Climate Change Dissenters Blocked Five London Bridges

Phulbari Solidarity Stands in Solidarity with Extinction Rebellion

By Paul Dudman

 

Westminster Bridge blocked by Extinction Rebellion on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

Yesterday we have witnessed an extra-ordinary Rebellion Day in London where climate change dissenters closed down iconic bridges in the city. Despite arrests and police barricades, five bridges in central London were closed down by concerned, disobedient and non-violent civilians, who gathered in the city under the banner of Extinction Rebellion, a platform committed to “Fight For Life”.

 

Blocked Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

From the morning 10am through late afternoon 5pm on the Rebellion Day more than 6,000 people have occupied five bridges in central London “to raise the alarm on the climate and ecological crisis – and to put pressure on the Government to come clean on the fact that there is a climate emergency”. A press release by the Extinction Rebellion notes “This is the first time in living memory that a protest group has intentionally and deliberately blocked the five iconic bridges of central London”. The blocked bridges include Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth. Police have put signal blockers in place to prevent live streaming. There have been 22 confirmed arrests of protestors. People have willingly put themselves at risk of arrest and imprisonment to ensure that this cause is brought to the public’s attention.

 

Rebellion Day witness at Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

We were there in Westminster Bridge with full support from the Bangladesh National Committee and Phulbari Solidarity Group to the rebels. At the end of the blockade an Extinction Assembly was held featuring six voices from six nations from the global South affected by climate breakdown.

 

The voices include Raki Ap of Free West Papua Campaign, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group- Bangladesh, Mawukofi Klu of Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, and representatives from Ecuador, India, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia.

 

The Phulbari Solidarity Group declared solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion on the Rebellion Day. Rumana Hashem, the founder of the Phulbari Solidarity, who attended the Assembly at the Westminster Bridge, said that: the ongoing civil disobedience to decarbonise our lifestyle and to protect our planet from criminal extractive companies and governments was long- overdue. Rumana gave her witness to the climate crime committed by a London-based mining company in Bangladesh.

 

Rebellion Day witness by Rumana Hashem in Westminster Bridge on 17 Nov 2018. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

She stated by addressing a passionate crowd that:

I’m bearing witness to the killings of three people and the destruction of green land, rivers and homes of thousands of peaceful people in Bangladesh, perpetrated by a British mining company for 12 years. An AIM-listed London-based multinational company, Global Coal Resources Management plans to build a massive open-cast coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, in Phulbari. Original research by independent researchers shows that if the mine is built at least 130, 000 people would be immediately displaced, polluting water sources of as many as 220,000 people. It will destroy over 14,000 hecters of land in the country’s most fertile agricultural region, where most people have land-based livelihoods. It would contribute to catastrophic climate change by supplying coal burning power stations. It would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

In return Bangladesh govt would gain nothing but economic exploitation. According to the proposed deal, the British company would extract coal for 30 years, govt of Bangladesh would get 6 percent royalty and the company would own 94 percent of the extracted coal. Moreover, the company would enjoy a 9 years tax holiday and after 30 years the company would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve.

 

The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. On 26 August in 2006, over 80,000 farmers marched in Phulbari where three people were shot dead and over 200 injured when paramilitary troops fired on a massive demonstration. I was present there. I have witnessed the bloodshed; I saw people’s stomach coming out right on the street. So we’ve blocked roads, bridges, and railway in the region. All entries to the region were closed down for a week. Following on the shooting, Bangladesh government has cancelled all contracts with Global Coal Management. We’ve put a halt to the project.

 

Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

This shows that civil disobedience works. It is required in historically specific context. When government fails, we need to take control in our hands. We need to act to save our lives and our planet. We would not occupy bridges and roads for ever though. We ought to take control of our streets at times to make the governments take steps to prevent crimes.

 

In Bangladesh, we said, “No fracking, invest to save the planet”. But that is not enough. The London-based company is still aggressively moving on to get a new deal with the government. They continue to breach law. They have been harassing indigenous people. 26 frontline activists have been faced with multiple arbitrary cases filed by the company in 2016. We asked the UK government and political leaders to use their influence to stop the Global Coal Management, and to act immediately to prevent climate crimes. But the UK government failed to act.

