GCM Must Leave Bangladesh Now!

Memorandum of the Demonstration against AGM of Global Coal Resources Management Plc.

4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017.

 

Photo credit: Keval Bharadia, South Asia Solidarity Group

Today we, the activists from Bangladesh, Tower Hamlets, and London’s environmental organisations, have gathered to call upon the AIM-listed London-based extractive company, GCM Resources Plc, to leave Bangladesh. The company, GCM Resources, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 hecters of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which over a third of all children and nearly 17 percent of the entire population are undernourished.

 

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in August 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon a visit to the area.

 

The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. On 28 February, 2012, seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples. On  20 November, 2014, the UK government has concluded, following an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine. We welcome the Board’s affirmation that the 2011 Guidelines on human rights do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise and its prospective impacts on human rights (para 6).  We welcome also the finding that the 2011 Guidelines would apply if GCM “continued to be “actively involved in the project” (para 19).  An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD 2011 guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead.

But Global Coal Resources Management is aggressively moving ahead to implement Phulbari coal project. They are selling fraudulent shares in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM) –although the company does not have any valid contract with Bangladesh Government for business in Bangladesh and they do not have any other project elsewhere. It’s been 11 years since we have put a halt to the Phulbari coal project. The government in Bangladesh has declined to renew the contract for the project. GCM do not have any valid project in anywhere in the world. But they do hold an office in Bangladesh and the company’s corrupt CEO keep going back to Bangladesh to lobby MPs and politicians. We say they should leave Bangladesh now.

In 2011 and 2012, we have served two notices of eviction to GCM. Instead of leaving Bangladesh, GCM has been abusing communities and activists in Dinajpur and Phulbari. They are violating the guidelines of OECD.  The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary N Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline community defenders in a Bangladeshi court. These community defenders are farmers and small entrepreneurs who do not have as much as money as Lye to fight the cases in a court. Through the harassment and abuse of frontline community activists, the company embarked on a project to silence opponents to the Phulbari coal project.

 

The UK Committee  (National Committee) to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group, in conjunction with Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Reclaim the Power, Socialist Party of England and Wales, and all our co-worker organisations stand with the communities in Phulbari, Dinajpur and Bangladesh.  We will not be silent bywatcher. We demand, as National Committee of Bangladesh, that:

  1. GCM’s CEO, Gary N Lye, must withdraw all cases against activists in Bangladesh with immediate effect,
  2. GCM must stop selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM), and
  3. Finally, GCM must Leave Bangladesh immediately.

 

We declare, on behalf of the people in Phulbari, our resistance will not end until the above three-point demands are met. We will not give up until GCM has closed their office in Bangladesh, until they have stopped selling shares in the name of Phulbari coal project in London Stock Exchange.

The undersigned organisations:

Dr Mokhlesur Rahman, President, NCBD-UK branch

Sarbjit Johal, South Asia Solidarity Group

Michelle Easton, K M Protectors (North-east England)

Mostofa Farook , Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch

Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta

Nesar Ahmed, Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch

Peter Mason, Socialist Party of England and Wales

Richard Roberts, Reclaim the Power

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Rumana Hashem, Phulbari Solidarity Group

Sam Brown, Plane Stupid

 

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Protest the GCM Resources’ AGM

10am on Tuesday, 12 December 2017

4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ 

(Nearest Tube station: Hyde Park Corner)

 

Bangladeshi activists together with London-based climate defenders will hold a lively and theatrical protest against the London-based AIM-listed mining company, in solidarity with representatives of communities in Phulbari, where three people were shot dead and 200 injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006 for opposing a massive coal project.

Courtesy Saptahik 2000 (reprint) 26 August 2016

 

Global Coal Management Resources (GCM), formerly known as Asia Energy, wants to build an immense open cast coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If the project is implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

 

Bangladesh said ‘NO’ to open cast mining. The government has declined to renew GCM’s license after the shooting. The company does not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh. But they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London Stock Exchange. GCM’s CEO has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. 26 frontline community defenders in Phulbari and Dinajpur have been faced with multiple arbitrary cases as GCM’s CEO filed illogical cases. We are heading to GCM’s annual general meeting to challenge the investors and to ask them to leave Bangladesh. The annual general meeting of the company will be held at 10.00 a.m. on Tuesday 12 December 2017 at 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ.

 

JOIN Us Inside and Outside the AGM!

Stand Against Abuse and Harassment of Community Defenders by GCM!

