Stress and Strain
When the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and his project Grameen Bank, the country rejoiced but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, reacted rather indifferently and failed to show any enthusiasm. Perhaps she felt hurt as she was expecting to receive the coveted prize herself. Ever since that oc- casion, she and her government have not missed any opportunity to defame Dr. Yunus.
Yunus was fired from his post as Managing Director of Grameen Bank, in March 2011 as allegations of misconduct and corruption were launched against him. It is unfortunate that a man who devoted his entire life to alleviating the misery and poverty of innumerable Bangladeshis is targeted for no offence of his own except gaining recognition for his excellent contribution to create economic and social development from below. The hostile attitude of the Bangladeshi government towards Dr. Yunus was condemned by various circles in Bangladesh as well as the global community. Yunus is hailed as a pioneer of revolutionary means of micro-credit and for founding the Grameen Bank that became a source of ideas and models for many institutions around the world. Yunus’s achievement was not restricted to Bangladesh alone and the whole world became its beneficiary. It was in this context that dur- ing her recent visit in May this year, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, showered praise on Dr. Muhammad Yunus and eulogized the commendable work of this pioneer of microcredit.
Ms. Clinton arrived in Bangladesh at a time when a number of issues had cropped up that caused a chill in the otherwise cordial relations between the two countries. Bangladesh was strife-ridden with simmering tensions due to political upheaval, strikes, the murder of a labor leader, the abduction of a prominent member of the opposition and squabbling between the two major political parties. The high-handed attitude of the government towards the opposition sent out a negative message to the global community and was criticized by the media and the civil society but went unheeded. Clinton’s visit was originally scheduled for early 2011 but was postponed amid speculations of US annoyance with the removal of Dr. Yunus from the Grameen Bank.
The US Secretary of State was very candid in expressing of her thoughts and articulating US policies on various issues. She did not mince her words in her praise for Dr. Muhammad Yunus describing him as a “tremendous model” for the developing world and cautioning the Bangladesh government to not “undermine or interfere in the operations of the Grameen Bank or its unique organizational structure where the poor women themselves are the owners.” To further illustrate her admiration for the Nobel laureate, Clinton held an hour-long breakfast meeting with Dr. Younus and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee founder, Fazle Hasan Abed.