PM takes a swipe at US, Yunus, Prothom Alo

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday came down heavily on Prothom Alo saying that the Bengali language daily is the enemy of her ruling Awami League party, democracy and the people of the country.

‘The name of the paper is Prothom Alo [first light], but it lives in darkness. Prothom Alo is the enemy of the Awami League, democracy and the people of the country,’ she told the parliament. 

The prime minister made the remarks, joining the discussion on a motion she placed in the house, marking the 50 years (golden jubilee) of the Bangladesh National Parliament. This was also her valedictory speech in the 22nd session of the current parliament.

She said that the newspaper asked a 7-year-old child to tell a lie, handing him Tk 10. They recorded his remark – ‘We want freedom of rice, fish and meat’– and published it.

‘I am very sorry to say that they never want the stability to remain in this country,’ she said.

Hasina said that the newspaper was very glad in 2007 when the emergency was declared and the two newspapers got engaged wholeheartedly.

In an obvious reference to Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, she said, ‘A loan shark was with them (the newspapers). He is a very favourite person of the US.’

The prime minister said that the US never raised the question of how this person, who was the managing director of Grameen Bank, a statutory firm, got millions of dollars.

‘He [Yunus] runs social business in a place like the US and makes investments at home and abroad. Did they [the US] ever want to know from where the MD, who used to draw salary from the government, got millions of dollars? They didn’t,’ she said.

‘Now we have to hear words [lesson] from them about corruption and the fight against corruption. And about human rights,’ she said.  

These people [Yunus and others] tried to destroy democracy in this country and played ducks and drakes with the fate of the people, she said.

The prime minister criticised the US, saying that the country talks about fighting corruption, but they’ve been advocating for convicted persons on graft charges.

‘They want to bring such a government here, scraping democracy, which would have no democratic existence – [that means] undemocratic trend,’ she said, adding that ‘some local [so-called] intellectuals who live on selling their intellects obey them.’

She said that the USA had been sheltering Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s convicted killer Rashed Chowdhury, ignoring requests from Bangladesh on many occasions for deporting him.

Speaking about Article 70 of the Constitution, which prevents floor crossing by an MP, the prime minister said this created the scope for a government to complete its tenure in the country.

‘Many people raise objections to Article 70. Those who raise this objection probably lack experience. But this Article 70 has helped the stability of the government in our country. As a result, the country has been able to witness development,’ she said.

She said that the Jukta Front government of 1954 did not survive due to floor crossing by elected representatives. Earlier, the same game was played in 1946.

The prime minister said that she believed, and the people of the country also believed, that the AL government had been able to change the fate of the people as it had been in power for 14 years in a row.

‘Now the difference between villages and cities has reduced... we are providing civic amenities to every village,’ she said.

The prime minister raised a comparative scenario regarding the socio-economic development in many indicators between 2006 [at the fag-end of the BNP-Jamaat regime] and 2022.

She said that the per capita income rose to $2,824 in 2022 from only $543 in 2006, while the size of GDP to Tk 4600,000 crore from Tk 415,072 crore, the size of the budget to Tk 678,064 crore from Tk 61,000 crore, the size of the annual development programme to Tk 227,566 crore from Tk 21,500 crore, the reserve of foreign currencies to $32.63 billion from $0.74 billion, the export income to $52.97 billion from $10.05 billion, the remittance inflow to $21.03 billion from $4.8 billion, the allocation against the social safety sector to Tk 113,576 crore from Tk 2,505 crore, the life expectancy to 73 years from 59 years, the access to drinking water to 98.7 per cent from 55 per cent, the electricity generation to 25,227 megawatt from 3,882 megawatt, the beneficiary of electricity in the country to 100 per cent from 28 per cent, the literacy rate to 75.6 per cent from 45 per cent.

The prime minister said that the economic growth was 5.40 per cent in 2006, which rose to 7.50 per cent in 2022, and the inflation was 10 per cent in 2006, which came down to 5.5 per cent in 2019 and 8.57 per cent in 2022.

She said that the poverty rate declined to 20.5 per cent in 2022 from 41.51 per cent in 2006, the extreme poverty rate to 10 per cent from 25.1 per cent, the child mortality rate per thousand births to 21 persons from 84, and the mother mortality rate per 100 thousand births to 161 from 370.

The prime minister also highlighted the massive development of Bangladesh in the digital arena.

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