Friday, March 25, 2011

Of Have-Not, Have-Plenty’s and Dangerous Alliances

Mac Haque

“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” Sophocles

  • Just hours short of our 40th V-Day, 26th March 2011, I am not keen on a Soul searching exercise for this Nation has inexplicably lost its capacity to reason. The shadows that enveloped us on 26th March 1971 are now replaced by ominously blackened skies that have stripped us off core values that millions aspired and died for. The stench of rotting morals is far more overpowering than any perfume worth its name will dissipate. Each passing moment leaves us to the specter of old Vultures flying up above, waiting for someone below to die - ‘Cause every mother's son has got a date, a date with Fate?’
  • Moral policing is not my objective, this exercise is to talk about ‘accrued values’ of the vilest kind, with recent events ever more suggestive that we are slip sliding into a torrent of big lies perpetrated on the ‘people’ (hey is there any such word in this ‘Peoples Republic’?) by those who are neither with the people – nor with the Government. What we have today is a fight for turf and spoils among the have-plenty’s.
  • In retrospect, it all started on 17th December 1971, a day that was to be the dawn of a new beginning. Before long we realized that we may have well overthrown the blood sucking 21 Pakistani families and ousted its brutal Army from our sacred land, what we were not prepared for – was the 21000 families that emerged from our kind, and who would go on to tread on our fate in the years to come.
  • Bloody coups and Military dictatorships later – crystallized in 1990 after the overthrow of Hossain Mohammad Ershad, was the birth of an oligarchy with demon-ocratic pretensions, whose mentor and provider is the great money God himself. With a Corporatised Media being the immediate by-product and beneficiary, other than politicians/ex-Military and ‘die-nasties’ who rule the roost, this Nation has also to contend with NGO supremos who while pilfering donors alms meant for the poor – are truly Zamindars replete with feudal mentalities and arrogance – their fiefdom extends all across Bangladesh. They and their sycophants in no time formed a unique recreation Club for the have-plenty’s – the Civil Society – ah – reducing us Monkeys living in the uncivil jungles - only to chuckle!
  • That said, the events of 01/11/07 is evidentially the world’s first Civil Society backed UN sponsored Coup – with the teeming million of hungry have-nots hardly having the time or placid interest to grasp the flow of the shifting tides. What we have today thanks to Dr.Yunus and the Grameen Bank imbroglio have the trappings and symptoms of a Nation being defrauded and it is only those who have the requisite ‘qualification’ to chummy-up to Editors of ‘National dailies’ or TV stations and live in sanitized sanctum of our society - are the ones calling the shots – not the ‘people’ at any rate.
  • If one says the Government represents the people - in the Yunus case they are dead wrong. It really wasn’t legalities surrounding the age of Yunus that is the issue here, but an obstinate Prime Minister opening her verbal diatribe (legendary if we may!) on real or imagined involvement of Yunus in the 01/11/07 episode, that appears to have got the ball rolling. Her big (English) talking Finance Minister added more fuel to the fire – and not to take a back seat – the bidesh shikkhito Prince Wannabe Joy Wazed also opened up with his ‘politically Yunus is a non-entity’ comment.
  • To that we could well ask- ‘politically - who the hell are you Joy? If it wasn’t for your Mother, would anybody care for your opinion or give it a huge spin in the Media?’ The leadership by default culture spelt disaster for the BNP with Prince Wannabe Tareq, and I think it is time Joy takes heed and shut up – for good.
  • Gravely disturbing is the amount of ammo being pulverized by both pro and anti-Yunus camps and one would be foolish not to watch from the sidelines the powers that are teaming up – in a dangerous alliance. It is no surprise that BNP is backing Yunus – (as surely the AL would have, had it been in BNP shoes), what raises eyebrows is how former critics and columnist who had spent a lot of precious midnight oil to write reams upon reams against Yunus - are now shamelessly gunning for him? Remember ‘a plastic nation with a plastic spine’?
  • Add to that the Jamaat-e-Islami. Forgotten conveniently is the jasbah it displayed against Yunus and Grameen being a Free Masonic enterprise of ‘blood sucking usury mongers that has emboldened women and have made them immoral’ – the screams of haram, haram now replaced by whimpers of halal, halal and all is fine and gung-ho about Yunus and his Empire? What travesty - and to think of it, it is none other than our so-called ‘educated elite, decent folks in the Civil Society’ who are in collusion with the murderers of 1971?
  • Without mouthing the now over-sold hysteria of Muktijuddher Chetona – will it not be appropriate to serve a reminder from history? Who propped up the Pakistani murder machine and Jamaat in 1971? Spot on: Uncle Sam may have changed its war and conflict strategy – but the grim reality is not unknown to our toiling masses
    …..Chor re kou churi koro –grihostey re kou dhoro dhoro – ‘go tell the thieves to steal, go tell the peasants – catch those thieves.’
  • Admitted that the Government has been ‘vindictive/petty’ - whatever – but when assessed at the core one needs to find out whether or not Yunus broke the law? If he did - should he be punished any differently than any other citizen of this country? The way I see it - if there is a law that says you gotta quit when you are 60 - too bad - that’s how it is. There is no such thing as a good law or a bad law - but the habit of respecting the law is of course a good habit - and a Nobel Prize may or may not guarantee exemption/exoneration. It should NOT - period
  • GB's position and the Media hoopla that ‘livelihood of 20 million women’ would be imperiled if Yunus is sacked – is loaded with heavy duty male chauvinist bias and patronization - as also exposing the fragility and vulnerability of the ‘prized institution’. What if Yunus were to drop dead - will the ‘millions of women beneficiary’ also meet the same fate?
  • Also is surprises me- that among the '20 million' women out there in the boondocks - we haven't seen any ‘revolt’ thus far. Even if a million moved on Dhaka – a tsunami would have hit the Government and shamed Fukushima by now! Since that hasn’t happened or is unlikely to happen – this is a case of daal mey kuch kaala hai’ !
  • Other than a bunch of dim witted Yanks visiting town and seeking an out of Court ‘win, win’ compromise’- has any one heard protests from other Nobel Laureates? Hello…… Dr.Amartya Sen – where are you?
  • PS: Signed sealed and delivered – BEWARE folks - this is all there is to the have-plenty’s ‘quarrel’ on Yunus – stay out and keep out.

