India’s ex-judge, Grameen supporters rally behind Yunus

Thursday, February 24, 2011

DHAKA - Former chief justice of India J.S. Verma has condemned the vilification campaign against Grameen micro credit pioneer and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, while a group of prominent world citizens has lent its voice to the protests.

Verma Wednesday took exception to Muzammel Huq, Grameen Bank’s newly appointed chairman, calling Yunus a “chicken-hearted man”.

This was an “unacceptable” insult on its founder, Verma said.

“In contrast with the chairman’s shocking and acrimonious public remarks against Yunus, we were quite relieved seeing government officials showing respect and appreciation for Yunus and the Grameen Bank,” said Verma, a member of a group called “Friends of Grameen.”

Kerry Kennedy, a human rights activist and niece of the late US president John F. Kennedy, has joined Friends of Grameen. She will be one of the vice presidents of the group’s executive committee, said a statement of the group.

Michel Camdessus, former managing director of International Monetary Fund, also joined the committee chaired by Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland.

“I have decided to join the initiative because I have been a long-time admirer of Yunus and his lifetime devotion to the cause of the poor,” Camdessus said.

“The impact they had, building alternative poverty alleviation programmes in Bangladesh and abroad is beyond imagination. Protecting this living heritage is a priority for all those interested in economic and social development.”

Floated Feb 11, the forum also aims to promote microcredit and social business.

Members of the voluntary association include about 50 charities and public figures, including James Wolfensohn, former president of World Bank, and Yeardley Smith, a French-born American actress. It has vowed to protect Yunus from “politically orchestrated” insults.

The government and Yunus’s opponents are increasingly mounting pressure on the Nobel laureate after a Norwegian television channel aired a documentary last December accusing him and Grameen Bank of malpractice in handling funds.

The bank, however, denied the charges, saying the issue had been settled over a decade ago between the bank and the Norwegian government, one of its main donors.

Yunus shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank in 2006.

Thirteen eminent Bangladeshis have also protested at Yunus being “harassed in various ways”.

“Nobel laureate Dr Yunus has brought glory for Bangladesh and we want decency while writing and speaking about him,” they added.

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