Friday, November 24, 2017

PM Hasina says she didn't give in to President Clinton's demand for gas

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-07-15 16:17:52 BdST

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the founding anniversary of the Special Security Force (SSF) on Saturday. Photo: PMO

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says the then US President Bill Clinton had pressed her to sell natural gas to the United States. The same pressure also came from former US President Jimmy Carter.

Clinton was the first US president to visit Bangladesh in 2000, when the Hasina-led administration was in office.

"The US president himself requested me. Bill Clinton was the president then. He came to Dhaka and my reply was, I want to use the resources for the country's people first," Hasina said on Saturday.

The prime minister said she faced the same question during her US visit afterwards. "My reply was the same."

Hasina's remarks came on Saturday while addressing a programme of the founding anniversary of the Special Security Force or SSF, the agency responsible for providing security for VVIPs.

Photo: PMO

Photo: PMO

On previous occasions, Hasina said an 'international conspiracy' to gain control over Bangladesh's natural gas led to her party's defeat in the 2001 elections.

The BNP assumed power through the eighth parliamentary election, riding on 41.4 percent of votes that helped it win 193 parliamentary seats. Its ally Jamaat-e-Islami clinched 17 seats with 4.28 percent of votes.

The Awami League or AL, which bagged 40.02 percent of votes, ended up with only 62 seats in parliament.

Speaking at a party event in March this year, Hasina blamed a collusion by the US and India behind the polls defeat.

Also read

RAW, US behind 2001 defeat: Hasina

"American companies invest here to explore gas and they want to sell it to India. But I was not in favour of exporting gas," the AL chief said on Saturday.

"My priority was to know how much gas we have. I must first meet the country's need. A 50-year reserve has to be set aside. If more gas is left over, we can consider selling it, but not before that.”

Hasina said the then US request to sell gas raised suspicion. "I had repeatedly asked them for a survey to find the reserves, but they did not do so. It was suspicious. It means that there is not much gas. Then why they were pressing to sell it?"

Prior to the 2001 polls, the Hasina administration handed over power to the caretaker administration led by Latifur Rahman.

Referring to the Rahman-led caretaker regime's tenure, Hasina said former US president Jimmy Carter came to Bangladesh in 2001 and that she was invited to lunch with Carter, hosted by Chief Adviser Rahman.

Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia joined a reception in 2011 hosted by the then chief adviser Latifur Rahman (third from right) for visiting former US president Jimmy Carter (second from left).

Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia joined a reception in 2011 hosted by the then chief adviser Latifur Rahman (third from right) for visiting former US president Jimmy Carter (second from left).

Hasina said she and the party's General Secretary Zillur Rahman joined the event and the BNP was represented by its chief Khaleda Zia and Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan.

"The issue was raised during our meeting with former US president Jimmy Carter," Hasina said.

Hasina said she had already cleared her stance on the issue during talks with President Clinton both in Dhaka and Washington.

She said they had left after the meeting but Khaleda stayed on. "They had then reached an agreement."

Also read

BNP won in 2011 by promising gas deal: Hasina

After taking office for the third time in 2009, Hasina claimed that Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus used his connections with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block World Bank funding for Padma Bridge.

A US Senate Committee has recently sought evidence to find out whether Hillary used her position to intervene in an investigation against Yunus by the Bangladesh government.

Hasina had previously said the US had 'threatened' her after Yunus was removed from Grameen Bank.

Yunus was removed from Grameen Bank on the grounds that he had crossed the official retirement age in 2011, with the allegation of his siphoning off the bank’s fund in the backdrop.

On Saturday, Hasina also raised the Padma Bridge project issue.

"They had raised corruption allegations against me, my cabinet and my family members, but could not prove it. It was a conspiracy. The Canadian court found no proof of corruption."