Hasina blasts Yunus in parliament
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday termed Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus a “cheat”, accusing him of not giving shares of Grameenphone profits to Grameen Bank in “breach of the promise he made before setting up of the telecom company”.
Without mentioning any name, the PM in parliament alleged that Yunus, pioneer of microcredit and social business initiative, evaded tax on his fixed deposit income and also tax of some 40 to 50 companies that have links with Grameen Bank.
In response to a supplementary query of Jatiya Party lawmaker AKM Mayeedul Islam, she asked Finance Minister AMA Muhith to look into the matter and take action.
Earlier, the JP lawmaker demanded a probe to find out whether Yunus, former managing director of Grameen Bank, is involved in “a deep conspiracy against the country.”
Mayeedul, also former chief of naval staff, said, “This man set up Grameenphone using Bangladesh Railway's optical fibre. Instead of taking action against petty criminals, catch him with an iron hand as he laundered thousands of crores of taka.”
About giving licence to Grameenphone, the PM said, “When we came to power in 1996, he used to visit me and request for licence to set up Grameenphone. He committed that profits of Grameenphone would go to Grameen Bank, which would use it for giving loans to general people, and Grameen Bank would grow stronger.
“I believed him and gave licence to set up Grameenphone, as there was only one telecom operator at that time. We also wanted to make telecom service available to the general people.
“Grameenphone was third in the bidding process and was not supposed to get the licence. But we gave it licence, thinking that the profits would go to the poor people through Grameen bank.
“It is unfortunate that he sold a good portion of the shares which ought to go to the state. He had turned Grameenphone into his personal property. About 30 percent of Grameenphone shares was in his hand and the rest was sold to others.
“He had cheated, as profits of Grameenphone were not given to Grameen Bank.
“He is lucky that he didn't take flak for any of his deeds.”
The PM also blamed Yunus and “the editor of a famous newspaper” for the World Bank's withdrawal of funding for the Padma Bridge project.
“Following his defeat in the legal battle [challenging his removal from the post of Grameen Bank MD], he got angry with us. He and the editor of a famous newspaper together met the World Bank president and also lobbied with Hillary Clinton [the then US secretary of state] to stop funding for the Padma Bridge project.
“The World Bank later brought the allegation of a corruption conspiracy centring the project and suspended its funding.”
Terming Yunus a “usurer”, Hasina alleged that he made money and a fortune by fleecing poor people.
During the 1998 flood, 70 percent of the country was under water but Grameen Bank staffs tortured people for weekly instalment.
“At that time, we asked the bank not to collect weekly instalment. Our government provided Tk 400 crore to the bank to run its activities.”
Hasina further said Yunus and the editor together moved to launch a party. “But people didn't respond to the call of the usurer,”
She claimed that Yunus was behind “the harassment, repression and torture” of her son, daughter, sister and her cabinet members by US intelligence agencies in the name of probing corruption allegations against them.
“But they [US intelligence agencies] didn't find anything.”
The PM said she had nothing to do with Yunus' removal from the post of Grameen Bank MD; it was the law that didn't permit him to keep the post after the age of 60.
“When he [Yunus] crossed 70, our Finance Minister Mr Muhith and my foreign affairs adviser met him and offered him the post of the adviser emeritus to the bank provided that he left the managing director's post.
“But he went to court and filed two cases -- one against Bangladesh Bank and the other against the government. But he lost both the cases.”
Following his request, the then US secretary of state Hilary Clinton phoned Hasina and questioned her why Yunus had been removed from the post of MD.
“I told her [Hillary] that he lost the cases and we had nothing to do with it,” the PM added.
SHAMIM, FEROZ SLAM 3 EDITORS
Awami League MP Shamim Osman and Jatiya Party MP Feroz Rashid slated Prothom Alo, The Daily Star and The Daily Observer and their editors for what they said was publication of false news against ministers and MPs.
Shamim demanded that the House enact a law with a provision for punitive action against media outlets for assassinating characters of ministers, MPs and political leaders by publishing false news.
The two were speaking on the thanksgiving motion on the president's speech.
Amid thumping of desks by MPs of both the treasury and the opposition benches, they demanded that the House summon Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam and The Daily Observer Editor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, and quiz them for “their involvement in yellow journalism and maligning image of MPs”, including Shamim and slain Gaibandha AL MP Manzurul Islam Liton.
Following Shamim's demand for issuing a ruling, Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, who was presiding over the sitting, said, “If you could raise this issue as per the rules of procedure of parliament, I could issue a ruling.
“If you do so, I will surely issue a ruling given that I chair the sitting at that time,” Rabbi told the AL MP.
The deputy speaker also said he was mesmerised by Shamim's speech.
In his speech, Shamim castigated The Daily Star and Prothom Alo for publishing “false” news on AL MP Liton and “assassinating” his character.
“The Daily Star and Prothom Alo are assassinating characters of MPs. Who are they? They published news items based on anonymous sources.”
The influential MP from Narayanganj said Prothom Alo published a news report against him over the Narayanganj seven-murder, labelling him as a killer.
Shamim lambasted the AL leaders, who attended a cake cutting programme held on The Daily Star's founding anniversary. He, however, didn't mention the date.
Feroz Rashid said Shamim's speech was a reflection of the views of the 350 MPs.