2061Published on November 1, 2016
On 22nd and 23rd October 2016 the 20th Triennial National Conference of Bangladesh Awami League was held at Dhaka's historic Suhrawardy Udyan and the Institute of Engineers Bangladesh (IEB) respectively. Over 6,700 councilors converged at the venues to exercise their voting rights to elect the leadership of their party. Also in attendance were around 50,000 supporters and activists of the party from all corners of the country who came to show their solidarity with Bangladesh's oldest and largest political party. More than 50 guests from different foreign political parties, dignitaries, diplomats, leaders of different political parties, representatives from international organizations, leaders of professional bodies, writers, litterateurs, poets, artists and academic were also present.
This national council was the culmination of thousands of other such councils held within the local units from divisional to union levels with the democratic participation of activists to elect fresh leadership. Beyond the venue, millions of supporters, patrons, leaders and activists from home and abroad got connected via the live online coverage of the grand event arranged by the party's research wing, Centre for Research and Information (CRI).
Democracy is not only one of the founding principles of Bangladesh and one of the themes of the Liberation War; it is also one of the principal pillars of the ideology of Bangladesh Awami League. As such, the councils of the party have always enabled party leaders and workers to play a significant role in every major historical turning point of the nation. The theme of this conference was “Bangladesh is advancing speedily on the development highway. The time to hold our heads high is now”, and provided important directions and instructions to party workers and leaders for the vision of the party for the next three years. As became apparent from the first and second day of the conference, this time the principal focus is the complete realization of the quest for a hunger and poverty free 'Sonar Bangla' or 'Golden Bangladesh'.
Day 1: Inaugural Session
The first session of the first day was officially inaugurated by Party President Sheikh Hasina and General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam by releasing to the sky pigeons and balloons. There was then a cultural programme followed by the Convenor of the Council Preparatory Committee and Presidium Member Mohammad Nasim delivering his address welcoming the delegates and guests. The condolence motion was read out by Joint Secretary General Dr. Dipu Moni. Syed Ashraful Islam then presented the General Secretary's report.
Party's office secretary M A Mannan read out an obituary reference in the memories of Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangamata Fazilatun Nesa Mujib and martyrs of August 15, 1975, four national leaders, war heroes, languages movement martyrs, late leaders of the party, intellectuals, poets, writers, distinguished citizens and local and foreign nationals who were killed in recent terror attacks in the country. The council observed one-minute silence in memories of the deceased. Party's Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Publicity and Publications Dr. Hasan Mahmud MP Ashim Kumar Ukil respectively conducted the programme.
Around 55 delegates from different political parties of Australia, Austria, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Italy and Canada joined the conference. Among them, several spoke at the conference, including President of Asam Gono Parishad and former Chief Minister of Indian State of Asam Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, leader of Nationalist Congress Party of India Adv. Majeed Menon, MP, leader of Mizo National Front Mr. Zoramthanga, General Secretary of All India Trinamul Congress and Education Minister of Indian State of West Bengal Partha Chatterjee, Polit Bureau member of Communist party of India (Marxist) Biman Basu, Information and Communications Minister and senior leader of Peoples Democratic Party of Bhutan Dina Nath Dungyel, General Secretary of National Congress of India and former Chief Minister of Indian State of Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad, Vice-Minister of International Department of China Communist Party Zheng Xiaosong, leader of United National Party and Minister of Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka Mohamed Hashim Abdul Haleem, Vice President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vinay Prabhakar Sahasrabuddhe, Deputy Secretary General of the United Russia Sergey Zheleznyak, senior leader of Nepali Congress Dr Ram Sharma Mahat, State Minster of Parliament of Australia Hugh McDermott, Conservative Party leader of Canada Deepak Obhrai, leader of Social Democratic party of Austria Mrs Fuchs, assembly member of Welsh, UK Jenney Rathbone and member of Italian Chamber of Deputies and Foreign Affairs Committee Khalid Chaouki.
