Netizens of Bangladesh are divided on removal of Muhammad Yunus

March 11, 2011
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It all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set off a chain of events which triggered much controversy on microcredit and Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus and resulted in the investigation of operations of Grameen Bank, which he founded.

Muhammad Yunus speaks at the Global Think Tank Summit
Muhammad Yunus. Image by Ken Davies. Copyright Demotix.

In a latest development of this saga, the central bank ordered the removal of Yunus (70) on the grounds that he had overstayed as head of Grameen operations violating the law (the retirement age in commercial bank is 60). Dr. Yunus is challenging this in court and thousands of supporters protested across the country against his removal. This has made the headlines of many media.The fingers are pointing towards the government as the earlier reaction of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was a bit too harsh – as she mentioned “in the name of poverty alleviation he (Yunus) is sucking blood from the poor”.

Ireen Sultana at BDNews24 Blog explains:

একজন সরকার প্রধানের মুখ থেকে এ ধরনের বক্তব্য সুষ্পষ্টভবাবে সরকারি অবস্থান এবং মনোভাবকে নির্দেশ করে। আর তাই যতই বলা হোক না কেন গ্রামীণ ব্যাংকের ব্যবস্থাপনা পরিচালক পদ থেকে ডঃ ইউনূসকে অব্যাহতি প্রদানের লিখিত নির্দেশ এসেছে বাংলাদেশ ব্যাংক থেকে, দেশি-বিদেশি প্রতিক্রিয়া ব্যক্তকারিরা এটাকে সরকারি সিদ্ধান্ত বলে মনে করছেন।

Statements like this coming from the head of the state clearly states the position and intention of the government. Although others may say that the direction to to remove Dr. Yunus from the post of Managing Director of Grameen Bank came from Bangladesh Bank (Central Bank), those who are reacting on this are presuming that this is the decision of the government.

The popular belief is that Yunus is being seen as a political counterpart because of his failed attempt to join politics in 2007. Ireen Sultana asks:

একজন অ-রাজনৈতিক ব্যক্তিত্ব কি করে একটি রাজনৈতিক দলের প্রতিপক্ষ হয়ে উঠতে পারেন?

How can be a non-political person be a political counterpart of a political party?

Philanthrocapitalism blog comments in a post titled “leave Yunus alone”:

As Grameen points out, it is owned by its 8 million or so borrowers, most of them relatively poor women. It remains to be seen if the voice of these owners will be heard. There is a real danger that what is in effect an attempted takeover by the Bangladesh government will do serious damage to Grameen and the people it helps. While there are certainly examples of for-profit microlenders harming the poor, we think the greater harm to the poor is often done by the politicians who purport to be on their side.

Clearly the country has been divided on this issue. The opposition has been quick to back Yunus saying that he has been victim of vengeance. Netizens are also divided. Bloggers like Ichcha Manab thinks that this sudden decision to remove Yunus from the board is a disrespect to the Nobel Laureate and is a dent to the country’s image. Columnist Shamsher Chowdhury at The Financial Express says:

The lone Nobel laureate of Bangladesh should have been dealt with a little more dignity and respect. The entire saga clearly smells of jealousy, anger, vengeance and vendetta on the part of those who orchestrated the campaign against Prof Yunus. People at large are confused and would like to have a complete picture of what charges or irregularities Yunus is guilty of.

On the other hand Shafiur at Imperfect.World says:

For decades his zillions of fawning supporters have twisted the truth and failed to see the limited creature that microcredit is. I hope today that grin has been wiped off his face. For sure he is fighting back and he has powerful friends both at home and abroad. But this is a day to savour.

Some like Mahbub Morshed cannot understand what the fuss is all about as they think that Yunus’s credibility and achievements will not be lost if he is no longer the MD of Grameen operations.

Himu writes:

তিনি যদি এতই বিচক্ষণ আর বিবেচক হবেন, কেন এই প্রতিষ্ঠানটিকে স্বাভাবিক প্রশাসনিক প্রক্রিয়ায় যোগ্য কোনো পরিচালনা পর্ষদের কাছে হস্তান্তর করলেন না?

If he is so considerate and knowledgeable, why he did not transfer his responsibilities to a legal and efficient board of directors?

