Vol. 5 Num 852 Tue. October 17, 2006  
Front Page

Nobel hero seeks new Bangladesh amid cheers

Rapturous ovation and heartiest greetings from all walks of life marked the reception of first Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the capital yesterday as thousands thronged the venue to congratulate the nation's brightest star.

Exhilaration and elation seemed to have had no bounds as the cheerful crowd witnessed the first mass reception accorded to the Nobel laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank.

As soon as Yunus entered the hall room of the centre the audience burst into cheers giving him a standing ovation. An ecstatic wave of satisfaction and happiness swept the audience as long as the reception continued.

A smiling Yunus responded waving hands towards the joyous onlookers.

"Anyone is equal to their dreams but Yunus is larger than his dream," wrote an admirer on the commentary book. "As a small nation we can make something great, and sir, you have proved it," wrote another person.

Some enthusiastic participants chanted slogans calling for spreading the light of Nobel Peace Prize to every house.

A huge number of people also gathered outside the hall room and viewed the reception on a number of large screens installed on the Centre premises. Local satellite television channels also broadcast the function live.

The dignitaries present at the reception included former president Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, former chief adviser to one of the caretaker governments Justice Habibur Rahman, former ministers Matia Chowdhury, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Abul Ahsan Chowdhury, educationist Prof Khan Sarwar Morshed and veteran freedom fighter AK Khondoker.

A good number of foreigners including ambassadors, diplomats, representatives of donor agencies, officials of the international bodies and NGO's also attended the reception to show their respect to the microcredit guru.

Yunus, in his emotion-choked 45-minute-long speech gave the credit of winning the Nobel Peace Prize to all the citizens of Bangladesh and particularly the 67 lakh borrowers of Grameen Bank, most of who are poor village women.

"It's not a pride that Yunus received the Nobel Prize but it's our pride that an institution of Bangladesh won the Prize amid all kinds of weakness, uncertainty and social backwardness," he said.

He has found a different Bangladesh since his winning the most prestigious prize in the world.

"We all are Nobel Prize winners and from now on we must act worthy of the prize," he said sharing his feelings with the people.

Dr Yunus said Bangladesh has suddenly risen after winning the Nobel Prize. People suddenly feel empowered to perform any task. It has come like a lamp of Aladin's. "We have to identify the path to use the newly found power.

"The Bangladesh before and after winning the Nobel Peace Prize is completely different. I have seen tremendous patriotism, emotion, happiness and dedication for the country among the people in the last couple of days."

He said the height of every citizen of Bangladesh has gone up to 10 feet and no-one can down them below. "The size of the people also expanded and they will have to buy new clothes now," he joked.

For the first time people can look into the world keeping their heads high and they can do everything to remain at that height, he observed.

"They (people) are no longer small as they left behind all petty things. They are ready for any great job," he added.

Muhammad Yunus also recalled the memories of old days when he had initiated the concept of Grameen Bank at Jobra village near Chittagong University.

"We did not bring any consultant from abroad or foreign donation for initiating such a noble thing. It was the local people and students of Chittagong University who extended their hands for doing something for the poor villagers."

Since then, there is hardly any country left in the world that is yet to introduce a microcredit system for poverty alleviation, Yunus observed.

He told the gathering that the government of West Bengal has invited him to accord him a grand reception there. The people of West Bengal are also eagerly waiting for the reception, he was told.

There was no formal memorandum or citations in his honour but every one was so enthusiastic and cheerful that no-one even felt the need of a citation. There was no mention of organisers and it was only said that the reception was given by the people.

Yunus took the microphone at 2:14pm and continued until 3:00pm. While delivering his speech he smiled almost all the time and shared with the audience the stories and experiences after winning the prize.

He even told the gathering that when he heard the news of winning the prize he was in Lungi and genji, popular informal clothing of Bangladeshi males. It was very difficult for him to come out of the house changing dress as a large number of people had already started rushing to his room.

He said many people including prominent economist Wahid Uddin Mahmud burst into tears hearing the news while many others started offering prayers.

Greetings were also coming from every corner of the world like Latin America, Africa and Europe. Especially the expatriate Bangladeshis were very much emotion-choked while expressing greetings and happiness, he said.

"We can do" was the only writing in the large banner behind the podium decorated with a full size photograph of Dr Yunus and the Grameen Bank's logo.

Prominent economist Dr Wahiduddin Mahmud spoke on behalf of the organisers and expressed his admiration to Prof Yunus. He paid tributes to Grameen Bank for its contribution to poverty alleviation.

"We all received the Nobel Prize because after the liberation of the country, this is by far the greatest joy and enthusiasm the nation ever enjoyed" Mahmud said. "We have proved that we can do it."

His (Yunus) theory has proved that the poor are more efficient in managing loans from the banks, Mahmud observed. "Microcredit has emerged as the most powerful development idea considering women empowerment and changing the fate of the marginalised section."

Referring to the United Nations declaration of World Microcredit Year, Mahmud said there is hardly any example in the world that the UN observed a year considering the idea of an individual.

Considering his contribution towards the world, Yunus should have been given the Nobel Peace Prize much earlier, Mahmud noted. The audience responded to this remark with a huge applause.

Another Bengali, Amartya Sen, received the Nobel Prize for introducing new theories in the field of economics and Yunus was the pioneer in application of theories of economics, Mahmud added.

Prominent singer Fakir Alamgir rendered a song composed in honour of Nobel laureate Yunus. The artiste handed over a Bangladesh flag to Yunus at the end of his song with the crowd cheering aloud while Yunus waved the flag for a few minutes.

Different socio-cultural organisations and professional bodies including Jatiya Press Club, Dhaka University, Dhaka University Teachers Association and City Bank handed over floral bouquets to Yunus.

Nobel hero Muhammad Yunus is all smiles and waves to the crowd as former president Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed congratulates him on the dais during the mass reception at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre yesterday. PHOTO: STAR