Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has strongly criticised Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus for charging high interest rates by the Grameen Bank he founded.
She came down heavily on Yunus in an interview with the BBC's HARDtalk. The interview was taken during her five-day visit to London that ended Sunday.
Here is the text of a part of her interview.
BBC: It seems a shame for the Bangladeshi people that your relationship with one of the most respected business leaders in your country, Noble Laureate Mohammad Yunus, has also soured so badly. Why did you call him a bloodsucker of the poor?
PM: You go to Bangladesh, you see in your eyes then you will see. But how could he say I said it? Did I mention his name? I didn’t. I said someone. But why it occurred in your mind…
BBC: Sorry, so let’s be clear about this. So are you now denying that you have said Mohammad Yunus is a bloodsucker of the poor?
PM: No I am not denying anything. I am putting a question to you, why it occurred in your mind that it is him? Why?
BBC: I have been reading the Bangladeshi press, everybody, it seems, in the Bangladeshi media believes that you referred directly when you used this phrase ‘a bloodsucker of the poor’. If you want to retract or if you want to tell me you didn’t mean him, then that’s fine.
PM: Listen, listen, I am telling one thing. Taking interest 40 percent, 30 percent or 45 percent from these poor people – is it fair? It is not. How can these poor people stand by themselves? If you lend money and take 35 to 45 percent interest, it’s a shame.
BBC: So the entire model built by Grameen Bank and Mohammad Yunus which has been celebrated around the world as a way of lifting poor people out of poverty – you are saying you do not accept it, you do not want it.
PM: I want there should be an enquiry that how many people come out of poverty because of that. If there’s one village, how many people? Poverty reduction is done by my government. Within three years we reduced 10 percent poverty. So, it is our government. And about this Grameen Bank, it is a government statutory body.
BBC: Isn’t it the truth that you forced Mohammad Yunus out of his role in Grameen Bank after he tried to setup an independent political party in 2007, that’s why you turned against him?
PM: Listen, that time I was in custody, I was in jail when he tried to form his political party. He was such a big person so why he failed? He has every opportunity, why he couldn’t form his own party?
Have you ever thought about it? Well, having said that, I am telling you I didn’t oust him from the Grameen Bank, he himself did it.