Friday, May 6, 2011

Yunus Loses Last battle

All the legal processes and diplomatic efforts have exhausted as the highest court of Bangladesh has rejected the petition of Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus regarding his removal from Grameen Bank.    On Thursday, the full court of the Appellate Division, which simultaneously heard another petition filed by nine GB directors against the High Court order that backed sacking of Yunus, dismissed the recall plea. The full court had ended hearings on the petition on Wednesday.    The central bank on March 2 removed the Nobel laureate as the micro-lender's managing director for allegedly flouting rules when he was reappointed in 1999.    Yunus and the nine directors filed separate petitions challenging the legality of his removal, but the High Court in its verdict on March 8 dismissed the petitions.    The Appellate Division also upheld the High Court verdict on April 5 when Yunus and the nine directors prayed for further hearing and recalling of the apex court judgement.    Earlier Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused Yunus—-who had briefly floated his own political party in 2007 during the military- backed caretaker government, of using 'tricks' to avoid taxes and ' sucking blood of the poor' with his bank's loans.         GB employees' agitation    Meanwhile, about 26 ,000 employees of Grameen Bank and its allied organizations throughout the country have begun a work stoppage immediately after the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday.    Grameen Bank's employees have threatened the government with tough agitation if the bank's sacked managing director Muhammad Yunus is not made chairman in two weeks.    The warning was issued by Grameen Bank Employees' Association's former president Sagirur Rashid Chowdhury from a press briefing at its headquarters at Mirpur on Thursday.    The High Court on March 8 summarily rejected Dr Yunus's writ petition seeking a rule on Bangladesh Bank to explain as to why its order removing Yunus from the post of the managing director of the bank should not be treated to have been issued illegally.         'Unprecedented'    The rejection of the writ is ' denial of justice', Dr Yunus legal counsel Dr Kamal Hossain said last week. Commenting on the latest Supreme Court rejection of the leave to appeal, he said 'it is unprecedented and devoid of impartiality.' It suffers from ' shortage of neutrality', he told the press.    Moreover, dismayed by the appellate division ruling of April 5 upholding the earlier High Court verdict, he said never before, even during Ayub Khan's Martial Law regime of the then Pakistan such violation of basic constitutional right to a litigant was allowed to happen.         Chaos likely    Dr Yunus's counsel made an extra plea this time to the Supreme Court for review of its last month's verdict as a last resort to put in place a legal process to scrutiny of the Bangladesh Bank action. Here many legal points remain to be answered in one hand and on the other such indiscriminate removal may only lead to immediate chaos.         Combating poverty    This is a prestigious institution which has won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Dr Yunus for its pioneering role to develop micro credit as an effective tool of development, especially to combat poverty and bring the poor marginalized people to mainstream economic activities. It is operating not only in Bangladesh but over 140 countries in the world.    The question is now why the government is bent upon removing Dr Yunus from the Grameen Bank when it may put to risks its future along with the stability of many other subsidiaries of the group that Dr Yunus has set up over the years. So public concerns on the matter can not be ignored.         Denial of due course of justice    Dr Kamal said, High Court normally accepts writ in such cases where a person believes his basic rights have been violated and it deserves legal interpretation. But Yunus has been denied access to such justice; he has been denied of any chance to defend himself before his removal by the Bangladesh Bank order was issued, he said.    As per the Constitution, he said a case has to be disposed of after completing all legal procedures, but in this case Dr Yunus has been denied of the normal course of justice, he told the press.         'Embarrassed'    Another counsel, Barrister Rukonuddin Mahmud said they felt 'embarrassed and dishonoured' by the denial of due course of justice and therefore have decided not to move with a separate leave to appeal petition of the nine directors of the Grameen Bank. " We have told them to find other lawyers to deal with it", he said expressing the team's inability to make a case for hearing of Dr Yunus's ordeal.    The High Court order rejecting a rule on Bangladesh Bank has so many 'gross errors and injustice,' said former attorney general advocate Mahmudul Islam, another counsel to Dr Yunus's legal team. But the Supreme Court's refusal to entertain the leave to appeal is all the same disappointing, he said.    Citizens protection committees have already been set up at various levels at home and abroad including the high profile 'Friends of Grameen' in Paris with front ranking global personalities. These are just indicative of the scale of reaction that may come to brace any move to take over of the bank by the government.    People wonder why the government is not taking into account these crucial things essentially bringing damage to the country's image abroad. It remains crucial especially at a time when the question of 'gross errors and injustice' is overshadowing the merit of the central bank action, observers here say.         Vulnerability of the order    Referring to vulnerability of the Bangladesh Bank order, both legal counsels and also public opinion remain highly vocal on few points. They say if Dr Yunus was holding the post at Grameen Bank illegally, why the Bangladesh Bank did not issue a legal notice on him in the first place demanding an explanation how he was there and why legal action, in this case termination, of his service should not be taken.    There is yet another issue whether the Bangladesh Bank has the authority to directly terminate his services at the Grameen Bank when his appointment has been made by the Grameen's board of directors.    The directors of the Grameen Bank have also filed a writ challenging the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh Bank order but the High Court has similarly dismissed the move in an apparent move to protect the central bank from coming under critical questioning.    It is now well known that the government wants to see the removal of Dr Yunus from the Grameen Bank at whatever cost. In this case if people start reading the court action in the light of the government intension, then there is hardly any chance to distance one from the other.    Particularly a recent news item published in Bengali daily Prothom Alo came as a big agonizing factor to people supporting the Grameen case. It said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a meeting at her office with police and other security agency chiefs made two distinct instructions. The instructions later circulated through official letter asking them to promote nationwide campaign against microcredit as a tool of exploitation in the first place. And secondly they should maintain greater vigilance on local microcrredit groups of Grameen Bank in an apparent bid to slowly put them to disintegrate.    Dr Yunus is a big global personality, nobody would be able to break him, but the Grameen Bank may become a quick victim of intolerance from powerful quarters. Here the courts can only save the institution if it would act accordingly, political observers here say.