New Age Xtra - Print Edition

25th March 2011

Facebook Comments:

David Bergman: Hi you make some interesting points about Yunus. As a journalist who was present throughout the High Court hearing and the very short appellate hearing (perhaps one of the few that was), I think it is important for you to recognise that it highly debated/contested whether there is a law 'that says you gotta quit when you are 60'. That is the government's argument, and if certainly if you want to repeat and believe that that is fine, but it is a highly contested position. According to the government, the staff regulations which applies to 'kormi' also applies to Yunus. The Yunus lawyers argue that this does not apply, as there is a clear seperate definition of 'managing director' and if it applied to 'managing director it would state that clearly. There are a host of other arguments on either side as well - which I wont get into. The point I am trying to make here is that it is highly contested point - I am not saying my view on which is right. Moreover, assuming the govt lawyers are right, I think there is a still an interesting question why Bangladesh Bank took no action on this for 11 years after a Board resolution which stated that there would not be age limit for the MD, and which came to BB's attention at that time and was discussed at a meeting between Grameen Bank and BB then. In court it was not entirely clear what the government's response to this was - other than the bank never consented to it all those years ago. Anyway, just trying to set out the complexities here - arguments on both sides. Not straightforward at all. You should come to the court and hear the arguments on both sides..

Mac Haque David - thanks for your input and insight into the case - but as of now on both camps 'contested' or otherwise, Yunus' age seems to be the only sore focal point in the whole controversy. The point about a resolution stating that the MD...'s age could be waived is fresh and interesting but - I wonder if it will hold water even in a Court of law. You mention that this was 'discussed' but was it put to paper? If not - the Court could well trash it as ' verbal agreement is not worth the paper it is signed on' :) Also I am curious to know if the GB 'resolution' as such means that the MD can continue for life?

