Open Letter of 160 World Leaders in favor of Dr. Yunus and the Realities

Hiren Pandit: Mohammad Khursheed Alam Khan, Senior Lawyer of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), requested Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to visit Bangladesh to observe the proceedings of Nobel Laureate Economist and Founder of Grameen Bank recently.

The ACC lawyer said in the Supreme Court premises, that she will understand when she comes to the Labor Court. What did Yunus do with the workers? Criticizing without seeing is doing us wrong. He said, I promise you (Hillary Clinton) will give full cooperation.

I will give you all the documents you want. I will show you a copy of the judgment of the Labor Court and High Court. Observe and discuss everything. If you don’t understand, bring two experts. Then give your decision. The ACC lawyer also said, “I think it does not suit a world leader like you to observe only based on emotion without knowing anything.” Earlier on Tuesday, in a tweet, Hillary Clinton called on world leaders to stand by Yunus. In it, the statement of more than 160 world leaders was sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
More than 160 world leaders, including more than 100 Nobel laureates, have signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the suspension of the current judicial proceedings against Dr. Muhammad Yunus and for fair and participatory elections.

Earlier last March, 40 world leaders signed a letter asking the Prime Minister to stop this irrational campaign against one of the most proficient and admired citizens in their language. August 27 Former US President Barack Obama has written a letter supporting Muhammad Yunus. A day after that, Dr. Yunus and the upcoming elections were again discussed with the letters of 160 world leaders.

Earlier in March of this year, 40 world leaders from politics, diplomacy, business, arts and education wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressing deep concern about the behavior of the Bangladesh government. In continuation of that open letter, 160 world leaders sent letters again. However, from the news published in the media, it is known that a company took 2 million (22) lakh taka to collect the statements of 40 people, this time the cost has increased to 20 million dollars, which is more than 22 crore in Bangladeshi taka (110 taka = 1 USD).

Among the 160 world leaders are figures like former US President Barack Obama and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta, Former Irish President Mary Robinson, and Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. One of the letter’s signatories, Results and Civic Courage founder Sam Daley-Harris released the letter in a statement.

At the beginning of the letter, addressed to ‘Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’, it is written – We are writing as a friend of Bangladesh along with Nobel Prize winners, elected officials, businessmen and civil society leaders. We appreciate the remarkable progress your nation has made since independence in 1971. However, we are deeply concerned about the recent threats to democracy and human rights in Bangladesh. We believe that it is very important that the upcoming national elections are free and fair and that the election administration is acceptable to all the major parties in the country. The previous two national elections lacked legitimacy.

The threat to human rights that worries us in the current context is the case of Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus. We are concerned, he has been targeted recently. We believe it is continuous judicial harassment. This letter is an attempt to build on the earlier appeal to you by 40 world leaders concerned about his safety and freedom.

