Speech by Prime Minister Hasina at the inauguration of the Padma Bridge – OpEd – Eurasia Review

Finally on the 25the June 2022 Bangladesh inaugurated the Padma Bridge, the country’s most anticipated infrastructure project. The big ceremony took place in the premises of the bridge. The ceremony began at 10:00 a.m. Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, as the main guest of the ceremony, took the podium at 10:49 a.m. and delivered a 34-minute speech. During his remarkable speech, Sheikh Hasina spoke about the past, present and future of Bangladesh and its economic development. It is worthy of translating speech for the understanding of a wider audience. I have therefore translated the speech and the transcript of the speech as follows:

Assalamu Alaikum and greetings to all. We are at the historic moment when Bangladesh will inaugurate the Padma Bridge. I sincerely thank my sister, my children and nephews and my family members. We achieved our independence as a great nation under the great leadership and contribution of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I pay tribute to the freedom fighters, to the people who gave their lives in 1971. It is heartbreaking to have lost my family members and other public servants who fell victim on August 15, 1975. They were brutally killed.

I am grateful to the people and professionals involved in the construction of the Padma Bridge, including law enforcement and engineers. I must mention the efforts of the late engineer Jamilur Rahman. Numerous conspiracies, false allegations of corruption as well as defamation by the World Bank and its companions posed challenges to the project. The names of my family and officials were tarnished by the conspirators. It was an excruciating experience for me and my family members. All of these allegations were false and national and international courts have ruled in our favor that these allegations were grotesquely false and were only made to challenge our independent position. But with the help of my compatriots and experts, we overcame these challenges. So, I pay tribute to all the people, engineers, professionals, government officials, my compatriots who gave me the courage to take such a bold decision. It was not possible to build the bridge without their help and continued support. Special thanks to the people of the banks of the Padma River, who gave up their ancestral lands for the bridge without a second thought. In return, we have compensated and rehabilitated them, but their sacrifice has no price that we could repay in monetary value. I know that compatriots feel proud and happy at this auspicious moment, me too! Together we overcame the conspiracies and realized the dream.

It is not only a bridge, but also a source of hope, courage and friendly and warm relations of people from both sides of the people of the region. It is a monument of pride; it is a symbol of our dignity, our capacity and our emotion. It is also a symbol of our passion, our confidence, our creativity and our courage. After many conspiracies, bad allegations, we were finally able to do it thanks to our courage and our confidence. It is a symbol of the strength that Bangabandhu has given us. On this occasion, I remember the poem by Sukanta (a famous Bengali poet), “The world is surprisingly beautiful. Well done! What have we done, Bangladesh! Damaged, broken, but won’t back down!

Bangladesh has never backed down and will never back down. Bangabandhu taught us to keep our heads straight. He taught us to stand tall with dignity and pride. We have struggled for 23 years under the tyranny of Pakistan. After independence in 1971, Bangabandhu went to Japan and asked Japan to build the Padma Bridge. He announced the infrastructural dynamics of Bangladesh. Then Japan also conducted the feasibility study. But the odious event of the 15e August stopped the continuation of the process. Later, when we came to power in 1996, we took over the Jamuna Bridge project. In 1997, I went to Japan and asked them to build a bridge to connect the southern part of the country. And finally, Japan kept its promise and built the Rupsha Bridge. Then in 2001 the BNP government came to power and started a new feasibility study, but after finding out that our plan was the best, they canceled the feasibility study. In 2009, we took the initiative to build the Padma Bridge after we came to power. The 22ndn/a day of our diet, we set up a committee and hired experts to develop the design. The World Bank agreed to finance the construction. But a local managing director of a bank with strong Western ties developed hostility with the government. He held the position illegally and later also lost a case. After that he took his anger out on the project and the World Bank backed down. Later, he withdrew the funding by placing the false allegation of corruption. Part of our civil society and economists also participated in the plot. However, I challenged them. And later, the Canadian court also concluded that the World Bank’s claim was null and void.

