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     Volume 5 Issue 124 | December 15, 2006 |

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News Notes

Four Down . . .

THE caretaker government (CG) for the 2007 general elections has created history yet again with the resignation of four of its advisers earlier this week.
Advisers Dr Akbar Ali Khan, Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, CM Shafi Sami and Sultana Kamal, after a scheduled appointment with the president and chief adviser (CA) Prof. Dr Iajuddin Ahmed was cancelled, sent their resignation letters to him Monday morning.
The collective grievance of the advisers who have just resigned is that they had no role, or were unable to play any role, in creating a proper environment for a free and fair election. The advisory council had already been frustrated by the CA's unilateral decisions and actions. His unwillingness to recast the Election Commission (EC) as per the CG's recent package proposal and his unilateral decision to deploy the army when it was not an "utmost necessity" was the last straw for most of the just-resigned advisers. According to them, however, deployment of the army was opposed by all 10 advisers. The package proposal included reconstitution of the EC by sending election commissioners SM Zakaria and Modabbir Hossain Chowdhury on leave and appointing new election commissioners, transfer of secretaries, rescheduling of the announced election schedule and correction of errors of the updated voter list.
Though, among others, the four-party former ruling BNP-led coalition has urged the advisers to reconsider, the latter seem firm on their decision to not be a part of a CG in which they can make no contribution.
The day after their resignation, four new advisers were appointed. They are Professor Mainuddin Khan of Dhaka University, retired Major General Ruhul Alam Chowdhury, Shafiqul Haq Chowdhury, chief executive officer of Association for Social Advancement (ASA), an NGO and former secretary Nazrul Islam, a 1965 recruit for the Pakistan Civil Service.

Turjo Never Had a Chance
TRUSTING the kidnappers 26-year-old Turjo's parents handed over 10 lakh taka and 10 bhori of gold believing that they would get their beloved son back. Little did they know that their son had already been murdered by his savage kidnappers.
More than a month ago Turjo Ghosh Rony, the eldest son of a gold businessman was kidnapped by Khora Liton and his goons, a professional convict from Khulna. They asked for a ransom of 1 crore taka. They later settled for 10 lakh taka and 10 bhoris of gold. Meanwhile when Turjo came to, he struggled and shouted out for help. His kidnappers tried to stifle his shouts by putting a pillow on his mouth. He eventually died. After receiving the ransom money his kidnappers cut his body into two pieces and placed them in two different locations in the city. RAB 1 discovered a part of his body from a pond in Rampura nearly 43 days after he was kidnapped. Later they found the other part of his body from Rampura Road on November 1.

“We can put poverty into museums”
ON the 10th of December Professor Muhammed Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize, nothing that half the world already does not know. What was far more moving was the fact that Mosammat Taslima Begum also received the prize on behalf of Grameen Bank. She used her first 16-euro (20-dollar) loan in 1992 to buy a goat, and then a decade later she found herself in Oslo receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Truly proof that micro credit loans really do change lives. In his speech, Yunus outlined the contours of a parallel economy based on self-sustaining "social businesses" such as Grameen and several joint ventures he created with multinational corporations. It is all based on the fact that the profits are to be reinvested rather than giving away dividends. "By defining 'entrepreneur' in a broader way we can change the character of capitalism radically, and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market," Yunus said. The Norwegian Nobel Committee went so far as to say that he was a “modern Gandhi”. They went on to say “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means," Yunus said that new mechanisms must be found to redress gaping inequalities in wealth distribution, noting that 60 percent of the planet's population live on only six percent of global income, and that one billion people subsist on less than a dollar a day. “We can put poverty into museums” with those words he summed up his vision for the future.

Yunus speaks for the village women in Norway
SOMETHING new has erupted in the country now. This time people will get to witness a war between Grameen Phone and Norway's Telenor. Grameen Phone, Bangladesh's biggest mobile operator with over 10 million subscribers. At Oslo during his speech, Nobel peace laureate Muhammad Yunus said that Grameen Phone should be owned by the poor women of Bangladesh. Norway's speaker of parliament sided with him, in a dispute pitting him against Norwegian telecom operator Telenor over control of their Bangladeshi joint venture in GrameenPhone.
The leading mobile phone company in Bangladesh with more than 10 million subscribers, GrameenPhone is 62 percent owned by Norway's state-controlled Telenor and 38 percent by Grameen Bank, founded by Yunus in 1983 to provide micro-credit to his nation's poorest citizens.
According to Yunus, Telenor has violated their 1996 agreement under which the Norwegian group was to cede control of GrameenPhone within six years, but now refuses to do so. Telenor argues that the agreement was merely a declaration of intent and was not binding.
"If we could reach a solution that the two sides could agree on, that would be a big breakthrough for Yunus' philosophy," says Norway's speaker of parliament Thorbjoern Jagland.
During his Nobel lecture on Sunday, when he received the Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Yunus said that the aim was to make GrameenPhone "a social business by giving majority ownership to the poor women of Grameen Bank."
"Someday GrameenPhone will become another example of a big enterprise owned by the poor," he said to loud applause from the audience, which included Telenor chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas.
GrameenPhone is a highly profitable unit for Telenor. The company (Telenor) claims it has acted in a socially responsible way by investing heavily in the developing country.

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