Vol. 5 Num 640 Fri. March 17, 2006  
Front Page

Accept in principle proposed reforms
Hasina asks govt, flies off to US

Leader of the Opposition in parliament Sheikh Hasina yesterday asked the government to accept in principle the opposition-proposed reforms in the caretaker government system and the Election Commission (EC) before any dialogue on them takes place.

The government has to accept the reform proposals in principle and then make a specific proposal in writing for a dialogue mentioning the terms of reference (ToR) of the committee to be formed to discuss reforms, she said.

Hasina, also president of the Awami League (AL), was talking to reporters at Zia International Airport yesterday morning prior to her departure for the US for treatment of her ear.

She suffered injuries to her hearing due to the loud grenade blasts at a party rally in the city on August 21, 2004 and she is under treatment since then.

The AL chief talked on various issues including militancy, price hike of essentials, power and fuel crises and Rab (Rapid Action Battalion) operations. The former prime minister said if they (AL) return to power in the next elections, they will not abolish Rab.

"Many people think if Awami League comes to power again, it will abolish Rab. But we will not do so. Rather, Rab will be given a special assignment to capture corrupt people," said Hasina, who was so long highly critical of the elite force for 'extra-judicial killings' in 'violation' of human rights and rule of law.

On the proposed government-opposition discussion, Hasina said, "Agenda for the discussion must be clear first. The two sides will then discuss what part of proposed reforms could be accepted or where it could be changed."

The leader of the opposition mentioned that they placed the reform proposals in parliament but the leader of the House proposed formation of a committee to discuss it without saying whether they (govt) would accept the proposals or not.

The prime minister's proposal also did not specify if the committee would be a parliamentary one or comprise political leaders, showing the government is not sincere about it, Hasina said.

"The prime minister is talking about dialogue for reforms and at the same time she is turning down reform proposals one after another," the AL chief said. "We have demanded that the armed forces are to be under the control of the caretaker government chief during his tenure but the prime minister at a recent rally said they would be under the president."

The AL chief said the 14-party opposition combine will continue its movement to force the government to accept the reform proposals. People now want an end to the coalition government's misrule and they are wanting for a change, she added.

"The BNP-Jamaat government has completed all sorts of election engineering to rig the next general elections. That is why it does not want to implement the opposition's reform proposals."

Chief Whip Khandaker Delwar Hossain's telephonic contact with Deputy Leader of the Opposition Abdul Hamid on Tuesday for talks was a 'drama', Hasina said. The government is virtually trying to avoid a fruitful discussion on reforms.

Turning to militancy, she said the militant kingpins are getting cordial treatment in custody while opposition leaders and journalists were arrested and tortured for exposing misdeeds of the militants.

On power shortage, she said the alliance government could not increase power generation by a single megawatt in the last four years. She blasted it for fertiliser and diesel crises and price hike of essentials.

The former prime minister accused government leaders, their family members, lawmakers and other ruling alliance men of gobbling up public money through corruption , leaving the people in utmost misery.

In reply to a question, she said her son (Sajib Wajed Joy) would obviously return to his motherland. But she did not specify when.

AL leaders Kazi Zafirullah, MP, and Abdus Sobhan Golap accompanied Hasina, who is likely to return home on March 30, party sources said.

During Hasina's stay abroad, Zillur Rahman will be the acting president of the party.

Party leaders who saw her off at the airport included Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed, Suranjit Sengupta, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Abdus Shaheed, Mohammad Nasim, Obaidul Kader, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Abdur Rahman, Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin, Syed Abul Hossain and Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.