Microcredit pioneer and Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus challenged his removal as Managing Director of Grameen Bank in a court on Thursday amid growing support from abroad.
The High Court fixed March 6 for hearing. The court was told that the government had removed Dr. Yunus without issuing any show cause notice to him.
Dr. Yunus received vital support from his bank, which he founded in 1983. Nine out of 12 directors of the bank have also filed a separate writ petition challenging the legality of the central bank's order. The Bangladesh Bank removed Dr. Yunus claiming that his re-appointment was not made with prior approval from the central bank.
The central bank accused Dr. Yunus of violating one of the statutes of the partly state-owned (25 per cent) Grameen Bank.
Briefing foreign diplomats, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said there was no “political motive” behind the move.
Asked whether Dr. Yunus' removal would have any impact on Bangladesh's diplomatic relations, the Finance Minister said the foreign policy had nothing to do with it.
However, reacting sharply, the U.S. said: “We are deeply troubled by the process here, that is trying to remove Prof. Yunus, who has continued to hold the position,” James F Moriarty, the U.S. Ambassador to Dhaka, told journalists after a meeting with the Finance Minister .
The government also explained that it had to remove Dr. Yunus after he refused to quit voluntarily.
“We know very well that it would tarnish our image globally. But all our attempts to find an honourable solution failed. We had to do it in line with the law of the land,” Mr. Muhith told journalists.
The Minister also said the operation of the Grameen Bank, which has established itself on a solid footing over the last 30 years, would not be affected.
“We are proud of him [Yunus]. He earned us the Nobel Peace Prize. A respected man like him should not go like this, it was not expected at all.”
The move has drawn mixed reaction. While some said he had abused his power and deserved it, some said it was a political decision as the government feared that he might support the opposition.
Respected economist Dr. Wahiduddin Mahmud said, the leadership change in the Grameen Bank should have happened in a more decent and appropriate way showing due respect and courtesy to the man who founded the institution.
Friends of Grameen, a voluntary association chaired by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, in a statement said, “This new development appears as a renewed and immediate threat for Grameen Bank as an independent institution and a new step in the destabilisation campaign persuaded by the government.”
Meanwhile Dr. Yunus has also received support from the main opposition BNP. Its key leader Fakrul Islam Alamgir alleged the government could not tolerate Dr. Yunus' stature from the very beginning, and they defamed the country by defaming him.