Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bangladeshis watch Nobel ceremony live


Bangladeshis watch Nobel ceremony live

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Thousands of people in Bangladesh set aside their
nation's latest political crisis on Sunday to watch live television
coverage of countryman Muhammad Yunus and the bank he founded
receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.

Many residents, who stayed glued to their TVs throughout the day to
get the latest news on the deployment of army troops to contain
growing political chaos, ended up watching the ceremony, which was
broadcast live from Oslo on state-run Bangladesh Television and most
private channels.

In Yunus's home district of Chittagong, several thousand citizens
squatted or stood around a large screen erected at a stadium.

People clapped and shouted, "Long live Bangladesh" when Yunus spoke a
few words in Bangla, the national language, during his Nobel speech.

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"I have never experienced such happiness," said Abdul Salam, 35, who
owns a sports shop near the stadium. "He is a son of Chittagong. We
are so proud of him, he has brightened our country's image worldwide,"
said Salam.

Chittagong is 216 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.

Grameen Bank, set up by Yunus in 1983, was the first lender to provide
microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not
qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed,
and repayment is based on an honor system, with nearly a 100 percent
repayment rate.

Villagers, many of whom have benefited from Grameen Bank's small-loan
programs, also watched in groups with their neighbors or at local

They were thrilled when one of their own, Taslima Begum, a Grameen
borrower from northern Rajshahi district, accepted the prize on their
behalf at the Oslo City Hall.

"We are so happy, wish we could all have gone there," said Samida
Begum, talking by telephone from Kelia village near Dhaka. Begum runs
a phone call shop started with a Grameen Bank loan almost 18 years
ago. Her family also owns a poultry shop started with a loan from
Grameen, which has about 7 million borrowers.


Associated Press writer Osman Gani Mansoor in Chittagong also
contributed to this report.

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