PM smells rat behind WB fund pull-outStaff Correspondent
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Wednesday said that the people who had tried to isolate her government from the people with the stigma of ‘corruption’ in the Padma bridge project had failed and said that her government would build the bridge with domestic resources.
‘We know that they [World Bank] are so powerful. But I like to ask who influenced them to deceive the people of Bangladesh on a lame excuse,’ she said as she rejected the allegations of corruption the World Bank levelled against the government which prompted the cancellation of the Padma bridge funding deal.
Hasina, also chief of the Awami League, said that the people would understand that the government had no lack of commitment to the project. None can hide anything from the people, she said. ‘People are very much with us with their overwhelming response towards the implementation of the project.’
‘Why should we take the blame of doing wrong which we have not committed? People cannot be suppressed,’ she said while she was addressing the second council session of the Awami Swechchhasebak League, a front organisation of the Awami League, at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
Amid clapping, the prime minister vowed not to bow down because of any unfounded allegations levelled against her government.
‘We will not accept any unfounded blame as we are confident that there has been no corruption. The Bengalis never bow down
[to any injustice],’ Hasina said referring to the cancellation of the $1.2 billion credit agreement by the World Bank over allegations of corruption in the Padma bridge project on June 30.
As the leading lender pulled out from funding that it promised for the project, the government has decided to go ahead with the project on its own.
In reaction to critics opposing domestic funding for the bridge, Hasina wanted to know whether construction of all roads and highways were stopped after the World Bank had suspended funding in this sector since 2004 on the allegation of corruption by the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance government.
Domestic resources have been spent on the construction of bridges, culverts and rehabilitation of roads since then, she said adding that the foreign exchange reserve was healthy now and spending $1 billion from the existing $10 billion would not be harmful.
‘This amount will not be used at a time. I have presented the breakdown of the probable expenditure for the project earlier,’ she said.
The prime minister iterated her stance saying that her government would begin construction of the bridge with self-financing. ‘If any lender comes up with any offer, we may consider that after a proper scrutiny,’ she said adding that her government was not going to beg money from anyone. It might borrow the money and repay it with interest.
Brushing aside the opposition’s allegation of corruption, Hasina said ‘We are not new in power. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a minister in 1954. He was the president and prime minister of the country after 1971. I am have been prime minister twice.’
She said her political adversaries had so far failed to prove a single case of corruption against her government.
The prime minister said that the Awami League came to power to serve the people and not to benefit from it.
‘None of the cases against me were withdrawn without investigation. The Anti-Corruption Commission took back the allegations after failing to substantiate the allegations,’ she said, saying that the people who are habituated to stealing the money of others think others as thugs.
Hasina also questioned the luxurious living of the leader of the opposition in the parliament, Khaleda Zia, also the BNP chairperson, and said that prices of the French chiffon saris she used to wear cost between $2,000 and $3,000 each.
‘Where did the money for chandeliers resembling snowfalls in her former cantonment house come from? I want to ask the BNP leaders whether the broken suitcase left by the late president Ziaur Rahman became a magic box?’ she said.
As for eviction of Khaleda from her cantonment house, Hasina said that her government did not evict Khaleda from the cantonment. Khaleda moved court and lost the case but the leader of the opposition enforced a general strike and killed people by burning them alive in protest against it.
Accusing the opposition of hindering the trial of war crimes and the BDR rebellion, Hasina asked the people to find out why they were so eager to stop the trial of the rebellion.
‘Khaleda left her cantonment house in a tinted-glass car two hours before the rebellion and went into hiding. She did not return to her house for a month and a half. People now understand the mystery behind it,’ Hasina said adding that she would someday reveal the mystery.
Hasina called on Swechchhasebak League leaders to work for the people and be disciplined in their activities.
She also urged them to read the recently published ‘Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The Unfinished Memoirs’ to know to what extent a leader could sacrifice for the nation.
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Date:Thursday, 12th July, 2012