Fresh ordeals for Dr Yunus
The latest government attempt to harass and implicate Professor Yunus on tax evasion charges has been termed unprecedented by impartial observers. People generally are shocked but, given the past record, are not really surprised by the turn of events. More than anything else it reinforces the stubborn, irrational, unrelenting rage, malice and meanness by the ruling parties against someone who is respected all over the world, writes Omar Khasru
THE latest salvo emanated from the cabinet meeting. Before that a slew of ruling party politicians, especially the ‘rubbish’ minister, and crony columnists have been persistently spewing venom against the sole Nobel laureate of the country and former managing director of Grameen Bank, Dr Muhammad Yunus.
The cabinet on September 9 ordered legal action against Professor Yunus for evading income tax. According to the cabinet secretary, Dr Yunus earned over Tk 50 crore in seven years, between 2004 and 2011, from 133 foreign institutions as royalty and gift, and got tax exemption of over Tk 12 crore.
The cabinet secretary said Yunus enjoyed tax exemption as a wage earner. During that period, as the Grameen bank managing director, Yunus was a public servant but he did not take government permission to go abroad and indulge in money making ventures. As such, he cannot enjoy any tax benefits. The cabinet has ordered legal action against him.
Taking into account the current government’s inexorable vitriol, vindictive attitude, inexplicable and dubious hostile outlook against Professor Yunus, for conscious observers a ruthless government action was forthcoming ever since Professor Yunus spoke in favour of an impartial non-partisan caretaker government to hold the general elections. The concept, as we all know, is an anathema to the ruling coterie.
These observers were waiting for the other shoe to drop ominously due to the government’s staunch opposition to the concept of caretaker regime. Added to intense adverse stance against him by members the ruling party and the coalition government, especially powerful individuals, who have incessantly campaigned against him and gratuitously blamed him for all adversities, his opinion would not be tolerated.
The government has blamed him for hard times at home and abroad, including the Padma Bridge loan fiasco, refusal of World Bank to provide the loan due to alleged corruption of high officials, to tarnished government’s image abroad. He has been accused as an anti-government individual to a paid foreign agent.
It would not at all be surprising if a government henchman blames him for obstructing the war crimes trial, as the regime customarily accuses all dissenters of this. I am not sure but someone may already have done so.
The fact that Dr Yunus brought so much money from abroad, reported the hefty amount and beefed up the country’s foreign exchange reserve deserves honourable mention and perhaps a reward. But he is being punished for his demand, popularity and respect in foreign countries and an innate ability to earn money through speeches, seminars and mere presence at various events.
According to entrenched, self-seeking and egotistical partisan politicians and their lackeys, Dr Mohammad Yunus, the solitary Nobel laureate in Bangladesh, has committed two cardinal sins. The first is that he was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize. And the second peccadillo was his audacity years ago to express a desire to enter politics which he aborted shortly thereafter.
Typical adult Bangladeshis love to discuss, dissect, disparage, delve into, and pontificate about politics and sports. But ‘power politics’, after all, is the exclusive profession, possession, preoccupation, fixation and domain of established and ingrained politicos. How dare a rank outsider, even with the education and knowledge, exalted accomplishments, honour and name recognition enter the arena and grab attention?
Let me go back to Dr Yunus’s cardinal sin paradigm from a commoner’s point of view. After he was awarded the Nobel Prize, the unrestrained joy and uninhibited pride that the populace spontaneously felt was profound and poignant. The micro-credit programme, pioneered by him, admired and replicated elsewhere has played a significant role in alleviating poverty and in financially empowering vulnerable poor rural women.
If one wants to nitpick and look minutely into the nitty-gritty, one can detect blemishes and possible anomalies. A China-style double-digit growth is probably the main driving force for effective poverty reduction with micro-credit playing a potent ancillary part.
Moreover, a Nobel laureate need not be perfect or his programme all-encompassing. The recipient needs to be a unique and leading innovator, a pioneer if you like, and the work needs to be significant and beneficial. Dr Yunus and his micro-credit program meet these prerequisites. The Nobel Peace Prize 2006 has been jointly awarded to a deserving person and his socially-conscious organisation.
