Prime minister Sheikh Hasina called for discarding “martial law word” from the “military lexicon” or terminology, saying that it (martial law) never brought any welfare for the country and the armed forces as well.
“We should exclude the ‘martial law word’ from ‘military lexicon’ as it never brought any welfare, rather than bloodbath, for the country and the armed forces as well,” she told the Armed Forces Selection Board Meeting 2020.
Referring to 19 coups that took place during the military rule of Ziaur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina said a huge number of officers and soldiers were killed in the armed forces during these coups.
“Such a huge number of armed forces officers and soldiers don’t die even in a war that happened during the rule of military dictator Ziaur Rahman … we don’t want to hear any more crying of the fathers for losing their sons and of the sons for losing their fathers (in the armed forces),” she added.
The prime minister addressed the virtual meeting from her official Ganabhaban residence here this morning.
Sheikh Hasina said the armed forces were mostly affected due to the coups that took place after the 15 August 1975 carnage.
The premier said many armed forces members who took part in the Liberation War were brutally killed in these coups.
“The most bloodbath took place especially in army and the air force and we had to hear the crying of the widows who lost their husbands and the parents who lost their sons in these coups,” she mentioned.
Sheikh Hasina reiterated her government’s goal to further modernise the armed forces and make it time-befitting.
“Our armed forces, where our family members were honourable members, are the symbol of our independence and sovereignty … our aim is to make it more modern and time-befitting and we’re working to attain this goal,” she said.
In this connection, the prime minister spelled out various steps of her government to make the armed forces more well-equipped to safeguard the country’s hard-earned independence and sovereignty.
PM’s security adviser major general (retd) Tarique Ahmed Siddique, principal secretary Ahmad Kaikaus and principal staff officer of the Armed Forces Division lieutenant general Mahfuzur Rahman and PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim were present at Gonobhaban.
Chief of army staff general Aziz Ahmed was connected to the function from army headquarters, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral
Mohammad Shaheen Iqbal was connected from Navy headquarters and chief of air staff air chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat got connected from the Air Force headquarters.
Paying tributes to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the prime minister said Bangabandhu immediately after independence had taken steps to establish modern and time-befitting armed forces alongside rebuilding the war ravaged country.
“The Father of the Nation enacted a time-befitting defence policy at that time and he wanted to advance the country taking with all. But those who were the cohorts of the Pakistani military junta and who didn’t accept the country’s victory in the liberation war could not value his liberalism,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina, also the elder daughter of Bangabandhu, said the country plunged into ominous darkness on August 15 in 1975 due to anti-liberation forces, the conspirators and some high-ambitious elements.
“Not only the president, most of his family members were brutally killed by them and the four national leaders who brought victory of the liberation war by forming the liberation war-time government at the directives of the Father of the Nation were heinously killed inside the jail on 3 November that year,” she said.
She continued: “I don’t know whether the spot of this stigma will be erased or not and through these killings, the spirit of the liberation war was going to be foiled.”
The premier said it’s unfortunate that the honour of a victorious nation after being recognised as the killers of 1975 was destroyed.
Sheikh Hasina said her government has adopted the Forces Goal-2030 on the basis of Bangabandhu’s defence policy. “Bangabandhu had taken initiatives to build modern armed forces by procuring sophisticated arms and ammunition alongside establishing various institutions,” she said.
The prime minister said following Bangabandhu’s footprints, her government after assuming office in 1996 established various military establishments including the NDC War College and purchased modern arms and ammunition for the three armed forces.
“After coming to power for the second time, we took steps so that the armed forces are capable on all sides. We procured army infantry gadget including modern helicopters to increase army’s operational capacity,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said her government first collected a modern frigate for the navy, as well as submarines and military helicopter. “We’ve turned the navy into a tri-dimensional force,” she said.
Referring to earning huge maritime boundary, the premier said, “It’s a must to build navy as time-befitting force to utilise our marine resources. We’re continuing our strides so that we could move keeping pace with the era,” she said.
Turning to the development of the air force, Sheikh Hasina said her government first inducted the MiG-29 fighter planes into the air force. “Besides, we procured most modern transport planes, air defence radar and the missiles which are capable of launching into sky from land,” she said.
