Asia: Politics pulls down the microfinance pioneer
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BANKING

Asia: Politics pulls down the microfinance pioneer

The forced removal of Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus as head of the lender casts a shadow over an institution that has flourished in Bangladesh and spread its message around the world. Elliot Wilson reports.

MUHAMMAD YUNUS IS a broken man. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner has been hounded out of the microfinance institution (MFI) he founded in 1976 by a belligerent and vengeful Bangladeshi government

"They will find a way to create mud and then make it stick to me, even if it is all lies"

Muhammad Yunus

MUHAMMAD YUNUS IS a broken man. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner has been hounded out of the microfinance institution (MFI) he founded in 1976 by a belligerent and vengeful Bangladeshi government.

The 70-year-old now lives in perpetual fear, afraid for his life, for his family’s lives, and for the lives of his "second family", the 25,000 people who work for Grameen Bank. On May 5 Bangladesh’s Supreme Court dismissed Yunus’s final appeal, forcing him to quit his role as Grameen’s managing director (equivalent to chief executive).

"I cannot stop them," Yunus says quietly on the telephone. "My voice is not heard. They will find a way to create mud and then make it stick to me, even if it is all lies." His voice, at first quiet and firm, then doubting and frail, is being transmitted via a router in Washington, DC. He cannot meet in person – he is followed everywhere he goes – and he fears having his phone calls tapped, recorded and played out in court or, worse, the court of public opinion.

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