We Call on the Bangladesh Government to Implement Phulbari Verdict, Take Legal Actions Against GCM Resources, and End Coal Power Now!

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 coalpowerplant 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.

Sincerely,

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.

Press Release: Protest Held at Bangladesh High Commission on 15th Phulbari Day

Protest outside of Bangladesh High Commission in London on 26 August 2021. Photocredit: Fe Haslam

41 Climate Justice Organisations Called on the Bangladesh Government to Implement Phulbari Verdict, Take Legal Actions Against GCM Resources, and End Coal Power.

Some XR Youth Solidarity activists make placards outside the Bangladesh High Commission for Phulbari Solidarity. Photo credit: London Mining Network

On Thursday 26 August, a large number of transnational anti-mining and climate justice campaigners held a 2-hour long protest outside the Bangladesh High Commission in London, where they honoured the victims of the Phulbari Massacre, where three young people were killed and hundreds injured protesting British financed coal mine. From the Remembrance rally, marking the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Day, 41 climate justice organisations called on the High Commissioner to push for the delisting of GCM Resources from the London Stock Exchange and the banning of new coal projects in Bangladesh.  Despite advance email request for an appointment with the High Commissioner, the High Commissioner refused to meet the London Mining Network, Phulbari Solidarity Group and Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Network activists.

The rally in London was organised by the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network, with support from Foil Vedanta, Fossil Free London, Bibortan, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network, Global Justice Bloc, Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity,  and Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike.

Activists from XR Youth UK, Global Justice Bloc, and Fossil Free London joined the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network, and occupied the entrance of the Bangladesh High Commission for two hours from 10:30AM to 12:35PM. The rally marked the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Massacre. The gathered activists laid sunflowers, candles, and held banners outside the High Commission, accompanied by mournful cello music by XR Youth Solidarity artist, Clary. The memorandum to Bangladesh High Commissioner was shared and read out loudly by seven activists, led by Rumana Hashem, the coordinator of the Phulbari Solidarity Group and eyewitness to the 2006 massacre. A three minute silence was held in memory of  Al Amin, Mohammad Saleqin and Tarikul Islam. These three, aged 11,13 and 18 respectively were killed on 26 August 2006 when a paramilitary force opened fire during a  nonviolent demonstration of an estimated 80,000 people against the eviction of 130,000 people in Phulbari  to make way for a 572-million ton open cast coal mine. More than 200 other demonstrators were injured.

A handpainted balck banner with sunflowers and candles on either side laid on the ground outside the Bangladesh High Commission by PSGBD in memory of Al Amin, Salekin and Tariqul, who were killed in 2006. Photocredit: Saul Jones.

Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity activists held a placard making session outside the High Commission building, stressing the link between young activists and climate justice struggles. A delegation of 5 organisers of the rally requested to meet with MS Saida Muna Tasneem, the High Commissioner for Bangladesh, in order to deliver a memorandum signed by 41 climate justice organisations. This memorandum demand that the High Commissioner put pressure on the London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM Resources, and stress the importance of implementing the Phulbari Verdict, which would ban new coal projects in Bangladesh, to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister. The delegation was denied access to the building as the High Commissioner refused to meet.

First Officer to the High Commissioner receives the memorandum from the protesters. Photocredit: Saul Jones

While activists were disappointed that the High Commissioner did not have time to meet with them, her First Officer has come to the steps of the office to accept the letter on behalf of Ms Tasneem. The First Officer appeared apologetic and repeatedly emphasised that he will make sure a meeting with the representatives of the organising groups and the High Commissioner will be arranged at a later date. Activists said that they were hurt by the fact that High Commissioner did not have interest in meeting with global climate activists on Phulbari Day. Short speeches were given by Richard Solly, network coordinator of London Mining Network, Sara Cordovez of Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity, and placards were read loudly by XR YouthUK activists. Activists said that they will come back to this venue until the day the Phulbari Verdict is implemented.

 Rumana Hashem , the co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group  and an

eye-witness to Phulbari shooting said:

I am sad that the High Commissioner did not make time for us on  a sensitive issue on Phulbari Day. Bangladesh High Commission is fully aware that the London Stock Exchange is hosting a company that is responsible for gross human rights violations and that does not have a valid license for business in Bangladesh. But they are not taking action to prevent this crime. I have witnessed GCM’s violence in Phulbari. 15 years on, the company continues to grab money by selling deceitful shares on Phulbari’s name. The company does not hold any valid asset to operate in Phulbari and does not have permission for mining anywhere in the world. The Bangladesh’s state minister stated that the government will take legal action against GCM. That was in 2019. Its’ been two years since.  We have written to LSE’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officers twice, and submitted evidence showing that GCM is involved in fraudulent business at LSE. It is now the High Commission and Bangladesh Government who should take action.”

Rumana Hashem of PSGBD holds a poster made by the Youths of Phulbari Public Library showing women are shouting at para-military men during curfew after the shooting in the evening of 26 August 2006. Photocredit: Fe Haslam.

Of the campaign to de-list GCM, Richard Solly, Network Coordinator of London Mining Network, said:

“Since LMN was launched in 2007, we have supported the struggle against the Phulbari project. It is utter madness for GCM to keep pressing on with a new opencast coal project which would displace tens of thousands of people dependent on rural occupations, with no guarantee that they could find alternative work, and at a time when we know we have to stop burning coal anyway. UK authorities should not allow London share markets to be used to finance this kind of destructive project. GCM should be delisted.”

In the afternoon, 200 protesters from across the world joined the campaigners at a Live streamed witness and solidarity event hosted by the Phulbari Solidarity Group, Bibortan Cultural Group, and London Mining Network on zoom, where speakers from Phulbari communities and Bangladesh National Committee were joined by Women of Colour, Foil Vedanta and London Mining Network. Artists and eco-feminists from Bibortan cultural group performed Bengali songs and music for Phulbari resistance, save the Sunderbans and ecological struggles. The event ended by reading the Phulbari Verdict 2006, the original agreement with the government and the communities in resistance, which was signed by Anu Muhammad and the Mayor of Dinajpur, Mizanur Rahman Minu on 30 August, 2006. Rumana Hashem read the agreement.

Placard made by XR Youth Solidarity activist in solidarity with Phulbari communities in resistance. Photocredit: Saul Jones

Sara Calaway, Co-founder of Women of Colour, said:

The determined resistance of women in particular halted plans for a devastating coal mine. People of Phulbari — women, men and children, are acting also for us and we must act with them.  Our thoughts are with the families of the children shot dead by paramilitaries, and those injured. These brutal attacks did not to stop protests.  Women, as often happens, were central — on marches, road blocks, and even courageously chasing away paramilitaries with brooms and cooking utensils to protect lives.  Your strength is an inspiration to us all.  We will publicise your struggle especially during the weeks of climate action to end polluters – we must abolish multi-national polluters to save the planet and ourselves. 

Grassroots women are the carers everywhere. They and all carers for people and planet deserve a income to strengthen our struggle and win.  Power to Phulbari, India’s farmers, Haiti, Burma, Marikana and all organising for justice and to save our planet! From Women of Colour GWS & International Global Women’s Strike: UK, India, Ireland, Peru, Thailand, USA.

Sara Cordovez of Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity said:

As XR Youth Solidarity, we stand with the Phulbari Solidarity Group in marking the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Day shooting. For us at XR Youth Solidarity, Phulbari Day represents the undeniable link between people and planet: our global fossil-fuel addicted economy is killing people, directly and indirectly, and driving us towards the ecological and climate collapse, while leaving communities like Phulbari to mourn for the youth that stood against this fate. We stand united against GCM and emphatically condemn their continued listing in the London Stock Exchange.”

Colombian mining activist Sara Cordovez of XR Youth Solidarity holds her third hand written placard outside of Bangladesh High Commission London on 26 August 2021. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem, PSG.

Speaking from Bangladesh, Professor Anu Muhammad , Member Secretary of the  central National Committee to Protect Natural Resources said:

This is unbelievable that a fraud company like GCM which has no credibility even as a business house, rather it has blood in its hands, lies in their leaps, falsehood in their papers, poison in their activities- still enjoying support from British establishment to continue with these. This company has been cheating people in share business to make money in the name of Phulbari where they were behind killing people, on which they have no valid license, where they tried to implement a disastrous project, from where they were driven out in 2006 by a mass uprising and never allowed to enter.

Since 2006, in all these years they have been trying to  incite violence in the area, tried to mobilize criminals against community leaders, made false cases against them, but could not enter into the area. Peoples resistance remains strong. These frauds should also be driven out by British institutions including LSE. We are looking forward to seeing the trial of these criminals in Dhaka and London .”

Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity activists hold their hadwritten placards wtih cello outside of Bangladesh High Commission in London on Phulbari Day on 26 August. Photocredit: Rumana Hashem

GCM Resources is avoiding scrutiny

A Joint Statement by Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, Foil Vedanta, Fossil Free UK, Urgewald and XR Asian Affinity Network

The London-listed coal mining company, GCM Resources plc, are holding their AGM this year on 25 February but they are pressing forward a pernicious policy that excludes their own shareholders and restrain people from attending the AGM. GCM said that ‘due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the AGM will be held virtually as a closed meeting with a minimum number of directors and shareholders present, such that the legal requirement to hold a quorate meeting will be satisfied; and no other shareholders will be permitted to access, attend or participate either in person or virtually.’ GCM goes on saying, ‘As a consequence of the current COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the UK Government, shareholders will not be permitted to attend the Annual General Meeting and will only be able to vote by proxy. This year, only the Chairman of the Meeting may be appointed as a proxy.’

Note this: the company is using COVID-19 restrictions to exclude shareholders from a virtual meeting, at which the risk of transmission is zero. It would be legal and practical to admit shareholders to the virtual meeting. In case GCM Resources’ video conferencing capacity is insufficient to allow more than their legal quorum of two shareholders to attend a virtual meeting, London Mining Network offered the possibility of hosting GCM’s AGM on their own Zoom account – but GCM did not respond to the suggestion. We assume, therefore, that GCM Resources is deliberately trying to evade engagement with, and accountability to, their own shareholders.

The UK Government’s Financial Reporting Council published a Corporate Governance report in October 2020 examining the varying practices of UK companies in responding to legislation limiting gatherings in the light of COVID-19. The report, AGMs: an opportunity for change, explicitly criticised this kind of arrangement: ‘The use of closed meetings without any additional opportunities for shareholders to engage – although legal – effectively disenfranchises retail shareholders from their right to hold boards to account, and such meetings are not aligned with the importance of shareholders engagement set out in the UK Corporate Governance Code.’ (see Page 9)

The Financial Reporting Council’s report goes on: ‘Shareholder rights are best served by companies that provide highly effective and clear communication before, during, and after the meeting, and allow full participation from those shareholders that wish to attend, either in person (when this is possible) or virtually.’ (see Page 11)

The board of GCM Resources certainly needs to be held to account. GCM’s shares were temporarily suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) on 6 January 2021 after the company’s Nomad (Nominated Advisor), Strand Hanson Limited, has resigned on 4 December 2020, with no reason being given. But we are sure this is a result of our letter campaign 2020. All AIM-traded companies have to have a registered Nomad if they are to continue trading, and it took GCM over a month to lure another advisor, W.H. Ireland Limited, in to take on the role.

AIM has come in for serious specific criticism for regulatory weakness. The highly respected UK NGO Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) made a submission to the London Stock Exchange during a 2017 review of AIM’s rules. That submission criticised the rules review itself for not being radical enough, and called for a wholesale, independent review of AIM, with terms of reference including the ability to consider the option of closing AIM down if it could not be significantly reformed. Citing numerous examples, and referring to a number of high-profile scandals and failures, RAID’s submission listed a number of short-comings. These included, among other things, limited due diligence on admission to the market; a lack of scrutiny making ongoing due diligence extremely weak; and the failure of AIM’s privatised system of regulation whereby day-to-day regulation is passed to fee-paying companies, the Nomads. In 2018 London Mining Network published a report examining the appalling human rights and environmental impacts of eight mining companies trading on AIM; one of them was GCM Resources.

So AIM itself is clearly a cesspit of poor practice; the system of Nomads is open to abuse amounting to corruption. Against this background, GCM Resources’ behaviour seems to have been so unacceptable that the company’s Nomad Strand Hanson Limited ditched them. We call on W H Ireland Limited to do likewise.

GCM’s only asset is a coal deposit in Phulbari, Bangladesh, where they have no licence to mine and where they face massive opposition from the tens of thousands of people who stand to be forcibly relocated if a mine should be constructed. GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has been abusing community leaders and peasants in Phulbari and Dinajpur, by filing false cases against 18 frontline organisers of Phulbari outburst 2006. On 4 February and 24 January the 18 community organisers have had to face trials in DInjpur in the midst of a pandemic.The company is currently relying on agreements with Chinese energy companies to remain in business.

GCM remain, as they always have been, a model of poor corporate practice. We call on the London Stock Exchange to delist the company from the Alternative Investment Market. We call on the company to get out of Phulbari; to get out of Bangladesh; and to get out of London. We call on the company’s Board to do something more constructive with their time than pursuing a project which would wreck the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in Phulbari and contribute to the climate catastrophe which threatens to wreck life for everyone on this planet.

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 London Bangladeshi and South Asian community activists under the banner of Phulbari Solidarity Group held a colourful and powerful commemoration rally outside the London Stock Exchange , calling for the de-listing of the company from London’ share market. Despite heavy securitization and repeated attempts of interruptions by British police, angry protesters blocked the pavement of the 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.  Priorhand, the Phulbari Solidarity Group has contacted the CEO of London Stock Exchange and submitted evidence of unethical business of the company. But the CEO did not respond to their request for an appointment, said Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group. 

 

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 being paid by laying wreaths, flowers and lighting candles for 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, Mohammad Salekin, and Tarikul Islam, 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, UK Commitee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, 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 Now told about 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.

Background

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 organisers and 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

 Protesters is 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 

Mark the Decade of Resistance, Mark Phulbari Day!

Celebrating 10 years of Halt to Open Cast Mining, Commemorating the lives of brave Villagers

What? RED Vigil at London Stock Exchange

 When? 11am to 1pm on Friday, 26 August 2016

Where? London Stock Exchange HQ for International Trading , 10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS  (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

Find Map

Phulbari 2014

 

Friday, the 26th of August marks a decade of the Phulbari outburst. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management , who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, a location in northwest Bangladesh. 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. 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 its dodgy deals and 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.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh has called upon national and global environmentalists to observe 10th anniversary of Phulbari outburst and to protest against GCM’s dodgy business and to mark the decade of Phulbari Resistance.  In conjunction with the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources, we will celebrate the decade-long struggle in London.

Phulbari Day POster by NCBD 2016

We will hold a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari outside the London Stock Exchange at 11am next Friday. We will ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM Plc and to show cause Gary Lye’s gang for selling fake shares. We will commemorate for the lost lives by rallying against GCM. We will celebrate our decade-long resistance by turning the commemoration event into a powerful rally against dark coal business.

JOIN US at London Stock Exchange (nearest tube station: St Paul’s).

Bring your organisation’s banner, noisy/music instruments and flowers for the victims if you can. Wear Red, Black or Blue as symbols of Resistance, Anguish and Celebration of struggle!

Please confirm participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/641147849383562/

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036

Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch     Phulbari Solidarity Group

Download Mark the Decade of Halt, Observe Phulbari Day Flyer August 2016

LMN call out for Phulbari Solidarity demo in London on 19 dec 2012

Local women, men and children cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari in the aftermath of the GCM-provoked shooting in Phulbari. Photo: 28 August 2006

Mothers, sisters, wives and all the effected women vowed to protect  Phulbari through outburst after the shooting on 26 August 2006. Copyright: PSG

 

GCM IS COMING DOWN!

Action Demo in London to Save PHULBARI & Green-Farm Land

Friday, 18 December at 10:30am, 4 Hamilton Place,  London W1J 7BQ (nearest tube station Hyde Park Corner)

In the month of the climate summit #COP21, when climate protests erupted across the globe seeking climate justice, a London-based AIM-listed multinational company, Global Coal Management Resources Plc. , announced its AGM to discuss a noxious deal to implement a massive open-pit coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari. If the mine is built, it would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in northwest Bangladesh. It would also pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastating impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sundarbans.

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006

The mothers and wives of murdered villagers in Phulbari calling the investors of Asia Energy (now GCM) after the shooting on 27 August in 2006.

The company, previously known as Asia Energy, has been hotly resisted by locals for its fatal business policy. Three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people that took place in opposition to plans by GCM in 2006. Bangladesh government has cancelled all contracts with the company nine years ago. The government has recently reassured protestors by a statement that it does not want to build an open pit mine in Phulbari. The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. This year the UK government has published a statement highlighting the fierce opposition to GCM in Phulbari. But the company has so far ignored every message. It has been pushing the government of Bangladesh for a fatal deal. We advise GCM to close business NOW!

JOIN US inside and outside the AGM! We will warn them to close AGM forever!

RSVP to join us via https://www.facebook.com/events/180360322310156/

Please Bring along your banner, placards, festoons, whistles, drums, masks and messages against dirty coal miners. We will declare a notice of closure to GCM and we’ll celebrate the news that Bangladesh government has reassured there is no plan to open pit mine.

Contact for further information: Dr Akhter S Khan: nationalcommittee.uk@googlemail.com, Dr Mokhlesur Rahman qmr111@hotmail.com, Rumana Hashem: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Bangladesh National Committee, UK branch| Phulbari Solidarity Group, UK| 

UK Government Highlights Powerful Opposition to GCM’s Destructive Plan for Bangladesh Coal Mine

Victory of Phulbari Once Again!

Pupils at Oxford's Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

Pupils at Oxford’s Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

The UK government has published a statement yesterday that highlights the fierce opposition to British company GCM Resources’ plans for a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, north-west Bangladesh. The statement notes that protestors are “calling strikes, blockading roads and occupying the company’s local offices”.

The statement by the UK National Contact Point also expresses “regret” that the company had failed to update its plans or produce a human rights impact assessment for the project, as recommended in the findings of its investigation under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises in November 2014.

The AIM-listed British corporation GCM Resources Plc.’s planned coal mine in Phulbari has provoked repeated protests by local people and communities for nearly a decade. Three people were killed and more than 200 were injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration against the project in 2006. Even so, powerful protests by resilient communities in 2013 and 2014 forced the company’s notorious CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon visits to the area.

Campaigners in Bangladesh are clear that any moves by the company to enter Phulbari would provoke further protests.

The UK government’s investigation has followed a complaint submitted by the Global Justice Now and International Accountability Project in 2012. It has condemned the company for breaching international guidelines on ethical corporate behaviour, stating that the project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there”.

Yesterday’s statement also notes recent statements from ministers and officials at the Bangladesh Government’s Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Division that GCM does not have a valid contract with the Government of Bangladesh, and that the Government of Bangladesh has no intention for open cast coal extraction to take place in the region, which includes some of the country’s best agricultural land. These statements follow demands made by protesters against the project that the Bangladesh government should ban open cast mining and remove GCM from the country.

Christine Haigh, campaigner at the Global Justice Now, said:

Today’s statement is further evidence that the Phulbari coal mine cannot go ahead. If it does, it will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and any moves by GCM to move this project forward will be met by further resistance.”

She added: While GCM are claiming this report vindicates them, in reality it does anything but. The main problem is the inability of the British government to enforce human rights standards on companies like GCM, leaving people affected by British companies around the world with no right to legal redress for the injustices they face. This must change.

Rumana Hashem, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the 2006 shooting in Phulbari, stated:

It is good that the UK government has eventually recognised that GCM has failed to develop appropriate communication with the communities in Phulbari. It was a mistake for the NCP to take this long to understand the power of people. They have previously undermined the powerful opposition that exists and that has made possible a halt to the detrimental project of the British company.

Rumana added: I have seen how resilient the movement is in Phulbari. Bangladesh government has expressed solidarity with the community’s view and said ‘no to GCM’. GCM must forget this project. It is reassuring that UK government has recognised that local people will not give in. They will fight for their land until last breath.

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.

Read Press Release by Global Justice Now here: http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2015/sep/10/uk-government-highlights-community-opposition-gcm-resources-plan-bangladesh-coal

Homage paid to Brave Protesters in Phulbari

By Raaj Manik

It was Phulbari Day on Thursday. It was the day to commemorate mass protests that prevented a UK-based mining company, Global Coal Management PLC, from building a large-scale open-pit coal mine in Phulbari in north-west Bangladesh. Nine years ago, on 26th August in 2006, three brave protesters were shot dead in the mass protest that took place in opposition to plans by GCM, a London based AIM-listed corporation, who wanted to forcefully displace 130,000 people from their homes by grabbing 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in Bangladesh. The powerful demonstration in 2006 ended in tragedy when paramilitary force opened fire on a rally of 80,000, people, leaving three people killed and two hundred injured.

The 26th August has been marked as a day for commemorating the protesters in Phulbari since then. On the ninth anniversary on 26 August 2015, the day was remembered with respect, as ever, and people’s resistance was celebrated by diverse groups and rights-activists across Bangladesh and in London. In Bangladesh, campaigners of National Committee at Phulbari, Dhaka, Narayanganj, and several other regions were joined by many other human rights and art groups who paid homage to Phulbari protesters.

Rally in Phulbari on 26 August 2015 . Photo credit: Anonymous

Rally in Phulbari on 26 August 2015 . Photo credit: Anonymous

In Phulbari, nearly ten thousands of people have paid tribute to Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul – the three innocent civilians killed by GCM-provoked shooting in 2006. People have started to gather in the town as early as seven o’clock in the morning to pay homage to those who died that day and to celebrate the people-powered resistance that has prevented the massive mine being built for almost a decade. Schools, colleges, shops and business enterprises were shut for all day in tribute to those brave protesters who forced the British coal miners to leave Bangladesh. The procession of homage, initiated by the Phulbari branch of National Committee, was joined by farmers, agricultural workers, rickshaw-drivers, van-store employees, school teachers, doctors, medical students, professionals, art-activists, business entrepreneurs, and of course local leaders of political parties. Parents of the dead, Al-Amin and Salekin, and the injured men including Bablu Roy and Pradip attended the rally in the town centre.

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Locals in Phulbari called upon the government to remove fabricated cases against leaders of the Phulbari movement. They demanded for an immediate implementation of the Phulbari deal and called upon a permanent expulsion of Asia Energy, the Bangladesh subsidiary of GCM , from Bangladesh. Activists have also asked government to compensate the affected people in Borapukuria mine. Leaders of National Committee announced fresh programme to be held later this year against government’s destructive policy of coal-powered plant in other parts of the country. The rally called upon the government to implement the 7-point demands of the National Committee and to prevent Rampal coal-fired power project from happening which would destroy the countries only mangrove forest and a UNESCO heritage, the Sundarbans. They demanded that Orion coal-fired plant must be resisted and suspended immediately.

The same demands were projected in the tribute to Phulbari resistance in other parts of the country, and in East London. In London, members of the UK branch of the Bangladesh National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, and activists of Phulbari Solidarity Group were joined by transnational campaigners and environmentalists from Global Justice Now, UNISON, and the Socialist Party of England and Wales. Messages of support and solidarity were delivered by representatives from Tamil Solidarity, National Trade Union and London Mining Network, also.

In the meeting at the Montefiore Centre in East London transnational activists have taken a pledge to resist all sorts of conspiracy for coal-fired power in Bangladesh. The member secretary of the committee in the UK, Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, has updated the forum about development in Bangladesh. That Bangladeshi government has eventually recognised that due to the high population density and the fact that much of the local economy is based on agriculture and other land-based livelihoods, open cast mining is not a viable project for Bangladesh. The forum welcomed this news of a recent statement by Bangladesh’s state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid that the government does not want to use open pit mining in the region.

Tribute to Phulbari protesters paid in London by following silence. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Tribute to Phulbari protesters paid in London by following silence. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

The meeting, presided by Dr Mukhlesur Rahman, has started by following one minute silence in the honour of Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul. Participants have discussed recent developments in the campaign against the mine. The Chair of the meeting has updated the forum about the invalid contract between the government and the company.

The founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the shooting in Phulbari, Dr Rumana Hashem, gave her eye witness to the tragic event and the deadly shootings. She described how local women and men had made the company to leave the area. She noted that locals are still vocal against the mine as they recognised that the mine, if built, would cause mass evictions and destroy thousands of hecters of farmland in an area that forms part of the country’s breadbasket. Rumana’s statement was followed by speeches by comrades such as Dr Jinnah, comrade Moktar, Mostofa Kamal, Ishak Kajol and several others.

Christine Hague, who joined the meeting to represent Global Justice UK, then delivered a message of solidarity from Global Justice Now, in which she said that Global Justice Now has been supporting the campaign against the mine since 2008. They have been putting pressure on investors, which saw Barclays and RBS withdraw their support, exposing the UK government’s support for GCM and joining protests at the company’s AGM each year. They have also supported US-based International Accountability Project to submit a complaint to the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, in the hope of using this mechanism to hold GCM to account.

Although the complaint was accepted for investigation, the UK NCP failed shamefully to consider the impacts of the project should it go ahead, focusing only on the company’s actions in the planning stage to date. GCM was still found to have failed to “foster confidence and trust” in the local community though it was otherwise let off the hook with a recommendation that it update its plans and carry out a human rights impact assessment. This is, as colleagues in Bangladesh noted, likely to lead further unrest. In fact, within four days of the publication of the final statement on the complaint, a visit by GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, to the area triggered three days of protests and strikes, including an occupation of GCM’s offices in Phulbari.

Part of the London gathering on 26 August 2015. Photo credit Zahanara Rahman

Part of the London gathering on 26 August 2015. Photo credit Zahanara Rahman

But the failure of high level international mechanisms like this made Thursday’s gatherings in recognition of the mass resistance to the project of Phulbari ever more important. A representative from UNISON, Hugo Piere, told the forum that UNISON would be proud to be part of any campaign or action that the community takes against GCM in future. A full-solidarity has been expressed by both UNISON and the Socialist Party of England and Wales.

Likewise, Isai Pryia from National Trade Union and Tamili Solidarity has sent message of solidarity. The message which Helen Pattison of Socialist Party delivered to the gathering states: ‘Although, unfortunately, Tamil Solidarity couldn’t make the meeting today we stand in solidarity with you. We remember the dead and fight for the living. We hope that we will be able to work more closely together in the future’.

Activists take pledge to stand with Phulbari people. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Activists take pledge to stand with Phulbari people. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

The meeting has ended with a pledge that any attempt to implement coal-fired plant in Bangladesh will be resisted and solar energy should be promoted. People in both Bangladesh and London have acknowledged that despite the tragedy, people in Phulbari have made an example by preventing the devastating project from happening for almost a decade. It is solid people power. And that’s definitely worth celebrating.

But sadly, the news of celebration and commemoration in Phulbari remains under-covered in mainstream media. Professor Anu Muhammad, the member secretary of National Committee and a leading economist in Bangladesh stated: ‘while the significance of Phulbari resistance has been recognised by national and international environmentalists, with the exception of a few newspapers mainstream media has ignored the news of Phulbari Day.’

The fight for people’s right, nature and environment must move forward. Activists in London have now decided to hold a symbolic protest this September when the Bangladesh’s Energy Advisor Toufiq Elahi visits London.

Govt says ‘no’ to open-pit mine in Bangladesh

Another day of victory for Phulbari, another day of loss for Global Coal Management

On Sunday, 23 August, 2015 Bangladesh’s state minister for energy and mineral resources stated that there is no hope for any mining company to extract coal from the coal deposits of Northwest Bangladesh in Phulbari. In a published report yesterday, the country’s national daily newspapers reported the news widely. We have reproduced a detailed report by the staff correspondent of New Age below.

DSCF7409

The state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, on Sunday said that the government was not interested to extract coal from the deposits in the north Bengal region using open-pit method.
‘We have decided not to extract coal right now… We must consider high density of population and the agro-based economy of the mining area,’ he said while addressing as the chief guest a seminar on ‘Energy Challenges to Vision 2030.’ The discussion was organized by weekly Energy and Power magazine.
Instead, the government is planning to use imported coal to run large power plants to be installed with a combined generation capacity of about 20,000 MW by 2030, he said. Nasrul’s remark came three days ahead of August 26, the 9th anniversary of the killing of protesters who had opposed in 2006 a move for open pit mining by London-based Asia Energy company at Phulbari of Dinajpur.
The then Bangladesh Rifles men had opened fire on a peaceful rally and killed at least three people. On that day, police, RAB and BDR indiscriminately had beaten people, injuring over 200 children, men and women who attended that peaceful rally and demanded cancellation of the project.
The inhabitants feared it could destroy the underground water aquifer, biodiversity, and agriculture of the region.
The government, under the Power System Master Plan-2010, had contemplated to exploit coal through open-pit method from two coal deposits located at Phulbari and Barapukuria of Dinajpur to run power plants with total capacities of 11,000 MW. The plan, however, was dropped from the revised PSMP in 2015.
Energy expert and a professor at Geology Department of Dhaka University Badrul Imam said that it would not be fair to compare the socio-economic and geological realities of Dinajpur with any location in Australia, Germany or even in West Bengal while mining coal, using open-pit method.
He said that the top two leaders of Awami League and BNP had made a commitment to the people of Phulbari that they would not allow such method in future. At the seminar, a number of open-pit campaigners, however, spoke in favour of open-pit method to ensure supply of primary fuel.
Energy expert Khandkar Saleque Sufi and M Tamim presented two papers addressing the potential crisis of energy sector, particularly while ensuring supply of primary fuels to power stations, industries, households and transport sector.
At the seminar, speakers along with Sufi and Tamim argued that the country was going to be entirely dependent on imports of primary fuel as the reserve of natural gas was depleting. Tamim also said that there was a huge disparity in electricity consumption by the rural and urban people.
Tamim showed that the rural people, who constitute 66 per cent of the total population, consume 31 per cent of electricity with only one per cent growth while the urban people, who represent 34 per cent of the population, consume 69 per cent of electricity with four per cent yearly growth.

See more at: http://newagebd.net/150774/govt-says-no-to-open-pit-mine/#sthash.3l1YnBcw.3tVplMM4.dpuf

Or visit: http://newagebd.net/150774/govt-says-no-to-open-pit-mine/#sthash.3l1YnBcw.3tVplMM4.dpbs

The Global System for Holding Corporations to Account Is in Need of Serious Reform

Christine Haigh wrote about how UK’s National Contact Point failed to hold corporations responsible for unethical business in Bangladesh and elsewhere

Article is Reproduced from The Guardian Global Development Professional Network 

    Bangladeshi community and climate change activists protest against the outcome of OECD complaint about Phulbari coal mine. Blockade and action outside GCM's AGM in December 2014. Photo: Golam Rabbani

Bangladeshi community and climate change activists protest against the outcome of OECD complaint about Phulbari coal mine. Blockade and action outside GCM’s AGM in December 2014. Photo: Golam Rabbani

A British company plans to build a huge coal mine, stating in its plans that it says will displace more than 40,000 people. It will destroy over 14,000 acres of land in Bangladesh’s most fertile agricultural region Phulbari in the north west, where most people have land-based livelihoods. Unsurprisingly, local people oppose the plans to destroy the landscape and homes. For over a decade now they have tried in their thousands to prevent the coming of the mine. Three have died when the Bangladeshi paramilitary were sent into confront protesters, and many more have been injured.

To date, these protests, supported by international condemnation from UN human rights experts and NGOs such as International Accountability Project (IAP) and Global Justice Now (GJN), have prevented the mine being built. But London-listed mining company GCM Resources continues to push for their mine.

And so, in 2012, concerned at renewed efforts by GCM to progress the project, IAP and GJN decided to make use of one of the very few mechanisms available to hold corporations to account for their activities overseas by filing a complaint against the company to the National Contact Point (NCP) under the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.

Read the story in detail here : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/feb/10/the-global-system-for-holding-corporations-to-account-is-in-need-of-serious-reform

Grand rally  of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December 2014. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Grand rally of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December 2014. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Failing to hold their businessman to account, Rolf Nieuwenkamp, the chair of the OECD working party on responsible business conduct, has done a response piece to Christine Haigh‘s above article about the failure of the OECD process.

The partial and dodgy response can be accessed from: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/24/from-land-grabs-to-anti-union-behaviour-businesses-are-increasingly-being-held-accountable

Phulbari Activists have responded to Rolf Nieuwenkamp’s article in their comments as embedded below .

    Phulbai actvists and protesters against OECD assessment pledged that GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: Stephen Vince

Phulbai actvists and protesters against OECD assessment pledged that GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: Stephen Vince

Read Comments on Rolf Nieuwenkamp’s response:

ritasueandbob

24 Feb 2015 14:54

  • 1 2

When are going to make western companies liable for labour abuses of their suppliers? And directors of western companies personally responsible that certain standards are maintained by their supplier chain?

If directors face prison for a negligent factory fire killing hundreds that should encourage a better commitment to supplier standards.

OneTop

25 Feb 2015 1:26

  • 2 3

From land grabs to anti union behaviour, businesses are increasingly being held accountable

That’s a hilarious joke given that the parties to the TPP and TTIP are about to grant corporations sovereignty, placing their activities above the law. Not to mention the massive frauds and illegal activities carried out by the largest banks.

Trans-Pacific Partnership is a “neoliberal assault”


Critics score against extreme corporate rights in TTIP, but must not be fooled by the Commission’s tricks

hugin1

25 Feb 2015 9:09

  • 0 1

So there are progress in the developing countries; great…. cause for celebration even if big business hardly act exemplary just yet. But in Europe and the US big business increasingly do as they please. There’s no accountability as the political level has been bought through lobbying and financing of career politicians. Only the concern (I wouldn’t even call it fear) that whistle-blowers can trigger the occasional headline acts as a mild deterrent. It’s not like big business has suddenly acquired a moral compass……. the massive, institutionalized tax evasion we know they are all engaged in is evidence to the contrary.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 8:58

  • 0 1

Okay, Mr Professor Rolf Nieuwenkamp, as you make me laugh out so loud by reading your hilarious rumbling to Christine Haigh’s polite opinion piece, I think that it is necessary to make a few comments in my own language to your rumbling – what I found not only a poor response but utter lies about the ill process of your NCP. I am sure you are aware that you rumbling failed to respond to the ever constructive article by Christine Haigh, who kindly wrote about us- the people from Phulbari. I wish to add my few comments for other readers who may not know what a hypocritical response it is, and who may not know how inhuman the UK NCP could appear to certain communities and groups of people in the far south who are seen as uncivilized to many Professors like you who serve organisations like the Global Coal Resources Plc.

Note that I am one of those survivors who was nearly killed by your poisonous corporations, those ill-motivated and corrupted businessmen of Britain whom you and your hypocrite board have encouraged to go back to Phulbari to ruin my homeland. You and your colleagues have given a self contradictory assessment to the killer company who killed three people in Phulbari in front of my eyes. Instead of holding them to account, your NCP has decided to publish an ill-assessment, clearly suggesting that the company should go back to Phulbari to consult the local people so that they could destroy our people’s houses, pollute our water sources, and damage our greens and environment in the name of development and fossil fuel. The report which you have published on 20 November 2014, overlapping the OECD process and denying the fact that GCM has already violated human rights in Phulbari, is not only a failure but denial to humanity. Your report has led to fresh violence in a town what was known as Bangladesh’s most peaceful locality. I am the woman who have witnessed both the killing of our people in Phulbari and the betrayal of the NCP to us throughout the OECD process. So please bear with me I have much to say about your failures and inhumanity.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 9:45

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In your rumbling, you have failed to reference to the cases brought up in 10 February piece by Christine Haigh, and this indeed side-steps the particular concerns raised about them, in particular the Phulbari case. Several of your points are misleading, Mr Professor, what kind of Professor are you that couldn’t get the point after reading a whole 1000 words delivered by a climate activist?

I have no time to correct you and I believe that it is your responsibility to produce ‘good knowledge’ as a Professor. I am going to speak about just one case, and it is our case – the Phulbari case that you have failed badly to address. Before explaining what harms you did to us let me give you a few facts and self-contradictory statements that your NCP has made about our Phulbari OECD complaint:

The UK NCP’s Final Report on the complaint submitted against GCM Resources notes that:

  • GCM has responded in writing to concerns from seven of the United Nations most senior human rights experts, who have called for an immediate halt to the company’s mine citing threats to the human rights of tens of thousands of people, and has advised the UN’s experts that “it would undertaken a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) before proceeding with the project.” The company, the Final Statement also notes, “has re-iterated this commitment to the NCP” (paragraph 67 of the NCP Final Report); But then the NCP suggests that GCM has not violated human rights in Phulbari!
    • The NCP states that in order to meet its obligations under the OECD Guidelines on human rights, GCM will need to make and publish the Human Rights Impact Assessment it has committed to “before it begins work to acquire land for and develop the mine” (paragraph 71, emphasis added);
    • Subject to any decision from the Government of Bangladesh on the project’s future, the UK NCP recommends that GCM continues to update its plans in line with current international best practice standards, and in particular to pursue and publish the Human Rights Impact Assessment it has advised the NCP it will include in this (paragraph 80). Yet, the NCP ends up giving a free license for overseas business to the corrupted businessmen who are unable to produce a valid contract with Bangladesh government.

The findings and recommendations of the UK NCP’s Steering Committee, created to carry out the internal review of the NCP’s handling of the complaint which notes that GCM’s project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there.” But the internal review has left unpublished, just as the JCHR has left my report about GCM to the Parliament unpublished in 2009. I was told that my report was unpublished to save printing cost (as if the UK Parliament had been facing undescribable financial hardship) at that time, but what was your problem Prof. Rolf to publish your Internal Review online?

The NCP’s Final Assessment stated that GCM has failed to ‘foster mutual trust and communications with locals’ and that they must re-evaluate the impacts of this project before going ahead for implementation. But then it asks the company to carry on with their business in Bangladesh, it approves the company’s attempts to re-enter Phulbari for further public consultation so that Phulbari people cannot sleep in peace.

Please stay with me, I haven’t finished yet.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 9:59

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“The NCP finds that GCM partly breached its obligations under Chapter II, Paragraph 7, which provides that enterprises should develop self-regulatory practices and management systems that foster confidence and trust in the societies they operate in.

The finding is repeated in paragraph 50 of the NCP’s Final Statement: “The NCP therefore considers that GCM’s communications did not apply practices or systems that foster confidence and mutual trust with the [local] society in which it [seeks to] operate”, and in this limited respect the company breached Chapter II, Paragraph 7 of the Guidelines for a period beginning after August 2006 and continuing until 2012 when the Bangladeshi government authorized the resumption of activities locally and increased re-engagement began.

As the NCP repeats this conclusion a 3rd time in paragraph 77, it is exceedingly difficult to understand on what ground did the NCP stated that “The NCP finds that GCM did not breach its obligations” under Chapter II, Paragraph 2, and did not breach its obligations under Chapter IV. Could you see Mr Professor that your Paragraphs 1 and Paragraph 5 are those ambiguous findings which created a ground for a judicial review of the OECD? That these mislead many of us including the company themselves, so that the company’s Chief Executive rushed to Phulbari and provoked for fresh violence in our Phulbari?

Mind you, I am not an expert in OECD matter though even I could see the idiotic ambiguity in NCP’s final assessment of Phulbari case. Please beer with me I have much more to say about your failures and the harms your NCP has done to us in Phulbari.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:07

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The fact that the 2011 OECD guidelines do “clearly” apply to “prospective” or potential human rights abuses was affirmed in an internal review of the NCP’s handling of the complaint. This is documented in paragraph 6 of the Recommendations of the NCP Steering Board Review Committee formed to carry out this internal review.

In paragraphs 20 & 28, the Committee instructed the NCP to re-evaluate the complaint in light of its concern that the NCP made an error (paragraph 15) in not applying the 2011 Guidelines – which clearly include potential impacts – and revise it’s Final Statement in the complaint accordingly. However, the NCP proceeded to publish the Final Statement with no change other than a footnote stating the review had taken place. I have quoted in our press release to your worthless review of our case that the framework within which the UK NCP has assessed our case is extremely narrow, and the issues which were overlooked by the NCP was ill-motivated.

Examination of our Review Request finding of procedural error by the NCP & recommendation to re-evaluate our complaint and issue a new Final Statement:

We formally requested a review of the NCP’s handling of our complaint (on 15 May 2014), and our request was accepted. A Steering Board Committee was appointed to carry out the assessment, and its report (received 30 Oct) is attached. Three important points to note:

  1. The Committee recognized and affirmed that the 2011 Guidelines do clearly apply to “prospective impacts” (para 6): “it is clear from the 2011 Guidelines that the obligation of an enterprise to respect human rights includes the rights of those prospectively affected by its conduct, including planned conduct”;
    2. The Committee upheld our position that the NCP had “misdirected itself” (made an error) in not applying the 2011version of the OECD Guidelines to our complaint (paras 15 & 19);
    3. It recommended that the NCP re-examine the Complaint in light of this concern, and “issue a new Final Statement reflecting this re-examination.” (para 20)

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:16

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We were found badly played out by your colleague and an ever bias woman, Liz Napier. After what you guys (at UK NCP) have done to us by publishing one of world’s most unethical and bias report of our complaint, I had no wish to even write a column about your rubbish failure. We have rather chosen to take to streets to protest and asked our government to close business with your unethical businessmen. I write now as you have made yourself such a deaf by your vague response to the failures that our friend Christine Haigh has noted in her article. You know that you have talked about success by sidestepping, and you didn’t have the courage to challenge any of the cases that we have watched being failed and let down by the UK NCP.

Please take your time to read the Summary of the NCP’s pathetic response to the recommendation of its Steering Committee Review

The NCP wrote us to notify it “believed” it could to this quickly, denied our requests for the usual period granted for comment on the Final Statement, and also refused our requests for a delay in publication to allow its Steering Board to consider our concerns. Literally the only change made in response to the recommendations of the Steering Committee Review was to add a one-paragraph footnote to its existing Final Statement stating that it has carried out a re-examination. Other that this footnote, it did not alter a word of the Final Statement now published to its website (and attached here). It then proceeded to publish virtually unchanged.

This may be seem detail to some readers but we do have two concerns about the review findings:
1. The Committee erred in its findings that our Complaint deals only with “prospective” human rights abuses that have not yet occurred (see paras 5 & 6). For one important example, see comments below regarding ongoing violations of the rights of indigenous people.
2. Para 25 seems to give the NCP far too much leeway in deciding what it can exclude from its investigation of a complaint.

Stay with me please I am showing you how failed you and your board are!

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:29

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To summarize some three of the most serious breaches of human rights by Global Coal Management Resources never adequately addressed by the NCP:

  1. Ongoing violation of the rights to self-determination and to free prior and informed consent (affirmed in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indignenous Peeople) extending back to 2006.

Both the NCP and the Steering Board Committee have erred in saying that all concerns raised in our complaint are about “prospective” or “potential” rights. This is factually untrue as indigenous people have been fighting this project for over eight years. The NCP has incontrovertible evidence of this, including: its written notes from an interview with an indigenous leader who told her that indigenous people were willing to go to war to halt the project; Rabindranath Soren’s letter to the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues (attached); and the 2008 community letter to the ADB signed by several indigenous leaders. The former UN Special Rapportuer on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Aanaya, has twice conveyed his concerns about this in his official communications in the record of the UN (one is attached), and you will find detail on this in our letter of 3/12/14 as well.

  1. Forced eviction of tens of thousands of people (over 40,000 by GCM’s count, far more by others). Important: these are “forced evictions” as defined in international law and in the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement authored by Miloon Kothari in his former capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. International law recognizes that forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights in themselves. You can find content on this on in the attached letter from Miloon Kothari.

The NCP said it was limited the scope of its investigation to exclude any consideration of potential impacts and would only consider inevitable or unavoidable impacts. This is an outrage in itself, because the language of the 2011 OED Guidelines is very clear that they apply to “potential” impacts and impacts that “may” happen.

Even if we agree to this limit to the NCP’s assessment – which we most definitely do not – these forced evictions are unavoidable or inevitable if the project goes forward. Even GCM does not take the position that these the eviction of tens of thousands of people in order to implement its project.

  1. The restrictions on civil and political rights of people opposing the project and high potential for further violence if GCM persists in its efforts to force the project forward despite massive opposition in communities threatened by its project, including the state-backed use of lethal force already seen in 2006.

As you are aware Professor, the Final report of an Expert Committee formed in 2006 and tasked with assessing the proposed project warned of the high risk of social conflict and unrest if as many as a million people (their estimate) are displaced and numerous international organizations, including IAP and the World Organization against Torture have repeatedly expressed grave concerns about the high potential for further violence and loss of life. The NCP is also aware the RAB, denounced as a “death squad” by Human Rights Watch, has repeatedly been deployed to demonstrations against the mine and is also aware of the bloodshed and loss of life in 2006.

The NCP dismissed the findings of the attached submission of the Essex Business and Human Rights Project as being “commissioned” by the complainants. The study finds that GCM failed to meet its due diligence requirements to avoid further human rights violations associated with this project.

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 10:55

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There are so much more to expose your ill-process and ill-motivated assessment to our Phulbari case Professor that I couldn’t finish in commenting here. I think that I will better go for a proper response by one another powerful article in a social media who may not reduce our response to comments only. I want to elaborate how badly I felt being played out by your colleague Liz Napier. I was meant to be an eye witness, and I have given two hours long account/interview to Liz Napier at a moment when my dearest mother was at the Intensive Care Unit, when she was dying at home. But neither she nor any of you did cite one line from my eye witness. You simply didn’t recognise the significance of our accounts. Indeed, you failed to cite any of the first hand accounts from Phulbari where people said that they would die but would not give their land. You did not think that these comments demonstrate the severity of the concerns and the risks (possibility for further human rights violation).

The NCP’s carelessness, irresponsibility and unethical attitude were obvious in a comment by your colleague Liz Napier. In October 2013, when I have emailed her informing that I was receiving malicious calls and harassment on telephone at mid night which were similar to 2010 (when my house was burnt down), and I requested that the NCP UK shouldn’t share my contact details with any third party, Liz Napier replied -in one line-that ‘we have no reason to share your contact details with anybody’!

I saved that email of Napier. This response was not only callous but also intentional because Napier failed to assure the interviewee that the NCP would never share her contact details to anybody by any means. I wondered and wondered why was this so difficult for a communication officer at NCP to say something reassuring to the interviewee, rather than reactionary? Why is it that the affected communities and individuals representing communities have to flatter you guys for our moral rights?

ID8041069

27 Feb 2015 11:28

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And my friend Dr Samina Luthfa, and a community researcher who completed her PhD and explored narratives of the tremendous resistance to open pit mine in Bangladesh, dedicated her valuable time to interpret the interviews from Phulbari. She was dumbfounded by the way your colleague Liz Napier and your NCP board have misinterpreted some of the affected individuals’ accounts. Samina wrote to Liz Napier in June 2014 that the UK NCP has no right to change the original version of the accounts that she has interpreted from Bangla to English. Napier told that she was going to find out the original accounts and would have looked at those accounts which we found as corrupted by the UK NCP board. As usual, shamefully, this has never happened and Napier has never returned to any of us with our original accounts.

I felt really sick, Professor! I am sick of talking about the way our Phulbari case has been handled by the UK NCP. You couldn’t please me by your article about success. It made me rather frustrated and angry so as to expose your corrupted process of OECD. The only one point which makes a little sense to me is that of your bit of realisation, that you realised that your system needs improvement. It is also good to know that you are aware of the fact that there are powerful criticisms: “Yes, there have been serious criticisms”.

But then you spoil your own realisation by the next comment: “but many NCPs are working to improve their structure and also find new ways to deal with challenging cases through both mediation and proactive prevention.” Please can you give us some appropriate examples of those processes and new ways to deal with our challenging cases?

Most hilarious was your last comment: “I agree with Christine Haigh that improvements are needed. But it is important to stress that there are also positive outcomes in OECD’s NCP system. The glass is definitely not full. Rather, it is half full, or half empty, depending on where you stand.”

A friend of mine have asked : Is it a truly satisfactory measurement of the NCP system to be either ‘half-full’ or ‘half-empty’? Regardless of one’s perspective is it a 50 / 50 proposition?

Please answer. In the meantime, I can write my own article which will expose that your whole system needs serious treatment.