The premier pointed out that her government always attaches priority to training, saying that higher training is very essential for members of the armed forces.
“We’ve established aeronautical centre for higher training of the air force personnel as well as maintenance of their war equipment,” she said.
About the digitisation of the armed forces, Sheikh Hasina said the government set up Army IT Support Organisation and Computer War Games Centre. “We’re making all sorts of modern arrangements for the armed forces,” she said.
Mentioning that the Bangladesh Armed Forces are playing an excellent role in the UN peace keeping missions, the prime minister said: “Our armed forces need all types of training to move keeping pace with other countries of the world.”
“We don’t want any member of our armed forces to lag behind, we want all to remain update and equipped with modern technology and knowledge … we’re working by paying attention to this end,” she said.
While talking about the country’s development, Sheikh Hasina requested all concerned to suspend all the less important costs at this moment keeping in mind how much money could be collected amid the coronavirus pandemic despite the government giving a huge budget with adequate allocation to every sector.
“We will do only the urgently needed expenditure and will suspend less important costs bearing the fact how much money we could collect and how much we could expense of those amid the coronavirus pandemic. We will do the expenses once good days return,” she said.
The prime minister asked the authorities concerned to consider one’s qualification, efficiency, patriotism, honesty, loyalty, experience, having faith in the spirit of the Liberation War and leadership quality in giving promotion.
“Give promotion on the basis of equity as confidence could grow among all. I know it wouldn’t be possible to give promotion to all as many people are qualified for that although the posts are limited. Despite the fact you should ensure promotion of those who are really fit for the promotion,” she urged the senior armed forces officials.
She said faith in the spirit of the Liberation War, professional efficiency, leadership, discipline, honesty, truthfulness, field experience, loyalty and effectiveness should be considered while giving promotion in future.
“Make sure that the people who believe in independence, sovereignty and development of Bangladesh alongside having faith in the spirit of Liberation War and patriotism could get the charge so that they can drive the country towards the right direction in the coming days,” she continued.
Sheikh Hasina, also the defence minister, said that she has confidence in the wisdom, judgment and impartiality of the senior officers and hoped that they would select the appropriate persons for promotion.
Referring to her initiative to recruit female officers in the army, the first in the country’s history, the women are doing extremely well in the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions and thus praised by all.
“It’s really a matter of pride for us as 27 female officers have achieved success in paratrooping. Womenfolk are showing their efficiency in all the sectors. My mind become full of joy after seeing pictures of two female pilots (of Bangladesh) at the UN website,” she continued.
The prime minister said the people of the country always remember with gratitude the role of the armed forces during natural calamities
Sheikh Hasina said that the government had placed the national budget likewise the normal period giving required allocation or money to every sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic and urged all to maintain austerity in this regard.
She added: “It is true that we have given a huge budget. But it should not think to expense all the money right now.”
The premier said her government has declared various stimulus packages to offset the economic fallout with providing Taka 30,000 crore to big industries, Taka 20,000 crore to small and medium industries and Taka 10,000 crore to give salaries to RMG factories.
“We’ve also announced packages for others aimed at keeping the wheels of the economy operative,” she said.
The prime minister said the forex reserve now stands at $ 39.4 billion despite having apprehension by many quarters that the remittance will decline in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.
“The country has enough remittance as the government has declared an incentive for the expatriates to this end.
She said her government has been taking necessary measures so that Bangladesh could not witness the food crisis if the world experiences famine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheikh Hasina requested all to cultivate every piece of arable land to ensure food security.
“We have taken all kinds of measures including giving stimulus packages to agriculture for ensuring the production of foods. We are confirmed in one thing that food crisis would not happen in the country by the grace of almighty Allah,” she said.
She said she has already asked the authorities concerned to take prompt measures to ensure that a single inch of land doesn’t remain uncultivated.
Extending sincere thanks to the armed forces personnel for providing all sorts of support to the people during the coronavirus pandemic, she said, “The big task is to work for the people and you have been doing that work with efficiency.”