Bangladesh Nobel Laureate Dr. Yunus

Irshad Salim from Karachi: Complying with Labor Laws–more specifically minimum wage rate and benefits is generally a music to the ears in this part of the region –MNCs (Multinational Corps.) notwithstanding. So I was surprised when I read the report that “Professor Yunus and three of his Grameen Telecom colleagues were convicted under labor laws and sentenced to six months in simple imprisonment,” the lead prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan told the AFP news agency on Monday.

I was not surprised also when Abdullah Al Mamun, a lawyer for Yunus said, “This verdict is unprecedented”…”We did not get justice.”

Yunus, 83, faces more than 100 other charges over labor law violations–they failed to create workers’ welfare fund in the company–and alleged corruption. Again, ‘workers’ welfare fund’ is another domain, if it does exist in a company–that generally evokes a ‘what’s that’ or a ‘grin’ or a ‘frown’. In other words, these companies may or may not create or may not have formed welfare fund to park labor social benefits mandated under the law.

Did the prosecutors prove that Mr. Yunus A) siphoned the fund out and B) profited personally from it?

Rather than a punitive decision, a more appropriate idea would have been in my opinion, A) ‘restitution’ or B) ‘plea bargain’. Both were apparently not on the table I suspect. Was it something else then?

Christiane Amanpour Speaks to Bangladesh Nobel Laureate Dr. Yunus

According to published reports, the Nobel Laureate told reporters after one of the hearings last month that he had not profited from any of the more than 50 social business firms he had set up in Bangladesh. So, here goes the personal profit aspect out, unless evidences otherwise exist and have been brought forward.

Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006 for their work to “create economic and social development from below”. The Bank’s objective since its establishment in 1983 has been to grant poor people small loans on easy terms – so-called micro-credit – and Yunus was the bank’s founder.

Aljazeera reports that PM Sheikh Hasina has made several scathing verbal attacks against the internationally respected 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was once seen as a political rival. The microfinance pioneer is accused by Hasina of ‘sucking blood’ from the poor, but supporters say charges are politically motivated. The ‘Politically motivated’ claim and ‘guilty unless proven’ manifestations are two sides of the coin which in my view spins here, until convenient physics of politics and polemics by the powers to be make it sit on the floor.

Prof. Yunus has enough credentials indeed to be a ‘political rival’ of the traditional politicos in Bangladesh. “(Therefore) getting rid of the potential…all is fair…the end must justify the means’, bemoans a Bangladeshi professional living abroad.

Where does one draw the line and distinguish between rivalry and rule of law is a million dollar (Taka) question. It’s a hybrid perception-wise it seems!

To be fair to PM Hasina, the iron lady of Bangladesh has delivered quite a bit for her country’s masses over 2 decades. Simple living, ordinary lifestyle she practices.

The Professor’s daughter Monica Yunus told Amanpour in January that the Bangladesh government is trying to imprison her father on sham charges (which she says are ‘absolutely false’), a claim the powers to be in Dhaka deny. Watch here.