Alamgir concludes his post at Sachalayatan with this:

দারিদ্র্যকে জাদুঘরে পাঠাতে চেয়েছিলেন ড. ইউনূস। সেটা হবার নয়। তবে দরিদ্র মানুষের ভাগ্যের কিছুটা পরিবর্তন নিশ্চয়ই করতে পেরেছেন; কতটুকু পেরেছেন সেটা ভবিষ্যৎ বিচার করবে। সরকার আইনের দোহাই দিয়ে একজন বুড়ো মানুষকে বিদায় দিচ্ছে। যে মন্ত্রী সেটা করছেন তিনি আরো বুড়ো কিন্তু মন্ত্রী হবার জন্য বয়স, শিক্ষা, যোগ্যতা কোন বিষয় নয়। প্রধানমন্ত্রীও তাঁর পূর্বপ্রতিশ্রুত অবসর গ্রহণের বয়স পার করেছেন। দেখা যাক কী হয়।শেষ বিচারটা সবসময় জনগণই করবে। ড. ইউনূসের জন্য অনেক অনেক শুভ কামনা রইল।

Dr. Yunus wanted to send poverty to museum. But it is not to be. At least he could contribute to changing the fate of the poors in a limited way; to what extent he has achieved this, only time will tell. The government is sending an aged man home citing regulations. The minister who executed this order is a lot older than Yunus. But for Ministers age, education, capability does not matter. The Prime Minister also has already crossed the legal age limit for retirement. Lets see what happens.The citizens will judge at last. Our best wishes to Dr. Yunus.

Also published at Global Voice.

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10 Responses to Netizens of Bangladesh are divided on removal of Muhammad Yunus

  1. Nuruddin Azam
    March 11, 2011 at 5:34 am

    I would like to read an indepth analysis on the whole issue by Rezwan in the not so distant future.

  2. Nizam M. Selim
    March 11, 2011 at 5:53 am

    The principled issue, in my opinion, is NOT whether the Government is right, or whether Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank are right in their own individual and particular articulations and assertions. The PRINCIPLED ISSUE here is that whether the Government of Sheikh Hasina/Awami League has/have been pursuing a transparent, accountable, honest, open, inclusive and uniform standard, procedures and practices in governance. Or, whether, there are double standards for Dr. Yunus and party apparatchicks.

    As a matter of hypothesis, and for the sake of an argument, if Dr. Yunus and his acts and deeds are labeled as bordering on ‘corruption’ and personal gratification at the expense of public and borrowed money, Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League have to make clear to the citizens/netizens whether, in the same breath, they are beyond reproach! If one recalls, Awami League/BAKSAL under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had made the country bankrupt and a “Bottomless Basket” after 1972! The famine of 1974 under the BAKSAL government is still vivid in many of our memories. The ‘Kangaroo Courts’ after 1972 are also reminiscent of a plague of witch hunts and retribution of the opposition by the private armies unleashed by an autocratic government under the veneer and guise of “Democracy” under one-party rule.

    The fine point here is simple: if Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank are liable to be axed under the law for digressing from the RULE OF LAW, the same law should uniformly apply for thugs, “Maastans”, “Goons”, hooligans and arm-twisters under the umbrella of the political parties of Bangladesh. Why persecute Dr. Yunus alone and only? Aren’t there hordes and countless numbers of Bangladeshis, politicians, bureaucrats, wart and all, who have been plundering and looting the wealth and assets of the State and the Nation? Why should these people go Scot-free? If accused “Murderers” can be pardoned by this Awami League Government, why raise a ruckus and furor about Dr. Yunus and the Grammen Bank?

    At the least, Dr. Yunus, however controversial he may be, has to his credit the founding of “Structured Capital” in the form of various enterprises in Bangladesh. These are the wealth and assets of Bangladesh; they shouldn’t be destroyed by the Awami League, as they did all the enterprises after 1972, and as they have done to the Bourses/Share Market in 1997 and 2011, and as they have done with the National Exchequer and its reserves in 1972-1975, 1996-2001, and as they have now done again after 2008. Please check the balance sheet of the Bangladesh Bank and the State.

