Yunus refuses to step down as Grameen Bank chief

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Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Feb 18 (PTI) Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus whodid pioneering work in the field of micro-credi today refusedto step down from his position as the Grameen Bank chief, evenas he is drawing huge global support against the backdrop ofhis row with the Bangladeshi government.

"We established Grameen Bank through a specialordinance, with rules that are specific, according to which mycurrent term as managing director is fully valid," Yunus saidadding that the government had three representatives on theboard and they have unanimously approved these rules.

The statement said with more than eight millionborrowers and shareholders, "when time will come, anytransition will essentially require a friendly environmentand support from the inside and outside stakeholders of theBank to ensure that we continue to be totally committed to ourmission for and with the poor."

Yunus, 70, who won the Nobel prize in 2006 for hispioneering work in the field of micro-credit was told byFinance Minister A M A Muhith to "stay away" from his GrameenBank while it is being investigated by the government.

According to Bangladeshi rules, the retirement age forprivate bank executives is 65 so Yunus should leave now as heis five years beyond the limit, Muhith said this week.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had accused Yunus oftreating Grameen Bank as his "personal property" and claimedthe group was "sucking blood from the poor".

Meanwhile, Yunus is drawing huge global supportagainst the backdrop of his growing row with the governmentwhich wants him to step down from his position as the GrameenBank chief.

According to media reports former Irish presidentMary Robinson stood by Yunus as nearly 50 prominentinternational personalities or organisisations joined agrouping called Friends of Grameen.

Yunus''s pioneering efforts has earned Bangladesh therepute of being the home of micro credit.

"We are deeply concerned by the ongoing attacksagainst Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank, that are politicallyorchestrated," said Robinson, also former United Nations highcommissioner for human rights.

She said while some micro lenders became lucrativecommercial enterprises, Yunus and Grameen Bank followed asustainable model -- with "very transparent and reasonableinterest rates -- making the borrowers owners of the bank".

"Because of the importance of such a role model, ourduty is to protect the integrity of Professor Yunus and theindependence of Grameen Bank," said, Robinson adding thatYunus and his Grameen Bank were exposed to "politicallyorchestrated" attacks falling "victim to a campaign ofmisinformation."

The Friends of Grameen was formed on February 11, 2011as a voluntary association that aims to promote micro creditand social business of Grameen Bank and its affiliates whileits member list included former World Bank president JamesWolfensohn, former Indian chief justice Jagdish Sharan Vermaand French born US actress Yeardley Smith.

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