The bungled, you may even call it misguided, attempt to enter politics made Dr Yunus a perpetual rival of and a convenient punching bag for the current ruling party, especially its top leaders. He has been variously dubbed a ‘loan shark’ and ‘blood sucker’ and his Nobel Prize a sham that supposedly was acquired through lobbying by former US president Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and other influential friends.
The general secretary of the ruling party went imprudently as far as to say that since Dr Yunus did not bring peace to a war-torn country he was not eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize. This was the absurd limit of ill-advised impertinent comments. In that case how about Mother Teresa? She only brought peace, dignity and serenity to dying street people but she did not bring peace to a strife-torn country either. There are many such examples.
This gave rise to an active but inane, inept and fruitless lobbying effort to acquire a Nobel Prize during the rule of the current regime. Two partisan and pro-government professors reportedly were sent abroad, from the US to Japan, holding fruitless seminars and stating, asserting and amplifying the qualification of their supreme leader to obtain a Nobel Prize.
Recently there has been an attempt through a government-created commission to divide the Nobel Prize co-winner Grameen Bank into nineteen separate outfits with government ownership. With severe foreign pressure and concerted objection from Grameen Bank stakeholders, this attempt might have been shelved for now.
With state-owned commercial banks in real doldrums due to swindling of thousands of crores taka funds and deposits, why the government found it necessary to form a commission against Grameen Bank with no major complains against it is extremely puzzling. This was yet another attempt at ruining Professor Yunus’s creation.
Every comment that Dr Yunus makes, everything he does, and everything he stands for become instant sources of scrutiny, derisive remarks, veiled threat and spitefulness. His recent statement that a caretaker regime was needed for a free and fair election added fuel to fire, even though this belief is held resolutely by 90 per cent of the population.
The ruling coalition politicians, from the finance minister to the information minister and others in the party and the government, lambasted him. They called him a consummate politician in disguise and they indicated that he was an agent of the opposition parties, followed by the usual taunts.
This was another opportunity for the ruling henchmen to pounce on what Dr Yunus said and abuse him. One minister, who had declared that all those who call hartal (general strike) for the demand of caretaker regime should be ambushed at their homes and killed, announced that Dr Yunus should be imprisoned for treason.
There are 84 lakh (8.4 million) Grameen Bank shareholders, mostly working women and mostly loyal to Dr Yunus and passionate about Grameen Bank. Most are very unhappy with the arbitrary and unfair government actions. With the impending general election how many votes will the shareholders and their families deprive the ruling coalition?
With additional similar loss of block votes in share market scandal, garment worker votes due to Rana Plaza collapse and Hefajat votes due to late night assault, it is perhaps clear why the ruling party is averse to a free and fair election under a nonpartisan caretaker regime and why they are hypersensitive about someone who supports the concept.
The latest government attempt to harass and implicate Professor Yunus on tax evasion charges has been termed unprecedented by impartial observers. People generally are shocked but, given the past record, are not really surprised by the turn of events. More than anything else it reinforces the stubborn, irrational, unrelenting rage, malice and meanness by the ruling parties against someone who is respected all over the world.
The government’s Internal Resource Division in an ordinance of July 10, 2004, announced that the government has exempted all citizens from any taxes, described in the 1984 tax law (section 44 and subsection 4), from all earnings that they send or bring from abroad (Manabzamin, September 10, 2013).
This would seem to take Professor Yunus off the hook. It obviously has not. It also will not exempt him from the spurious allegations, constant harassment, unrelenting aggravation and unending drivel.
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THE persistent refusal by transport operators to commission... Full story
THE latest salvo emanated from the cabinet meeting. Before that a slew of ruling party politicians, especially the ‘rubbish’ minister, and crony columnists have been persistently spewing venom against the sole Nobel laureate of the country and former managing director of Grameen Bank, Dr Muhammad Yunus. Full story