Bangladesh turns up heat on Nobel winner Yunus

Dhaka: Bangladesh moved to force Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus out of his pioneering microfinance bank on Tuesday, with the central bank saying he had passed retirement age and had to go.

Supporters of the 70-year-old Yunus, including former Irish president Mary Robinson, say there is a campaign of politically orchestrated attacks on the Nobel laureate after he fell out with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2007.

Bangladesh Bank sent a letter to the finance ministry saying that Yunus, who won the Nobel prize in 2006 for his work making small loans to poor entrepreneurs, should be removed from the Grameen Bank he founded.

"In the letter, the central bank has said professor Muhammad Yunus has been staying as the chief executive of the Grameen Bank for an indefinite period, which is illegal," Grameen chairman Muzammel Huq, a critic of Yunus, said.

Grameen Bank spokeswoman Jannat-E-Quanine denied that the letter suggested Yunus should resign, saying that "a Bangladesh Bank official has expressed an opinion regarding Professor Yunus's term as managing director".

"There is no directive on Professor Yunus to cease functioning as managing director, nor is there any suggestion of his being removed him from this post," she said.

But Huq, who was appointed as the chairman of the board late last year said the letter clearly said Yunus being the bank's chief executive is "illegal and not valid".

"In the letter -- a copy of which has been given to me -- the central bank said he no longer can stay as the chief executive of the Grameen Bank because the retirement age of the bank is 60," he said.

Bureau Report