10th December 2014. Bangladeshi activists, in conjunction with a diverse group of environmental and left political activists in London, heckled the investors of Global Coal Management Resources with their noise demo and coal play yesterday. Activists blocked the entrance to the Aeronautical Society by dumping coal in the doorway. They surrounded GCMs’ CEO Gary Lye and his fellows who are aggressively moving ahead to implement a massive open-pit mine in Phulbari, the northwest region of Bangladesh. At the same time a delegation of protesters disrupted the AGM of GCM by questioning the investors inside the AGM about their fraudulent business in London’s Alternative Share Market (AIM).
The demo was organised by the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group. The event was endorsed by Socialist Party of England and Wales, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Occupy London, Foil Vedanta, Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition, UK, and several community organisations including Nari Diganta, Swadhinota Trust, Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, Jubo Union, Friends of Chatro Union, Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch), Bangladesh Communist Party (UK branch), and Bangladesh Socialist Party (UK branch).
The event kicked off with the launch of artist Stephen Vince’s beautiful sculpture, symbolising the protest against the miners and the livelihood, culture, struggle, and resistance of Phulbari people. The sculpture, wearing a Tangali Sari, held three sacks of coals to symbolise the significance of the number three and a tribute to the three people who were killed in the dirty coal game of GCM in Phulbari.
Bangladeshi activists, carrying the sculpture and holding a banner saying – GCM hands off Phulbari, No open pit mine in Bangladesh- started to chant slogans and sing ‘tomar bari amar bari, Phulbari Phulbari’. Some protesters played drums while others entered the block calling the investors to come down and to apologise for their misdeeds in Bangladesh. Loud protesters were repeatedly warned about potential arrest by the authorities of Aeronautical Society (AS) who did not call police.
Angry protesters dumped coal on the door steps of AS, as they were prevented from taking out Gary Lye. Protesters said that they would not leave the venue before the interrogation of Gary Lye and his fellows was over. Meanwhile, a group of protesters went to check the investors’ vehicles and took over the car park as part of the blockade against Gary Lye, the company’s manipulative CEO, who was expelled from Phulnari for a 3rd time this year, on 26 November, but still continues to abuse Bangladesh government and Phulbari people.
When protesters outside the AGM were checking investor’s vehicles, a delegation of the climate activists attending the AGM interrogated Gary Lye and the board inside the AGM about GCM’s unethical business in London and abusive activities in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi activists rattled the investors to an extent that the Chair was fade up and it was Gary Lye who ended up facing the interrogation about the paperless contract and propaganda of GCM. Phulbari activists challenged that GCM does not have valid contract with Bangladesh.
Climate activists of World Development Movement and London Mining Network supported Phulbari activists, and asked numerous questions about the highly contentious Phulbari project, its huge human rights impacts and the OECD Guidelines as GCM has breached 2011 Guidelines, which do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise in terms of prospective impacts on human rights. Activists said that the company was illegitimate, the project illegitimate and the annual general meeting of GCM was illegitimate. The meeting broke up unceremoniously and the shareholders broken up into two groups.
The delegation of climate activists came out of the AGM and joined the protesters where Golam Mostofa, Richard Solly, Jahanara Ali and Sam Sender updated the demonstrators that Gary Lye and his fellows have failed to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. They are even lying about national media and the government in Bangladesh. Protesters chanted slogans ‘Gary Lye is a Lier, Shame on Gary Lye’, GCM and Asia Energy, hushiar sabdhan [be aware of people power]’. One angry protester walked into the building with a sack of coal to dump on Gary Lye’s face, but was prevented by the AS’s equally racist authority who received the coal on behalf of the investors and threatened the protesters to call police.
The demo ended with a manifesto calling for an end of GCM’s Phulbari project, and by criticising the UK NCP’s controversial recommendations to the company. The founder and coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Dr Rumana Hashem, read out the manifesto of the demo and called the London’s AIM to delist GCM. The manifesto concludes by expressing full solidarity with the Phulbari people’s struggle, and condemned the UK government for failing to hold the UK-based company to account.
Miners GCM Resourcesis the subject of a complaint to the Organisation for Co-operation and Development over the controversial coal mine. They have only one active project, the Phulbari coal project, which awaits permission from the Government of Bangladesh to go ahead. But the people in Phulbari want to put the company out of Bangladesh, ban the Phulbari project and to take the company and its investors to public court for their abusive and fraudulent activities.