On your earlier point, as why the BB said nothing in 11 years – I countered that in my piece 2 weeks ago to ask – why didn’t Yunus have the grace to quit when his time was up, assuming that the Govt position on this is accurate?

Disturbing is the amount of ‘external pressure’ being borne on the people at large over the controversy. From the recent ‘get Yunus off the hook or …else’ - comments by US officials in Dhaka, it would seem that if Yunus loses the case our relations with ‘Great God’ itself would be forever snapped! If those threats are really carried forward - just about anything could happen – including deaths to a lot of innocent people – I wonder how much ‘peace’ would have been achieved from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate really?

David Bergman: Thanks for this. The point about the resolution is nothing new. It is really the whole argument of the Yunus lawyers (whether right or wrong). The argument goes like this, as far as I understand from listening in court: Just before Yunus be...came 60, there was a Board meeting (including 3 directors who were govt nominated) during the AL first term in office. At this meeting there was a discussion about the age. At this meeting it was agreed that the earlier 1993 staff regulations did not apply to the managing director. It then referred, I think, to the Grameen Bank ordinance which states that terms and conditions of the MD are decided by teh Board. It then decided that the MD should stay in that position until they thought otherwise. This resolution was put on paper and the minutes were very much part of the HC hearing. The government position was that (a) they did apply as the 1993 staff regulations applied, and (b) in any case the BB never agreed to them. The Yunus lawyers position was that the 1993 regulations did not apply to the MD (for the reason set out in my earlier comment), and this resolution applied. It argues that the although the BB did at the time question the resolution, there was a meeting and then it was resolved, and the BB never raised it again in any further audit.

David Bergman: I did not mean to post that - I was going to continue in the following way. In relation to the period of time, the Yunus lawyers argue the principle of estoppel operated. Effectively this means that the BB are 'estopped' from now arguing th...eir position, as for ten years they have by conductaccepted the position as lawful. The government lawyers view is that this principle does not apply in this way, and that if it was unlawful then, it is unlawful now. I think the point about explaining the arguments like this - and there are many more ones on both sides - is that there is a difference of opinion. And it is far from starightforward. Yunus, I assume, did not feel a need to step aside as you put it as the law did not require him to. The High Court in its order sided with the government side - but, as far as I could hear the judgment (it was not spoken out loudly so that the court could hear it properly) he did not explain why he rejected the Yunus arguments. I hope that is helpful - and that I have explained it in an even handed manner.

Lamia Karim: Hey Mac,Our govt. now wants to really enjoy the NGO microfiannce gravy train. None of this help then poor women borrowers. They only appear as statistics to help bolster Grameen and other institutions, and the West so affectively in invested third world poverty and poor women, will pour their dollars in!

Lamia Karim : I looked at New Age today, and all the "Dear Yunus" letters are from diasporic Bangladeshis:)

Faisal N. Nabi : Mac Vai, a nice piece of writing, indeed. Well, I do not understand legal issue much. To me, if the effect of micro financing had been counterproductive for us, then our govt. has got a real issue.But I am very skeptical for the influence of the 'Great God'.

Patrick Ghose: Hi Mac. Wasn't sure if I should comment here as I'm not from your country. Since you've tagged me and I am your neighbour, I've taken the liberty. You put forward a very valid argument even if a little emotional, but that's fine since it is... about your country. After reading all the other comments here I realise how much more significant your piece is. Two things are obvious from this: the media in your country is biased and/or muzzled leading to pretty vague and perhaps vacuous ideas about what's happening there. Two, a foreign journalist is seemingly more informed and opinionated about the situation than the citizens. That's scary. It's good to know there is a sane and true voice like yours unafraid to say what's what. All I can say Mac is that you need to keep this debate alive among Bangla citizens, resident or not. All power to you bhai!

