Sheikh Hasina called upon IPU leaders to work together against all social disparities like poverty and malnutrition along with the vices of militancy and terrorism to make the world an abode of mutual compassion and fraternity. “The world, no doubt, is moving forward, and visible progress has also been made in hunger situation. But, nearly 800 million people still suffer from malnutrition,” she said calling for fighting together against terrorism and militancy as the vices posed threat to push back the world to the dark age.
The Prime Minister said this while inaugurating the 136th Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) at the South Plaza of the Jatiya Sangsad here. As the Prime Minister of a nation, awfully affected by climate change, Sheikh Hasina urged the top polluters to meet without delay their commitments made in different forums for carbon offsetting. Sheikh Hasina said a large number of children of the developing nations suffer from stunted growth owing to lack of nutrition.
They are deprived of healthcare and schooling. But the earth is filled with enough resources for survival of mankind. A little sympathy, support, mutual compassion and fraternity can make the globe hunger-free easily,” she said. Terming terrorism and militancy as the new vices for humanity, she said the menaces are costing human lives, and peace is seriously impeded. “We have to fight this menaces together; otherwise, we would be pushed back to the Dark Age,” she said. Bangladesh for the first time after joining the IPU in 1972, is hosting the IPU Assembly being attended by about 1400 delegates including 53 speakers, deputy speakers and 209 women parliamentarians from 120 countries. IPU, a forum of world’s legislators, is a focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue for peace, development, and co-operation among peoples, and for the safeguard of representative democracy. The five-day assembly is being held in Dhaka with theme- ‘Redressing Inequalities: Delivering on Dignity and Well being for all.” Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Children’s Rights Activist Kailash Satyarthi will present the keynote paper of the conference on the topic.
Welcoming the delegates of the conference to Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said she was deeply honoured for the opportunity to inaugurate the IPU conference. “Hosting of the conference is a matter of great honour for us,” she said adding that Bangladesh values its association with IPU and is proud of its democratic heritage. “It is indeed a matter of pride for us. This is also a testimony by the honourable Members of Parliament across the world towards our commitment to democratic practices and values,” she noted. Speaker Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Chairperson of IPU Saber Hossain Chowdhury and Secretary General Martin Chungong also spoke on the occasion. A message from the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres was read out at the inaugural function by UN Assistant Secretary General Mirsolav Jenca. Pointing out the long struggle of the people of Bangladesh for independence and democracy during pre and post independence period, the Prime Minister said democracy is viewed as a means of ensuring prosperity and security for our people. However, the journey of establishing democracy in Bangladesh was never a smooth one, she said. “Our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had struggled lifelong for realizing the people’s rights and establishing democracy.
For this, Bangabandhu had to suffer inhuman repression and persecution in 1950s and 1960s,” she said. In 1970, Sheikh Hasina said, Awami League, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won the general elections in the then Pakistan. Instead of transferring power to the people’s representatives, the Pakistani rulers imposed an uneven war on the innocent Bangalees. Pakistani rulers unleashed one of the cruelest genocides of the human history on March 25, 1971 in the name of Operation Searchlight. Bangabandhu declared independence of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971, she said. At the call of Bangabandhu, the whole Bangalee nation forged resistance against the Pakistani junta and earned victory on December 16, 1971 at the cost of the lives of three million people and chastity of two lakh women in only nine-month war. As Bangabandhu was engaged in reconstructing the war-ravaged country, the defeated reactionary forces assassinated him on August 15, 1975 along with most of his family members, except herself and her younger sister as they were staying abroad, Sheikh Hasina said. The Prime Minister said after the assassination of Bangabandhu, undemocratic military and autocratic rule got roots in Bangladesh. In 1979, she enkindled movement for democracy from abroad. After six years of living in exile, she returned home in 1981 and took the movement to its culmination. In the process of movement for democracy, Sheikh Hasina said, she had to endure persecution, including house arrest, imprisonment and even repeated attempts on life. In 1986, she became a member of parliament for the first time and attended the IPU Conference as the Leader of the Opposition, she recalled.
Sheikh Hasina said thousands of leaders and workers of her party-Bangladesh Awami League- have sacrificed their lives for establishing the rights to food and vote. At least 19 attempts were made on her life including the most gruesome one on August 21, 2004, which claimed lives of 22 people, Sheikh Hasina said. “Despite that we never detracted them from the struggle for democracy as we believe that only democracy can ensure a prosperous life fulfilling the basic needs of the people,” she added. Highlighting Bangladesh’s democratic progress during her government, the Prime Minister said her government has been working relentlessly to build a nation free from poverty and hunger based on equality and non-communal democratic values. She said all democratic institutions, including the national parliament and local government bodies of Bangladesh were strengthened. Every tier of the local government bodies, including Union Council, Upazila Council, municipality, City Corporation and District Council are run by the elected representatives. Independent mass media, she said, flourished over the last few years playing a role of watchdog. Right to Information (R2I) Act has been enacted and an Information Commission has been established to protect the people’s right to information.
Underlining Bangladesh’s current socioeconomic success, the Prime Minister said poverty rate had reduced to 22.4 percent in 2016 from 31.5 in 2010. Per capita income now stands at USD 1466 while life expectancy of people rose to 72 years. Bangladesh has made enough successes in implementation of MDGs and is making efforts for SDGs. In view of this, the goals of SDGs have been incorporated in the 7th fifth-five year plan of the country, she said. Bangladesh has already been recognized as a lower middle-income country. Our target is to make Bangladesh a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed and prosperous one by 2041, she said. Sheikh Hasina hoped that the recommendations of the 136th IPU conference would produce fruitful result on ways and means to poverty eradication, establishing world peace and overall welfare of the humanity. Later, the Prime Minister released a commemorative postage stamp and a first day cover on the occasion of the 136th IPU Assembly.
A special canceller was used. The curtain of the conference was raised with the National Anthem of Bangladesh and recitation from four holy books- Al Quran, Geeta, Bible and Tripitaka- which was followed by an audio visual presentation on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The spectacular inauguration ended with a light and sound show – A Glimpse of Gold – and laser mapping on Bangladesh’s progression in empowering people. Chief Justice, cabinet members, Speakers of parliaments of the IPU countries, parliament members, diplomats, civil society members and senior journalists were present.