Phulbari, the town in upheaval in northwest Bangladesh where three people were shot dead during the protest against immense open pit mine in 2006, has become volatile again since, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the AIM-listed British company, Gary N Lye, and attempted to conduct consultation with locals in the town centre. There were two days long blockade in Dinajpur-Dhaka highway, and over a thousand people braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s visit last month. On 26 November, locals in Phulbari surrounded Lye GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy‘s local office, when the CEO had to leave Phulbari and Dinajpur under police protection. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured, and protesters have demanded Gary Lye’s immediate arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. A month-long programme including nation-wide protests have followed. Protesters will not go back home until their demands are full-filled.
Manifesto of the Demo against the Dirty Coal Miners
Surround GCM! Surround the Dirty Coal Miners!
4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.
Tuesday, 9 December, 2014.
Today we, the activists from Bangladesh, Tower Hamlets, and London’s environmental organisations, have gathered to call upon the AIM-listed London-based multinational company, GCM Resources Plc, to end its unethical business. The company, GCM Resources, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 acres of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which over a third of all children and nearly 17 percent of the entire population are undernourished.
GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in August 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon a visit to the area.
The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. On 28 February, 2012, seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples. But GCM is aggressively moving ahead to implement this project.They are selling fraudulent shares in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM) without any valid contract with Bangladesh Government.
The situation in Phulbari has become tense and volatile again since Tuesday the 25th November, when the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gary N Lye, attempted to visit Phulbari. Gary Lye is the man who called the protesters outsiders in 2006, and commented, after the death of three people shot by police at a demonstration, that “I am a businessman, [ …] I will continue my business in Phulbari’ regardless of whether there was a bloodshed or not. Therefore, people in Phulbari braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s attempted visit. Over a thousand people blocked the Dinajpur-Dhaka highway for five hours, demanding Lye’s arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. In Phulbari there were two days long protests outside GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy’s local office. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured.
On Wednesday, 26 November, the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in Phulbari following advice of the UK government which was released on Thursday, 20 November. The UK government’s statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, and it concluded that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine. We welcome the Board’s affirmation that the 2011 Guidelines on human rights do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise and its prospective impacts on human rights (para 6). We welcome also the finding that the 2011 Guidelines would apply if GCM “continued to be “actively involved in the project” (para 19).
But we are hurt by the ambiguous conclusion of the investigation. The investigation does not ask the company to pull off from the devastating project. Its recommendations are reduced to re-evaluation of the risks and impact. It asked the company to foster communication with the locals following a narrow approach. The final-published investigation failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built, and its conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. Although an internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead, the final report failed to address the concerns of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation. We condemn the UK government for failing to hold their businessmen to account. We condemn the UK National Contact Point for failing to cite the extremely important first-hand accounts from Phulbari. We believe that it is the chair of the NCP, Liz Napier, who played a dirty game in this whole OECD investigation.
Liz Napier and her team at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have overlooked many of our first-hand accounts, allowing the dirty coal miners of GCM Resources, Gary Lye, to go back to Phulbari for an unexpected re-evaluation of the situation. The visit of dirty miner Gary Lye has sparked protests leading to fresh violence in one of Bangladesh’s most peaceful town, Phulbari. We demand that Liz Napier and her team at UK National Contact Point must take the responsibility for the recent turmoil in Phulbari. We call for a suspension of Liz Napier from her current post at UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The OECD investigation followed a complaint submitted by the World Development Movement and International Accountability Project. We appreciate the initiative of International Accountability Project and World Development Movement (thereafter Global Justice Now) in support of the people in Phulbari. Although the UK government has failed to hold this UK-based company to account, it is clear that the people of Phulbari will resist GCM’s project going ahead. Phulbari, people have made it clear by declaring their month long programme in demand of GCM’s CEO’s arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. We extend our full solidarity to the people in Phulbari.
We will continue to call upon the London AIM to delist the dirty miners, GCM Resources, from London’s Alternative Share Market. Our Energy and Mineral Resources Division Secretary Abu Bakar Siddique reaffirmed, that Asia Energy has no valid licences to develop Phulbari coal mine. Miner GCM must stop the propaganda about Phulbari coalmine. Our people do not want to leave their homes and land. Phulbari people will not work in a coal mine. GCM’s propaganda to create 17,000 new jobs in coal mine cannot ensure livelihood for 130,000 people feared to be affected during exploration in open pit method over the next 35 years. We will not let our people to die and our environment to de destroyed by dirty miners of GCM.
The UK Committee (National Committee) to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Foil Vedanta, Socialist Party of England and Wales, Occupy London and all our co-worker organisations will continue to call for the company to be de-listed from the London Alternative Investors Market. We declare, on behalf of the people in Phulbari, this UK based company is never going back to Bangladesh. Gary Lye and GCM resources are ousted from Phulbari, and they will be resisted and uprooted from London soon.