The leaders from foreign countries, in their speeches, highly lauded the leadership of Party President Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. They wished success of the conference and observed that Awami League is taking Bangladesh forward and it can fulfill expectations of the people. India's BJP Vice-President Vinay Prabhakar Sahasrabuddhe said Sheikh Hasina is a 'rare' leader of the sub-continent. He termed Sheikh Hasina as a "true Jananetri" (leader of the people) and said: "You are one of the rare leaders who can really be described as a true Jananetri not only in your country but in the entire sub-continent." Another politician from India, Ghulam Nabi Azad of National Congress, appreciated Sheikh Hasina for her fight against terrorism. He referred to the relations between the Awami League and Congress Party since Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Biman Basu said the Awami League has made immense contributions to the development of Bengali language and culture. All India Trinamul Congress leader and West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said the Awami League is making Bangladesh prosperous gradually and steadily. He added that overcoming all odds, Sheikh Hasina is steering Bangabandhu's 'Sonar Bangla' to the path of a developed country. Russian Federation's Deputy General Secretary of United Russia Sergey Zheleznyak, MP, said Bangladesh is moving forward fast under Sheikh Hasina's leadership. He recalled Russia's support to Bangladesh in 1971 War of Independence, which was led by Awami League. Zheleznyak referred to the Bangladesh-Russian agreement for setting up a nuclear power plant and said the two countries can play an important role to develop a terrorism-free stable world.
Chinese Communist Party leader Zheng Xiaosong praised Sheikh Hasina for economic development in Bangladesh and improving the well-being of the people and maintaining stability in the country. Australian State MP of New South Wales from Labor Party Hugh McDermott said there are "so much common" between his party and the Awami League. Italian ruling party MP Khalid Chaouki appreciated Bangladesh's role against terrorism and violence. He thanked Sheikh Hasina for her fight against terrorism, saying she was doing a 'great job'. Canada's opposition Conservative Party leader Deepak Obhrai, Dr. Ram Sharma Mahat from Nepal, Sri Lankan Religious Affairs Minister AH Mohamad Hasheem, and Bhutan's Minister of Information and Communications Dina Nath Dungyel also spoke on the occasion and praised the leadership of Sheikh Hasina and Awami League in Bangladesh.
Additionally, the first day of the conference was also addressed by top leaders of the Bangladesh Awami League-led 14 Party Grand Alliance and leaders from the various district units of the party representing the eight divisions of the country. Those district level leaders representing the divisions who did not get the opportunity to speak on the first day were afforded to give brief speeches on the second day before the council took place.
In her inaugural address, Sheikh Hasina urged Awami League leaders and workers to take oaths to stamp out poverty from Bangladesh asking them to make lists of poor in their respective areas for their rehabilitation so they could live with dignity. She expressed her firm determination to free the country from poverty to materialise the dream of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She also reiterated her stance against terrorism saying none would be allowed to use the soil of Bangladesh against any country. She added that Bangladesh would act as a conduit between the East and West for economic prosperity.
She pointed out the programmes taken by her government for socio-economic development of the country, such as social safety net (SSN) programmes, development of agriculture and welfare of farmers, development of communications and infrastructure, promotion of 'micro-savings', development of ICT under 'Digital Bangladesh' vision, promotion of investment and trade by setting up economic zones etc. She also highlighted the steps taken for women empowerment, employment generation and addressing the adverse impacts of climate change. She expressed her firm determination that Bangladesh by 2021 would be a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041.
Sheikh Hasina recalled the glorifying long history of the party founded in 1949 saying Awami League was the main political platform through which people of Bangladesh achieved everything that they have earned so far. She added that since its inception Awami League is struggling for the political and economic emancipation of the people. Congratulating the countrymen alongside the party leaders and workers on the occasion of the council, Sheikh Hasina said their immense sacrifice has made it possible for Awami League to take a long journey over the decades and come to the present stage. She also paid her homage to the founders of the party and other leaders for taking forward the struggle for establishing the rights of the people. She paid her glowing tributes to the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, four national leaders, martyrs of independence and 20,000 mothers and sisters who lost their sanctity for independence and offered her due respect to the Freedom Fighters who were in the frontline of the War of Liberation.
