Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said the US visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals have no justification and questioned why the US is trying to impose visa sanctions from nowhere.
"That is my question, why are they trying to impose visa sanctions from nowhere? If they (US) talk about human rights or voting rights, then it's we, the Awami League, who fought for the voting rights of the people of Bangladesh. Many of our men shed their blood to ensure voting rights," she told an interview with Voice of America (VOA) in Washington DC on September 27.
VOA Bangla's chief Shatarupa Barua interviewed the Premier during her visit to Washington DC. The international media outlet published reports and aired the interview on its website today.
On 22 September, the US announced imposing visa restrictions on some Bangladeshi individuals. The country announced the new visa policy for Bangladesh on May 24.
Earlier in December 2021, the US slapped sanctions on seven officials of Bangladesh elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) which is credited with successfully curbing militancy and terrorism in the country.
Explaining her government's role, Sheikh Hasina said "It is we who have done all sorts of reform. Today, voter lists with photographs, transparent ballot boxes, making people aware of their voting rights were done by us so that the election is free, fair and neutral."
"The slogan-I will cast my own vote to the person whom I like- was coined by me. In that way I inspired people," she went on.
Sheikh Hasina said military dictators ruled Bangladesh for most of the time and the people could not exercise their franchise during the military-backed regime as the authorities filled the ballot boxes and just declared the results.
"In protest of that, we waged a movement and succeeded in bringing back a congenial environment for election. People are now conscious of their voting rights. We have done this. So I don't think there is any justification to slap such sanctions all on a sudden," she said.
Secondly, if anyone commits crimes in the country, whoever he or she is a member of RAB, the police or any other organization faces music and none is shown mercy during trial, she said.
In some occasions, members of law enforcement agencies might do excess but they are brought to justice as per the country's law.
So, why such sanction is imposed when there is such system to ensure punishment for any crime," she questioned.
Sheikh Hasina said all elections, including national and local government polls in Bangladesh since Awami League came to power in 2009 were held in a free and fair manner as people spontaneously voted in those elections.
"Many people tried to raise questions about these elections, but the reality is, people of Bangladesh are always conscious of voting rights. They don't allow any vote thief to stay in power," Sheikh Hasina said.
Recalling the historical accounts, the Premier said on February 15, 1996 elections, BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia rigged votes, but she could not survive for even one and a half months.
On March 30, 1996, she had been bound to resign due to massive agitation and movement of people, Sheikh Hasina said.
Moreover, in 2006 BNP had prepared a voter list with 1.23 crore fake voters and upon announcement of holding election with that voter list, state of emergency was declared and elections were cancelled, she added.
"So, today the people of this country are very conscious of their voting rights. It was our demand that election should be free, fair and neutral, and we established it through movement," he said.
So, she said, today they are imposing sanctions, and they might slap more sanctions in the future as "It's their wish,"
She said her government has ensured all fundamental rights of people, including their rights to food, vote, education and healthcare.