CHATTOGRAM, Feb 24, 2019 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina here today opened the boring works of her government’s ambitious tunnel project under the Karnaphuli River saying she expects Bangladesh to be a “world wonder” with its spectacular development.
“I want to build Bangladesh in such a way so that the entire world looks at
it (country) with surprise . . . this is my expectation, nothing else” she
told a civic rally to mark the ceremony at Patenga here this afternoon.
The premier added: “I don’t want name and wealth. My only desire is that
the people of Bangladesh to move keeping their head high.”
The underwater expressway tunnel, named after Father of the Nation
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, will be 3.4 kilometres in length and 10
metres in width, will be the first of its kind in Bangladesh aiming to
improve the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar highway network.
Sheikh Hasina said she wanted to do fresh things so the country could move
with dignity with its solvent citizens and the tunnel was part of those
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Senior Secretary of
Bridges Division Khandakar Anwarul Islam and Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh
Zhang Zou also spoke at the function as a Chinese company was selected as the
consultant to construct the tunnel.
A representative of China Communication Construction Company Ltd (CCCC),
the consultant, presented a replica of the tunnel to the prime minister.
Sheikh Hasina said since Bangabandhu’s 1975 assassination, Bangladesh for
years was being branded as a country of famine, cyclone and tidal surge and
these “negative comments always pained me”.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh had emerged as a victorious nation earning
its independence through shedding blood in its great Liberation War and
therefore such a negative branding was unexpected.
The premier said she is working relentlessly to develop the country and
bring smiles on the faces of the common people, empowered with education,
healthcare services and dignified shelter which was a “dream of my father and
which he wanted time and again”.
“Becoming penniless and losing everything, I returned home to work for the
country (and) I am working with an ideology,” she said referring to her
return from exile in 1981.
She added that her parents’ lifelong struggle to bring smiles on the faces
of the distressed people was the greatest motivation for her mission for the
The premier said the country now witnessed the construction of another mega
project “Padma Bridge” with the country’s own funding.
Sheikh Hasina said she preferred the structure to be named after the mighty
Padma River declining to accept proposals by different quarters including the
road transport and bridges minister to name it after her.
“We’re constructing the bridge with our own fund. The bridge is now
visible . . . as so many things happened with the bridge, it should be named
as Padma Bridge and there is no necessity to add any other name to it,” she
Sheikh Hasina recalled that the foundation of the Padma Bridge was laid
during the first tenure of her 1996-2001 government after carrying out its
feasibility study while the subsequent BNP-Jamaat government stopped the work
of the bridge and changed its alignment.
“They wasted the time saying that the bridge will be constructed at
another place instead of the present one,” she said.
The prime minister said after assuming office again in 2009, her
government took initiatives for building the bridge again and everybody
expressed interest and came forward to help construct the bridge.
“The World Bank, the ADB and others showed eagerness to give financial
assistance in this regard while the World Bank (WB) emerged as the most
interested fund provider,” she said.
But, the premier said, at one point the WB brought corruption allegations
involving the project when “I questioned how the allegation could be valid
while not a single taka was released till then”.
Sheikh Hasina said the WB had no answer but they subsequently said that “a
conspiracy of graft took place”.
“At that time the World Bank carried out false propaganda … some of their
integrity officers used to visit Bangladesh for that purpose,” she said.
The premier said she had challenged the WB to prove their allegation, and
declined to accept their funds for the project as well unless they could do
Sheikh Hasina said she then asked her economic affairs adviser Dr Moshiur
Rahman to send a letter to the WB asking them to prove their allegation and
despite repeated reminders no World Bank reply came.
Sheikh Hasina recalled during that period the then WB vice-president
visited Bangladesh sometimes and “I also asked him to prove where the graft
“Due to our pressure, they sent a letter containing the allegation of graft
in two projects that occurred in 2002 during the BNP-Jamaat regime with the
schemes being Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway Project and Siddirganj Power Plant,”
The premier added: “The Padma Bridge had no link with those two projects”.
Without mentioning the names of anybody, the premier said that it is
unfortunate that “some people of our country put blame on us for so-called
corruption in the Padma Bridge”.
She said there are editors and owners of two renowned newspapers and a man
of Chittagong who won Nobel Prize by doing interest trade and eating up the
money of the people carried out propaganda simultaneously in the (US) State
Sheikh Hasina said he used to maintain contact with his friend Hillary
Clinton through emails on this issue and eventually the World Bank had
stopped funding in the Padma Bridge project.
“Then we started the construction of the bridge with own financing as a
challenge,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said later a case was filed in the Canadian Federal Court,
but the World Bank could not prove anything. “In the verdict, the court said
no graft took place and whatever the bank said are false and fabricated,” she
The prime minister said two years were wasted for this, and many had a
notion that the development of Bangladesh is not possible without the World
Bank. “Besides the finance minister, there was an adviser who created
pressure on me,” she said.
She said that the World Bank gave various conditions including arrest of
some people, saying that they will finance the Padma Bridge project if their
conditions are fulfilled.
“I told the World Bank authorities to prove the allegation first,” she
Sheikh Hasina said she had to engage in quarrel with the World Bank and
had to go through mental torment. “You can’t understand it,” she said.
The prime minister said by the grace of almighty Allah, the government has
been able to launch the construction work of the bridge with own funding.
“Now the bridge is visible,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the construction of Karnaphuli Tunnel will bolster
industrial development, flourish tourism and expand trade and commerce near
the project area, creating employment and boosting exports.
Therefore, the overall socioeconomic development and the lifestyle of the
people of this area will improve and there will be a very positive impact on
the total economy of the country, she added.
The prime minister said Bangladesh is making progress in an indomitable
pace and it could be possible due to the continuation of democracy.
“None will remain poor and homeless. We will construct houses for homeless
people. Electricity will go to each household of the country soon,” the prime
Sheikh Hasina said the nation will celebrate the birth centenary of Father
of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020 and golden jubilee of
independence in 2021.
“We shall also turn Bangladesh into a middle income country by 2021 and a
developed and prosperous one by 2041, Insha Allah,” she added.