In her address in the second session of the first day, Sheikh Hasina vowed to build a "Sonar Bangla" as dreamt by Bangabandhu by fulfilling basic needs of the people. She said "Our aim is to materialize the ideology of Bangabandhu by dedicating our life to the welfare of the people ... we would build Sonar Bangla by meeting basic needs of the people". She added that the politics and policies of Awami League should ensure that there is not a single hungry or homeless person in Bangladesh. She said: "Bangabandhu taught us the politics of doing welfare of the people and serving them and we want to follow that politics."
In his address, the outgoing General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam gave an emotional account of his ties to the party. He said: "We have seen many conspiracies against Awami League, but none was able to destroy it, none will be. Sheikh Hasina will lead the party as long she is here among us". He added in a choked voice that: "Awami League is not just a political party, it is an emotion, the emotion is related to its millions of leaders and activists, blood of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and martyrs of War of Liberation....The amount of blood the activists of Awami League have shed, the sacrifices they made from Language Movement till today is incomparable. No party in the world has shed so much blood, made such sacrifices. When even a single activist of my party gets hurt, I feel the pain as I was born in Awami League family".
Commenting on his two terms as the General Secretary of the Party, Syed Ashraf said: "I was general secretary of this party for two terms. I led the party following the advice of my leader Sheikh Hasina. There was no rift, no conspiracy in the party. We all worked jointly for the party under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. Now our party is stronger than ever". Terming the 20th National Council as a historic one, he stated: "We will take some groundbreaking initiatives and make planning to lead our party and develop our country in the future from this council. An evil force is trying to destabilize the country by spreading fear through extremists, militants. They are plotting to bring an unelected government to power and destroy democracy".
Day 2: Council Session
The proceedings of the second day, including the party's actual Council, were held at the premises of Institute of Engineers Bangladesh (IEB), Dhaka. The highlight of the day's session was the election of the President and General Secretary of the party. Advocate Yusuf Hossain Humayun acted as the Election Commissioner while Party President Sheikh Hasina chaired the session. Around 6,500 councilors took part in the council to elect new leadership for the next three years. Incumbent Party President and Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was re-elected unanimously as the President of Bangladesh for the eighth straight term. Her name was proposed by Presidium Member of the Party and Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury MP. Existing Presidium Member of the Party and Honorable Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader was unanimously elected as the new General Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League, taking over from his very successful predecessor Syed Ashraful Islam. In fact, Obaidul Quader's name was proposed by Syed Ashraf himself which was then seconded by Advocate Jahangir Kabir Nanak.
Later, the Party President Sheikh Hasina announced the name of newly elected Presidium Members and Joint General Secretaries of the party. The presidium members are Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Begum Matia Chowdhury, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Mohammad Nasim, Kazi Zafarullah, Syed Ashraful Islam, Advocate Sahara Khatun, Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Nurul Islam Nahid, Dr. Abdur Razzak, Muhammad Faruk Khan, Advocate Abdul Mannan Khan, Ramesh Chandra Sen and Pijush Bhattacharya. The Party President added that the names of two other Presidium Members would be announced after discussion with all concerned. The Joint General Secretaries announced are the existing three, namely, Mahbub-Ul Alam Hanif, Dr. Dipu Moni, and Jahangir Kabir Nanak, while Abdur Rahman was the new inclusion. Existing Treasurer of the Party HN Ashiqur Rahman was announced to continue his role. The Party President also announced that the name of other secretaries and members would be declared after discussion with all concerned.
Apart from committee formation, the session also dealt with some organizational issues. The councilors endorsed its amended constitution, expanding its central working committee by nine more posts. Abdur Razzak, Chairman of the constitution committee, proposed the amendments which were unanimously adopted. The amendment paved the way for creating four more posts for Presidium Members, one for Joint Secretary, one for Organising Secretary and two for general members have been created to make 81 posts.
