Latif Siddique will not be on the Cabinet, PM confirms

Sheikh Hasina has put days of speculations to rest saying Abdul Latif Siddique, who is facing fire for his snide remarks about the Hajj and Tabligh, will not be in her Cabinet.

Published : 3 Oct 2014, 11:44 AM
Updated : 4 Oct 2014, 09:25 AM

The prime minister made her government’s stance clear on Friday afternoon at a media call amid criticism over the telecoms minister's comments.

Hasina said that the government will not be held to account for anyone's “inconsiderate remarks”.

"I will do what I said, there's no doubt. I won't keep him in the Cabinet. He won't be in it," she said replying to a question.

However, the prime minister did not specify when her order would be executed.

"Some procedures must be followed in case of a minister's removal. (He) will have to resign if I give the order. Otherwise, (he) will be sacked."

"But for removing (a minister), the file will have to be sent to the president. The president is abroad to perform Hajj. I have asked the Cabinet Division to prepare the file on him (Siddique) and they are done with it,” the prime minister further said.

She said the cabinet secretary would take file to president when he gets back and that Siddique would be out once the president signed it.

Siddique, who has been at the helm of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, drew widespread condemnation after rubbishing the practice of Hajj and Tabligh Jamaat at a programme in New York on Sept 28.
A video clip of him making that statement kicked up a storm as it went viral on the internet and touched a few raw nerves within his party and beyond.
“So much manpower is wasted over the Hajj. Two million people are now in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. They have no work or role in production. They only eat and go abroad using the country’s money,” Siddique was heard saying in the video.
Since then, over two dozen cases have been filed against the senior Awami League leader at different courts in several districts of Bangladesh, accusing him of hurting religious sentiments.
The BNP and many Islamist organisations have demanded Siddique's immediate arrest. The BNP has also asked the government to punish him under the law.
Amid the ruckus, the ruling party said its chief Hasina had decided to sack Siddique from the Cabinet and the Awami League. Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu said similar things in his Friday's statement.
But everyone was interested to learn the fact from the prime minister at the press conference.
Friday's media call, on her recent tour of the US to attend the 69th UN General Assembly, was held at her official residence Ganabhaban.
She readout a written statement first greeting people on the occasion of the Hajj, Eid-ul-Azha and Durga Puja.
At the beginning of the question-answer session she said she knew what everyone wanted to ask her.
Inevitably, the first question was about Latif Siddique, to which Hasina said, "If anyone made an inconsiderate statement, it will certainly not be acceptable to us. So, we'll take necessary steps against him.
"We've already done that."
Replying to a question on whether the government was in a tight spot over the minister's comment, she said, "No."
"I don't think the government is under pressure. He (Siddique) is the one in trouble.
"What's the government fault here? It did not say anything. He (Siddique) will have to pay for his own doing."
She clarified that she ordered the minister's expulsion as the government would not accept anyone's comments or acts hurting religious sentiments.
"I had only boarded the plane when I learnt about it (Siddique's comments) and contacted once I was in London. I said we must take actions. I didn't delay a bit in making up my mind," the prime minister recalled.
Asked whether a political issue was being created out of the minister's comments, she said, "It's not something that can be used as an issue. The comments hurting religious sentiment cannot be acceptable to anyone."
On expelling the presidium member from the party, Awami League President Hasina said, "The party will have to discuss the matter of expulsion. The working committee will discuss the allegations and decide."
Replying to another question, she asserted: "It does not matter what the others say, I have faith in the people. Common people do not make a mistake... they are the ones I mainly trust. He (Siddique) is the one in trouble, not the Awami League and the government."
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher