On August 28 (2023), 160 well-known figures and world leaders, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, wrote an open letter with political motives to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for Dr. Muhammad Yunus. More than a hundred Nobel laureates are among the signatories. The media-released open letter signed by over 100 Nobel laureates is obviously a fabrication intended to harm Bangladesh and the Sheikh Hasina administration.
Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the first Nobel laureate from Bangladesh, established Grameen Bank in 1976. He and Grameen Bank jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Muhammad Yunus has been embroiled in a number of controversies since being awarded the Nobel Prize. He started his own political party in 2006. Many people think that he was responsible for bringing about One Eleven Coup. But at present, he is in full legal entanglement. Several cases of violation of labor laws and corruption are ongoing against him. The cases were not due to any political reasons or as a result of conflict between various quarters. Instead, the cases were filed by people with interests in the ongoing legal process of the country.
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Nonetheless, Hundreds of Nobel laureates have sent a veiled threatening message to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh through letters expressing concern about the case against Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Along with asking for the pending lawsuit against him to be put on hold, the letter also brings up the upcoming parliamentary elections, which have no bearing on his situation. The anti-government scandal has been revealed in the media, and the public is already aware of the letter’s origin and provenance.
Needless to say, in exchange for money, the Chicago-based public relations firm ‘Cision PR Firm’ has published the letter on its website. That is, the letter is produced through a public relations firm. Public relations firms in the United States are actually a type of lobbyist firm. They do public relations for different people. In other words, this PR firm has done the work of courting those who need signatures for that letter, convincing them, and getting their consent.
They do public relations for many clients. In other words, this PR company has already done the legwork of courting, persuading, and obtaining the signatures of people who are required for that letter. No work is ever done for free by Cision PR. Undoubtedly, they had to be paid to obtain such a large number of signatures. Did Dr. Muhammad Yunus contribute this money, or did someone else? It is the current query?
Obviously, the letter is not a self-motivated or voluntary statement of more than 150 people but this statement has been obtained by lobbying them. Such signatures have been taken by giving the signatures a negative impression of Bangladesh and the government and trying to garner some kind of sympathy. In other words, it is clearly a kind of revenge against the country and Sheikh Hasina’s government. No one else is supposed to do it except Muhammad Yunus. No doubt he has committed a felony.
The letter’s style and speech are chock-full of impolite and unwanted inquiries. The statement was signed by 4 Nobel laureates in literature, 14 Nobel laureates for peace, 28 Nobel laureates in chemistry, 29 Nobel laureates in medicine, and 22 Nobel laureates in physics. The people and the civil society of this country are upset with the questions that they raised about the election and the acceptance of the government of the country. The statement said, “We believe that the upcoming parliamentary elections are free and fair and the election administration is acceptable to the country’s leading parties. The legitimacy of the last two elections has been lacking.’ The question is why Nobel laureates in physics or chemistry would question Bangladesh’s elections and raise the issue of acceptance by the first-tier parties. That means there is a political agenda behind this letter. The weapon of election is being used on the government to exonerate Dr. Yunus and steps have been taken to create pressure.
The letter also said, “We are concerned that he (Dr. Muhammad Yunus) has been targeted recently.” Through this, we think that he is being subjected to continuous judicial harassment. It is incomprehensible how Muhammad Yunus is being subjected to judicial harassment. There was a case against Dr. Yunus earlier. It was proved in the Supreme Court that he had evaded the ‘donation tax’. He himself paid the donation tax respecting the judgment of the court. Around 2016, Dr. Muhammad Yunus was among the donors to the Clinton Foundation, where he donated $6 million. This is also one of the many big money scams. The money he gave as a donation was money for the poor of our village. Dr. Yunus did not use a single penny of this money for his people but cruelly embezzled it from them. He has already been recognized as a corrupt person by depositing 13 crores of tax evasion. In addition, he wanted to settle the case against him for violation of the labor law unethically out of court. How a Nobel laureate figure tries to evade his case in such an ugly way is a big question. But that matter is not mentioned in that letter.
“We respectfully appeal to you to immediately halt the ongoing legal proceedings against Professor Yunus,” the letter says. Have a judge assess the charges against him in your nation who is independent. Internationally renowned legal professionals will participate on the panel. We are sure he won’t be found guilty if we examine the Labor Act or ACC cases brought against him. Everyone is now curious as to how these individuals voiced their opinions against the Bangladeshi legal system prior to the investigation of a case.