For further information, please contact:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07936047597

Email:Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , Phulbari Solidarity Group phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/155245848559144/

 

Rampal Power Station: The development of a suicidal project continues

By Golam Rabbani

 

Sheikh Hasina’s desperate and dangerous move for Rampal Power plants will simply take the Sundarbans to its final grave. Despite substantial scientific evidence and analysis, the government goes on to implement the devastating project. There are many feasible alternatives to coal based power plants to meet the energy needs of the country, but all gets ignored bluntly.

 

Evergreen land of alluvial soil, Bangladesh has already suffered from the following environmental catastrophes:

  • Carrying capacity is under serious threat due to one of the highest population density in the world.
  • Climate change related vulnerability index put Bangladesh in top ten of the world.
  • Air, rivers, coasts and lands are already polluted to its maximum possible. These have displayed among the worsts in the world’s health indexes.
  • 15% current forestry where 25% is the required minimum.

 

Prime minister’s advisors and secretaries could look into available renewable technologies and generate funds from India as well as many other countries. They looked into imported coal based power plants, instead and India has finally won the international bids as always. The power relations between these two countries are “All YES to India” but “OK to Ignore Bangladesh” since the beginning.

Let’s look at the project details of Rampal Power Stations:

  • Sponsor:Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Pvt Ltd. (BIFPCL)
  • Parent company:Bangladesh Power Development Board and NTPC India
  • Location: Rampal, District: Bagerhaat (11km from the outer periphery of Sundarban)
  • Exact Coordinates:5924582, 89.556427
  • Gross Capacity:Phase I: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW); Phase II: 1320 MW (2 x 660 MW)
  • Type:Ultra-Supercritical (Not Supercritical!)
  • Projected in service: December 2018
  • Coal Type: Not specified
  • Coal Source: Not specified
  • Source of financing:BPDB and NTPC (30%), Exim Bank India (70%)

 

Given the details, there is no doubt that the plant will cause environmental disaster to at least one third population of the country. This is why environmentalists have expressed their concern and warned us from the very first days. But Sheikh Hasina and her government insult scientific evidences and advertise through media in supporting the project. They can easily get away high court bench, academic research, Environmental Impact Assessment Report and even huge public protests. Here is a brief history of the project development:

 

2010:

On January 11, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). Both are state organisations.

2011:

On March 1, Bangladesh High Court asked the government ‘why the construction of the plant should not be declared illegal’. [Investigation found no response available online]

On July 9, Protests against proposed Rampal Power Plant started by five local organizations along with National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral resources and power-port, an environmentalist group in Bangladesh. Police foiled the protests rally in Rampal. Political party BNP expressed solidarity after a week.

2012:

On January 29, an agreement was signed with PDB and NTPC set up a joint venture company under the name of Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company (BIFPC). They chanted the name of the plant to be as Maitree Super Thermal Plant which is expected to be implemented by 2016.

2013:  

On August 1, Department of Energy of Bangladesh approved construction later on with 15 preconditions where one of the conditions was to avoid 25km from the outer periphery of any ecologically sensitive area.

Once September, thousands of people marched 400 km to oppose the power plant concerning inevitable direct threats to Sundarban and its entire ecology.

Initially the inauguration was scheduled on 22nd October but on 5th October, PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the plant by pressing an electric switch at Veramara.

2014

Report from PDB on July 2014 expects commercial generation by December 2018

2016

In January, Export Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) signed an agreement to finance the entire project.

In March over a thousand people marched from Dhaka to Rampal urging government to stop the plant.

On July 12, Bangladesh India Friendship Company Limited (BIFPCL) signed contract for construction with Bharat Heavy Electric Ltd (BHEL). Estimated cost $1.68 Billion.

On July 28 Police blocked Save the Sundarbans march towards the Prime minister’s office, arrested six and 16 were hospitalized due to baton and tear cell charges.

In August UNESCO has questioned the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and called to halt the project and asked for a revised EIA report from PDB of Bangladesh.

2017

This year has started with a Global Day of Protest in which an unprecedented number of people from across the world have participated and gave verdict to save the Suburbans. Nevertheless, observers have seen 1834 acres of land has been surrounded by high boundary walls last month (in March). Inside the newly built wall, soil filling has already been completed. There are five high watch towers standing, awkwardly, high. Office cum residence for project officers and care takers are already in use. Workers and engineers are building six kilometers of bypass road from Mongla to the power station. There are two pontoons and jetties that have been set on the bank of Poshur River to unload the ships and tugboats.

