Press Releases

Phulbari Solidarity Group PRESS RELEASE 28 November 2014

Demos rage in London and Bangladesh at visit of CEO of British coal company GCM.

• Two injured, no arrest, in fresh violence in Phulbari after UK NCP’s Final Report
• GCM’s CEO leaves Phulbari under police protection
• Protesters demand arrest and expulsion of Gary Lye
• Phulbari Demo in London on 9 December in Solidarity to Phulbari Resistance

Phulbari, the town in upheaval in northwest Bangladesh where three people were shot dead while protesting an immense open pit mine in 2006, has become volatile again since Gary N Lye, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an AIM-Listed British company, Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in the town centre. Last two days in Dinajpur-Dhaka highway over a thousand people braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s visit, and in Phulbari there were day-long protests outside GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy‘s local office. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured.

Angry protesters demanded for an immediate arrest and expulsion of Gary Lye from Bangladesh. They have declared a month-long programme including nationwide protests on 3 December, submission of Phulbari manifesto to District-Commissioner in Dinajpur on 13 December, and day-long blockade on 27 December 2014.

Phulbari Solidarity Group expressed solidarity with the protesters in Phulbari and called upon everybody to join the demo in London on 9 December, which the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh initiated to hold outside the GCM’s forthcoming AGM. Bangladeshi activists and protesters of GCM will chant, sing and hold a banner saying – GCM hands off Phulbari, No open pit mine in Bangladesh. Company executives will be heckled, and a theatrical stunt is expected. The demo will end with a manifesto calling for an end of GCM’s Phulbari project, and by criticising the UK NCP’s controversial recommendations to the company.

Dr Rumana Hashem, Co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the protest against the project where three people were killed in 2006, said:
Phulbari Solidarity Group expresses full solidarity to the protesters and will protest against open pit mine in Phulbari. We stand by the people in Phulbari because of the devastating impact that the proposed coal mine of GCM would leave. We will turn this year’s demo into an outburst against both the company and the UK government.

The demo in London has been endorsed by Phulbari Solidarity Group, Foil Vedanta, World Development Movement, and London Mining Network. Outside GCM’s London AGM a group of protesters will play samba while others hold placards painted with defiant anti-company quotes from the Phulbari and Parbatipur tribe in Dinajpur, Bangladesh, where the company has been trying to implement open pit coal mine illegally for fifteen years, and has been stopped in the face of tremendous resistance of people. Others will play investors’ dirty coal mine game by wearing coal helmet and engaging in activities including cleaning coals and falling over the ground.The demonstrators will attempt to enter the AGM to interrogate the investors for a valid contract which Gary Lye has demanded to have with Bangladesh government. Others will stop company executives from entering the AGM of GCM. Artist Stephen Vince will paint the whole event and actions outside the AGM.

Global Coal Management Plc is a company which does not hold any valid contract with Bangladesh though it wants to build a massive open pit mine in the Phulbari chapter, 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 acres 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 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. 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. But GCM is aggressively moving ahead to implement this project. The situation in Phulbari has been very tense and volatile since Tuesday the 25th November.

Professor Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary of Bangladesh National Committee, stated:
The whole self of Phulbari is fighting for their land, homes and lives. People of all classes including farmers, business entrepreneurs, rikshaw-pullers, teachers and house wives have taken to the street. We did not know anything about Gary Lye’s visit, it is the locals who recognised him. He had to leave the town in two hours. Locals have attacked his car and ransacked his office which suggests that Asia Energy’s day has ended in true terms. Phulbari has embraced to resist open pit mine in Phulbari. It is not only the National Committee this time but also the Mayor of the Phulbari Borough, the Chairman of Phulbari Upazilla and the Business Entrepreneurs have all come to consensus that they will fight against GCM’s proposed project. The UK governments’ recommendations could do nothing to push open pit mine in Bangladesh.

It is notable that the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in Phulbari this Wednesday, 26 November, following advice of the UK government which was released last Thursday, 20 November. The UK government’s statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, and it concluded 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. The investigation does not ask the company to pull off from the devastating project. Its recommendations are reduced to re-evaluation of the risks and impact. It asked the company to foster communication with the locals following a narrow approach, and it failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built.  Its findings and conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead.

However, the final report failed to address the concerns of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation. The recommendations in the final report also fails to address concerns about the high potential for further violence if GCM persists in its efforts to force the project forward – despite the fact that the internal review noted the project “continues to be controversial and has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there”.

