'I think that everybody should take a break so we can accommodate the younger generation'
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has indicated that the current term will be her last in office.
In an exclusive interview with the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), she said: "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."
On Tuesday, at a cultural event, which was arranged as part of the 39th National Rally of the Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Party (VDP), in Gazipur, the prime minister said she would like to go back to her ancestral village of Tungipara in Gopalganj to spend her retirement.
Sheikh Hasina has assumed office just a month ago, for the fourth time as the prime minister of Bangladesh.
In the December 30 general election, the Awami League secured a sweeping majority by winning 268 parliamentary seats, including one by-election in the Kishoreganj 1 constituency which took place on February 10.
During the interview, Hasina, the longest serving head of the Bangladesh government, has spoken at length about her plans and agendas on how to run the country in the next five years.
Food security top priority
The prime minister 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 ensure that," she said.
Not a one-party rule
Binning accusation that her party has shifted stifling political discourse in Bangladesh by trying to establish a one-party rule, the premier argued: "This time, the 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?"
Claiming that the opposition parties were weak, she said: "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 also defended criticism that she has not done much to ease restrictions on freedom of expression and prevent attacks on liberal thinkers in Bangladesh, by saying: "If you work more you will hear more criticism."
"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." She argued.
She applied that logic to counter-argue her critics who have been pointing out that the prime minister and her party is too close to a hardline Islamist group, Hefazat-e-Islam, and trying to appease religious fanatics.
"In this country everybody has freedom of speech. So they also have the right to spell out what they want,” she told the DW interviewer.
By stating some of the achievements her administration have secured in the last two consecutive terms in female education and child marriage, she said the conservative Islamist group will not be able to influence her government’s policy in establishing women emancipation. Progress in this regard will continue.
On Rohingya refugees
Sheikh Hasina also explained her administration’s position on sending at least 1,00,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island on the Bay of Bengal, locally known as Bhasan Char.
"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," she said.
The prime minister also admitted 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 in two camps in Cox's Bazar.
In order to tackle the problem, Hasina 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.
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