    Albeit, it is very much plausible and probable that Dr. Yunus might have taken advantage of his vaunted stature and connections to cut corners and by-pass the regulatory regime and normal strictures and regulations for evasion of Taxes/Tariff and Duties while arguably building up his empire. Surely, he didn’t do it alone; others in government were hands in glove with him, of course. And, those who had colluded with him in his scheme of things must have benefited quid pro quo. Why NOT expose them as well, if at all? Why only persecute Dr. Yunus? WHY NOT INVESTIGATE AND EXPOSE THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS FUNCTIONARIES FOR THE SHARE MARKET SCAMS OF 1997 AND 2011 that had whittled away billions of Taka from the people and the country by way of corrupt and malpractices? Isn’t that a greater sin? Isn’t that a BIGGER CORRUPTION?

  3. somel
    March 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    It is expected from a desperate and jealous prime minister of Bangladesh. I have nothing much to say about it. She must understand that she is daughter of Sheik Mujib.Who is father of nation and therefore she has nothing to lose.

  4. Highway
    March 12, 2011 at 7:11 am

    The true story has become out from Attorney General Mahhbubey Alam’s pocket, People knew the wish of Mr. Alam, in one side it is good that Bangladesh would awarded twice Noble price in Peace.
    Bangladesh Bank (through using some bodies power) has fallen USA Govt. in “Trouble”, Our concern is here near about 50% or plus Gmts BD exporting to USA.
    It is present govt. Practice to make more trouble when country is facing major Problem Like, food price high, electricity and gas crises, corruption in every point, foreign employee crises, Stock market crises, BDR or BGB Trial, War Criminal Trial; to avoid all major issues Govt created new issue now which has spread in home and aboard.

  5. Prince
    March 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I think the bucks stop at what fellow blogger Mr. Nizam Selim said above : ” The PRINCIPLED ISSUE here is that whether the Government of Sheikh Hasina/Awami League has/have been pursuing a transparent, accountable, honest, open, inclusive and uniform standard, procedures and practices in governance.”

    Sample of Governance :

    ” Elected Chairman of northern district Natore Upazilla Mr Sanaullah Nur Babu was murdered in a public place in broad daylight. Video footage clearly identified persons committing the murder as local Awami League activists under clearly identified leadership of local leader Mr. Zakir.

    This Mr Zakir has never been arrested after PM Hasina publicly defended him and putting the blame on BNPs’s internal conflict.”
    ………………………………………………….

    Reception for murder suspects on bail
    Fri, Mar 11th, 2011 12:26 am BdST
    Natore, Mar 10 (bdnews24.com) — The 11 men accused of an opposition leader’s murder have been given a grand reception after they were released on bail.

    Suspects of Sanaullah Nur Babu’s murder were released from Natore Jail on Thursday evening after a High Court order on Mar 6 granted them bail. The victim’s family expressed alarm and dismay at the incident.

    Local Awami League leaders received them with garlands at the jail gate around 7pm and later took them on a motorcade for a reception where they issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the witnesses.

    The accused are Russel Hosain alias ‘Rappu’, Mohammad Rezaul Karim alias Rikon, 25; Hashem Mridha, 34; Gautam Ghosh, 22; Abdul Khaleque, 28; ‘Habib’, 24′ Bablu Molla, 24, Babu Molla, 25, Badsha Mandal, Ashraful Islam and Lutfar Rahman.

    A High Court bench of justices Shamsul Huda and Abu Bakar Siddiqui granted their bail on Mar 6 subject to Natore’s chief judicial magistrate’s satisfaction.

    Lawyer of the accused, Arifur Rahman, submitted the bail orders to chief judicial magistrate Mohammad Sharif Uddin on Thursday morning and the bails were granted for Tk 10,000 each.

    On Oct 8 last year Baraigram Upazila chairman and BNP leader Sanaullah Noor Babu was chopped and beaten in public when the local BNP brought out a procession as part of the party’s month-long protest. Babu later died in the hospital.

    At the reception ceremony the prime suspects, district Awami League publication and research secretary Zakir Hossain, said, “We did not kill Babu. But some people in Banpara have held meetings, processions, human chains demanding our punishment.”

    “Within seven days the Banpara businessmen will have to prove we were involved in this murder. Otherwise, we vow that we will judge them ourselves.”

