Sheikh Hasina hints at last term as prime minister

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DHAKA, Feb 14, 2019 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has indicated that her present – and third consecutive – term could be her last as prime minister of the country, saying that she wanted to create room for younger leaders.

“It’s the third consecutive term and before that I was prime minister [1996-2001], so it’s my fourth term. I don’t want to continue for more [time]. I think that everybody should take a break so we can accommodate the younger generation,” she told Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s public international broadcaster.

In her first interview to an international media outlet following her reelection, Sheikh Hasina said the fight against poverty will continue to be her first priority during the rest of her tenure.

“Food security, housing, education, healthcare, job opportunities; these are basic needs,” she said.

“Definitely, every human being wants a better life… We have to insure that,” she added.

Talking about the issue of freedom of expression, the premier said she supported free thought in the country and criticism was only natural.

“If you work more you will hear more criticism,” she said, adding, “You should ask my people whether they are satisfied or not, what they think, whether they are getting all they need, whether I can provide this.”

Denying establishing a one-party rule, Sheikh Hasina said: “This time, Awami League candidates were elected in 260 constituencies [out of 300]. So, other parties are also in parliament. How can it be one-party rule?” she posed a question.

She attributed the opposition’s poor performance in the last general elections, saying: “If any particular party can’t reach people’s minds, can’t get their trust and doesn’t get votes, then whose responsibility is this? This actually portrays their weakness,” she said.

On the Rohingya issue, Sheikh Hasina said that her country needs a mid-term plan for the thousands of Rohingya children who were born in refugee camps and for the youth, who are languishing without anything to do.

“We have identified an island, where we have created a cyclone shelter and houses. We want to take them there and give them work, so that young men and women can do something and earn money,” Hasina explained.

In order to tackle the problem, the premier said she wanted to maintain good diplomatic relations with Myanmar and that it was imperative that Bangladesh’s neighbors China and India lend a helping hand.

The European Union would also need to provide support, she said, above all in sending the refugees back to their country of origin.

“We do not want to fight with Myanmar. We are also trying to cooperate with China and India. But the pressure is increasing on Bangladesh,” she said.

She added: “I think the international community, including the European Union, has some responsibilities (for repatriation). Their responsibilities should not be limited to only providing aid to Rohingyas in Bangladeshi camps. Actually the same aid can be provided in Myanmar shelters once they are taken back.”

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