We humbly request that you immediately suspend the present judicial proceedings against Professor Yunus. The complaint will then be reviewed by a panel of impartial judges from within your country, with the opportunity to include internationally recognized legal experts. We are sure that any thorough review of the anti-corruption and labor law cases against him will acquit him. As you know, Professor Yunus’ work on ‘How social business can achieve zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions as a force for international progress’ is inspiring to all of us.
The letter concluded, ‘We hope that you will ensure that these legal issues are resolved in an expedient, impartial and fair manner. In addition, ensure a free, fair and participatory national election and respect for all human rights in the coming days. We will join millions of concerned citizens around the world in keeping a close eye on how these issues are resolved in the days ahead.”
Bangladesh conscious society has protested prominent people for seeking postponement of Yunus’ trial
171 prominent citizens of Bangladesh and 13 national cultural organizations have protested the open letter written by the citizens of different countries to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanding the suspension of the ongoing trial process against Muhammad Yunus. A separate statement said that this letter was a threat to the country’s sovereignty and judiciary. At the same time illegal and unintended speech. Expressing concern over this ‘unwanted interference’, it has been called to investigate whether it is a conspiracy against the country or not.
Senior journalist Abed Khan, former chairman of UGC Professor Nazrul Islam, sociologist Dr. Anupam Sen, former governor of Bangladesh Bank. Atiur Rahman, artist Hashem Khan, artist Rafiqun Nabi, cultural personality Hasan Imam, journalist Ajay Dasgupta, poet Nirmalendu Goon, litterateur Selina Hossain, former justice Momtazuddin Ahmed, former vice-chancellor of BSMMU Prof. Pran Gopal Dutta, president of Asiatic Society Prof. Mahfuza Khanam, economist Abul Barakat and many others. According to the statement of 171 prominent citizens, intellectuals and professionals of the country said that the open letter written by some Nobel laureates, businessmen and civil society members of different countries has recently attracted the attention of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The statement of that open letter is a clear threat to the sovereignty and independent judiciary of Bangladesh. The informants say, in the letter, a call has been made to stop the proceedings of the ongoing court cases against Muhammad Yunus. As conscientious citizens of the country, we are deeply concerned about such undue interference in the judicial process of Bangladesh.
Several legal and ethical questions have come to the fore in the wake of the open letter, the statement said, as per Article 94(4) of the Constitution, judges are completely independent in their judicial work. According to the constitution, no one involved in the administration of the state, including the Prime Minister, has the power to interfere in the judicial process. The statement of the said letter is contrary to the Constitution of Bangladesh and the fundamental rights of workers recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO). We believe that the call for trial of the charges brought against Yunus through the “impartial” judge is a disgrace to the judicial system of Bangladesh.
Stating that all citizens are equal under the law according to the constitution, the speakers said that everyone has the right to legal protection in the constitution, which was acquired at the cost of millions of lives. The trial of Muhammad Yunus is also being conducted independently and according to the existing laws of the country. In that context, the allegation of ‘judicial harassment’ is baseless and unintended. Besides Dr. Yunus as an independent citizen of Bangladesh has always continued all activities at the personal and institutional level at home and abroad.
Noting that the signatories of the open letter are very close to Bangladesh’s relationship with their respective countries, the statement expects that the signatories will allow and respect the judiciary of Bangladesh, like their respective countries, to follow its own laws.
On the other hand, 13 national cultural organizations have issued a statement calling to investigate whether this letter is a conspiracy against the country or not. According to the joint statement, the is now the responsibility of Dr. Yunus to prove whether is a conspiracy or not. To point out that the highest court of the country is defaming Yunus unfairly by violating any section of the law in 168 cases against Dr. Yunus. If they fail to do so, it would be reasonable to assume that the declarants signed the statement under some influence without knowing the real truth.
The national cultural organizations have demanded the government investigate whether there is any anti-Bangladesh conspiracy with this statement of 160 people. The organizations that made the statement are Sammilita Sangsikti Jot, Bangladesh Group Theater Federation, National Poetry Parishad, Bangladesh Recitation Coordinating Council, Bangladesh Street Drama Parishad, Bangladesh Charushilpi Sangsad, Bangladesh Dancers Association, Bangladesh Mass Music Coordination Council, Bangladesh Jatra Shilpa Uyanan Parishad, Abhiniya Shilpi Sangha, Bangladesh Sangeet Coordination Parishad, Bangladesh Village Theater and Bangabandhu Cultural Alliance.
However, it is necessary to mention that the complainants in the present judicial case pending before the Labor Court are employees of Grameen Telecom. The government has no role here. It is the workers who have brought the case and it is their right to decide what they want to do with the case.
A labor case is filed with the Labor Department for specific allegations of violation of labor laws. No evidence has been presented in court to prove that the allegations made by Professor Yunus are not true. What is claimed is that it is not covered by law. But this saying is true, no one is above the law.
No authority has the power to review changes in the laws of Bangladesh by constituting a panel of judges. The Labor Court is presided over by a single judge. Professor Yunus will have the opportunity to appeal the judgment before a panel of Labor Court judges. Then resort to the High Court Division and Appellate Division.
