Saturday, July 13, 2024
বাড়িenglishIs Dr. Yunus above the law?

Is Dr. Yunus above the law?

  • Nooh-Ul-Alam Lenin

Nobel Prizes, no doubt, are the most-prestigious awards in the world. Since 1901, the awards have been given in five categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. In 1968, an economic sciences prize was added as a Nobel prize. However, these prizes have not been untouched by scandals. To be more specific, the Nobel Peace Prize has a history of controversy and resentment. Five of the six Nobel Prizes are chosen in Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is a completely Norwegian affair, with the winners selected and announced by a Norwegian parliamentary committee. The peace award, in particular, is often accused of being politicised. The award has been criticised for its faulty understanding of peace or for being politically motivated. The Nobel Peace Prize created a storm of criticism and controversy throughout the world when this award was given to war-monger Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, ousted racist President of South Africa Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, imperialist US President Barak Obama and even Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, who was responsible for the fall of Socialism in Soviet Union. More examples could be cited regarding this.

In 2006, Bangladeshi economist Dr. Mohammed Yusus was awarded the Noble Peace Prize. He was given the award not really for standing against any war, any conflict, any racial unrest nor any militant terrorism but just for initiating microfinance in Bangladesh. He and the Grameen Bank, which he founded, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, highly influenced by the USA. Like Yunus, the committee conferred this award on a number of occasions on a number of controversial individuals in the past. Therefore, left-leaning renowned US intellectual Noam Chomsky has rightly labeled the Nobel Peace Prize, saying that the award is given not really considering the quality but on the basis of the interest of world-capitalism.

Anyway, when Grameen Bank’s former Managing Director Mohammed Yunus received the Noble Peace Prize, people of Bangladesh became happy in general. Overwhelmed with joy Dr. Yunus then rushed to meet the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and President Yazuddin Ahmed. But he never felt the need to meet the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. Despite that a team from Awami League, led by General Secretary Abdul Jalil greeted Dr. Yunus in his office with a flower bouquet.

After winning such a prestigious award, Dr. Yunus did not even care to show his respect to our martyred freedom fighters or language martyrs by placing wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar at the National Memorial in Savar, which is a tradition in Bangladesh. This came to us as a grave shock. Some friends of Dr Yunus claim that he paid homage to language martyrs once in 2006. But that was the last time he did so. Seeing this, those who became happy for Dr. Yunus’ Nobel win were stunned and shocked. And their surprise is still going on as Dr. Yunus, a close ally of US Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, never observes any National Day of Bangladesh. Whether it is Central Shaheed Minar, National Memorial or Martyred Intellectuals Memorial, it does not matter to Dr. Yunus to pay visit to these sacred places on the National Days of our country. He is also never seen in any Ekushey Book Fair neither celebrating Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla calendar. Can a patriot and secular person do this? He could never show respect to Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman let alone mention the glorious history of Liberation War in any of his speech. He was found silent even after the August 21 Grenade Attack, which was made to kill off the entire top brass of then-opposition Awami League. Possibly he did not become vocal against such a brutal attack only to please BNP’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman, his mother Khaleda Zia and the militants involved with them. Wasn’t he a Noble Peace Prize winner? How could he do so?

In 2006, BNP leaders thought that Dr. Yunus was their man. But BNP’s that fascination ended soon when after one-eleven changeover, this ambitious son of Chattogram’s Sawdagor family thought that only he could run the country. He even started thinking that he was the most popular person in Bangladesh, neither Sheikh Hasina nor Khaleda Zia. And later he declared that he would form a new political party. But he failed tremendously when he tried to collect politicians from BNP, Awami League or left-leaning parties with the help of the then caretaker government and DGFI (Directorate General of Forces Intelligence) members. He was directly rejected by the politically conscious people of the country. As a result, an arrogant Dr. Yunus had to bid adieu to politics forever.

Yunus loves to make headlines. After winning the Nobel Prize, he overenthusiastically stated that he would send poverty to the museum by 2020. But his dream still remains a dream. Poverty could be reduced considerably or brought under control to the maximum level (which the incumbent government has done so fat). But sending poverty to the museum is an unreal dream.

During 1980s, a group of promising researchers from the BIDS (Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies) conducted a survey on social and financial outcome of microcredit finance undertaken by Grameen Bank. That research team was led by a young and prominent economist of that time Dr. Atiur Rahman. Later, he became the Governor of Bangladesh.  The research team had invited leaders from a total of 17 different organisations of farm labourers. The leaders including Rahmat Ali, President of Bangladesh Krishak League and Fazlul Hoque Khondoker, President of Krishak Samity, could not agree with Dr Atiur Rahman and others on some positive aspects of Grameen Bank and microcredit finance. They had to leave the meeting without having any positive resolution. Dr. Atiur and his team strongly adhered to the micro-credit system and the so-called micro-credit programme was brought before the nation. The peasant leaders in context of their field experience clearly stated that such small-scale loan programme was not a new concept. It existed in an institutional form by money-lenders under feudal system. However, there were no specific rules and regulations on the money lending system in feudalism. The rate of interest was also not socially recognised. Anyway, such micro-level loan programme of Grameen Bank just reestablished a capitalist banking system in place of the feudal exploitation, which was carried earlier by reckless money-lenders.  At this, feudal exploitation in rural areas became weaker and in the new system grassroots-level farmers became empowered. Still, Grameen Bank’s negative aspects emerged strongly in front of people. The rate of interest and conditions to payback credit simply repeated the way money-lenders used to exploit the poor in the past.  However, it cannot be denied that the plight of capitalism is much more humanitarian than that of feudalism.