 

We’ve submitted three reports to the Joint Committee for Human Rights Enquiry into Human Rights and Business in 2009.  We’ve placed a joint OECD complaint to the UK National Contact Point in 2013, and I have given many witnesses. But no action was taken against the company. The Parliament failed to print the witness statement that I gave for their annual report in 2009. They said that they couldn’t print the witness due to financial hardship. The parliament wanted to save printing cost. Instead of publishing my report, the Joint Committee has published a response from the Global Coal Management in their annual report in 2009!

 

Rebels on Rebellion Day on 17 Nov 2018. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Rumana also said that Bangladesh is at the frontline of climate change. We have reached a juncture when preventing climate change has become urgent. We want a fair commitment from the UK to stop coal based power plants and corporate grabbing in the name of development in Bangladesh and the UK. We call on the government for ensuring renewable energy and social justice without delay.

 

She concluded by saying:

This Rebellion Day is, to me, a beginning of a much needed social movement that not only challenges the criminal inaction of the ecocidal governments but also a way to connect with each other over struggles in the global South and the global North to make our planet habitable for all. I stand in solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion on this Rebellion Day.

 

 

The crowd expressed solidarity with the struggles in Bangladesh and other countries including Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mongolia where British mining companies undertake projects violating human rights and causing climate change.

 

Solidarity in blocked Westminster Bridge on 17 November 2018. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

The Rebellion Day has ended by a treeplanting ceremony in the Parliament Square, with more than 3K Extinction Rebellion protestors present. The rebels planted three trees in the centre – plum, apple and evergreen – while singing a sufi song called “Always in Love”.

The Extinction Rebellion was launched on 31st October and has fast grown.  Its branches have spread across 28 countries while London remains the centre of the rebels. Supports to Extinction Rebellion are rapidly growing. The Extinction Rebellion demands that:

 

  1.  The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
  2. The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
  3. A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

Blockade on Rebellion Day in Westminster Bridge on 17 Nov 2018 Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

Read the Extinction Rebellion Declaration here: https://rebellion.earth/declaration/

Please visit the Rebellion Day Facebook page for further information and news about the blockades: https://www.facebook.com/events/1758991460816073/ 

For Photos/videos visit: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1m1v7Cs8JFkDM1gHp45OF-NwwhLzPZJO8

Also pictures by Peter Marshall are available for editorial use from Alamy. Westminster Bridge pictures at https://www.alamy.com/news/newsresults.aspx…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits for most photos used in this report belongs to Rumana Hashem, except for those indicated by Peter Marshall. The photos are free to use but please acknowledge the photocredit, thanks.

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Vibrant Rally held in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal

By Rumana Hashem

On Saturday, the 10th November, London saw a vibrant rally by London’s climate activists at Altab Ali Park on the Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans. In response to the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh (NCBD)’s call to observe a worldwide solidarity to save the world’s largest mangrove forest, the UK branch of NCBD has organised a powerful rally which was joined by grassroots and community climate organisations. Speakers attending the rally called on Bangladesh and Indian governments to scrap Rampal coal-power plant urgently and to halt climate change in Bangladesh and across South Asia.

Altabl Ali Park rally in London on Global Day of Solidarity to Save the Sundarbans from Coal, 10 Nov 18. Courteasy: NCBDUK.

 

Presided by a veteran Bangladeshi community leader and medical professional Dr Rafikul Hasan Jinnah and moderated by the general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, the rally was outraged about the joint project of the Power Development Board (PDB) of Bangladesh and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India for 1320 Megawatt Rampal coal-fired plant because it is a deadly threat to the environment and livelihood of the Sundarbans. If built the Rampal power station in Bangladesh will spew 8 million tonnes of Co2 emissions into the atmosphere contributing to rising temperatures and irreversible climate change. This isn’t compatible with the scientific mandate to keep global heating under 1.5˚C.

Speakers expressed solidarity with the NCBD in their call to all political parties in Bangladesh to include forestry reservation, especially the Sundarbans, and environmental protection in their manifesto for the 11th national polls. Activists also demanded that the government stop all processes for industrialisation near the Sundarbans prior to declaring the schedule of the general election. The general secretary of the UK branch of NCBD, Akhter Sobhan Masroor, said that alongside the destructive coal-based Rampal power plant, a group of forest and land-grabbers have developed more than 300 commercial projects near the Sundarbans.