When addressing the councilors in her introductory and concluding speeches, Party President Sheikh Hasina made a number of important comments and gave some crucial directions to the party workers and leaders. She asked them to take all out preparations for the next general elections for a third consecutive win. She signaled that all activities of the party would be run by keeping the next elections in mind. She commented that it is imperative for Bangladesh Awami League to win the elections to ensure the current pace of development taking across the country. She emphasized that the win must come through elections the credibility of which are beyond question. She asked the party workers and leaders to go door-to-door in their respective areas and project the successes of the Awami League Government to them. She noted that the message must be conveyed that true socioeconomic development of the country only happens when Awami League is in power.
Sheikh Hasina stressed on honesty in politics. She termed honesty as a 'precious asset' and stated that she wanted to see honesty among the leaders and workers of her party. She expressed her wish to see a new chief of Awami League in her lifetime. Emotionally charged, she said that her love for the party was incalculable. She noted that all her life she gave more time for the party than she gave to her own children. Like her first day's speech, she again highlighted her vision of building a poverty-free nation. She asked the leaders and activists to prepare a list of ultra poor who are homeless and distressed in their respective areas so that the government can help in their uplift and rehabilitation.
Role of CRI
All throughout the two days of the 20th National Conference, the party's research wing, Centre for Research and Information (CRI) had an extensive presence. CRI lined up a host of activities and creations designed especially for the attendees at the council, publicize the history of the party as well to ensure maximum engagement of the people at large with the event in question. Pursuant to these aims, the organization prepared four booklets especially keeping in mind the history of the party and its current President and Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. These publications were distributed for free on the first day of the conference at the venue. Their online versions have been made available to download for free at the official webpage of the 20th National Conference (council2016.albd.org).
In order to highlight the history of the party so far, CRI set up a number of creative and visually stunning installations throughout the venue of the conference. These included: a timeline of the life story of Honorable Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina dating from 1981-1996; a photo exhibition on the life and struggles of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; a creative installation on the 7th March speech of Bangabandhu and another installation on the journey of Bangladesh Awami League from 1948 to 2008.
CRI set up its own stall in the 20th National Conference venue at Suhrawardy Udyan, where it put up for free dissemination and display its various materials and publications and arranged for the screening of various development-oriented videos and audio-video presentations all through the day. CRI also helped the ALBD Web Team (Bangladesh Awami League's online wing) to set up and manage their stall at the venue. This stall put up for free dissemination and display various printed and audio-visual materials on development, the party and its leaders. The stall also contained laptops and tablet PCs where visitors could register as online supporters of Bangladeshi and browse the party's online platforms.
In order to publicize the successes of Bangladesh in the last seven years, CRI prepared 10 leaflets highlighting the comparative development of 10 sectors in the last 7 years. These concerned economic prosperity, power & energy, socio-economic development, agriculture and food security, Digital Bangladesh, communications infrastructure, rule of law, education, health and women empowerment. CRI also prepared 3 posters and 2 placards for free distribution.
CRI helped ensure maximum engagement of the people at large, from home and abroad, with the 20th National Conference by arranging live streaming of the first day of the event from the venue. In the run up to the 20th National Conference, CRI provided research and design help to Bangladesh Awami League's web team (www.albd.org) to conduct two specific campaigns on their social media, Facebook and Twitter on the history of Awami League since its inception and the specific history of the various councils which have taken place over the years.
At the venue, CRI arranged a special 'Let's Ta!k with Bangladesh Awami League' where local level leaders and workers and youth activists and supporters of the party got the unique opportunity to ask any questions to their young central leaders, MPs and policymakers. The topics discussed include national and local development, youth engagement, ministry-wise discussions, international and national politics, publicity of governmental successes and the need for wide dissemination of political and government messages.
The following leaders took part in the discussion: Mr. Yeafesh Osman (Central Science and Technology Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League and Minister of Science and Technology), Mr. Nasrul Hamid (Central Committee Member and State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources), Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak (Central Committee Member and State Minister for ICT Division), Ms. Tarana Halim (State Minister for Post and Telecommunications), Mr. Nahim Razzaq MP, Mr. Nazrul Islam Babu MP, Dr. Murad Hassan MP and Mr. Md. Shafiqul Islam Shimul MP.