According to the FIR filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission, the investigation by the law-enforcement agency is in its initial stages There is no law allowing the government to set up a panel of judges composed of internationally recognized legal experts to review complaints. The review of any complaint by any authority essentially requires an investigation of the alleged violation of law. The Anti-Corruption Commission is doing just that by following the legal process.
The statement of the world leaders in favor of Dr. Yunus, the position of the government
Former US President Barack Obama, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, including 160 world leaders and Nobel laureates. The government has stated its position against the statement of suspension of the trial process of Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Recently, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave details on this issue.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in this regard, no veiled threats on the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights will deter the people of Bangladesh from upholding the rule of law. Allegations of ‘oppression or harassment’ follow a pattern that appears to stem from a victim mentality using human rights and democracy as an expedient cover. Instead of giving unreasonable hints about the democratic and electoral process of Bangladesh to the signatories of the letter, Dr. Muhammad Yunus is also said to have given advice.
It is said there, is a group of international personalities including political leaders and some Bangladeshi citizens wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister regarding the ongoing judicial proceedings against Yunus which has come to the attention of the Bangladesh government. The open letter clearly contains glaring gaps in information and is an affront to Bangladesh’s independent judiciary. This came as a surprise to the government—the letter’s signatories had already reached their own conclusions about the merits of the sub judice case and the outcome of the judicial proceedings. It also said that the Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has filed the case under specific provisions of the Bangladesh Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2012. The case was filed on the basis of an investigation into allegations of misappropriation of dividends by workers and employees of Grameen Telecom Limited. ACC’s investigation team found that the chairman of Grameen Telecom Limited. Misappropriated and illegally transferred $252 million by forging settlement agreements with Muhammad Yunus and managing directors and other board members.
It is further stated that, on the other hand, the Directorate of Inspection of Factories and Establishments, Dhaka filed a case under the Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006. The case was filed for multiple violations. This includes the non-establishment of the Workers’ Contributory Fund and Welfare Fund and the non-payment of a 5% dividend of net profit to the concerned workers’ welfare fund since 2006. Dr. Yunus again in a tax evasion case. Muhammad Yunus lost in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court and appealed to the Appellate Division of the highest court of the country. By order of the High Court Division, the Appellate Division dismissed the application without finding any weakness, as a result of which Dr. Yunus paid the outstanding tax to the National Board of Revenue (NBR). He has several other tax evasion cases against him.
In the case of depriving the workers of their fair benefits. Muhammad Yunus approached the Supreme Court twice, one challenging the maintenance and another challenging the framing of the charge by the trial court. After hearing his lawyers, the apex court ruled that the first case was properly instituted and declared the framing of charges in the other to be legal and proper.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was regrettable- the signatories of the letter requested the Prime Minister to exercise extra-judicial powers to suspend the sub-judicial cases. They recommended an alternative process of reviewing the allegations against Dr. Muhammad Yunus and his associates which is not compatible with the established judicial system of Bangladesh.
It is also said that this is not the first time that Dr. Muhammad Yunus and his associates have resorted to international lobbying for their alleged or proven violations of the law. He had decided to file a case against the government regarding the termination of his contract as Managing Director of Grameen Bank despite having passed the prescribed retirement age as per Grameen Bank Service Rules, 1993.
It is also said that it is unacceptable as a citizen of a sovereign country to consider itself above the law of the land and repeatedly seek external intervention. It is now clear to the people of Bangladesh that by evading corporate and income tax and depriving workers for years, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a salaried employee of Grameen Bank – allegedly abused the commercial venture and invested a large part of the laundered money.
Public perception
All is being attacked with Dr. Yunus’s loan and interest as if no one but him accepts interest. It is not about interest. He has been awarded a Nobel Prize in a field of Peace in which he has not contributed the least. If he had been awarded in economics, there would not have been the slightest question about it. Again, the desire to be involved in politics during the special period after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the attempt to oust the two established leaders from politics through conspiracies, tax evasion, depriving workers of fair wages, not providing retirement benefits, bribing labor leaders, employment laws of the country. Being ignored and staying in his job, above all being involved in the Padma Bridge debt cancellation activities – has questioned him on all these issues.
While making statements in support of him, the compliant Nobel Laureates have made themselves controversial by interfering in the justice of another country and dragging that country’s politics and elections. Microcredit and interest are prevalent everywhere in the world. We do not think there is anything defamatory in accepting or rejecting it.
