They might impose more sanctions, it's their wish: PM Hasina

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview with Voice of America on 27 September said the US visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals has no justification.

VOA Bangla’s chief Shatarupa Barua took the interview during the prime minister’s visit to Washington. VOA Bangla published the interview on its website.

The US on 22 September announced imposing visa restrictions on individuals responsible for undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.

The US announced a new visa policy for Bangladesh on 24 May. Earlier in December 2021, the US slapped sanctions on seven officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Replying to a question on the US visa policy, prime minister Sheikh Hasina said, “That is my question, why are they trying to impose visa sanctions out of blue?"

"If they talk about human rights and voting rights, then it’s we, the Awami League, who fought for the voting rights of people of Bangladesh. So many of our men shed their blood to ensure voting rights. We’ve done all sorts of reform—voter lists with photographs, transparent ballot boxes, sensitizing people about their voting rights--so that the election is free, fair and neutral," the prime minister added.

Sheikh Hasina said, "The slogan “I will cast my own vote for whom I like” was coined by me. I inspired people this way. Military dictators ruled our country for most of the time. People would not have to vote at that time. They (authorities) took the ballot box and declared the result. We waged a movement against such practices and succeeded in bringing back a conducive environment for election. People are now conscious of voting rights. We did that. So we don’t think there is any justification to slap sanctions all of a sudden.”

On sanction against RAB, prime minister Sheikh Hasina said those who commit crimes in the country, be it RAB, police or any other organisation, have to face trial.

“They might transgress some time. But such an act is meted with punishment as per our law. Why is sanction needed while there is a system to ensure punishment for any crime?,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina claimed all elections in Bangladesh since Awami League came to power in 2009 was free and fair.

“People spontaneously voted in those elections. Many people tried to raise questions on these elections, but the reality is people of Bangladesh are always conscious of voting rights. They don’t allow any vote thief to stay in power,” Sheikh Hasina said.

The prime minister said Khaleda Zia rigged the election on 15 February in 1996 but could not stay in power even one and a half months.

Sheikh Hasina said BNP prepared a voter list with 1 crore 23 lac (12.3 million) fake voters in 2006 and wanted to cling to power.

Coming back to the US visa sanction issue, the prime minister said the US has imposed sanctions and they might slap more sanctions in the future.

“It’s their wish,” added Sheikh Hasina.

Referring to the development that took place in Bangladesh in recent years and the drop in unemployment, Sheikh Hasina said, “So Bangladeshis wouldn’t be able to come to America if sanctionsvare imposed. So be it . What difference will coming here or not make? We’ve enough employment opportunities in our country now. So let’s see what they do and why they slapped these sanctions.”