She said by constructing the bridge with Bangladesh’s funding, the government will improve the quality of life for the country's people
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday said that once the project was implemented with Bangladesh's own funding, the Padma Bridge would be a befitting reply to those who tried to tarnish the country's image and obstruct its development.
Her remarks came at a rally in Munshiganj after unveiling three plaques: the name plaque of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, a plaque for progress work on the 6.15-km bridge on the Mawa side, and a plaque for the Padma Bridge Rail Link Construction Project and permanent river bank protection works adjacent to the main river.
She also saw the overall progress work of the bridge on the Mawa side, inspected the progress of the Dhaka-Mawa and Pachchar-Bhanga parts of the N-8 Highway, and inaugurated the construction work on the rail link on the Mawa side.
Hasina said the government would ensure an improved and beautiful life for people by building the bridge with Bangladesh’s own funding.
Mentioning that the country's current GDP growth was 7.86%, she said it would be possible to increase it by another 1.2% once the bridge was constructed. "After constructing the rail link, the country will be able to attain 2% more growth.”
The prime minister said the government's target to attain 10% GDP growth would not be a tough job on completion of the rail and road links on the Padma Bridge.
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Talking about Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus's “conspiracy” against the construction of the bridge, she said that he had done that to secure his managing director post at Grameen Bank, which he lost for exceeding the age limit.
"After losing his MD post, he had gone to court. But the court gave its verdict against him as his age was 72 years where the maximum age limit for the post of MD is 60 years in Bangladesh."
She said Yunus had also engaged then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Cherry Blair, wife of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to lobby for him. "They called me several times, but I told them that the law does not permit Dr Yunus to stay in the MD post."
She claimed the Nobel Laureate and the editor of a newspaper had sent several emails to Clinton and convinced her to withdraw the World Bank funding from the Padma Bridge.
Without taking permission from the board, the then World Bank president, on his last day in office, had signed the document withdrawing Padma Bridge funds citing corruption in the construction work, said the prime minister.
"When I asked for proof of the corruption, they failed to show the documents," she said.
"The World Bank even said they might come with funding again if we remove our minister, secretary, and so on. But I told them clearly that without any proper proof, I will not do anything," she added.
‘Enough is enough’
Hasina said the global donor had also alleged that her son Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed Joy, and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, were involved in the corruption. "After that, I said enough is enough. We do not need your money... We will build the bridge with our own resources."
She said that no one, even leaders of her own party, Awami League, could believe at that time that the bridge could be build without World Bank funding.
At the end, she said, after evaluating all the materials and documents, the Canadian federal court had given its verdict, trashing the World Bank's corruption allegation in the Padma Bridge project as baseless and untrue.
"There was a conspiracy from home and abroad behind the withdrawal of World Bank funding. It's very much unfortunate that the people behind this conspiracy and instigation are some people from our own country," she said.
The construction work for the main structure of the bridge kicked-off in December 2015.
Hasina also mentioned that these people had no love for the country and no duty towards its people.
"And how will patriotism come when they take interest from the poor, become rich taking interest from the poor? This interest monger cannot love the country and its people. This is the reality" she added, indirectly referring to Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Bangladesh Army Chief of Staff General Aziz Ahmed, and Railways Minister Md Mazibul Hoque also spoke on the occasion.