According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, fundamental rights and the rule of law are equal for all citizens. Then, Why should the law be violated in the case of Dr. Muhammad Yunus? Why can’t a case be filed for him, why should a panel be formed for him – these questions have come to the fore. This letter is a big proof of the misleading view and bias that the Western countries always have about our Bangladesh issue. If there is a separate law for Yunus, then the rule of law in Bangladesh will be ruined. But this rule of law is said repeatedly by the Western world.
Many Nobel laureates have gone to jail as criminals under the law. Dr. Muhammad Yunus is not above the law because he is a Nobel winner. There is no such precedent. Rather, many Nobel laureates have stories of facing lawsuits, and there are precedents for getting punishment. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. His sense of humanity was muted during the Rohingya genocide. A case is ongoing against him. He is facing them but not running away. Also, a few years ago, Maria Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines who won the Nobel Peace Prize, was accused of tax evasion in that country. He has also faced trial and for years has wandered from courtroom balcony to balcony. Another Nobel Peace Prize laureate is Ales Bialiatski, who has been convicted of smuggling and financing. A court in Belarus sentenced him to 10 years in prison. But there was no uproar in the world about these events.
Actually, such statements about Dr. Yunus are interference in the internal affairs of a country. In addition, justice is a major threat to the rule of law. And, There is no doubt that Dr. Muhammad Yunus did this work. A Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist can involve himself in such activities to absolve corruption and injustice- this too is unfortunate for the world.
The self-confident Sheikh Hasina, however, said in the Ganabhaban press conference on August 29 (2023) that if Dr.Yunus had confidence, he would not have begged for a statement. He is not one to withdraw the case against him. Rather, Sheikh Hasina said, ‘Those who have made a statement on her behalf should send experts and lawyers to examine all the documents and to see if there is any injustice or inconsistency. Do we have the power to stop the trial?’
According to the statement of the Prime Minister, the judiciary of Bangladesh is completely independent and everything works according to the law. And there is nothing to talk about in this country. Moreover, the government cannot withdraw the case at will. That’s why he said, ‘So I am calling on the people who gave the statement to send experts. Check everything. Otherwise, there is a law court and a labor court – the law will run at its own pace. I have no more words.’
It should be mentioned that Dr. Yunus was the MD of Grameen Bank. This MD on government salary invested and traded billions of dollars abroad. He also donated a huge amount to Hillary Clinton’s foundation. Where did this money come from, how did you earn it – these are the questions of everyone today. Therefore, the court should work independently and do justice. The court will not be influenced by who gave the statement. Rather the court will judge justice. The court will be independent. Workers should be paid what they are owed. Attempting to protect oneself by bribery is also a wrongdoing.
For quite some time, the Western world including the United States has been emphasizing on making the upcoming elections of Bangladesh participatory. Those who have made statements about Dr. Yunus, including Barack Obama, have also mentioned it. Or even when military dictators held elections. They did not listen to the policies of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government during the post-election violence in 2001. In particular, they were silent on Zia’s yes-no vote and Ershad’s election in violation of army rules. The West does not say anything about Khaleda Zia’s 15th February election. Rather, despite the development and progress of the country under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, they appeared with various excuses purposefully.
A suspension of the case against Yunus is being sought on the effect of the said letter, which is unacceptable. A case will follow its own procedure – that’s normal. ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said that the letter given to the Prime Minister by the world leaders was an interference in the judiciary of Bangladesh. Claiming the Prime Minister’s intervention in this case is completely absurd. Because according to the constitution, the executive branch is completely separate and independent from the judiciary. This separation is confirmed as per Article 22 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. That is, the judiciary will work independently, and the executive cannot interfere here.
The development and progress of Bangladesh will not be stunted by letters or Western statements. Rather, the people of the country will decide whether they want Sheikh Hasina’s government by considering the visible activities of various countries including the United States and the international context. Big projects have been implemented, even metro rail and tunnels, everything has been done in the public interest. They see the bad in everything because they are there. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will work for the country as long as she has responsibility without thinking about the suffering people. This is correct – ‘They (Westerners) want fair elections. We want that too. The Dr. Yunus issue has nothing to do with it. Because the victims filed a case against him. It is not the government’s business.