Demonstrators from a number of groups gathered outside GCM Resources’ Annual General Meeting in London yesterday. The event was organized by the UK branch of National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power of Bangladesh (‘UK Committee’) with the support of other organizations.
Demonstrators chanted slogans calling for GCM Resources to leave Bangladesh, and for an end to the Phulbari coal mine project.
Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Member Secretary of the UK Committee welcomed the demonstrators.
Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group called for two minutes silence. She explained that this was “to honour the three martyrs, Tariqul, Salekin and Al-Amen, who were killed on 26 August 2006 when paramilitary troops opened fire on the massive protest against Asia Energy in Phulbari; and the 121 victims of the latest garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, who died in late November, because they were denied exit via the main gate when the fire alarm was raised in their factory, which did not have any fire-escape – and were forced to burn to death.”
She added that the silence would also commemorate Catholic priest Bert White, a close friend of some of those involved, who had died in a fire on 20th December in 1999 and who, she said, would have been on the demonstration if he had lived, as he had been very much on the side of the poor, oppressed and dispossessed, and had always opted for the cause of justice and liberation.
She concluded, “As we demonstrate against corruption and human rights violations, we take the spirit of all of the above people in our heart and we demonstrate with the spirit that they are with us on the demo.”
There were speeches by representatives of the groups involved, and a letter (below) to the British Prime Minister was read out. There was anger at the involvement of the British Government in support for GCM Resources’ attempts to push forward the Phulbari project. The letter is to be signed by Bangladeshi organizations and sent to Downing Street.
The Eviction Notice at the end of this posting below was to have been handed over to the company, but the presence of armed police prevented demonstrators from entering the building – it will therefore be delivered to the company by post.
Details and photos of the theatrical events outside the AGM and the police response, can be found at https://londonminingnetwork.org/2012/12/santa-claus-delivers-coal-to-gcm-board-inside-agm-two-arrests-following-coal-dumped-on-institute-of-directors-front-door/, http://www.foilvedanta.org/news/from-phulbari-to-niyamgiri/, http://www.newint.org/blog/2012/12/21/phulbari-mine-agm-protest/ and http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/dec/20/bangladesh-mine-activists-coal-gcm.
Letter to the British Prime Minister
20 December 2012
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2 AA
Dear Prime Minister
Subject: call out to hold Global Coal Resources plc and Asia Energy’s business to account
Seeking to prevent a “humanitarian and ecological catastrophe” in the north-west of Bangladesh, Phulbari, we, the Bangladeshi community in UK and the undersigned activists for environment and human rights have been campaigning against the London-based and AIM-listed multinational company, the Global Coal Management Resources (GCM) Plc, formerly known as Asia Energy, for six years now.
We would like to prevent GCM and its subsidiary Asia Energy from building one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines that would forcibly displace an estimated 130,000 people, and would create crisis of drinking water for as many as 220,000 people, and destroy 14,500 acres of fertile farmland in one of the world’s development countries, Bangladesh, in which nearly half of all people currently live below the nutrition poverty line.
Opposition to GCM’s Phulbari project led to bloodshed in August 2006 when paramilitary forces opened fire on tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators, killing three people including a 14-year-old boy and wounding hundreds.
The potential for violence has remained high in this project ever since August 2006. In the aftermath of the killings on 26th August 2006, a national strike shut the region down for four days and was brought to an end only when the government agreed to permanently throw GCM/ Asia Energy out of the country and ban open pit mine in Bangladesh. Despite violence and intimidation aimed at silencing opponents, some 100,000 people participated in a 250-mile Long March from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, to Phulbari, in October 2010.
The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations and among human rights and environmental organisations worldwide. With their concerns about impending and grave human rights violations unaddressed, seven Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations issued a joint UN press release on 28 February, 2012, calling for an immediate halt to the project on the grounds that it threatens the fundamental human rights of hundreds of thousands of people, including entire villages of indigenous people, and poses an immediate threat to safety and standards of living.
The incident was reported to British parliament on several occasions and three submissions, including Rumana Hashem’s eye witness on the violation of human rights in Phulbari by Asia Energy, were made to the Joint Committee for Human Rights in 2009. But the UK government has failed to hold GCM’s business to account. Instead they favoured the corrupted businessmen by publishing misleading response from the investors of GCM. British MP John McDonell recently (28 Nov, 2012) pointed out, ‘what is interesting is that the company is one of those that have been promoted by this Government, as it was by the previous Government. Despite receiving a series of freedom of information requests recently, the Government have refused to provide information about their relationship with the company and about the support they have given it and its operation in Bangladesh. In its response, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office explains it will not provide the information.’
The situation in Phulbari has become very tense and volatile since 14 October 2012, when the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), under heavy pressure of the lobbyists for GCM, approved permission for survey to be conducted in Phulbari for the proposed coal project. The GoB wrongly instructed local officials and police to cooperate with Asia Energy, the Bangladesh subsidiary of GCM, in carrying out surveys in the area. We view this as a very ominous development, and it is what catalyzed the demonstration last month in defiance of a colonial era ban 144 – slapped in place in an avert to prevent protest.
A 48 – hour general strike called by the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh halted trains, blockaded highways, and closed all shops and educational institutions in Phulbari on 22-23 Nov 2012. Strike was halted only when govt. officials agreed to speak with higher ups to press demands of the National Committee for fulfilment of the 6-point Phulbari Agreement, which includes permanently expelling GCM from Bangladesh and nationwide ban on open-pit mining, and press their demand for withdrawal of the Home Ministry circular. National Committee has promised tougher nation-wide action if their demands are not fulfilled by 31 Dec.
Despite huge protests and the tense situation in Phulbari, GCM Resources plc is aggressively moving on to implement this immense open pit coal mine. Financed by global hedge fund and banks including UBS, Credit Suisse, LR Global, and Argos Greater Europe Funds, the company claims that they have a valid contract for coal extraction in Phulbari, while the Energy Advisor of Bangladesh has repeatedly denounced this claim.
In this situation, and as part of National Committee’s commitment to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, the Committee in UK, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, Corporate Watch, Climate Justice Collective, held a demo outside the Annual General meeting of GCM, at 10:00am at the Institute of Directors, 116-123 Pall Mall London, Greater London SW1Y 5ED. Several international human rights and environmental organisations including Agitartworks, Foil Vedanta, South Asian Solidarity Group, the Socialist Party in UK, World Development Movement, Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, UK, and Nari Diganta – a progressive women’s organisation based in Tower Hamlet, have expressed full solidarity to the Committee’s decision to hold the demo and to block GCM.
We, the Bangladeshi community in London and the transnational activists for environment and human rights, are determined to throw GCM Resources and Asia Energy out of Bangladesh. Today, in our demo, herein we seek to deliver the message to the investors of GCM. We seek to deliver the final words from Phulbari to the investors of GCM/Asia Energy that they must stop their aggression in Phulbari. There is no chance for them to get back to Phulbari or any other part of Bangladesh for coal in future.
We believe that the Government of UK will respect and promote our decision. We call upon the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to instruct his administration to take necessary steps to hold GCM’s business to account. We demand that the Government of UK tells GCM to end its unethical business in Bangladesh, and ensures that no other UK businessman demonstrates aggression towards open pit mine in Phulbari and Bangladesh.
Department of Housing
We regret to inform you that your home has been taken over for the coal reserve found underground
If you do not leave now, you will be beaten, tear-gassed and fired upon. If you die, your family should be happy for not obstructing the path of our profit-making spree.
This may sound harsh, but believe it or not, this had happened in the green countryside of north-west Bangladesh. A London-based and AIM-listed company, GCM Resources plc, formerly known as Asia Energy, financed by global hedge funds and banks including UBS, Credit Suisse, LR Global and Argos Greater Europe Fund, is aggressively moving on to displace an estimated 130,000 people from a densely populated and fertile location, called Phulbari, in Bangladesh for extracting coal that they propose to export for their profit. They will destroy trees, businesses, homes, barns, boundary walls, schools, health facilities, mosques, temples, churches and archaeological sites. They want to displace over 50, 000 indigenous communities who were peacefully living in the region but now are living threats of eviction. People in Phulbari are tremendously resisting these threats. They were brutally repressed on 26th August 2006; when 3 of the protestors were killed and over 200 were injured.
People from Phulbari need your solidarity! Please join the blockade against the plunderers at GCM and write to: GCM Resources plc, Level 2, Foxglove House, 166 – 168 Piccadilly W1J 9EF
From: Department of Housing (On behalf of People of Phulbari, Bangladesh)
TO: GCM RESOURCES plc.
We regret to inform you that your office in Bangladesh has been taken over: Effective Immediately
On behalf of the people in Phulbari, Bangladesh, we serve you this eviction notice to leave our country at once. You have been charged with provocation to violence, corruption, political manoeuvring, and abusive practices to get a deal that is disastrous for people, for environment, and for our national interest. You are unexpected in Phulbari. You have been expelled from Phulbari. You have been expelled from Bangladesh.
WE DO NOT WANT GCM RESOURCES PLC IN PHULBARI!! WE DO NOT LET GCM RESOURCES IN BANGLADESH!!
WE SHALL PROTECT OUR RESOURCES WITH OUR LIVES!!
NO OPEN PIT MINE IN BANGLADESH! NO DESTRUCTION OF 80% FERTILE LAND IN PHULBARI!
NO FOREIGN COMPANY! NO EXPORT!
GCM, GO AWAY RIGHT NOW! OUR LAND OUR RIGHT, GET OFF NOW!! GCM, YOU HAVE BEEN EVICTED!!!