A Rejoinder to the opinion piece by Hammad Ali titled “Rights, Responsibilities and Privileges”

by M. Aktaruzzaman (Zaman):

http://opinion.bdnews24.com/2013/11/14/rights-responsibilities-and-privileges/

“Few things are harder to put up with than a good example”

The header of this write up is a borrowed quote from Mark Twain, the witty guy with a big mustache. I used to work in a little town on the mighty Mississippi, where Mark Twain lived his childhood days! Whenever, I visit downtown for a little coffee or anything else, on the hill, I see the Mark Twain Boyhood Museum and I think of this quote.

It, indeed, is very hard to put up with a good example. In the heydays of the current administration (early 20111), an honorable minister and Awami League (AL) secretary general again invoked the name our only Nobel laureate to give a little extra credit to our sitting prime minister (for she helped Yunus get the bank going!). Other ministers, AL leaders and even the attorney general, at various time, tried to spray an extra glow for the prime minister. Yes, the witty man with a big mustache from Hannibal said it right ….ha .. ha..

But why? Why the Prime Minister, having all the hard powers of the state juggernaut at her disposal consider her feat a lesser feat than that of Yunus? She has all the love (!) in the land. She is the undisputed heiress of the most powerful political Ghorana. She lacks nothing. And yet she longs for what Yunus never longed for! He dreamed and worked hard and he himself became an example international repute. And he got what he deserved!

For whatever reason, the nation has given our prime minister the biggest gift one can ever have. They gave her the opportunity to serve them for five years. And she had visions too. She came with a dream of Digital Bangladesh – that can make governing open and transparent thus reducing all the other maladies that accompany our “as usual” governance. If she just kept on working for this very noble goal, she can be a transformational leader ushering her poor millions in the new era of information and prosperity. I bet, Yunus and his intellectual tools are ready to be tapped for the benefit of the people. But naught … the long hand of the governmental juggernaut, instead, decided to discredit the Yunus for no good reason. The PM called him a blood sucker usurer, even though Yunus does not own the bank and even though she herself claims to be a facilitator for the whole enterprise. Her ministers called names. And her Attorney General even announced that the PM deserved the laurel for her extra-ordinary work for negotiating a peace treaty in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

With this prelude I would like to offer a rejoinder to Mr. Hammad Ali’s opinion piece “Rights, Responsibilities and Privileges” published on November 14, 2013.

In the third paragraph Mr. Ali posited, “Why would a man whose life mission is to eradicate poverty in his own motherland, a man who is above all trying to work for the common man, have his influence measured in terms of how many heads of states and business tycoons he knows?” The matter of fact is far from Mr. Ali’s contention. Muhammad Yunus, at the prime of his life, left a very highly ranked university in the US (Vanderbilt to be precise) and settled in the quaint outskirts of Chittagong in early 70’s. He was nothing more than a young economist with a desire to do the best for a nascent nation-state. “We are poor, because we are poor” – this aphorism is economics bothered Yunus. He desired and devined a pragmatic approach to provide capital to the poor without collateral. Thus came the village of Zobra and thus came the Grameen Bank. Yes, the then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves kudos for her helping hand. “True influence, I believe, has to be bottom up, and not top down” – Yes, this is what the story of Yunus is! He fact that his circle of influence is so wide is a function of his work that he started at the subaltern. It is never top town …

The second cliché point Mr. Ali mentioned is the notion that “Yunus has changed the national image for the better”. This has merit, but I agree with Mr. Ali when writes, “No, just knowing that your country produced a Nobel Laureate does not change their attitude about you overnight.” This especially is true when we also are doing certain non-kosher things like Hawa-Bhavon, Khamba, Hallmark, Padma and etc etc … Image of a nation is more like a kaleidoscope of myriad images that morphs with succession of images – good or bad. More images of the likes of Muhammad Yunus of GB, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed of BRAC and Quader of BIKASH someday shall make the image of Bangladesh brighter…

Yunus’ short but unsuccessful foray into politics in 2007 is dubbed as the “Main Issue” by the erudite scribe. He reasoned that Yunus’ venture to test the water of politics made him a lesser man.“If Dr. Yunus thought his credentials put him on fast track for political success, then he was probably not the man many of us thought he was” – thus goes Mr. Ali, however, he, I hope not, shall argue against the inalienable right of any citizen to enter the crowded political arena. Bangladesh yearns for a man of his stature and integrity to be in politics. I wish, he did not retreat in the face of less-than optimal support. It just is a measure of his less-than-expected political astuteness. It does not make him a lesser man. In fact, this makes him a better man because he tried to do what felt was right!
Then fast forward to Grameen Bank. The scribe says “I fail to understand why the government of a country cannot ask for greater monitoring of an organization that has already been questioned several times as to their methods.” Yes, questions were asked several times but no irregularities were discovered after extensive examinations. A government that loves to govern by judiciary shall not resort to judiciary proceedings in case of irregularities on the part of Yunus are hard to believe. Anyway, end-game is still to unfold. I only hope that the Nobel winning back does succumb to the Sonali-entropy!

The quote on red, Mr. Ali used, to waylay Yunus is jejune at best. It is nothing more than an cliché expression of an exasperated man. In the age of “Da-Kural” and “Logi-Boita” this is very very benign!!

At the end I would like share a personal story. Few years ago, we had a chance to meet Dr. Yunus when he delivered a lecture at Principia college in Illinois, USA. Yunus was simply electric. My daughter who just finished her college was inspired to do public good. She applied for a public service position. During the interview, because of my daughters ethnic origin the issue of Yunus came along. My daughter, believes that the inspirational image of Yunus helped her get that coveted position.

And such is the image of Muhammad Yunus outside the bounds of his own homeland.

(This was sent to bdnews24.com but was not published)

M. Aktaruzzaman (Zaman), MD, FACAAI
Potsdam, New York

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