Mohammed Yunus stepped down from his post as managing director of the Grameen Bank on Thursday night.
Prof. Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work fighting poverty, has been embroiled in a months-long battle with government for control of the pioneering microfinance institution.
He said in a statement that he was resigning in an effort to prevent further disruption of the bank’s work and that deputy managing director Nurjahan Begum would run the institution until the board named a new director.
Last week Prof. Yunus lost a final round of appeals to a government order that he be removed from his job, ostensibly because at age 70, he is a decade past the mandatory retirement age.
But as the case has played out over the past months, it has become clear that the government of Sheikh Hassina and her Awami League is intent on getting control of Grameen, either by running it overtly, or by having loyalists in charge. The government is apparently disturbed by the breadth and power of the bank, which has more than 8.3 million “members” in villages across the country, and an outsize influence on daily life in Bangladeshi.
There was further confirmation of this theory on Thursday, when Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told reporters that the government would move to dismiss the existing Grameen board and replace its members with “more competent” people – and that government would increase its share (currently 3.5 per cent) in the bank.
The Supreme Court has yet to deliver the written judgment of its rejection of Prof. Yunus’ appeal; one of his lawyers, Sara Hossein, told the Globe today that when it does, they will be applying for judicial review.
Prof. Yunus was careful to state in his resignation that he was stepping down “without prejudice” to the existing legal issues.
But he suggested that the ongoing controversy over his leadership is endangering the well-being of the bank and its staff.
“I am taking this step without prejudice to the legal issues raised before the Supreme Court, and in order to prevent undue disruption of the activities of Grameen Bank and to ensure my colleagues and our 8 million members, and owners of the bank, are not subjected to any difficulty in discharging their responsibilities,” he said.
Earlier this week, a senior Grameen staffer was abducted in front of the Grameen building, blindfolded, driven into the heart of Dhaka, assaulted, and warned to stop publicly championing the leadership of Prof. Yunus.