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Lawyer’s claims on Second Nobel for Yunus ignites controversy in Bangladesh

Bangladesh's Nobel Laureate economist Muhammad Yunus

Has anyone heard of a double Nobel? And a two time winner of a Nobel Prize? Surely there is no two time winner of a Nobel Peace Prize — but the lawyer of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Muhammad Yunus thinks his client is destined to win the Nobel Peace Prize a second time and within a year.

“Dr. Yunus won a Nobel prize, and he is also going to clinch another in the year to come. And just to stop him from securing the Nobel a second time, the authorities are subjecting him to so much harassment,” claimed the lawyer for the Nobel laureate in an appeal  court.

A number of Yunus’ employees at institutions run by him have filed a case with the labour court over their pending dues . They have organised human chain protests to back their demand for payment of their arrears.

” The government did not file a case but took cognisance of complaints by workers.  Any labour-friendly government would do it. Does it matter whether you sue a Nobel laureate or any other errant businessman ? ,” asked Tarana Halim, an actress-playwright and one-time ace lawyer and former minister.

Ms Halim, now a central executive committee member of the Awami League, told this writer: ” Either Yunus’ lawyer is just coming up with a cheap bluff to influence the court to drop proceedings or he has definite information from his client that he is on his way to another Nobel .”

” If that is the case, then we are left in no doubt that Yunus will be awarded another Nobel on Western pressure to build up his stature so that he can be put at the helm of Bangladesh through a carefully crafted regime change operation,”  Ms Halim said.

” That makes the allegation that his first Nobel was a part of a similar exercise of political engineering look credible. After all, Yunus was not awarded the Nobel for Economics which should have been the case if his micro-credit saga was seen as an original contribution to development economics. He got the Nobel Peace Prize without making any contribution to peace-making anywhere,” says Sukharanjan Dasgupta, author of “Midnight Massacre” on the 1975 Bangladesh coup that led to the massacre of the family of founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Only his two daughters escaped because they were out of the country, one of them being present PM Sheikh Hasina.

Dasgupta, who like Lawrence Lifschultz, author of ” Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution “, claims to have definite evidence of US covert involvement in the 1975 Bangladesh coup, told this writer that ” Yunus was USA’s favourite and a personal friend of Hilary Clinton and Washington wanted to parachute him at the helm of Bangladesh.”

” So they tried to get him to create a political party in 2007 after getting him the Nobel and are now trying to bring down Hasina’s government through a regime change operation that resembles the 2013 Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine.”

Veteran Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) official Benu Ghosh told this writer many of the US veterans of Euromaidan in Ukraine are now involved in the Bangladesh regime operations– Victoria Nuland being the lead player.

” The similarity of the template of the two operations are striking,” Ghosh said. ” Extensive anti-government media and social media campaign backed up by civil society mobilization followed by Opposition sponsored street protests made possible by huge transfer of covert funds from Washington — then in Ukraine, now in Bangladesh. And Yunus is the Bangladesh Zelensky,” said Ghosh.

Though currently Dr Yunus has been facing charges of depriving his workers of their dues, regime change bloggers are jumping to Yunus’ defence by playing on such bogus tales of planned harassment.

Even weeks back, a number of former employees from Grameen Bank criticised Yunus for putting their families “ in considerable  uncertainty and deep trouble.”

The appellate division, however, reacted sharply to the claim that Dr. Yunus is subjected to legal harassment out of envy for his global prominence.

“It doesn’t matter to the court whether someone wins a Nobel prize or not,” replied the judge referring to the proceedings of the court irrespective of any identity.

On social media however, news outlets highlighting the lawyers stance started doing the rounds.

“Interestingly, Yunus got his Nobel during a similar regime change operation unleashed by the US in 2006-08 — if he gets a double Nobel, very little nobleness will be left of the Nobel prize,” said author Sukharanjan Dasgupta.

Meanwhile a number of his former employees took to the street, forming a human chain in Dhaka to plead Yunus to pay their arrears that consists of a huge chunk of money accrued from 5% of net profit and one year unpaid leave.

Aggrieved workers, deprived of their payments, from Grameen Telecom Trust said their repeated pleas coupled with submission of written requests in the past for payment of their dues, for as many as 12 months, before the authority on several occasions went unheeded.

In reference to the labour act, the workers said “this law enforces owners to allocate at least 5% dividend among workers while in our case this law has been gravely breached and Yunus as the chairman of the trust should not be allowed to enjoy the impunity.

“Mr. Yunus please pay our dues” reads banners held by protesters that include employees employed by Yunus’s Grameen Telecome Trust for more than 7 years.

In November, as many as 47 employees filed cases with the third Labour Court in Dhaka against Grameen Telecom, over a claim of getting five per cent of net profit of the company under the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006.

The defence on behalf on Yunus came after a recent appeal signed by 40 powerful westerners and a strange defence of  such a move to adversely project the entire state machinery of Bangladesh and boost the sullied image of Bangladesh’s not so celebrated Nobel Laureate Dr Yunus brought the focus back on a series of desperate yet futile past efforts Yunus had made collusion with some of these signatories to grab state power in Bangladesh.

The appeal published as a paid advertisement in Washington Post indicates the Western gang earlier made botched efforts to bring Yunus in power undemocratically in Bangladesh is hyper active again and back at their familiar game, according to Bangladesh watchers.

The content in the letter is hardly neutral and the hyped ‘global’ appeal to save Yunus, who is facing cases filed by his former employees, can be deemed as a direct assault on Bangladesh’s state apparatus including the judiciary, says a former justice.

“It is therefore painful to see Prof. Yunus, a man of impeccable integrity, and his life’s work unfairly attacked and repeatedly harassed and investigated by your government”, reads the appeal.

Now assertion of such a tall claim like “impeccable integrity” begs the question of “moral authority” on part of the signatories as a look at the background of Yunus laid bare his opening up of a political front, months after he bestowed with the Nobel  prize, at a time when the country has been ruled by a military backed caretaker system, in 2007.

“Now our war criminals have funnelled millions in the west to lobby and mount pressure on the government to stop the war crimes trial… But just on the basis of such flattery, given lobbying is a legal practice in the west, is it fair to ask people of Bangladesh to draw a judgement  and overlook one’s works and misdeeds orchestrated on this country,” said former Supreme Court Justice Shamsuddin Manik.

“There is nothing immoral in joining politics, but the timing you intend to step into the choppy water and your inglorious retreat from the political landscape stands as a clear vindication of outright public rejection almost a decade back”, added eminent researcher Ajoy Das Gupta.

Yunus may be a Western favourite but Bangladesh’s political culture with its fair share of blood and tears with its  deep native roots makes his parachuting not easy — especially with a tough survivor like Hasina at the helm.

( Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC correspondent and author)