Addressing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, they wrote that ‘as a friend of Bangladesh, they appreciate the courage and innovative skills of the people of this country. Like billions of people around the world, they are also inspired by innovations invented in Bangladesh and adopted around the world.’ There is enough reason for us to be giddy with happiness. 40 world leaders in politics, diplomacy, business, arts and education in the first phase and 160 world leaders in the second half when they said, ‘Like billions of people in the world, they are also inspired by the innovations invented in Bangladesh and accepted all over the world.’ A little frightened. Because the history of foreigners ‘turning their noses’ in the politics of Bangladesh is old. It seems that there is still some of that nature. Because coal does not wash dirt. The history of 1/11 is still etched in everyone’s mind.
It would be better to think a little about whether this open letter of 160 world leaders to the Prime Minister is a stage of unwanted interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh. Whatever she is. Because there is no outline of the transition from the current crisis in Bangladesh in this letter. The whole world is facing a harsh reality today due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Commodity prices in Bangladesh are on the rise. The dollar cost of reserves is increasing. Understandably, the Rohingya crisis is pressing in Bangladesh. The war in Ukraine is diverting the world’s attention from the Rohingya crisis. Myanmar is not positive about repatriating its citizens. Although Myanmar has not responded positively, Bangladesh wants the Rohingyas to return to their country. There is no alternative to the cooperation of the international community in this regard.
But this open letter of 160 successful world leaders in politics, diplomacy, business, arts and education does not mention anything about it. So how can we believe that they are friends of Bangladesh? They praise the courage and innovative skills of the people of Bangladesh is it at all believable? On the contrary, suspicion only increases. What is the unelected government? Will our holy constitution go into exile again? This dilemma again. Or the future government will be chosen through elections.
Did the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus again use a new strategy to spread propaganda against the Bangladesh government? Victims of unfair behavior of the current government, it has been alleged. It does not provide detailed information on where Dr. Yunus has been affected by the humanitarian operations around the world or in the country where they have been stopped. Dr. Yunus has been going to hundreds of places outside the country, we have not been told by the media that he has been stopped at the airport or denied entry. The people of the country do not know how and where the activities have been obstructed. It would be better to tell. What has the government done to Dr. Yunus in such a way that an open letter would have to be printed with millions of dollars again? When news items are disseminated in the form of open letters, it should not be difficult for anyone to understand that the information disseminated is fabricated and motivated. He was not treated by the Government in such a way as to warrant such a statement. However, the common people of this country are well aware of what kind of activities Dr. Yunus is involved in in Bangladesh.
Dr. Yunus’s allegations of corruption against Yunus are not new. An era ago on Norwegian state television. a documentary was aired against Dr. Yunus about the siphoning of crores of taka by Grameen Bank. Currently, the Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating Dr. Yunus’s Grameen Telecom corruption. The organization has been accused of misappropriating workers’ money, embezzling 455.52 lakh 13 thousand taka without distributing the welfare fund, and transferring 2 thousand 977 crore taka to affiliated institutions through money laundering. The MD of Grameen Telecom is currently under investigation regarding the allegations.
Apart from this, during the 1/11 army-backed government, he wanted to come to power minus the leaders of the two major parties, he wanted to be the middleman of power. Everyone just wants to go to power. At that time, he also announced a party called the Grameen Party. The name of Dr. Yunus came behind Padma Bridge’s cancellation of funding. Dr. Yunus’ Grameen Telecom corruption probe is on. In this situation, in October last year, the Western lobbyists started to make Dr. Yunus a hero. If there is a complaint against someone, it is the job of the Anti-Corruption Commission to do it.
The programs undertaken by the government to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh are welfare-oriented and do not have the invisible hand of profit behind them, which is the case with lending institutions such as Grameen Bank. Due to the various programs taken by the government, the poverty of Bangladesh is now on its way to the museum. Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina’s political commitment is to eradicate poverty from the country. The government is doing so.
This news does not attract the attention of the famous people who make these statements. Because Dr. Yunus is internationally known and influential people from all over the world are his friends or beneficiaries. In March 2011, Dr. Yunus was asked to resign as CEO of Grameen Bank in violation of the country’s retirement law, which states that the retirement age is 60. Dr. Yunus was 70 years old. The country’s largest structure Padma Bridge project behind the move of the World Bank Dr. Yunus It was also alleged that Dr. Yunus had a hand. Later, after the alleged corruption charges were dismissed by a Canadian court in 2017, everyone in Bangladesh considered it a conspiracy.
Many people dedicated to the service of humanity are the most tortured people in the world to protect the Rohingyas. Many feel that Dr. Yunus has shown little interest. Dr. Yunus is a responsible citizen who must understand the situation and refrain from any controversy against the laws of Bangladesh. Doubt of benefits should not go against the motherland and the people of the country. This is the duty of every conscious citizen of ours. Only then will the people of our country be well, and our motherland can be placed in the seat of honor and glory in the international world.

The writer is a, columnist and a researcher

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