Memorandum of 15th Phulbari Day Remembrance Rally, 26 August 2021
Bangladesh High Commission, London
28 Queens Gate, SW7 5JA.
We are here as transnational climate justice campaigners, representatives of Phulbari communities from Northwest Bangladesh, and anti-racist and anti-mining activists, to express our concern about the delay in implementation of the Phulbari Verdict, the banning of coal mining and coal-power in Bangladesh.
This 26th August marks the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari killings when three young people were shot dead and more than two hundred injured during a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against coal mining in Phulbari and the displacement of 130,000 people from the region by London-listed Asia Energy, thereafter GCM Resources. The day has nationally been called Phulbari Day since. Powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting in Phulbari has put a 15-year long halt to the project. Following the killing of the three young people the Bangladesh government signed a contract with the people in Phulbari on 30th August, 2006. The contract, nationally known as the Phulbari Verdict, suggested that the government would ban coal mining in Bangladesh. The government thus overturned GCM’s right to operate in Bangladesh.
Despite lacking a valid contract for mining, GCM Resources plc (GCM) is selling shares on the UK’s share market. The company is currently listed as a mining company on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). They have extended mining contracts with two China based companies and they are selling shares in London in the name of a “Phulbari coal project”, a project which does not exist. This is an insult to the affected communities who lost their children in the violence in Phulbari. Selling these shares is also unfair to all Bangladeshi and transnational climate justice campaigners.
GCM does not hold any valid licence to operate in Phulbari and does not have permission for mining anywhere else in the world. The Bangladesh government is fully aware of GCM’s fraudulent activities. Speaking in August 2019 to the Prothom Alo newspaper, Nasrul Hamid, the Deputy State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh said:
“Even in the absence of an agreement, GCM or Asia Energy is trading shares in London by providing information that coal would be extracted from Phulbari, which is false. The government has taken this into notice. The government is proceeding to take legal action against them.”
We have previously written about this to the Chief Executive of London Stock Exchange and we proposed a meeting to discuss the matter in 2016, 2019, and 2020. The London Stock Exchange wrote to Phulbari Solidarity Group on 1 September 2020 that AIM was looking into the matter. But there has been no progress since.
It is time for the Bangladesh High Commission to act on this. The High Commissioner of Bangladesh in the UK should take action and write to the London Stock Exchange, telling them to de-list GCM immediately. The government of Bangladesh overturned GCM’s right to operate in Bangladesh more than a decade ago, and wanted to take legal action in August 2019. It has been two years since. Government delay in taking legal action against the company allows GCM to sell shares on the basis of a fake project, Phulbari coal mine, in London’s share market. The Bangladesh government should take urgent action to prevent this from happening. The government should implement the Phulbari Day Verdict urgently.
Instead of implementing the Phulbari Verdict, the government is implementing four destructive coal-fired projects across the country. Despite nationwide and international outrages and outreach to the government to save the Sundarbans, the government is moving ahead with the 1,320 MW Rampal coal–power–plant planned for construction near the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. We understand that Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL) is planning this project and a joint venture between National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) of India and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) is going ahead, enabling an additional 154 industrial constructions to be built in southwest Bangladesh near the Sundarbans.
Likewise, the government is failing people across Cox’s Bazar coastal area in Southeast Bangladesh. The plans for the construction of a Japan-financed coal-power-plant, Matarbari Phase 2, in Matarbari will ruin livelihoods of communities, destroy three-cops land, pollute water resources, and harm ecosystems essential for farmers and fishermen and women in villages across the Cox’s Bazar. The government is also letting another China-funded coal-power-plant, a 1,224 MW coal-power-plant (currently under construction), in Bashkhali in Chittagong near Cox’s Bazar where seven plant workers were killed for protesting to receive their due wages earlier this year. Two Chinese firms – SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG – are financing US$1.75 billion of the plants’ estimated $2.4 billion cost. This is happening via a US$1.739 billion loan from the Exim Bank of China. Previously five more people were killed for protesting against the same coal-power-plant in 2016 and 2017. Several companies are involved in the Bashkhali coal-power-plant constructions and killings. These include S Alam Group, PowerChina, and S.S. Power I Ltd. The latest incident of violence and murders on the premises of S.S. Power I Ltd. happened on 17 April. This cannot go on.
The government is also looking into other coal mining options in other regions in Bangladesh. In between, the government has allowed police to torture people in Parbatipur, for protesting against the Barapukuria shaft mining, within the neighbourhood of Phulbari. The mine workers in Barapukuria were protesting a pay gap by a Chinese company in 2011. Currently the government is looking into options for reopening Barapukuria mine through open cast mining. This is a complete violation of the Phulbari Verdict 2006.
We demand the Bangladesh government implement the Phulbari Verdict fully, immediately, take legal action against GCM, and ban coal-power.
We call on the Bangladeshi government to urgently:
1. Ban coal mining and fully implement the Phulbari Verdict.
2. Take legal action against GCM Resources, urgently.
3. Write to London Stock Exchange Plc. and the UK government informing them that the Phulbari coal project does not exist, and that GCM is cheating on the share market.
4. Withdraw from the move to build coal-power plants near the Sundarbans and Bashkhali, and all coal projects in Matarbari and anywhere in Bangladesh.
5. Stop plans to build Barapukuria open cast coal mine, stop the Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd. Corporate, and compensate Barapukuria coal mine workers who were tortured in 2013 and 2014.
6. Consult the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh as a way forward for meeting energy needs of the country.
We ask the High Commissioner to convey our demand to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and demand that the government respond to our call immediately.
We the undersigned:*
1. Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.
2. Richard Solly, Coordinator, London Mining Network.
3. Kofi Mawuli Klu, External Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network.
4. Sanjit Prasad Jitu, Spokesman, Phulbari Chapter of National Committee of Bangladesh.
5. Mafizur Rahman Laltu, Coordinator, Biborton, Dhaka.
6. Sumana Nandi, International Coordinator, XR Affinity Network of Asia (XRANA).
7. Aminul Haque, Spokesperson, Phulbari Krishak Mukti Songram.
8. Abdul Razzak, Convenor, National Democratic Workers Federation.
9. Alfredo Quarto, Program & Policy Director/ Co-founder, Mangrove Action Project, USA.
10. Alauddin, President, Phulbari Construction Workers Union.
11. Alejandra Piazzolla, Spokesperson, Extinction Rebellion Youth.
12. Angela Ditchfield, Director, Christian Climate Action.
13. Anne Harris, Campaigner, Coal Action Network (UK).
14. Alex Burton, Spokesperson, Global Justice Bloc.
15. Baccu Islam, President, Phulbari Upazilla Garments Workers Union.
16. Bappy Das, Tabla Teacher of Surobani Songgit School.
17. Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy and Development Manager, Gerente, Recaudación de Fondos y Programa de Defensa, Cultural Survival, USA.
18. Dr Samina Luthfa, Spokesperson, Sarbajan Katha, Dhaka.
19. Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator General, Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide
20. Fe Haslam, Co-Principal Organising Secretary, Global Justice Forum.
21. Hamidul Haque, President, Phulbari Kuli (day Labourers) Workers Union.
22. Hasan Mehedi, Member Secretary, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED).
23. Himel Mondal, Coordinator, National Gonofront.
24. Jargis Ahamed, President, Cable Operators Association, Phulbari.
25. Joy Prokash Gupta, Phulbari Kali Mondir Committee.
26. Julie Begum, Chair, Swadhinata Trust, UK.
27. Mahamud Alam Liton, Mayor of Phulbari Municipal. Dinajpur.
28. Manik Sarkar, Mayor of Municipal (Former), Phulbari Municipal.
29. Nils Agger, Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion
30. Nicholas Garica, Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Slough.
31. Nurul Islam Fokir, General Secretary, Phulbari Rickshaw Van Workers Union.
32. Peter Burgess, PhD Candidate, King’s College London.
33. Rowan McLaughlin, South Tees Green Party, UK.
34. Sara Callaway, Coordinator, Women of Colour and Global Women Strike.
35. Sara Cordovez, Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity.
36. Samarendra Das, Chair, Foil Vedanta.
37. Saiful Islam Jewel, Convenor, Phulbari Chapter of National Committee of Bangladesh.
38. Shakoat Hossain, General Secretary, Phulbari Dokam Employees Union (Local Business and Entrepreneurs Association in Phulbari).
39. Shafiul Islam, President, Phulbari Upazilla Decorator Workers Union.
40. SM Nuruzzaman, General Secretary, Trade Union Center Of Dinajpur.
41. Syed Samiul Islam Shohel, Councillor of Phulbari Municipal.
42. Syed Enamul Islam, Co-ordinator, European Action Group on Climate Change in Bangladesh.
*Note: Names of signatories do not follow alphabetical order. Signatures are added as and when signatories signed the letter online.