In 2009, Awami League formed the government with a landslide victory. In the meantime, the tenure of Dr. Yunus as the Managing Director of Grameen Bank came to an end. As per the provision, there was no scope to retain him in the position of Grameen Bank’s MD. Taking old friendship with Dr. Yunus into cognizance, the then Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith visited him in person and fairly advised him to submit willful resignation from the aforesaid position. The Finance Minister too visited the office and residence of Dr. Yunus several times and pursued for his resignation. After a long and threadbare discussion between them, Dr. Yunus even agreed partially at first, but finally declined the proposal of Finance Minister Muhith.

Just for safeguarding the prestige of Dr. Yunus, similiar advice was also given from the side of honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He was even given a proposal to become an adviser of Grameen Bank to continue with his advisory activities there. But Dr. Yunus remained arrogant in favour of not leaving the position of the Managing Director. He had a definite perception that without him Grameen Bank would not survive and there would be a chaos as soon as he would get discharged or dismissed from the position of Managing Director. Consequently, on expiry of his due age of retirement, the government was compelled to say him goodbye from Grameen Bank. But on his departure, there happened no chaos inside Grameen Bank, rather the bank has improved its position and survives till now as a profit-earning organisation.  Being a distinguished Nobel laureate, how could he lower himself to grasp the position of a bank’s Managing Director? This situation has made his friends and admirers really shameful. The self-respect of Dr. Yunus also came into questions when he took the protection of law in this respect and failed to restore his position as Grameen Bank’s MD.

No Nobel laureate is above the law. Several lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Yunus for tax evasion by Grameen Bank workers and employees. In one tax evasion case, he had to pay the evaded tax amount after getting defeated. He could save his honour if he abode the verdict of the court in other cases too. But instead of doing that, Dr. Yunus has tried to show thumbs-down gesture to the real situation. He has managed to mobilise a total of 170 distinguished personalities of the world including a considerable number of Nobel laureates and pursued them to forward an open letter to the Prime Minister with a request to withdraw all the ongoing cases filed against him. The signature-holders of the request letter could not realise the fact that it is a direct interference in the domestic affairs of Bangladesh. It has also threatened the sovereignty our country. They undermined the independent judicial system of our country by standing here as a contesting party. By creating undue pressure with those distinguished personalities, Dr. Yunus wants to overpass the situation without facing any adjudication. Naturally, questions arise if he has not done anything unjust or illegal. Why does he feel so much shaky to contest the issues in question?

Can’t a Nobel laureate commit a crime? The reality is that even Nobel laureates have to face the music if they commit any crime. For example we can first mention Nobel Peace Prize winner Belarusian Ales Viktaravich Bialiatski was imprisoned for 10 years on charges of tax evation? Any clamor? Did he create any chaos for his imprisonment? Was there any statement for him from other Nobel laureates? No, possibly because this poor fellow does not have enough money to pay donation and make other Nobel laureates write for him. In the same way, Nobel Peace Prize winner Filipino journalist Maria Ressa had to lose her shoe shop as he had to carry on her trial in connection with the case filed against her for tax evasion. Have you heard any hue and cry from any global leader? No, nothing has been heard ever because there was no donation. Dr. Yunus is really lucky in this respect. He has been able to procure 160 numbers of signatures. Later, he could collect 15 more signatures with his financial fortune. So, everyone is not capable to donate others like Dr. Yunus.

Surprisingly, this open letter of Nobel laureates finally did not confine within the issue of Dr. Yunus. In their letter, the laureates had remarked that the national elections of 2014 and 2018 were not held appropriately. They further demanded that the upcoming election of the country should be free, fair and participatory with major parties taking part in it so that it could be an acceptable one.  From this very part of the open letter, the main intention of Dr. Yunus came out. It is not understandable what the connection is between the upcoming election and Dr. Yunus’ case. So, it is clear like daylight that Dr. Yunus himself drafted the mentioned open letter of Noble laureates. The Nobel laureates from different part of the world did not sit together in-person or online to discuss the issue and then signed over the drafted letter. Rather, they all signed the open letter as they were requested by Dr. Yunus personally or they all signed on it after being properly paid by appointed lobbyists.

If Dr. Yunus was politically honest, he would not stubborn in such way to the foreigners on a domestic affair of his own country and definitely he would not have considered himself to remain above the constitution of Bangladesh, laws of the country and its judicial system. Also, he would not have demanded to arrange trial of his offences through neutral judges. Who will select these neutral judges for him? Under which provision of the constitution such a neutral court could be formed? It is a general practice and constitutional system of the country that when a citizen is aggrieved of fair justice, he might seek remedy in the higher courts as per the provisions provided in the constitution. It is clearly evident that neither Dr. Yunus nor his so called Nobel laureates have faith on the constitution and judicial system of Bangladesh. When a citizen of the country is not adhering to the constitution and the judicial system of the country, we can ask is he really submissive to his own country?

Many people question me Dr. Yunus seems to be very much a pro-people person. But we do not see him stand by the people in any national calamity, be that political, economic, social or natural, whatever. Even during national calamities, he seems to be quiet reluctant to his due role. During floods, tidal bore, Covid-19 epidemic, health care, fighting terrorism and even in redressing water-logging problem and public sufferings of his own city Chattogram, Dr Yunus was never seen coming forward to extend his support and help people proactively.

Overall, Dr. Yunus is a son of our country. He should come out of his arrogance and consider his country as his mother. We would like to see him remain submissive to the country, its constitution, law and order and judiciary. We would also expect him to uphold the glorious tradition of the Bangalee nation and cultivate it in national and international arena. We hope he will become more polite and stand by people in crisis in disasters. We expect he will return to the mainstream not becoming the tool of imperialism and braving his political limitations. And this is how he could at least save his dignity of winning Nobel Peace Prize.

The writer is a member of the advisory council of Awami League.   








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