Mac Haque: ‎@David – thanks a million for your noteworthy insight into the case which is enlightening! However I think the catch in the ‘resolution’ issue is in your point ‘(b) in any case the BB never agreed to them.’ I detect a glaring loophole in y...our secondary statement by Yunus’ defence - ‘It argues that the although the BB did at the time question the resolution, there was a meeting and then it was resolved, and the BB never raised it again in any further audit’ – this ‘meeting’ and the word ‘resolved’ means it was possibly not documented – and whether or not BB raised it in further audits, the onus really was on GB and not BB when the documented resolution had a catch - ‘It then decided that the MD should stay in that position until they thought otherwise’ – meaning the Govt for expediency has not given a ‘firm’ ruling on the same and left it deliberately vague. The time to ‘think otherwise’ maybe 10 years too late – but precisely the time now!

The principals of estoppel is unlikely to be enforced/admitted as neither the prosecution nor defence are stating the truth accurately – with the Govt making more of case in its documented ‘until it thought otherwise’ statement. Yunus may not have stepped down because the law didn’t say so – but then it would also raise questions whether then the term of the MD of GB is for life? Also the US pressure (post my piece) and subtle arm twisting at this stage – especially when it was initiated by Yunus’ and not the Govt - is certainly a blatant interference in our internal affairs – and one I feel has far reaching consequences in the days ahead. One could well argue that Yunus knowing all too well that he will lose the case has decided to shame not only the Govt – but the people of Bangladesh. Before long this will be a case of 1 man versus the interest of 120 million people. While I hope to be proved wrong - I don’t think the going will get any easier for Yunus or the Govt. Thanks. Mac

Mac Haque: ‎@Lamia – since you have done an academic thesis on GB – please can you shed some light into the ’20 million poor women are beneficiary’ hype? I have always been sceptical about this for quite specifically GB’s cannot peg itself to those nu...mbers – rather it would and SHOULD be much more. Conservatively if we take a minimum of 3 more individuals (gender regardless) also as ‘indirect beneficiaries’– meaning 20 million (x) times 3 – we are talking here of 60 million people – HALF THE POPULATION of Bangladesh? If that is true – do we really need a Govt?:) PS. Do take time out to go to this link - which rates academic studies on Micro Credit

Mac Haque @Patrick Ghose- thanks for your chin up - my credo - 'a life without a fight is a life not worth the living' \m/

Lamia Karim Mac@ GB has close to 9 million borrowers. Bangladeshi NGOs, at present some 2,000 NGOs work directly with microfinance loans. If you include 5 people per household, then MF benefits 100 million in Bangladesh. Very important to realize that the Microcredit Summit, World Bank, IMF largely draw their conclusions about the benefits of MF from a small sample of studies conducted in Bangladesh. A lot of it is GB/NGO sponsored research. So, think about that for a moment.

To go on. Yes, there are 20 million microfinance borrowers. What that means is that there is a dire need for money. In the absence of jobs, people will take loans. They don't do it because they are stupid but because they desperately need t...he money to pay for necessities. One could draw an analogy with poor parents who marry their daughters to families that demand high dowries, but they know that they will not be able to come up with the money. They think that once the girl is married perhaps the families will not demand as much or abuse her. We all know what happens to the young women.

OK, the majority of these borrowers borrow from multiple MFIs. In my research I found that women borrowed from 5-8 NGOs. So, the idea to call anyone a Grameen borrower is quite meaningless because they ...are indebted to multiple sources. The solution to poverty is not microloans biut job creation, esp. in poor countries like Bangladesh. The government has to invest in the public sector. Otherwise, the poor are going to to get poorer. When I did my research in 98-99, I knew that microfinannce could not continue on. It is built on a lot of myths that the West buys into because it is a good story. Well, it has come full circle now.

Prachya Deb Mukherjee: Mac... a bold and an informative piece as to ground realities in Bangladesh.... and hope people keep on voicing their opinions... keep on keeping on... JoyGurudev

Mac Haque ‎@ Lamia - thanks for your updates which is really useful and informative.

Mac Haque ‎@PB - was it Kazi Nazrul who said "Oshhotyer kachey nahi noto hoi shir, bhoi e kapey kapurush lorey jai Bir" ?

Mac Haque ‎@Faisal - neither do I - but on Great God himself, I am not in agreement with you :)


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