Monday, May 09, 2011

Nobel laureate Yunus says his removal was politically-influenced

SALEEM SAMAD

DESPITE THE supreme court had upheld Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus removal from the position of managing director of Grameen Bank by the central bank he is apparently not prepared to give in.

It’s unusual of pioneer of banking for the poor to break his silence, he made a press statement on Saturday. In a written statement, he explained why he appealed to the higher court seeking cancellation of the central bank’s order removing him from his position in the bank he founded, writes news portal bdnews24.com.

Yunus debated that some dubbed Grameen Bank he founded is a non-governmental organization. In reality, Grameen Bank is not a government owned bank, nor is it a NGO. Micro-lender Grameen Bank is a non-formal bank owned by the poor people, created by a special law. The microcredit guru explained that he must ensure that the achievements of the last forty years are not lost.

"I went to the court for specific reasons," he said. He thought it was a right decision to appeal the judgment of the higher court as the central bank gave him little room to explain his position before issuing the termination letter. The letter mentioned that Yunus held the position for the last eleven years illegally.

The statement reads, "I felt that this letter was not legally correct, and through this letter, not only was I wronged, but so was Grameen Bank. Nine elected members of the Board of Directors of Grameen Bank also felt the same.

"That is why the nine members of the Board and I filed separate writs in the High Court. We wanted these wrongs to be corrected. Therefore, we had to seek justice through all avenues offered in the Bangladeshi judicial system."

Yunus and the nine directors filed separate petitions challenging the legality of his removal, but the higher court in its verdict on Mar. 8 dismissed the petitions.

The central bank on Mar. 2 removed the Nobel laureate as the managing director for allegedly flouting rules when he was reappointed in 1999.

It said Yunus, 70, had no legal authority to act as the managing director, since its Board had not obtained the Bangladesh Bank's sanction to re-appoint him beyond the bank's official retirement age.

Yunus' legal team argued that Grameen Bank had been given special status and it was exempt from the rule.

The fate of 40 million poor people are connected to this debacle, he argued. The importance is to save the future of Grameen Bank and also to protect the hopes and dreams of the over 8 million borrowers. These borrowers are also the owners of 96.5 percent of the bank’s shares.

Yunus doubts whether there is a growing doubt as to whether any civil society effort can survive and retain its character and independence in this politically-influenced environment.

People have the impression that the interest rates on loans from Grameen Bank are very high. This is not true, which Yunus disputes. The interest rates on the bank loans are the lowest in the Bangladesh’s microfinance sector. The highest interest rate is 20 percent, on a declining basis and all of our interest rates are simple interest, says Review Committee’s Report.

Forty years ago, 85 percent of the population of our country was below the poverty line. Today, Yunus boast’s that 32 percent of the Bangladesh population is below the poverty line. In the next 20 years, is it impossible for us to raise this remaining 32 percent of our population above the poverty line?

Bangladesh became a role model for the developing world through the actions of its civil society, and the success of these actions. This catapulted Bangladesh into global attention, Yunus concluded.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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