 Clearly the destructive project is now going ahead with the permission of Bangladeshi and Indian Government.  The construction of the main site started end of March 2017, with their expectation that, this would be completed and go to operation by July 2019.

There are another two 660 MW Coal-fired power stations near Chittagong Port was initially being considered but there’s no details found and suspected to be on hold or cancelled.

Champion of the Earth awarded prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, along with her renowned advisors goes bluntly for fossil fueled electric plants but you could not question this destructive move. If you raise a question the result would be unendurable torture and abuse by Police and Rapid Action Battalion, those who meant to protect citizens from odds. This desperate move of Awami League government has resulted in over 90% price hike in just four years while experts are expecting even sharper raise of price in the year ahead.

Sheikh Hasina’s government claims that they have a vision to provide electricity to every house in 2021. Environmentalists, such as Professor Anu Muhammad and comrades of NCBD, also share this vision but they cannot see how it is possible without stopping fossil fuel industries and without ensuring renewable energy production. There are enormous possibilities of renewable energy sources which national environmental scientists have already demonstrated with strong evidence.

Bangladesh can easily set example that Green Development is not a utopian idea. The country has unique geographical advantages for longer coasts, surplus sun lights throughout the year to produce more than enough electricity from renewable sources. It is no longer a big challenge to achieve funds and technologies to meet the goal. But a government is desperate for a destructive project that will ruin the country’s ecology, thereby leaving devastating impact on the planet earth.

UK-Environmentalists Rallied with Bangladeshis to Save the Sundarbans on Global Day of Protest

  • Thousands of environmentalists protested across the globe
  • Successful protests held in Bangladesh, UK and 16 more countries expressing grave concerns about devastating impact of Rampal power plant

 

global-day-of-protest-rally-against-rampal-power-plant-to-save-the-sudnerbans-held-at-altab-ali-park-in-london-07-01-17

Saturday, the 7th January 2017,  has been celebrated as a Global Day of Protest to Save the Sunderbans and to stop the Rampal coal-power plant. Alongside nationwide protests in Bangladesh, UK’s green activists together with environmentalists of Bangladeshi community in the UK staged a colourful and loud demonstration at Altab Ali Park in London. Over 40 community activists and many transnational environmentalists rallied with beautiful placards and banners displaying powerful images of tigers, rivers, trees, humans and signs of large waving hands as symbols of ‘NO’.  They shouted “‘No’ to Rampal Power Plant”.

global-day-of-protest-rally-at-altab-ali-park-on-7-january-2017

 

 

In the two hour-rally, organised by the Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh, speakers said that it is incredible that Bangladeshi government entered a deal with Indian corporations to build coal-fired plant in Rampal, which would leave devastating impact on 50 million people in Bangladesh and the world’s largest mangrove, called the Sundarbans. When UK, Germany, Denmark and Finland are rethinking about the negative aspects of coal-energy, Bangladeshi government has chosen dirty coal energy that would destroy the country’s ecology.  Protesters called on Bangladeshi government to scrap the contentious deal with India with immediate action.

 

Meanwhile, more than 4000 people took to the streets in Dhaka, Berlin, Halle, The Hague, Paris, Gwangju, Hordaland, Kolkata, Turku, New York, Melbourne and many other states of the world to protest against the Rampal plant that will be built by the Indian company, called the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), within 9 kilometers to an ecologically sensitive area, called the Sundarbans mangrove in Bangladesh.

global-day-of-protest-poster-for-london-rally-by-akhter-s-khan-7-january-2017

The Sundarbans is the largest single tract mangrove forest. It is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, and is a World Heritage site.  But it is now in grave danger of losing its unique biodiversity and rare eco-system because of a planned coal fired power plant in Rampal. The threats to the Sundarbans are so critical that the UNESCO has also warned that the Sundarbans “may fall in grave danger if the planned coal-fired power-plant is established”.

 

The 1320 MW Rampal coal-fired power plant is a joint project of Power Development Board of Bangladesh and NTPC and BHEL of India. It is a great threat to the survival of Sundarbans because it would not only pollute environment by the coal-power plant but also is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to seize forest and to set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the mangrove which would destroy the forest.

“The project has not only put the livelihood of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 50 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters as the Sundarbans have also been a huge natural safe guard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country”, said Professor Anu Muhammad –  the member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD).

global-day-of-protest-rally-in-london-7-january-2017

The NCBD has declared a five-year peoples movement for the cancellation of Rampal power plant earlier. Saturday’s global action was part of this long-term movement that has been shared with hundreds of green activists across the world. The call for global day of protest was first heard at a grand rally on November 26, 2016 at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka which was attended by over 15 thousands of people from across Bangladesh. In response to the call for a global day of protest, demonstrations, rallies and public meetings were held in Bangladesh, India, Australia,  Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Indonesia, Nepal,  Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, UK and USA. Thousands of protesters across the world vowed that they will stand with the movement to save the Sundarbans from mass destruction, and will work together to build a stronger global movement which would uphold public interest before profit.

As a next step to this global day of action, the NCBD has called for a half-day strike to be held on 26 January, 2017. The UK branch of the NCBD and Phulbari Solidarity Group will also hold public meeting in the UK in solidarity with the strikers in Bangladesh.

global-day-of-protest-in-london-on-7-january-2017

Read More:

Protests held globally against Rampal plant: Dhaka Tribune on 08 January 2017 [http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/environment/2017/01/08/protests-held-globally-rampal-plant/]

Successful Global Day of Protest To Protect Sundarbans: Asia Pacific Women, Law and Development on 07 January 2017 [http://apwld.org/press-release-successful-global-day-of-protest-to-protect-sundarbans/]

UN tells Bangladesh to halt mangrove-threatening coal-plant: The Guardian on 19 October 2016 [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/19/un-tells-bangladesh-to-halt-mangrove-threatening-coal-plant]

Further updates and more photos are available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/218877755230424/

 

 

 

LONDON PICKET Of BRITISH MINERS Of DEVASTATIVE PHULBARI COAL PROJECT

               PRESS RELEASE 15 Dec 2016

             15542109_10154287669151553_650543184764904121_n

Thursday, London: Bangladeshi protesters from Phulbari were joined by transnational climate activists in a picket of directors of Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc, an AIM-listed British mining company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, Bangladesh. During the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday 15 December in London a large group of protesters holding colourful banners and placards with powerful messages occupied the entrance of Aeronautical Society , an elite venue near Hyde Park Corner, where the AGM of GCM Resources was held.

 

 

 

Anti-coal protesters outside and inside the AGM called to shut down GCM Resources because the company does not have a valid license for business with Bangladesh but they are selling shares in London and committing abuse and human rights violation of farmers and local businessmen in Phulbari. Protesters outside the AGM chanted “CGM, out out”, “Gary Lye, blood on your hands”, referring to 26 August in 2006, when three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people for opposing plans by the company’s Bangladesh subsidiary, Asia Energy.

 

bangladeshi-postdoc-researcher-rashed-and-business-enterprenure-jahnara-rahman-joined-action-demo-with-ncbduk-president-dr-mukul

Dissident voices before entering the AGM express solidarity with the protesters outside  4 Hamilton Place, London. Photo by Golam Rabbani

A delegation of dissidents went inside the AGM and powerfully interrogated the company directors who failed to show evidence of any valid licence for business. The poorly attended AGM, which had only 10 shareholders including the company PR and excluding the six dissident voices, was quickly closed by the Chairman, Michael Tang, who was unable to answer any question from the floor.

 

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst. The Phulbari project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans. Earlier this year Phulbari Solidarity Group and Bangladesh National Committee called on London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange.

 

 

Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye-witness to the killings in 2006 said:

The company’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local opponents, farmers, and small business entrepreneurs against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur. This is incredible, and human rights abuse facing the innocent people and their families who never had anything to do with violence before this company inflicted violence in Phulbari.  

 

Akhter Sobhan Khan of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh stated:

The Bangladesh government withdrew the mining licence in the wake of GCM’s atrocity but the company continues its dodgy attempts to raise funds for the operation of a perilous project. CGM is selling shares in the name of the Phulbari project in London.

 

Thursday’s picket event was co-organised by Phulbari Solidarity Group and the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh. Action outside and inside the AGM was joined by transnational activists from Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Coal Action Network, UKBioregional, Plane Stupid, Reclaim the Power, Socialist Party of England and Wales, Transition by Design, and many Bangladeshi community protesters from Tower Hamlets and East London in the UK. Protesters say that they will not sleep until the company has closed its office in Dhaka and left Bangladesh.

Read a full report on the GCM Resources AGM by Richard Solly at London Mining Network http://londonminingnetwork.org/2016/12/gcm-resources-at-phulbari-perseverance-or-perversity/
Further news here http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24116/15-12-2016/picket-against-coal-project-in-bangladesh

 

Action to Shut Down GCM Resources plc.

