Bangladesh's SC adjourns hearing on Yunus appeal until April 4

Court officials said the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque ordered the adjournment on the hearing until April 4. The adjournment came immediately after the hearing began when Yunus's lawyers said they were yet to get the certified copy of the previous High Court order upholding the earlier Bangladesh Bank letter firing him from his position as the managing director of the pioneering micro lending agency.

The apex court earlier set today for hearing on Yunus's appeal as senior government leaders said a negotiation was underway for an amicable settlement of the issue amid a growing international criticism against his unceremonious dismissal from the pioneering microfinance bank that he founded three decades ago.

Yunus's lawyer Tamin Husain Shawan told newsmen that the petitioner's counsels sought more time to prepare his case as he lost his initial legal battle in the High Court which upheld the central bank decision to remove him for not obtaining its approval during his 2000 appointment as the executive of the special financial institution.

But the sources familiar with the "compromise" process were yet to come up with any progress report on talks between the government and the Grameen Bank.
"I can't tell you anything until now. No comment," a highly placed source who was familiar with the process said. Yunus three days ago told a foreign newspaper he was "not a political threat to anyone" in Bangladesh and would like to resolve issues "if any" with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the negotiation process were launched.

"The real issue at stake is the right of the bank's 8.3 million borrowers to control their own financial future or whether they will be forced to cede their control to outside authorities," Yunus said. Finance Minister AMA Muhith last week said the government looked for ways for an amicable settlement of the Yunus issue as he visibly rallied huge international support behind him since his removal from Grameen Bank last month.

"A proposal for the compromise was offered at the very beginning of the issue and we still looks for the opportunity," Muhith said in a statement. But an anti-Yunus campaign by a section of ruling Awami League was underway despite the launch of the process while the Daily Star newspaper quoting the party "insiders" said the Awami League "party high command instructed a section of its leaders, including some top-ranking ones, to conduct the campaign."

A "senior leader" of the party told the Star that they had to begin the campaign as influential international groups were mounting pressure on the government to reach a consensus with Yunus and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was trying to gain political leverage from this.

The United States last week warned that its relations with Dhaka could be exposed to threats unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government reached a compromise with Yunus. "If there is no compromise, it will have an effect on our bilateral relations," US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake told newsmen at the fag end of his five-day visit to Bangladesh when he met Hasina and several other senior government leaders.

Bangladesh apparently was exposed to a growing international criticism after the removal of the 70-year Yunus under a decision of the Bangladesh Bank that said his 2000 appointment as the Grameen Bank's executive chief was "faulty" as its mandatory approval was not obtained at that time. Twenty six US congressmen on March 15 urged Hasina to amicably settle the issue of  Yunus saying "we are troubled by the removal of Dr Muhammad Yunus from his position at Grameen Bank."

Yunus's experiment of poor men’s banking earned Bangladesh the repute of being the home of microcredit and himself the Nobel Peace Prize along with the micro lending agency in 2006 while Blake today said he not only won the Nobel prize, but also achieved three other major international awards including the US Congressional Medal.

Analysts earlier said Yunus's troubles stem from 2007 when he announced formation of a political party, an idea which was visibly  unwelcome by Hasina and her arch rival Khaleda Zia of BNP, while he himself abandoned the idea within months. But Yunus's removal came as he visibly developed a growing dispute with the ruling Awami League in recent months after a Norwegian TV aired a documentary questioning the transaction of a Norwegian donor fund violating the agreement.

Despite a green chit issued by Norwegian government reliving him of the allegations, the government formed a five-member "review committee" to examine Grameen Bank transactions but his removal came ahead of the submission of the report by the investigators.

The government has 25 per cent stake in Grameen Bank that employs 24,000 people, provides collateral-free loans to eight million borrowers, the vast majority from rural areas.

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