Vol. 5 Num 849 Sat. October 14, 2006  
Front Page

'Peace to last only if poverty goes'

The auspicious and historic moment came at 3:03pm yesterday when the Norwegian Nobel Committee declared Dr Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank winners of the Nobel Peace Prize 2006.

"I heard the declaration live on a Norwegian television channel over telephone," said Nobel laureate Prof Yunus.

In his instant reaction, the pioneer of the micro-credit concept said, "This is fantastic news for all of us--for Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, and all the poor countries and all the poor people around the world."

Recipient of numerous national and international awards, Prof Yunus termed the Nobel achievement "the sky", but said it also "burdened us with further responsibility. Bangladesh now must remove poverty from the country and also put in more efforts to eradicate poverty from the world."

"At 2:50pm the Norwegian television channel phoned me when I was giving an interview to an Indian journalist," Prof Yunus described the historic moments to newsmen at his Mirpur residence in the capital.

"One from that TV channel told me that the prize will be announced within 10 minutes and requested me to hold the line because whispering went on outside the room that I was going to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

"'The Nobel committee has entered the room, it's time for declaring the name, you better hear the declaration live,' the TV channel crew requested me," Dr Yunus told reporters.

"Then he went on: 'Now we see your picture on the big screen but yet we are not sure whether you or anyone else claimed the Nobel Peace Prize...If you win, we will take your interview, otherwise thank you Mr Yunus'.

'Congratulations Dr Yunus, you got the Nobel prize,' the TV channel greeted me, and a moment later I heard the declaration in English and it was 3.03pm," said the first ever Nobel laureate of the country.

"After a few minutes, members of the Nobel committee and Norwegian deputy prime minister phoned and congratulated me," said Dr Yunus.

After hearing the news, Prof Yunus went to the Grameen Bank head office at Mirpur, which turned into a place of celebrations, happiness and joy when hundreds of well-wishers came to share the moment.

"This is fantastic news, it's's a very happy moment for me, my family, colleagues and for my country," Dr Yunus told local and foreign reporters.

"I did not expect the prize this year because every year this kind of rumours go on but this year I did not hear any discussion, so I was not hopeful...."

The 65-year-old economist appeared before the local press flanked by his wife Afrozi Yunus and daughter Deena Yunus.

Dr Yunus was seen embracing his near and dear ones and admirers who rushed to his residence to congratulate him. The Noble laureate was seen smiling, but also could not hold a few drops of tears of joy.

LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Principal Secretary to the prime minister Dr Kamal Siddique, economists Dr Wahiduddin Mahmud, Dr Hossein Zillur Rahman, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, Editor of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam, among others, went to his residence to congratulate Dr Yunus.

"This is an honour for the country, for the nation...This kind of incident does not happen often to a nation," Prof Yunus said, thanking the Almighty.

"We [Bangladesh] have taken many things from the world, now we have given something to the world. We have placed a model before the world," he added.

"Now I dream of Bangladesh as the first country to be free from hunger," he said.

Asked if the prize is appropriate for peace, Dr Yunus said, "I was not astonished to get the Nobel prize in peace because economics and peace are interrelated--economics influences people's life.

"Hunger is one of the main reasons of anarchy. If poverty can be reduced from the society, peace will prevail on earth," he added.

Dr Yunus said, "I will not spend the prize money for myself...I will rather spend it in social business on a no-profit-no-loss policy. We will also establish an eye hospital where even beggars will be given treatment at the cost of Tk 10-20.

"We will make yogurt with all kinds of nutritious elements. We want to provide nutrition to the poor and children," Prof Yunus said figuratively.