Emergence of Neo-imperialism!

Emergence of Neo-imperialism!
2 September, 2023 12:00 AM Print news

Abdul Mannan

Bangladesh’s only Noble Laureate Dr. Yunus (He is a co-recipient of the Noble Peace Prize with Grameen Bank) unfortunately is often in the news at a wrong time and for wrong reasons. Currently he is undergoing a trial under the existing Labour Law of the county in the court for not paying the earned dues to his Grameen Telecom employees. Bangladesh’s Labour Laws conform the ILO standard. To defend Dr. Yunus 170 ‘global leaders’ including more than 100 Nobel laureates and some local self-styled advocates of human rights and democracy have issued statements accusing the current Bangladesh Government and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for harassing Dr. Yunus. The ‘global leaders’ statement was uploaded in the website of the appointed PR Firm in Washington. These people think he is being subjected to ‘judicial harassment’. The list surprisingly does not include the two living Indian Nobel laureates Amarty Sen and Abhijit Banerjee. As expected BNP’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir also issued a similar statement.

From the recent activities of these ‘well-wishers’ of Dr. Yunus, most of them from US, it seems that an age of neo-imperialism is emerging and their current frontier seems to be Bangladesh. Earlier Dr. Yunus was convicted for tax evasion; was found guilty as charged by the court and he paid a staggering sum of Taka 10.2 million as unpaid tax. In May of 2022 Dr. Yunus reached an out of court settlement with his disgruntled employees in another dispute and paid them US$ 50 million. In the tax evasion case, he was sued by the country’s Anti-corruption Commission. Currently he has been sued by the disgruntled workers of Grameen Telecom in the country’s Labour Court for non-payment of benefits due to them. It is the employees of the Grameen Telecom who has sued Dr. Yunus and not the government. Unfortunately, those who are currently asking the government to take its hands off from Dr. Yunus have not only crossed all lines of decency, they have also tried to intrude into the sovereignty of the country, stood against human and labour rights and the rule of law in Bangladesh just for a single person.
Amongst those who advocated for leaving Dr. Yunus alone includes former US President Barack Obama and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a close friend of Dr. Yunus. Obama was more diplomatic in the sense that he sent a separate letter to Dr. Yunus praising him for ‘his good works’ and wishing him success in the future. Hillary Clinton not satisfied with signing the petition with the 170 ‘global leaders’ in a separate tweet appealed to the world leaders to stand beside Dr. Yunus. Hillary’s tweet and the statement of ‘world leaders’ did not stop with Dr. Yunus episode but surprisingly mentions about ‘human rights and democracy’ along with matters relating to coming national elections in Bangladesh which is absolutely uncalled for and amounts to ugly interference in the internal matters of a third country. None of these ‘global leaders’ ever speaks a world about the gross violation of human rights in Myanmar, the Rohingya issue, the atrocities committed against the Palestinians in Israel, the trampling of democracy with the help of US administration in countries like Egypt, the indiscriminate violation of the rights of the Blacks and other minorities in US, the toppling of elected Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan by the military junta with the assistance of US administration as accused by Imran Khan or even the trial of the former US President Donald Trump ahead of next US Presidential election. The appeal of the ‘global leaders’ is expected to be published as an advertisement in the NY Times. Perhaps it does not merit any news value. Everything is being handled by the Washington based PR firm ‘Civic Courage’ for a hefty fee.

Hillary Clinton has reasons to support Dr. Yunus who, according to published reports, has ‘donated’ between US $100,000 and $250,000 to Clinton Foundation from Grameen America, an affiliate of Grameen Bank. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton used State Department position to get Yunus $13 million grant which came under FBI investigation. Hillary Clinton first came in the scene when in 2010 Dr. Yunus was removed as Grameen Bank’s MD by the government. Grameen Bank is a government enlisted public Financial Institution under Bangladesh Bank and is run under the regulatory laws of Bangladesh Bank. Initially the Bank operated under an Ordinance (1983) and subsequently an Act (2013) was adopted repealing the Ordinance. It is a specialized Bank like Krishi Bank, RAKAB, Probashi Kallyan Bank and is guided by the Banking Laws of the country. No financial institutions in any country operate on its own. All institutions operating under any law of the country has a mandatory retirement age and Grameen Bank was no exception. When Government retired Dr. Yunus from the MD post of Grameen Bank he was 71 while the mandatory retirement age of a Bank MD as per the law is 60. Incidentally both the Grameen Bank Ordinance and the Act were drafted in consultation with Dr. Yunus.

As soon as Dr. Yunus was retired, it seemed hell broke loose. Dr. Yunus filed a writ challenging the decision and the writ went through all the process of law and the Apex Court of the country found the retirement justifiable. Then too, as per the published documents, Hillary Clinton sent mails to Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s Prime Minster to shelve the law of the country and reinstate Dr. Yunus, a blatant violation of all civilized norms. The Prime Minister has no such power to interfere in the business of any court. Currently when all these eminent personalities stand beside Dr. Yunus do they not feel it necessary to stand beside those beleaguered employees of Grameen Telecom? Laws should not be only for the privileged class. A Belarusian court recently sent Nobel Laureate Alex Bialiatski to jail for ten years convicted of financing actions violating public order and smuggling. Did anyone see any statement about this from any of these eminent ‘world leaders’?

In real terms such statements are available for a price. One just has to engage a PR firm as did Dr. Yunus. To publish a full page advertisement in a prestigious daily like New York Times could be staggering. This appeal and another previous appeal published in the Washington Post was a big budget undertaking. According to the State Minister for Foreign Affairs this time the budget for this campaign is approximately US$ 2 million. One may ask where is this money coming from? Recently a very respectable Indian Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen was sued by Visva-Bharati on such charge as land grabbing. Since then Dr. Sen has been busy walking the corridors of Kolkata Court. Did any eminent ‘world leader’ feel it necessary to write a sentence for Dr. Sen?

Of the nine Nobel Laureates of India, none have at any time kicked so much of dust and create unnecessary controversy involving any of them. They knew how to live with honour and dignity which unfortunately many are not able to do so. The nation wants to be proud of its sons and not to enter into unnecessary controversy involving any of them, not necessarily with a person who has been awarded a Noble Prize. What is happening is only damaging Dr. Yunus’ reputation. For his self-respect, honour and dignity, the sooner such irresponsible campaign stops the better. Let law take its own course. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Anti-corruption Commission’s Chief Prosecutor have invited any of these ‘world leaders’ to come to Bangladesh and check all the available documents vis-a-via Dr. Yunus. If any of them are convinced that Dr. Yunus is subjected to ‘judicial harassment’ they should take up the challenge. The world cannot afford to have another era of ‘neo-imperialism’.

As for the local ‘eminent citizens’ they are the group of people who belong to the party ‘Anyone except Sheikh Hasina.’ The less said about them is better.

The writer is an analyst and a commentator

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