Vol. 5 Num 1038 Fri. May 04, 2007  
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Prof Yunus gives up on political mission

Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus yesterday backed down from forming a political party citing the refusal of his political backers to publicly support or join his party.

"I am writing this letter to you to inform you that I am standing aside from my efforts to form a political party," said Yunus in an open letter to the public, adding, "I have seen those who initially encouraged me gradually losing their enthusiasm."

With this letter--his third one following two on February 11 and 22 through which he announced his decision to join politics and form a party--Yunus' brief and dramatic foray into politics ended.

Yunus, however, said he would give his full support to a new political party that would aim at providing a political alternative and take advantage of the "rare opportunities" presented by the state of emergency and its resultant reforms.

Sources meanwhile said Prof Yunus met with Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed for an hour on Wednesday night.

In the open letter, Yunus said he had been in regular contact with people who he thought would strengthen his party. "These communications have gradually made it clear that those who encouraged me will not join politics themselves and will not publicly support me because they have their own problems," Yunus said.

He said in light of the absence of his supporters, "I opposed the creation of a weak team." It would be better to wait for others to build a strong team and succeed in creating a new stream of politics, he added.

He said the people he was engaged with to build his political team were politicians and those who are "interested and enthusiastic" about politics.

"Those who are in political parties will not leave their parties--at least, not now. If the political situation changes, then they will come," said Yunus, adding that he could not make a "strong team" without the support of these persons.

He said he had already started to form a "strong" political team, and "The plan was to unveil the political team after the ban on politics is withdrawn and go forward with forming the party. But despite my all-out efforts I could not form a team that would give me confidence.

"I have found out that the people required to present a strong and bright alternative will not be by my side," he said, adding, "From this process, I think, I would not be successful at [forming a party] even if I waited for a long time."

Yunus said he wanted to join politics in the context of opportunities presented by the declaration of the state of emergency on January 11, which he described in the letter as "a chance to escape a politics riddled with violence, divisions and conflict".

He added that he took the decision to join politics with the intention of creating a new course for politics and had abandoned all his life's work--his Nobel prize-winning organisation Grameen Bank--to pursue this objective.

He said the people know that this is a rare opportunity to realise their dreams of creating a political stream that is "unified, consensual, empathetic, peaceful, secular and free from corruption", and believes in strong local government and rapid economic growth.

Yunus also expressed his gratitude to the people here in Bangladesh and overseas who supported his decision to join politics, and said, "I took this decision before forming a party so that I do not become a greater source of your disappointment by delaying the announcement."

Yunus, however, refused to give up on a new political course for the future, saying, "It is the time to shift the political and economic gears of the nation. The nation's speed is ready to be accelerated.

"What is required now is a new political party and leadership that can carry out this work in a proper and skilful way," he said.

He said the next five years are an important period for the country, as it has to open up a deep-sea port and link up with regional neighbours to make it a regional economic hub, exploit the country's gas and coal reserves, develop its IT service sector and effectively use the massive remittance earnings.

Yunus launched his political party Nagorik Shakti on February 22 after his volunteers received torrents of emails, SMSs, and letters from the people urging him to join politics, he said. Earlier in an open letter on February 11, he had asked for people's response to his interest in joining politics.

In the February 22 letter, he said the party would be based on the values of the Liberation War and the motto of "Advance Bangladesh".

However, Yunus did not outline any aims and objectives of his party and has not disclosed them as of now, but slammed the past three political governments for being corrupt and taking the country backward.

He has not made any public statement on politics since February 26 when he said he would not have been able to enter politics without the declaration of the state of emergency.

At a huge open-air civic reception given to the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner on the Parliament lawn on November 29, Yunus had spelled out his political vision, calling on the leaders of the two major political parties to sign a peace accord and form a coalition government whatever the election results.

Yunus presented a draft proposal, according to which the losing party in the election would still get one third of the posts in the cabinet. The tenure of the coalition government would be one year and it would be charged with devising a long-term solution to the political crisis.

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Yunus writes letter to all
Dear citizens,
Regards to you all. I have written to you twice earlier. I wrote the first letter on February 11 seeking your opinions whether I should join politics.

Decision welcomed
Leaders of major political parties including the Awami League (AL) and the BNP, members of the civil society and various other professional bodies last night welcomed Dr Yunus for his 'wise decision'to