When? 10:30am to 1pm on Thursday 15 December

Where? 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner)

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Phulbari outburst, where three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006 for opposing plans by a London-based AIM-listed mining company, Global Coal Management Resources (GCM).  Formerly known as Asia Energy, the company wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh. The project threatens to destroy the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people, and forcibly evict an estimated 130,000 people. If implemented, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land and would leave devastative impact on the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

 

The government has declined to renew GCM’s license. The company does not hold a valid contract with Bangladesh, while they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London. GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, has been systematically abusing local opponents of the project. Earlier this year, Lye has filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders against mining in Phulbari and Dinajpur, making the lives of local farmers and small business entrepreneurs unbearable.

 

We have been telling the company to stop abuse and corruption in Bangladesh for years. We have been going to their annual general meetings every year since 2008 but they cannot hear us. In 2012 Santa Claus has poured a sack of coal on the desk of board of directors as a punishment, and subsequently the ex-chairman of the company has resigned and the company had to change venue from Tower Hamlets to 4 Hamilton Place in Holborn. We have also written to UK’s ex-prime minister, David Cameron , who said that he would have looked into the case but never did. We have submitted three separate complaints to Houses of Parliament in the UK and our friends at International Accountability Project and Global Justice Now have lodged an OECD complaint to UK’s National Contact Point. In 2013 and 2014, Phulbari protesters  have disrupted GCM’s AGM and dumped coal in the door way which the corrupt investors should have found hard to forget. Last year we have given a final notice of closure to the company which a delegation of protesters inside the AGM has read out and handed in to the current chairman, Michael Tang. Yet GCM  continues to push Bangladesh government to approve a dodgy deal that is absurd.

The company has announced to hold its annual general meeting on 15 December in 2016. Therefore, we are heading to Aeronautical Society to disrupt and shut down GCM’s annual general meeting. We will charge the corrupt businessmen inside and outside the AGM. They must learn a better lesson than previous years.

JOIN US Inside and Outside the AGM on Thursday 15 December at 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ (Nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner).

Please confirm your participation via Facebook here. Bring your noisy instruments and whistles to disrupt the AGM of corrupt miners. See you there!

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036, Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

 

Protesters Call To DE-LIST Global Coal Management PLC.From London Stock Exchange

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photocredit Peter Marshall

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photo credit Peter Marshall

PHULBARI DAY VIGIL TURNS INTO HEATED DEMO

By Paul Dudman

 

Friday the 26th August, marked a decade of halt to plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. A four day long Commemoration for victims of Phulbari outburst, where three protesters were shot dead by police in 2006, was held in Dkaka, Dinajpur, Phulbari, London and Germany. On the final day of remembrance, on 30th August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh has declared a fresh programme in Phulbari to kick GCM out of Bangladesh as the CEO of the company has recently filed multiple arbitrary charges against indigenous farmers, small businessmen and local leaders who opposed the mine.

 

In response to the call by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh, community activists under the banner of Phulbari Solidarity Group and Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh held a colourful and powerful commemoration rally and protest at London Stock Exchange , calling for the de-listing of the company from London Stock Exchange. Despite heavy securitization and repeated attempts of interruption by British police, angry protesters blocked the pavement of the main entrance of London Stock Exchange for two hours and demanded immediate de-registration of GCM for its unethical business, deceitful marketing of Phullbari project, and for human rights abuse in Dinajpur and Phulbari. Of what was meant to be a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari has turned into a commemoration come noise demo as the CEO of London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet KBE, failed to respond to the protesters’ call for de-listing of GCM. The Phulbari Solidarity Group has contacted the CEO of London Stock Exchange and submitted evidence of unethical business of the company before the demo.

 

Police objects to PSG Founder Rumana Hashem to remove the banner from the pavement copyright Peter Marshall

Police objects to the blockade of LSE pavement but  PSG Founder Rumana Hashem says:” the banner for the victims will not be removed.” Photo credit: Peter Marshall

A remembrance vigil was held, followed by an angry demo with Santal and Tamil drumming, and ended with tribute by flowers and candles being paid to the three people who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006. Wearing masks of Gary Lye (CEO of GCM) and Michael Tang (the Chairman of the company), the protesters sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine. The protest observed a three-minute silence for the three victims, Al—Amin, Salekin and Tariqul, who died in the Phulbari shooting. Dressed in red, blue and black, protesters laid down a banner for victims, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN”, on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange. Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining movement and workers rights.

