Blake says compromise possible; Wolfensohn backs amicable solution
The United States yesterday called for a dialogue between Prof Muhammad Yunus and Bangladesh government to reach a solution to the dispute over the status of the Nobel laureate in the Grameen Bank he founded.
“‘I do believe that a compromise is possible and I am encouraging dialogue between the parties to find a mutually acceptable solution,” Robert Blake, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, told a news conference at the American Club in Dhaka.
Replying to a question, he, however, said, “If there is no compromise, it will have an effect on bilateral relations.” He did not elaborate.
During his four-day visit, Blake met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, senior government officials, Prof Muhammad Yunus and civil society members. Former World Bank president James Wolfensohn was present during Blake’s meeting with the prime minister.
The US had earlier said it was “troubled” by government’s dismissal of Yunus as managing director of Grameen Bank on the ground that the 70-year-old pioneer of microfinance violated the bank’s 60-year retirement law. Yunus denied any wrongdoing and appealed to the High Court.
After losing the appeal in the HC, Yunus has gone to the Supreme Court, where his petition awaits further hearing.
In a written statement yesterday, Blake said Prof Yunus has brought great honour to Bangladesh, and “we in the United States have been deeply troubled by the difficulties he is currently facing.”
“‘As a friend and partner of Bangladesh, we are concerned about the dampening effect this will have on civil society in general and on the integrity and effectiveness of Grameen Bank in particular,” he said.
The United States, he said, sees it as “a distraction and an unnecessary departure from all the great work being done in Bangladesh.”
Asked what could be the compromise, Blake said the United States does not prescribe any formula. “It could be found through dialogue between Prof Yunus, Grameen Bank and Bangladesh government,” he added.
In reply to another question if the US stand on Prof Yunus is interference in Bangladesh’s internal matters, Blake said, “Prof Yunus and Grameen Bank have positive reputation in USA and among many Congressmen, members of the Bangladesh congressional caucus, President Obama and Secretary Clinton. This is a matter of great interest in USA,” Blake said.
Blake said Yunus is a Nobel Prize winner and recipient of the American Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Congressional Gold Medal. “His work over the past decades to lift millions of women out of poverty is internationally recognized,” he added.
Asked if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could visit Bangladesh this year, he said he will try to make a schedule “if Yunus’ matter is solved”.
The US official praised Bangladesh’s progress in economic development, counter terrorism and regional partnership.
“Bangladesh plays an important role in furthering peace and stability, both within its borders and across the region,” he said.
Bangladesh, he said, “is the number one contributor to UN peacekeeping efforts, BRAC and other civil society groups are playing role in Afghanistan. Bangladesh recently sent a crack team of cholera experts to Haiti to lend expertise and assistance to that troubled country.”
Blake further said Bangladesh is one of a select few countries in the world that is partnering with the United States on the four signature initiatives of President Barack Obama : global health, food security, global climate and engagement with Muslim communities.
Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in MDGs especially in maternal and child health, he said. And further progress could be made in reducing human rights violation by the security forces and corruption.
Blake said he visited a shelter in Jessore for women victims of trafficking. He appreciated enactment of laws against sex trafficking and protection of migrant workers.
WOLFENSOHN FOR AMICABLE SOLUTION
Talking to journalists after a meeting with Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman, James Wolfensohn said, “I am here to take a note of the microfinance industry, not just the current issue with Prof Yunus. I am going from here to other countries such as Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. This is part of an overall view.”
On the Nobel laureate, the former WB chief said: “I just hope that the issue ends in peaceful resolutions because your country has been a great leader in microfinance.”
“I think your reputation is very strong. It would be my hope and belief that it will remain so. Whatever you are doing in your country is your business, not mine,” said the former WB president who visited Bangladesh as part of his global tour.
Courtesy of The Daily Star