The rally was joined by East London’s leading local climate organisations such as Fossil Free Newham, the River Savings Network, the Water Keepers, the Extinction Rebellion, the Unite Community and Labour Party Women’s Forum in Tower Hamlets, the Bangladesh Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the Liberty Arts, and of course Phlulbari Solidarity, UK. The London rally took place as part of  the global human chains and public meetings held in Bangladesh, Canada, France, Germany and across the world demanding immediate halt to the Rampal coal-plant in October and November.

 

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest and is located in Bangladesh – one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to climate change impacts. Despite grave concern raised by the experts and people, the government in Bangladesh is going ahead to implement an Indo-Bangla 1300 MW coal fired Rampal power plant close to the forest which speakers at the Altabl Ali Park rally branded as “clearly issued its death warrant”. In addition, it is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to grab forest and has set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the Sundarbans.

This has not only put the livelihoods of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 40 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters. The Sundarbans have long since been a natural safe-guard against frequent cyclones, storms and other natural disasters in the country. Sundarbans provides a natural barrier against Bangladesh’s deadly climate change threat. In order to preserve its outstanding universal value and to protect the world’s largest mangrove forest, Saturday the 10th November has been observed worldwide as a global day of solidarity to save the Sundarbans.

 

For further background news, please read:

Global Protests on Saturday to Save the Sunderbans from coal, 350.org news, 09 November 2018.

A call for Global Day of Solidarity for the Sundarbans, Fossil Free Newham, 6 November 2018.

Stop industrialisation in Sundarbans before election schedule, Environmentalists urge govt. The Daily Star, 07 October 2018.

Make poll pledge to scrap hazardous power plants. The New Age, 07 October 2018.

 

Call out – JOIN Protest at Vedanta’s Last London AGM on 1st October!

Monday 1st October, 2-5 pm Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED

On 1st October Vedanta will hold their last AGM in London before de-listing from the London Stock Exchange, under pressure from MPs and activists following the Thoothukudi massacre in Tamil Nadu May.

 

At this final AGM, Foil Vedanta will be celebrating the notable victory of Vedanta’s de-listing (which seriously curtails their corporate ambitions), and the success of grassroots activism which has shut down Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri, with a carnival theme.

 

Please join  kick Vedanta out of London protest once and for all!

 

Bring drums, whistles and colourful flags and clothes!

 

Monday 1st October, 2-5 pm Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED

 

Decry the complicity of the City of London in Vedanta’s corporate massacre of 13 environmental protesters at Thoothukudi in May, the latest in a long history of corporate murders and massacres of activists by London mining companies.

Vedanta’s exit from London is in fact a ‘divorce of convenience’ for the City, who have totally failed to regulate Vedanta, or any other criminal mining company to this day.

 

We will also be releasing our report ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’ – which gives a comprehensive account of the company’s crimes at all of its operations, and the City of London’s complicity, on Thursday 27th Septmber, before the AGM.

 

On 1st October the company will also sign contracts for 41 new oil and gas blocks in India, where their subsidiary Cairn India (part of Vedanta Ltd) have already been using unconventional extraction methods (fracking) in Rajasthan.

We must hold them to account before they run away!

 

Please join the facebook event if you are able to attend!

#KickVedanta #BanSterlite #BringAnilAgarwal2Justice 

 

For further information about Vedanta, read a latest report here: Vedanta’s Billions- Regulatory failure, environment and human rights

:http://www.foilvedanta.org/news/vedantas-billions-regulatory-failure-environment-and-human-rights-report-released/

Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory Failure, Environment and Human Rights

Centre for World Environmental History &

Academia and Activism Forum launch Foil Vedanta’s latest Report

Thursday 27 September 2018  2:30pm-4:30pm,  Room Fulton 203, the University of Sussex, UK.

You are all cordially invited to the launch of Foil Vedanta’s latest report, ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory Failure, Environment and Human Rights’, co-authored with a variety of contributors and to be held on Thursday 27th September at  the University of Sussex.

Speakers will include: Foil Vedanta’s co-directors, Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose, and lawyer Krishnendu Mukherjee.

Anil Agarwal with polluted water at the Vedanta AGM 14 August 2017. Photo credit: Foil Vedanta

The report will be released online on Wednesday 26th September.

The discussion following the launch of the report will describe the rise of the mining corporation Vedanta registered in the City of London, the impact of mining on tribal and local communities in India and Zambia, the environmental costs, and grassroots informed activism which exposed Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri, and resulted in the recent de-listing of the company from the London Stock Market exchange following sustained campaigning.

Please join the launch of an important report prior to the Annual General Meeting of the notorious multinational company, Vedatna Ltd.

RSVP and for further information, please contact:

Zuky Serper        actacdforum@sussex.ac.uk

Artist in residence, CWEH-Academia and Activism Forum

GLOBAL PROTEST FOR THE RELEASE OF SHAHIDUL ALAM

#FreeShahidulAlam

 

What? Global Protest for the Release of Shahidul Alam

When? 12 noon to 14:00, Friday, 7 September 2018

Where? Bangladesh High Commission, 28 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, London SW7 5JA.

(nearest tube station: Gloucester Road/ South Kensington/ High Street Kensington)

 

Shahidul Alam being abused and silenced by DB police in front of a Dhaka court on 6 August 2018. Photocredit: Anonymous activist.

 

Dr Shahidul Alam, an internationally renowned photographer, the Managing Director of Drik and a rights activist had been covering student protests for road safety sparked off by the tragic death of two students on 29 July in Dhaka. Last month, on the night of 5 August, Shahidul was forcibly abducted from his home by the Bangladeshi Detective Branch (DB) because of his reporting, and subsequently, without legal representation, was sent to prison on 12th August and charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, meaning he could face upto 14 years imprisonment for free expression. Shahidul said that he was tortured. His lawyers reported that Shahidul has shown signs of mental abuse but was denied medical and psychological support. Although the High Court had ordered that he should be examined for torture, this was not carried out.

 

Photographer Shahidul Alam is an active member of Phulbari Action group since the inception of the listserve. He is also a dedicated supporter of the Save the Sunderbans Movement in Bangladesh. Shahidul has been contributing to both movements through his photography and powerful documentation of the ongoing resistance to protect Bangladesh’s climate and environment. Phulbari Solidarity Group along with other frontline activists in Bangladesh and London joined the worldwide outrage, demanding the immediate release of Shahidul Alam.

 

Since his arbitrary arrest, smear campaigns and media trials are continuously being conducted against Shahidul Alam. We have now learnt from credible sources that further cases might be framed against Shahidul Alam –  founder of Drik and Pathshala, award-winning institutions, recognised internationally for having placed Bangladesh photography on the world map – and that these could be grounds for further interrogation and remand.

 

There have been ongoing global protests against his arrest yet government in Bangladesh is stern in its position to punish the photographer for speaking truth to power. Many of the detained protestors have been released on bail but Dr. Alam is not one of them. Shahidul Alam is unwell.  Moreover, the Court’s order for division has not been implemented.

 

We also note with deep concern that Dr. Alam’s bail hearings have repeatedly been refused.  A High Court bench on 4th September declared itself ’embarrassed’ but it is not clear whether this was due to any genuine conflict of interest or pressure exerted from above.

 

Since his arrest, smear campaigns and media trials are continuously being conducted against Shahidul Alam.  We have now learnt from credible sources that further cases might be framed against Shahidul Alam –  founder of Drik and Pathshala, award-winning institutions, recognised internationally for having placed Bangladesh photography on the world map – and that these could be grounds for further interrogation and remand.

 

The storm of global condemnation and protests on Shahidul’s unlawful imprisonment continues unabated and has included statements made by 12 Nobel laureates and many eminent citizens and activists across the globe. Several British MPs with Bangladeshi roots, notably, Rupa Huq, Rushanara Ali and Tulip Siddique have made statements in support of Shahidul Alam.

 

Many of us have been actively supporting Shahidul Alam and demanding his release by sending letters to MPs and to the Bangladeshi authorities. But the authorities failed to respond to our calls. We will be joining the London based activists and artists in a sit-in demonstration to free Shahidul Alam this Friday. As our commitment to continue with the protests is ever stronger, we will be gathering outside Bangladesh High Commission in London this Friday ahead of the 11 September hearing of a bail petition for Shahidul to be held in a Dhaka court.

 

We encourage everyone to add voices to those rallying in front of the Bangladesh High Commission from 12 noon to 2pm on Friday, 7 September.  There will be a sit-in demonstration, songs, short speeches and a petition to be submitted to the Bangladesh High Commission demanding Shahidul Alam’s immediate release.

 

We call on the Bangladesh Government headed by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina to heed world public opinion; demand his immediate, unconditional release; withdrawal of false cases, cessation of persecution; and safety of his family members.

 

 

JOIN Us with Your Friends this Friday outside Bangladesh High Commission in London.

Tell Bangladeshi Government to Release Photographer Shahidul Alam Now! 

Please confirm your participation via Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/315084915715037/

 —————————————————————————————————————–

Contact for further information: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

For Further news and updates, please see below:

  1. Photographer charged as police crackdown in Bangladesh intensifies: 06 August, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/06/famed-bangladeshi-photographer-held-over-road-protest-comments?CMP=share_btn_tw
  2. Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam detained after post about Dhaka protests https://cpj.org/2018/08/bangladeshi-photographer-shahidul-alam-detained-af.php
  3. Bangladesh protests: How a traffic accident stopped a city of 18 million: 06 August, BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45080129
  4. Violence continues as students protests , Washington Post, 6 August https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/violence-continues-in-bangladesh-capital-as-students-protest/2018/08/06/f23226d4-9952-11e8-a8d8-9b4c13286d6b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d3b8a3b666cf
  5. Renowned Photographer held after media comments: 06 August, Al-Jazeera English https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/bangladesh-renowned-photographer-detained-media-comments-180806065359943.html
  6. Free Shahidul, 07 August, New Internationalist, https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2018/08/07/free-shahidul
  7. High court has issued an order to suspend 7 days Remand of Shahidul Alam. And transfer him to Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University: 08 August, Dhaka Tribune https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/court/2018/08/07/high-court-halts-shahidul-alam-s-remand/
  8. Shahidul was arrested to silence everyone: 09 August, BDNews24.com https://bangla.bdnews24.com/bangladesh/article1527976.bdnews
  9. Commentary by Golam Mortoja: How rumour hides under Helmets, 08 August, 2018,  The Daily Star. Net (Bangla) https://www.thedailystar.net/bangla/%E0%A6%AE%E0%A6%A4%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%AE%E0%A6%A4/%E0%A6%97%E0%A7%81%E0%A6%9C%E0%A6%AC-%E0%A6%B9%E0%A7%87%E0%A6%B2%E0%A6%AE%E0%A7%87%E0%A6%9F%E0%A7%87%E0%A6%B0-%E0%A6%86%E0%A7%9C%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%B2%E0%A7%87-96517
  10. Why a road accident in Bangladesh has sparked widespread protests, ITV News , 08 August 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnNFU1G9waw
  11. Renowned Photographer Shahidul Alam is still held by Bangladeshi Detective Branch custody, CWAB, 09 August, 2018: https://communitywomenblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/renowned-photographer-shahidul-alam-is-still-held-by-the-bangladeshi-detective-branch-police-custody/
  12. Protests in Bangladesh reveals deep insecurity of the government, TRT World, 09 August 2018: https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/protests-in-bangladesh-reveal-the-deep-insecurity-of-the-government-19481
  13. An acclaimed photographer in Bangladesh says, he was tortured: New York Times, 8 August https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/world/asia/bangladesh-photographer-shahidul-alam.html
  14. Bruised and battered: 10 August, The Daily Star, https://www.thedailystar.net/news/star-weekend/special-feature/bruised-and-battered-1618453
  15. 323 prominent activists, artistes, academics call for Shahidul’s immediate release, 11 August, New Age http://www.newagebd.net/article/48207/323-prominent-activists-artistes-academics-call-for-shahiduls-immediate-release
  16. Shahidul Alam sent to prison: 13 August 18, the Daily Star https://www.thedailystar.net/news/city/shahidul-dropped-remand-abruptly-1619743?amp&__twitter_impression=true
  17. Sheikh Hasina’s son’s response and the Indian media analysis: 13 August, The Wire: https://thewire.in/south-asia/shahidul-alam-sheikh-hasina-son-bangladesh-arrest
  18. Who Is Afraid of Shahidul Alam? By Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 20 August, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/20/opinion/shahidul-alam-prison-bangladesh.html
  19. Amartya Sen voices support for Shahidul Alam: 26 August, 2018, The Independent Bangladesh http://www.theindependentbd.com/post/163560
  20. সড়ক দুর্ঘটনা: বাংলাদেশের কুষ্টিয়ার যে ভিডিও নাড়া দিলো সবাইকে, 30 August https://www.bbc.com/bengali/news-45351512?ocid=socialflow_facebook
  21. MP urges aunt to release Bangladesh photographer Shahidul Alam, 28 August, The Sunday Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mp-urges-aunt-to-release-bangladesh-photographer-w9tgs0svw

Homage Paid to Victims on Phulbari Day: 12 Years of Halt and Outburst against Coal Mine Celebrated

Yesterday, 26th August, marked 12 years of successful halt to and the outburst against an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in northwest Bangladesh. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured as paramilitary force opened fire in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by GCM in Phulbari. The day has been called Phulbari Day since. And a powerful resistance by people in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project.

Homage paid to victims at Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul’s memorial in Phulbari on Sunday, 26 Aug 2018. Photocredit: Nuruzzaman

This week two events were held in remembrance of the victims of Phullbari outburst. On Sunday, 26 August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh held a commemoration event in Phulbari, where community members and national environmentalists paid homage by flowers to the victims who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006.  The National Committee stated that there will be intense movement if the government fails to implement “Phulbari verdict 2006” by this December.

Earlier this week, the community activists under the banner of the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh also held a commemoration event in London, where they have accused GCM for exploitation and harassment of the locals, for criminalising the society in Phulbari, and for ongoing corruption in Bangladesh. The committee has called upon the Bangladesh government for immediate implementation of the “Phulbari verdict 2006”.  Members of the UK Committee of NCBD also called for the de-listing of GCM from London Stock Exchange.

Community women and men paid tribute to Phulbari Victims in Phulbari on Sunday 26 August 2018. Photo credit: Nuruzzaman

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Government has cancelled the company’s license, following the outburst in 2006, but GCM continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine.

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media report on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq , the former executive director of Action Aid in Dhaka, revealed also that Huq was killed in her car park for her opposition to the project in 2005.

Anu Muhamad, the Member Secretary of the National Committee in Bangladesh, said:

GCM is a fraudulent company. Government must ban both GCM and its plan for open cast coal mine. The export idea of 80 percent coal was rooted by GCM. Its Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy, proposed to export extracted coal via Bay of Bengal and the point of coal terminal was that of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.  GCM’s plans would have destroyed the Sunderbans. Besides, they have killed our people and wants to build a mine by displacing tens of thousands people from their homes. They are continuously harassing the locals and activists through filing false cases in the court, and they are criminalising our society by drug addiction. But they will not win.

Phulbari Day poster by the NCBD 23 Aug 2018. Credit: National Committee of Bangladesh

GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh for coal mining but they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, the company has filed multiple cases against 26 key indigenous organiser’s, local leaders, farmers, small scale business entrepreneurs and students who opposed the mine in Phulbari. The arbitrary charges were formed on 25 July in 2016 at the Dinajpur Magistrate Court, which has been traumatising and abusing all those fighting the fraught.

The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. Despite grave concerns at national and international level, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

PROTEST AGAINST GLOBAL COAL MANAGEMENT PLC. AT THEIR AGM

By Raaj Manik

 

Despite the cold weather, a loud and theatrical protest was again held outside the AGM of British mining company Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) at the Aeronautical Society in 4 Hamilton Place in London at 10am today. In solidarity with the communities in Phulbari, where three people were shot dead as paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006, protesters reaffirmed that they will not sleep until GCM is ousted from Bangladesh. A parallel protest followed by a press conference was held in Phulbari against the plans by GCM, an AIM-listed company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. Inside the AGM in London, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of the communities in Phulbari and Dinajpur by accusing the company of human rights abuses as the CEO of the company has filed multiple arbitrary charges against 26 frontline defenders, indigenous farmers, small entrepreneurs and local leaders who opposed the mine.

Please see a short video of today’s protest in London!

Watch accounts of activists from Bangladeshi community and eye witness to Phulbari shooting here: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh NOW!

Read minutes of GCM’s AGM 2017: Flogging a Dead Horse

Coal play outside the AGM. Photo credit: Keval Bharadia, South Asia Solidarity

Climate activists and community defenders under the banner of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group , calling for three-point demands, blocked  the pavement at the main entrance of the Aeronautical Society for two hours. They demanded that GCM’s Chief Operating Officer, Gary N Lye, must withdraw all cases against activists in Bangladesh with immediate effect, that GCM must stop selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London’s Alternative Investors Market, and that GCM must Leave Bangladesh immediately. The demo ended with a comedy coal show where activists wearing masks of coal thieves, Gary N Lye (CEO of the company) and Michael Tang (the Executive Chairman of the company), attacked a Bangladeshi woman holding coal from Phulbari. Protesters forced the maskmen to leave the premises and sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine: “your home and my home, Phulbari Phulbari”.