Shameless Gary Lye and Blatant lyer Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty copyright Peter Marhsall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty. Photocredit: Peter Marhsall

 

 

Dressed in red, blue and black protesters outside the London Stock Exchange paid a two-hour homage to the victims. A banner, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN” was laid on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange Group’s Headquarter for International Trading.

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining and workers rights. Among others, Foil Vedanta, European Action for Climate, London Mining Network, Global Justice Campaign, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, Tamil Solidarity and Voice of Freedom have made it explicit that they will stand with Phulbari people in their struggle. The sound of compassion, sadness, empowerment and resistance echoed in the protest, and the firm speeches by passionate activists and outrageous crimes by British multinational companies overseas was heard by the entire Paternoster Square on Friday – although none from London Stock Exchange seemed concerned about these crimes.

 

Simultaneously, tributes were paid to the victims of Phulbari at National Martyrs Monument in Dhaka, and red vigil and cultural events took place in Phulbari under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD in short). In the four-day commemoration events (26-30 August) and celebration of the halt, they demanded the ban of the company in Bangladesh for its ongoing abuse of activists in Phulbari and increasing corruption in Bangladesh.

 

 

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint agaisnt GCM was treated by UK NCP Photocredit Peter Marshall

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint against GCM was treated by UK NCP. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of local activists and 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 that in 2005 Huq was killed brutally in her car park for her opposition to the project. A report to which the company was unable to respond was published in the Observer.[i]  Later 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. Local organisers have reported that the company has bribed the paramilitary personnel and forced them to open fire against the decision of the Police Magistrate on duty who stated that there was no permission for shooting on people. There were over 200 people injured and many abused on the same day. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against 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.

 

Shameless Gary Lye and Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter MarshallThe company’s CEO, Gary N Lye, has been allegedly harassing opponents of the project and the company has been extremely abusive to indigenous farmers, local organisers of Phulbari outburst, and small business entrepreneurs who demanded the company’s ban in Phulbari. After the shooting and deaths of three people on 26 August in 2006, Gary Lye stated that he is businessman and he understands nothing but coal. In a live interview with Farzana Rupa on ATN Bangla TV, Lye said: “I am a businessman , my business is to extract coal. It is not my business to know who dies and who cries” (ATN Bangla News, 26 August 2006).  Locals have declared that this CEO is unwanted in Phulbari and when he attempted to re-enter Phulbari town he was resisted by locals in November 2014.

 

Last month, a day before the International Mangrove Action Day when Bangladeshis was focused on the controversial deal on Rampal power plant, 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 formed on 25 July, 2016, at Dinajpur Magistrate Court appeared as extremely abusive and the next hearing on 7 September will be a crucial day for all those fighting the fraught.

 

The NCBD has declared a fresh programme on Phulbari Day to fight GCM and ban the Phulbari project. This includes rally demanding a ban of the company in Phulbari on 25 October, blockade of the Dinajpur District Commissioner’s Office on 21 November and half-day strike in Phulbari on 21 December. If demands are unfulfilled by December, intense and unending strike would start. Phulbari Solidarity Group believes that that this will not be needed as activists in London will hold the company to account and will ensure a ban of GCM from London Stock Exchange before the end of this year.

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photo credit: Kerima Mohiuddin

 

Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh. 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.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

 

 

Arguments with Police who prohibited Rumana Hashem to display the banner for the victims on the pavement Copyright Peter Marshall Gary Lye and Michael Tang shamelessly danced with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police - a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police – a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

 

Phulbari Solidairty Group Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006 lights a cnadle for the victims of Phulbari on 26 August 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photocredit : Peter Marshall

Phulbari Solidairty Group’s Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006, Dr Rumana Hashem, lights a candle for the victims of Phulbari at the entrance of London Stock Exchange. Photo credit : Peter Marshall

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791.

Further news, photos and videos:

Ten years of Resistance to Phulbari Open Cast Mine: Peter Marshall’s Mylondondiary.co.uk

A video of the noise-demo to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange (by Pete Mason of Socialist Party of England and Wales): https://youtu.be/-_cKiRWt9NI

London Stock Exchange targeted by Bangladeshi activists: Foil Vedanta report

Phulbari Day protest outside London Stock Exchange: Begum24.com by Ansar Ahemd Ullah

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

An Eye Witness of the shooting and outburst in Phulbari: Keeping Coal Resources under the Ground with Blood, A Different Revolution

New Programme to Kick GCM out of Bangladesh declared on Phulbari Day: BNP is Not our Friend