Article 70 gives stability to government, PM Hasina tells parliament

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina delivers the valedictory speech in the 22nd (special) session of the 11th parliament, marking the Golden Jubilee of the Jatiya Sangsad on 10 April 2023

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday came down heavily on a few parliament members as they are advocating against Article 70 in the Constitution despite the article has given sustainability to the government and thus the development.

“Article 70 has given protection to democracy alongside further strengthening it to reach its benefit to the people. But, a few of our (parliament) members are against the article as they are unable to play the game of seating and unseating the government,” she said.

The prime minister, also Leader of the House, was delivering the valedictory speech in the 22nd (special) session of the 11th parliament, marking the Golden Jubilee of the parliament with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.

The prime minister said a few parliament members are expressing concern over Article 70 in the Constitution due to their inexperience, referring to the unseating of the governments formed after 1946 and 1954 elections mainly due to floor-crossing of the parliament members.

“Many are expressing concern over Article 70 in the Constitution. Those who are doing so, might have a lack of experience. Article 70 has given scope to our country to give the government stability, for which reason the country has witnessed development,” she said.

During his submission, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Muhammed Quader spoke about revoking Article 70 of the Constitution.

Earlier, the parliament held a special discussion in line with a resolution taken by the prime minister on 7 April under section 147 of the rules of procedure of the parliament.

President Md. Abdul Hamid delivered a memorial speech in the parliament highlighting the country’s achievements.

Leader of the Opposition Raushon Ershad, Deputy Leader of the House Matia Chowdhury and Chief Whip Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury, also spoke in the parliament.

The prime minister said that their experience is very dissimilar as they have witnessed the tenures of Ayub, Yahya, Zia, General Ershad and Khaleda Zia.

“When I met the US under-secretary in the US, I told that I’d seen a monument before going there where it was inscribed with Government of the People, For the People, by the People. I’ve come from a country where the Government of the Army, by the Army, for the General.”

“I told the meeting that the US practices its democracy all the way to the shores of the Atlantic. Does your definition of democracy change after it crosses the Atlantic?”

“I also asked why they are supporting a military dictatorship,” the prime minister said, recalling that meeting with the US official.

The country (USA) frequently gives lectures about democracy and some people, including the opposition party, are becoming cheerful hearing the lecture, said Sheikh Hasina.

“Yes, they can overthrow the government of any country. In particular, Muslim countries are going through tough situations,” she said.

Nothing happened till the wrong things were happening in the Islamic countries, but after the Russia-Ukraine war the whole world fell into an economic recession and this is the reality, she observed.

“They are giving us lessons about democracy. In all aspects, they are talking about democracy and human rights. What is the state of their country?,” she raised a question, referring to the incident of three Congressmen in Tennessee state of the US.

A few days ago, she said, three Congressmen in the US state of Tennessee were made guilty as they petitioned for gun control stating that this type of gun possession should be stopped. “That was their crime. And these three were expelled from Congress. But, one of them could escape as he is white,” she said, adding, “The crime of Justin John and Justin Pearson is that they are black.”

“Because of that, they were unseated. So, where are human rights there? We ask where their democracy is,” she added.

The prime minister said that Rashed, who killed Bangabandhu on 15 August, had taken shelter in the US and now, he is living there.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina delivers the valedictory speech in the 22nd (special) session of the 11th parliament, marking the Golden Jubilee of the Jatiya Sangsad on 10 April 2023

“I’ve appealed to all the Presidents. Legally, we’ve made efforts. We’ve tried through diplomatic channel. I’ve appealed that you (US) cannot grant asylum to this convicted murderer,” she said, adding that “... You cannot give shelter to the killer of children, killer of women, killer of president and killer of minister... Return him back. But, they are not returning him, rather they are sheltering him.”

Mentioning that they speak against corruption, she said, “Now, it can be seen that the US is advocating in favour of those who were convicted for corruption.”

Keeping aside democracy they want to bring such a government into power where there will be no existence of democratic practice, she noted.

“In that case, some of our intellectuals who make their livelihood selling intellect and a little bit of money also lures them,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina said a renowned newspaper asked a 7-year-old child to tell a lie, giving Tk 10 in his hand. They recorded his remark --”We want freedom of rice, fish and meat”--- and the newspaper published it. “The renowned newspaper is there, which is very popular. Though its name is Prothom Alo (light), it lives in darkness. Prothom Ali is the enemy of the Awami League, democracy and the people of the country,” she told parliament.

She continued, “I am very sorry to say that they never want stability in the country.”

The prime minister said they were very glad in 2007 when the emergency was declared and two newspapers were wholeheartedly engaged in the process during that time.

And with them, there is one - “Sudkhur” (money lender), who is America’s very favourite, she said.

She added that America did not even ask once where the managing director of Grameen Bank, who used to get a salary from the government, got millions of dollars.

“How could he do social business in places like America, invest in the country and abroad? From where does this money come? Have they ever asked it? They didn’t ask,” she said.

“Now, we have to hear words (lesson) from them about corruption and the fight against corruption. We also have to hear words from them about human rights,” she said.

These people (Dr Yunus and others) tried to destroy the democracy of the country and played ducks and drakes with the fate of the people, she added.

Sheikh Hasina said the people of the country believe that the AL government has been able to change the fate of the people as it has been in power for 14 years in a row.

“Now the difference between village and city has been 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 BNP-Jamaat regime) and 2022.

She said per capita income rose to $ 2,824 in 2022 from only $ 543 in 2006, while the size of GDP to Tk 4,600,000 crore from Tk 415,072 crore, the size of budget to Tk 678,064 crore from Tk 61,000 crore, the size of 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, and the literacy rate to 75.6 per cent from 45 per cent.

The head of government said the economic growth had been 5.40 per cent in 2006 which was 7.50 per cent in 2022, the inflation had been 10 per cent in 2006 which was 5.5 per cent in 2019 and 8.57 per cent in 2022

She said 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.

Sheikh Hasina also highlighted the massive development of Bangladesh in the digital arena.