 

Dissident shareholders inside the AGM poured scorn on GCM’s 2017 Annual Report which claims that the company “Continued to make progress with principle partner China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Limited [CGGC, ultimately owned by China Gen Engineering Ltd.]”and that they are “Working on proposal for mine mouth power plant to provide integrated power solution for government of Bangladesh.”  The company claims, overlooking the declining of share price over the last month from £43.00 on 14 November to £26.38 today, that “Last month [it] raised 2m pounds before costs enabling all shareholders to participate and to enable GCM to continue pursuing strategy of joint mine and power plant proposal.” The report concludes by acknowledging “There are significant challenges ahead”, not least achieving approval to go ahead. They still believe that they are “in the right direction and hopes to continue momentum into New Year.” Shareholders condemning the report say that it represents a poor attempt to cover up the fact that they lost credibility and market confidence. The company has been drowning in bank loans, but still borrowing money and facing continuous loss.  GCM was again found violating human rights and disregarding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights Report 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper into practice. The Phulbari case was highlighted at the 6th UN conference held on 27-29 November 2017 in Geneva and GCM’s failure was noted in Annual Report of UNFBHR 2017. Shareholders also note the Bangladesh government has not given the company the go-ahead because of a lack of a “social licence to operate” in Phulbari and anywhere else in Bangladesh. There was also an OECD complaint about GCM failing to keep obligations. An internal review of the UK governments investigation affirmed that the OECD 2011 guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead. GCM’s Board of Directors failed to respond to shareholders scrutiny. Today’s meeting ended in a rush, lasting less than an hour, as the Board was exhausted by questions.

 

Today’s protest echoed the demands made by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh . Activists from 12 grassroots organisations, including Foil Vedanta, Grow Heathrow, London Mining Network, K M Protectors (North-east England),  Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch, Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch, Reclaim the Power, Plane Stupid, South Asia Solidarity Group, and the Socialist Party of England and Wales, joined the protest outside or inside the AGM.

 

Global Coal Management, formerly known as Asia Energy, has been allegedly involved in abuse and harassment of opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media reports on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq, the former executive director of Action Aid, revealed that Huq was killed brutally in her car park because of her strong opposition to the project.[i] Later in August 26 in 2006, three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by the company. It has been 11 years since the powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against an open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license but the company has been pushing the government to give them a go ahead.

 

Rumana Hashem, the PSG spokesperson and an eye witness to the Phulbari outburst in 2006, said:

“the company is abusing our people and criminalising society in Bangladesh. We will hold them to account here. We will not give up until London Stock Exchange de-list GCM. We will ensure that this company could never go back to Bangladesh.’”

Akhter Sobhan Khan of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh said that:

“The company does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh; nevertheless they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM as they are doing deceitful marketing of the project”.

 

If the mine is built, it would not only displace 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari but also would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans. In February 2012, seven UN rapporteurs expressed grave concerns to the project, and at national and international level. The UK National Contact Point has acknowledged the strong opposition to the project in an assessment in 2015.

[i]               The mystery death of Nasrin Huq – a report to which the company was not able to respond, was derived from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/03/bangladesh, last cited on 01. 01. 2013

 

For further information on GCM and Phulbari resistance:

Visit PSG Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/phulbarisolidaritygroup/

Watch accounts of activists from Bangladeshi community and eye witness to Phulbari shooting: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh NOW!

Check out the Facebook event page for updates and more photos

Read full report of GCM’s AGM 2017: Flogging a Dead Horse

Read the memorandum of Tuesday’s demo outside the AGM: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh Now

Read News about GCM’s paperless business in Bangladesh here

Read also how GCM’s CEO Gary Lye was evicted from Phulbari: Prothom Alo News

News about Bangladesh government’s latest position about is here: Asia Energy/GCM

Read also report of LMN about previous AGM of GCM here

Socialist Party’s London Youth Organiser Helen Pattison explains why GCM must be stopped here:  https://youtu.be/CzoXC4MNdx0

Watch a Bengali version, featuring statement by the member secretary of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch, of the demo 2017: https://youtu.be/v35x0Tr0bC0