Monday, April 25, 2011

Bangladesh probe found no wrongdoing of Nobel winner Muhammad Yunus

SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh said a government probe body did not discover any wrongdoings of the Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Monday admitted that the interest rate of the Grameen Bank is lowest among the micro-credit lenders in the country. His comments was made came after the government appointed probe body, to look into activities of Grameen Bank submitted its report to the finance minister.

Controversy about the bank began in November 2010 when the Norwegian state television NRK ran a documentary titled 'Caught in Micro Debt', that accused Yunus, the bank's managing director, of transferring funds to Grameen Kalyan, a sister concern, from the bank, breaching the agreement made with the fund's donor, Norwegian aid agency Norad, writes wire service bdnews24.com.

The government constituted a committee on January 12 in the wake of controversy about the pioneering micro finance institution, which shared the Nobel Peace prize with its founder Muhammad Yunus in 2006.

The probe report was submitted when French president Nicholas Sarkozy special envoy is visiting capital Dhaka to understand the development about the dismissal of Grameen Bank's managing director Muhammad Yunus.

The French envoy Martin Hirsch told journalists on Monday that he finds it 'surprising' and 'difficult to understand the difficulties' between the government, the Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus.

The envoy admitted that his mission to Bangladesh was to explore any scope for mediation for an amicable settlement to the issue, dispelling notions of interference in state affairs. The primary objective was to bring the government and Prof. Yunus together in the upcoming G-20 meeting.

He handed over a letter of president Sarkozy to prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday, said bdnews24.com said. The content of the letter was not disclosed.

Meanwhile, the largest circulated independent daily Prothom Alo in a first page article on Monday published a news article which says that government has decided to launch a campaign against Prof. Muhammad Yunus, pioneer of microfinance globally.

In a meeting at the Prime Minister Office attended also by security and intelligence services chiefs it was decided to inform the public that the bank’s founder have violated laws, ignored official norms and charging exorbitant interest rates from the poverty-stricken village women.

The unknown sources told the daily that an official memo on March 13 has been circulated to the Special Branch of police and police headquarters to take necessary action. However, the newspaper did not mention what kind of action by the police has been initiated.

Political scientist and economist Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman on Monday said such attempts by the authority would be suicidal. The government should take steps to save the most talked about micro-lending institution Grameen Bank should, he suggested. [ENDS]

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