Monday, February 28, 2011

US puts pressure on Bangladesh to stop harassing Yunus

The US is putting pressure on the Bangladesh government to stop harassing Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank. US diplomats have told Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to give Yunus time to find a successor at the bank and not force him out prematurely.

Bangladesh is calling for Yunus to step down from his microcredit bank Grammen. They say a Bangladeshi law prohibits people past a certain age from working in the country's financial sector. The law is rarely ever enforced but is being used against Yunus because he has somehow been made an enemy of the government.

From the paper New Age, writer David Bergman tells us more.

Hasina was told directly by US officials that a possible visit to Bangladesh early April by the US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, following her trip to Delhi, was contingent on a resolution of this high-profile crisis.

Hasina, who is planning to visit Washington in April to take part in the World Islamic Forum, has also been informed that she will not be given a meeting with the US president, Barack Obama, unless Yunus is personally agreeable to the terms of any compromise.

The prime minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said that he could not comment since he was unaware that these conversations had taken place. He added that he did not know that there was a possibility that Hilary Clinton might come to Bangladesh.

While many countries share US concerns about the Bangladesh government’s handling of the Grameen bank, no other country is known to have come close to the US in imposing these kinds of sanctions in support of Muhammad Yunus.

The government’s attack on Yunus has already resulted in the loss of some US financial support.

The US Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent US foreign aid agency funded by the US congress, decided in January against putting Bangladesh on its ‘threshold’ programme where countries must ‘demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in the people of a country, and economic freedom.’

Humayun Kabir, who until 2009 was the ambassador to the United States, told New Age, ‘Maintaining high-level contacts is important for both the countries as these are building blocks to the relationship which is a very important one for Bangladesh. United States is one of the country’s most important trading partner and a partner in security.’

Although Hasina has shown no signs of relenting, it is understood that discussions between Muhammad Yunus, the finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, and former Grameen Bank chairperson Rehman Sobhan, took place in Delhi over the last few days where they all attended the same conference.

‘Muhith has been told what the Grameen Bank wants. It is now in the minister’s hands,’ said a person privy to the conversations.

No comments: