Sunday, Oct 12, 2003
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By Haroon Habib
In an address to the nation on Friday marking two years in power by her alliance, Begum Khaleda said that being a lower-riparian country, Bangladesh would face a natural catastrophe if India implemented its planned river-linking project. "There has been extensive discussion in national and international media over India's proposed river-linking project. Even conscientious people in India criticised this project," she said.
Referring to the recent Joint River Commission meeting held in New Delhi, she said her Water Resources Minister had expressed Bangladesh's concern to his Indian counterpart at the talks.
"We'll hope Ministers of the two countries and top political leaders would reach an acceptable solution to the water-management problem through discussion."
On her Government's foreign-policy focus, Begum Khaleda said Bangladesh laid stress on economic diplomacy and deepened her relations with countries in Southeast Asia under the "Look East Policy".
On the domestic front, she called for a "greater consensus among all political parties" on democratic norms and principles, development strategy and foreign and defence policies to further strengthen the base of Bangladesh as a state.
In her 40-minute address, Begum Khaleda said her Government had been relentlessly making efforts to make the development road map a success.
But she urged all concerned to remain alert about any attempt to create blocks of indiscipline and anarchy in the implementation of the road map in the name of movement, broadly indicating that the Opposition parties were preparing for a "greater anti-government movement".
Without explaining, she also hinted at re-structuring of the Government system saying, "If necessary, we can go ahead by bringing about congruity and re-structuring in Government system and also in the existing political culture and in the ambit of party differences to protect the greater interest of the country and its people."
While Begum Khaleda highlighted her Government's "successes" in her national address, the Leader of the Opposition, Sheikh Hasina, has called for "a grand unity of progressive and democratic forces" against the "corrupt, terrorist and oppressive" regime. Addressing a gathering to mark the Government's "misrule of two years", Sheikh Hasina said the nation "is hostage to the misrule. The people want the BNP-Jamaat Government to step down conceding its failure and misgovernance." Sheikh Hasina, who was the country's Prime Minister for five years from 1996, said she would not claim cent per cent success in all spheres of national life during her rule.
"There might have been some unwarranted mistakes. But we've the honest courage to learn from our mistakes and move forward."
She said the coalition's performance in two years proved that those who occupied power through "widespread rigging" cannot ensure the welfare of the people.In her 35-minute speech, Sheikh Hasina spoke of the Government's failures and lapses in economic, social and political fields stressing two major points failure to combat terrorism and curb corruption.
She blamed Begum Khaleda, "a special bhaban", Ministers and her party leaders for "harbouring terrorists, patronising corruption and siphoning off huge money abroad".
The Government at the end admitted the existence of militant (Islamic) terrorist groups in the country although they initially ruled it out." She said the country's image has been tarnished abroad.
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