The demo in London outside GCM’s AGM will address the demands of Phulbari people.The demands of protesters in Phulbari include a prompt arrest and expulsion of Gary Lye from Bangladesh, and to fully implement the Phulbari agreement 2006.

Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, Member Secretary of the Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh, the UK Branch, commented:
GCM should quit devastating Phulbari project and must stop unethical business and grabbing of money from the London share market. Local people banned GCM in Phulbari. They will never be able to get back and has no future in Phulbari. This message will be delivered to GCM in a unique fashion on the 9th December in London demo.

Protesters will address both the issues of GCM’s aggressiveness and the UK NCP’s ambiguous recommendations to the company. Some protesters will hold placards painted with the corrupted process of the UK NCP, and calling for a suspension of Liz Napier, the chair of NCP, from her current post at UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. A copy of the manifesto of the London demo will be sent to the NCP steering board later. A delegate of the protesters will meet the UK NCP to hand in the Manifesto of the demo.

Phulbari Solidarity Group will continue to call for the company to be de-listed from the London Alternative Investors Market, a move supported by a number of MPs and financiers.
Ends.

Notes to editors:

Please join us at the demonstration at 10:30 am on Tuesday, 9 December at 4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.

Photographs and a report of the demo will follow on 9 December by 4pm GMT.
Contact: Raaj Manik, Phulbari Solidarity Group: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Phulbari Solidarity Group Press Release – 20 November, 2014

UK urges GCM Resources to assess human rights impact of Bangladesh coal mine

Today, Thursday, 20th Nov 2014, the UK government has urged British company GCM Resources to assess how its planned coal mine in Bangladesh would affect the human rights of local people, and has condemned the company for breaching international guidelines on ethical corporate behaviour. Its findings, released today, state that the project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there.”

The UK government statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in the Phulbari region of north-west Bangladesh, where it wants to open a massive open-pit coal mine. The investigation concluded 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.

The investigation failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built, and its conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead. However, the final report failed to address the concrens of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation.

The investigation followed a complaint submitted by the World Development Movement and International Accountability Project.

Christine Haigh, campaigner at the World Development Movement, said:

“The UK government’s investigation is right in pointing to the company’s failures to date. But by omitting to consider the inevitable effects this mine would have on the region’s population, the investigation does little to ensure that their rights are protected. If it goes ahead, the Phulbari coal mine will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and GCM should expect continued resistance if it pushes ahead against their wishes.”

Kate Hoshour from International Accountability Project said:

“There are grave concerns about the high risk of further violence in Phulbari if GCM persists in its efforts to force this project forward despite massive local opposition. The UK government should be taking all possible action to avert further harm, rather than restricting its assessment to harm that has already been inflicted. The government should also recognize and condemn the ongoing violation of the rights to self-determination and to free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples who have been fighting to halt this project since 2006.”

Rumana Hashem, co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the protests against the project where three people were killed in 2006, said:

“It is good that the UK NCP has recognised the considerable opposition to this project in Bangladesh. But the investigators simply failed to highlight the concerns for human rights violations and the severity of the issues. I have seen how local people died protesting about how the project would rob them of their homes and land, and how the locals have resisted the project so far. I am appalled that after receiving several first-hand accounts from Phulbari, the UK government has reduced its recommendations to this narrow framework.”

Locals cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari following the shooting by GCM-provoked shooting by Bangladesh paramilitary. Photo: 27 August 2006

Locals cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari following the shooting by GCM-provoked shooting by Bangladesh paramilitary. Photo: 27 August 2006

She added: “This report is contradictory. The internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead but the final report failed to advise their company to stay away from this devastating project. Despite the failure of the UK government to hold this UK-based company to account, it is clear that the people of Phulbari will resist GCM’s project going ahead.”

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

The mine would force up to 220,000 people from their land, destroying their homes and livelihoods, and would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The UK government states that GCM must take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that no developments can take place on indigenous peoples’ land without their ‘free, prior and informed consent’. Bangladesh’s National Indigenous Union says the mine would displace or impoverish 50,000 indigenous people from 23 villages.

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.
The original complaint submitted by International Accountability Porject and the World Development Movement

UK NCP final statement: complaint from IAP and WDM against GCM Resources Plc in Bangladesh

Find the press release by World Development Movement here

 

Press releases of Phulbari Demo in London in previous years  can be accessed here NCBD Press release 2012

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