    Another accused, Khokon Molla, said, “Not seven days, they will have to prove it within 72 hours. Otherwise actions will be taken against them.”

    He also alleged that the video depicting the incident of the murder was a fake one. “It was doctored by the media. The video shows fake images,” he claimed.

    BABU’S WIFE ALARMED

    Mahua Noor alleged that she had been threatened to withdraw the case.

    “They have threatened that they won’t let me out of my house. Those who did not receive bail are roaming around free…I can’t think where to seek shelter with my children. Perhaps we’ll have to run away from the country,” she said.

  6. Sharmeen Haque
    April 6, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Yunus is trying to project himself as the saviour of the poor. The government should expose all the ordinances during fascist Fakruddin-Moeen’s unconstitutional rule during which he took advantage by promoting his commercial profit making ventures. Poverty alleviation was a smokescreen created by Yunus to cheat and deceive.

    In my own village farmers and landless curse him and Grameen Bank for taking away their petty land through the microcredit debt trap. Many of them have fled their villages and hiding in Dhaka as rickshawpullers, coolies and day labourers. His microcredit scam has also been responsible for mass migration of village folks to urban areas causing major problems.

    I am glad that the megalomaniac has finally been asked to go. People like Yunus talk about democracy but they are the biggest autocrats.

  7. Mashrafee
    April 6, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Barrister Rokonuddin Mahmud, a lawyer for Yunus is against the Hatirjheel restoration project. After having failed to defend Yunus he has now embarked on destroying Bangladesh’s ecology. With money these so called lawyers can easily be purchased.

    Rokonuddin Mahmud now has been hired by BGMEA to save that illegal structure sitting on the main icon of Dhaka’s strangulated waterways.

    The BGMEA Bhaban should have been demolished along with the Rang’s building. There should not be any reprieve for illegality in RAJUK.

    THE GOVERNMENT MUST DEMOLISH THIS BUILDING AT ONCE OR THERE WILL BE HUGE DEMONSTRATIONS BY ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN DHAKA SOON.

    Lawyers in this country have no ethics. If NGOs, donors or any other tycoons pay them handsomely they can even rewrite our constitution in favor of the war criminals. That is why I have lost faith in unscrupulous lawyers like Rokonuddin Mahmud. People like rokonuddin are a menace to earth’s environment.

  8. Highway
    April 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    History will write after 100 years how Dr. Yunus had worked for poor people, History will not write anything for us who are talking or writing in favour or against of Dr. Yunus.
    We have no idea if History will keep in his mind Sk. Hasina’s name or Not. But if write then History will be written Sk. Hasina was an enemy of Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Who mentioned to Dr. Yunus as “Blood Sucker”

  9. Highway
    April 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Are anybody thinking that BD Supreme court Justices provide their judgement as per their oath or they wait some body’s direction from vanishing or different place

  10. Arefin
    May 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    The universal poet, philosopher, painter, banker, educationist, altruist, pacifist, agriculturist and literateur Rabindranath Tagore thought of microcredit long time before anyone in this subcontinent had conceived the idea. He even gave microcredit to a village in Bangladesh from his own pocket which resulted in the villagers freeing themselves from the shackles of the vicious debt trap that Grameen was accused of by many village folks in Bangladesh. Akhter Hamid Khan and many others just followed his footsteps with the microcredit idea. Yunus can never claim to be its originator.

    The Yunus saga took this long because of Yunus’s arrogance and defiant attitude. No one is indispensable. Yunus had his over-extended tenure at Grameen.

    He was catapulted to fame by a coterie because his idea was bought by the concerned parties and marketed globally to fight increasing poverty especially in the West.

    But his launching of a political party while heading the bank, illegal profiteering offshoots under the bank’s umbrella, engineering of a army putsch to bulldoze democracy and, following the debacle his partisan tilt towards Khaleda Zia and her war criminal allies the Jamaat-e-Islami brought his imminent ruin.

    The government must find a dynamic person to head the bank. Removing Yunus for his illegal grab on GB should not give the Bangladesh government a sense of relief and complacency. The GOB must deliver and enforce strict banking regulations so that such irregularities do not occur in the future no matter who he is. The parliament must enact laws to rein in future megalomaniacs. The South Asian subservient culture of bowing down to Western pressure to protect their proteges must go.

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