Khaleda is in jail, her son and acting party chief Tarique Rahman is in self-exile in London. He is also sentenced up to life in prison for corruption, money laundering and the deadly Aug 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally.
The BNP also failed to clear to the people what it would do for them if it won the vote, Hasina said.
BNP leaders, activists and supporters carried out negative propaganda against the Awami League on the social media, which Hasina said, backfired on the party.
People have not forgotten the deadly violence the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami unleashed during protests between 2013 and 2015, she said.
The young voters did not accept the nomination of the “war criminal Jamaat leaders” as candidates with the BNP’s ‘paddy sheaf’ symbol, she added.
“Many such examples can be cited to prove that the common voters turned away from the BNP and the mass support in favour of ‘boat’ was created,” she said.
She thanked the people for voting the Awami League to power.
“Your absolute support has increased our responsibilities and duties manifold,” she said.
“I personally consider the judgement you’ve given in our favour to be an opportunity to take another step towards completing the unfinished work of the Father of the Nation and establishing a Sonar Bangla through serving the people,” she added.
THE WAY FORWARD
Hasina renewed her resolve to end corruption.
“I know that there is unease over corruption at all levels of society. I urge those, who are involved in corruption, to correct themselves. Corruption will be eliminated through tough implementation of law,” she warned.
Describing the successes achieved in the crackdown on drugs, militancy and terrorism, she said the drives against these menaces will also continue.
She said she wants to see the socio-economic indicators of the country reach new highs during the celebrations of Bangabandhu’s 100th birthday in 2020 and the golden jubilee of independence in 2021.
She described how the Awami League was planning to implement ‘Vision 2021’ and ‘Vision 2041’, its designs for the development of Bangladesh.
Hasina said her government has made Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, a long-term strategy to prevent floods and soil erosion, manage rivers and wastes, and supply water throughout the century.
It has also started making the ‘Eighth Five-Year Plan’ as the work to implement the seventh one, which had been made in light of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, is under way.
The government has set a target to generate 15 million jobs in the next five years, according to Hasina.
It is working to ensure financial and other helps for the young entrepreneurs, especially women, and training for the youth to develop a skilled manpower, she said.
For the development of the ICT sector, the government was building over two dozen “high-tech parks and IT villages”, the prime minister said.
Jobs and self-employment opportunities will also be created in agriculture, tourism, service and other sectors, she said.
Hasina said her government has taken initiatives to complete the development projects that are currently under way within schedule.
Especially, she said, the government has sped up megaprojects like Padma Bridge, metro rail, elevated expressway, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Moheshkhali-Matarbari combined development project.