Yunus speaks politics, says Awami League law minister

Mohsinul Karim/Dhaka, Aug 24 (bdnews24.com)

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed on Friday termed Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus’s comment about the amendment of Grameen Bank law ‘politically motivated’.

‘ইউনূসের বক্তব্য রাজনৈতিক উদ্দেশ্যপ্রণোদিত’

It’s a black day

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Speaking to bdnews24.com, he said the founding Managing Director of the microlender is running a ‘smear campaign’ against the government.

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“Professor Yunus has issued such a statement out of political motivation. BNP leader Moudud Ahmed also said if voted to power, they would cancel the amendments brought to the law. These types of speeches are completely political (in nature),” Shafique said.

The government published the amendment regarding appointment of the Managing Director in a gazette notification on Wednesday. In a statement, Yunus later said the day would be written as a ‘black day in the nation’s history and accused the government of stripping the Nobel-prize winning organisation of its independence and achievements.

In his reaction, Shafique said, “A small amendment has been made to make the process of appointing Managing Director to the bank more transparent. How can he equate that to ‘destroying the bank’? He is propagating a motivated negative campaign.”

Yunus termed the amendment the beginning of the end of the glorious history of Grameen Bank and said the bank will be operated under direct or indirect influence of the government.

Defending the point, the Law Minister said, “This is simply a smear campaign as by this (the amendment) nobody has either been empowered or stripped of power.”

The amended ordinance empowers the Chairman the board of director of the bank to form a selection committee for appointing its Managing Director after having the matter discussed at the board, explains the minister.

The provision of having a selection committee was entertained by its law previously and it was the board which was responsible for forming the committee. Now the Chairman is responsible for the formation of selection committee, the minister added.

“The Chairman will constitute the selection committee with experts and skilled people. The committee will select a panel of three eligible candidates and place it before the board,” said Ahmed.

The directorial board will pick one from the three after taking Bangladesh Bank’s approval and will appoint him as the MD of the bank, Shafique said.

According to him, the ordinance was amended twice earlier including the one made during the tenure of a military government.

“Currently Parliament is not in session. So, the law has been amended through the ordinance to hasten the process of appointing a Managing Director for the bank,” the minister further said.

Regarding Yunus’s claim of the bank ‘owned by poor women,’ the Law Minister said, “As he (Yunus) is raising the point, did he ever provide the owners dividend? Owners in a business will get dividend, that’s the rule. But he never gave the owners dividend, instead they themselves took benefits.”

“There are laws in the country. The bank is run by law. He (Yunus) should not be allowed to do what he likes to do with the bank. It should not be also like that what he is saying or doing will be considered as law. A public statutory body cannot run according to his (Yunus) whims.”

Referring to the days when Yunus was the bank’s MD, Shafique said, “He himself violated the law. He performed the duties of Managing Director until 70 years in breach of law. The government has taken all the steps in accordance with the law. He (Yunus) left after he lost in the court. He (Yunus) should not be talking about this anymore.”

Yunus had been the chief executive since the Grameen Bank was established in 1983 through a martial law ordinance. Yunus was nearly 71 when the Bangladesh Bank relieved him of the position for being past 60 in a notice in March 2011. He went to the court and lost a series of legal battles, finally in the Supreme Court, eventually losing his hold on the institution he is credited with building.

Following his removal, the government refused to bow down to pressure from US and international donor organisations to reappoint Yunus. It also ruled out a proposal to form a committee, led by Yunus, to look for a new Managing Director.

In 2006, Yunus shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Grameen Bank for their initiative to provide micro-credit for poverty alleviation. Four years later, both were flung into public glare after a Norwegian TV documentary revealed that country’s aid agency Norad’s annoyance in the late 1990s over Yunus’ handling of aid money meant for the Bank.

The documentary revealed illegal transfer of money from the account of Grameen Bank. The documentary led the government to form a committee to scrutiny the activities of the bank which revealed widespread irregularities in the activities.