BD following Westminster democracy, says PM

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Staff Correspondent: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Bangladesh is following Westminster democracy and has been working hard to strengthen its all democratic institutions.

"Though we've been trying to follow Westminster type of democracy, it's a difficult job. Anyway, we're improving gradually to this end," she said.

The Prime Minister was addressing a reception at the office of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), UK Chapter, at British Parliament here on Monday. Chairman of All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh Keith Vaz accorded the reception to the lawmakers who were elected for the first time to the British Parliament.

Sheikh Hasina said her vision is to build a Bangladesh which will be free from poverty where the key factors will be democracy and secularism.

Thirty British MPs, including Rushana Ali, Dr Rupa Huq, Jimi Fitzpatrick, Anne Main, Kate Osamer, Catherin West, Jonathon Shaw, Andy Slater, Baroness Paula Uddin and CPA UK Chapter Chief Executive Andrew Tuggy were present.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow greeted the Prime Minister as she alighted from the car.

About secularism, the Prime Minister said the people of all religious faiths have the freedom to practise the rituals of their religions and that was enshrined in Bangladesh constitution.

The Prime Minister recalled with gratitude the British support for Bangladesh during its tumultuous birth and also in her fight to establish democracy in Bangladesh.

She sought more British support to continue Bangladesh's ongoing development, and said Bangladesh is making progress in every sector but it needs more support from Britain as the great country has long been supporting it.

Terming Britain as Bangladesh's major development partner, Sheikh Hasina hoped that the two countries would continue to work together for mutual benefits.

She recollected how the British MPs stood by her during the 2007-2008 tenure of a caretaker government which had refused to let her enter Bangladesh, but she returned home amid international and local pressure who also forced the government to hold parliamentary elections.

Turning to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent Bangladesh visit, Sheikh Hasina said she told her Indian counterpart, "We've a common vision of rooting out poverty from the region forever."

Responding to the speech of a British parliament member in which he raised the issue of safety of the workers in Bangladesh's readymade garment industry, she said her government always works for the downtrodden people like workers, farmers and the common people. And has started taking care how the workers can get a good atmosphere in their workplace."

Congratulating the British MPs who were elected for the first time, the Prime Minister said they are performing their responsibilities as baroness and members of parliament.

Sheikh Hasina said the people of Bangladesh struggled for establishing democracy for a long time. "But you are lucky that you are enjoying democratic system," she said.

In his welcome address, Keith Vaz praised the Prime Minister for her courageous work to establish a strong Bangladesh and that it was a great honour to have her at the programme.

Tulip Siddique, the new Bangladeshi-origin Labour MP and niece of the Prime Minister, said she has learned many things from her aunt Sheikh Hasina and that helped her be successful in the last polls. "We're very proud to have the Bangladesh Prime Minister in the British parliament," she said.

PM's IT advisor Sajeeb Wajed Joy, who was specially invited to speak at the event, said Bangladesh has made great strides in the IT sector with villages now connected with internet. This was due to the "Digital Bangladesh" vision of the Prime Minister, he added.

Anne Maine, an MP of the Conservative Party, also spoke about the age-old friendship between Bangladesh and Britain.

PM's Media Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, PM's Press Secretary AKM Shameem Chowdhuri and Bangladesh High Commissioner to Britain Md Abdul Hannan were present on the occasion.