I just want to say that this is our country and its prosperity is our responsibility. Even if some invested neighborhoods try to tarnish our reputation, we will not back down. I told parliament that we were going to build the Padma Bridge with our own money. The Bangladeshi people reacted strongly to our decision. They even offered their donation. I thank them. I thank the engineers who took the burden on their shoulders. I thank the foreign agencies that provided their service. My father (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) taught us to stand with dignity. And we will follow him.

Today, I have nothing to reproach anyone. Those who opposed the project should recognize our contribution. Once, an international journalist asked Bangabandhu how he would rebuild his war-torn Bangladesh. Bangabandhu replied that he would do it with the land and with the people. Today we followed the exact path and materialized the Bridge. Our economy is doing even better. Today we proved to the world that we are the proud sons and daughters of this land as our father of the Bangladesh nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I salute the people who are the sources of my strength.

My compatriots and compatriots, our government has also extended their warm hearts by providing money and courage. Some people thought that we would have remained dependent on each other. But people reacted and their courage and audacity gave us the strength to look to the future. Now, I have no fault with those people who plotted to stop the project. Courage came from Bangabandhu. Bangabandhu said that our people and our soil are the sources of our strength. All over the world, Bangladesh has proven that Bangladesh has won. I pay tribute to the people of Bangladesh.

The task was not easy. The Padma has the second strongest current in the world after the Amazon River. It’s very unpredictable. So there were big challenges to build the bridge. But, we didn’t compromise on capacity and strength. We used world-class technology in the project. I believe it will add new enthusiasm to the study of civil engineering. The capacity we made from the project will help to build more bridges and our engineers will contribute at home and abroad.

The bridge will contribute to communication in both waterways and land. It will bring revolutionary changes in railway communication. All vehicles above and below the bridge will move easily. For this, we dug the deepest heap in the world to make the bridge. We dug 122 meters for one pile. We have also taken the latest technologies to withstand earthquakes.

River governance was another challenge. We have taken steps to protect both banks. We have also developed the Mawa-Zanjira road which will also have ramifications for regional connectivity. We have also provided routes for nautical vehicles. Water vehicles can cross 36 of its 41 pillars. We had to opt for the acquisition of land of 6509 acres from three districts.

We have taken rehabilitation, reforestation, forest reserve and other ecological measures as well as to ensure sustainability. It will increase communication, business, productivity and growth. I believe it will increase by more than 1.2% of GDP. It will contribute to regional trade, energy cooperation and increase trade, economic zones and connectivity. After the completion of the mega projects, the Padma Bridge will boost our economy, especially for the local economies of the 21 districts in the South and South West.

I believe this will also contribute to poverty reduction. Now we are developing new economic zones, high-tech parks and industries. We promote regional trade and commerce. We are building power plants in several districts. We want to boost the local economy.

At the end of this year, we hope to open the Karnafuli tunnel. We will complete parts of the metro by 2023 and Rooppur nuclear power station will also be operational by then. We are working on an elevated highway and the Payra plant is already operational and producing electricity which will increase further in the future. Thus, our economy will grow more in the coming days. It will be more stable than ever.

After the event of 15e August, I lived in exile as a refugee for six years. I came back to the country as the people wanted. I had one objective, to ensure the improvement of the country. I believe that I have the blessing of the people and of my parents. Otherwise, I couldn’t perform such miracles because I was also a typical Bengali. But I could, because you blessed me.

Anyway, those who oppose the improvement of the country, I hope you will become patriotic. You develop a sense of responsibility. We are doing commendable in economic affairs and the fruit of this should reach households in all corners of the country. We celebrated the birth centenary of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 2020. We celebrated the golden jubilee of independence in 2021. In the same year, we also received the good news of the release of the United Nations LDCs. By 2026, we will graduate from developing countries. We aim to become a developed nation by 2041. We are also developing strategies for the people of Bangladesh to have a sustainable future by realizing the Delta-2100 plan.

The Bengali nation is the nation of heroes who have shed blood many times for freedom and justice. Dear compatriots, allow me to repeat on this occasion that “you kill us once, we are born twice, a new sun must rise and we will write new stories in its light”. Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu!

After that, at 11:48 a.m. local time, PM Hasina opened the bridge and walked across the bridge and gave the toll for the first time.

Authors biography : Doreen Chowdhury is a PhD student at the University of Groningen

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