By: International Accountability Project
Press and Communication Coordinator
Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK
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Bangladeshi community in UK demonstrated against Asia Energy in their (parent company Global Coal Management Resources PLC) annual general meeting yesterday (Monday) in front of Spectre Court 40 Tower Hill, London. In conjunction with the UK Branch of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Power, Port and Minerals of Bangladesh, Socialist Party UK and London Mining Network; Protect Resources of Bangladesh organized yesterday's protest.
Undeterred by the cold front and wind chill of early December that has shaken the whole UK; the protestors from Protect Resources of Bangladesh started to gather in front of the Tower Gateway DLR Station even before the scheduled rally time of 10.30 am. After amassing scores of protestors, the rally approached the nearby building called Spectre Court when the security guards of the building locked and secured the main entrance. The protestors blockaded the main entrance and remained there for more than an hour. While continuing the blockade, the protestors spoke against the mine, chanted heated slogans and read their demands. Richard Solly from London Mining Network, Mani Thain from Socialist Party of East London, Paul Dudman of Refugee Research Council, Mahmudur Rahman Benu and Golam Mustafa from the UK Branch of National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Power, Port and Minerals, Sayeed Enam from Communist Party of Bangladesh, Waliur Rahman and Dr Akhter Sobhan Mashrur from Workers' Party of Bangladesh, and Mostafa Faruk from Bangladesh Socialist Party Forum were present among others.
GCM shareholders in their Interactive Investors' Forum had earlier threatened to infiltrate the demonstration quite clearly. Keeping this in mind, the moderator of the protest Arif Rahman cautioned the protestors against any sort of provocation from the investors of GCM and advised them to be very cautious against their attempts to pollute the demonstration. Introductory speech came from Samina Luthfa, Assistant Professor of University of Dhaka and a researcher based in University of Oxford whose research centres round the community mobilization against Phulbari Coal Mine. She said the resistance she saw while talking to the local community in Phulbari made her believe that initiating an open pit mine in Phulbari proposed by GCM is impossible. According to her, the local community was fully aware of the adverse impacts of this mine. This is a ‘life and death' situation to the community and they would resist the open pit mine with their lives.
At this moment, when a few share holders of GCM were trying to enter the building with the help of security guards, the enraged protestors chanted slogans against them: "Blockade GCM", "Shame on GCM" etc. Moderator requested the rally to calm down and invited Richard Solly from London Mining Network to say a few words of solidarity.
Richard, in his speech reiterated his and his network's full support to the resistance of the community of Phulbari and Bangladesh who are against the open mine. He said his network had been observing the London-based mining companies for a long time. However, he expressed his surprise to the aggressive attacks by GCM and its share holders upon the protestors. He described the abuses by the shareholders against the contestants of the mine in open internet forum where they threatened the protestors to smash them with new baseball bats to be outrageous and unprecedented. He opined that the protest cannot be suppressed through abuses and threats. At the end, he said, "We are supporters of Phulbari's community struggle against the open pit and so we will remain in their side as long as needed."
Mani Thain from The Socialist Party of East London said in his speech that Socialist Party has been supporting the movement in Bangladesh for a long time. He said, "Today we have come to restate our support to the community struggle against the open pit mine in Bangladesh. We want to assure people of Phulbari that the Socialist Party will always be at their side." He also maintained that the abusive threats of GCM Shareholders were frustrating.
Mahmudur Rahman Benu said that the proposed open pit mine will worsen the food security of our country by destroying 6000 hectares of land in the face of already shrinking arable land of the country. As a result, poverty will increase, so will increase the number of people deprived of food. Among others Dr Akhtar Sobhan Masrur of Bangladesh Workers' Party, Sayeed Enam from Communist Party of Bangladesh, Golam Mostofa, and Shahriar from Jubo Union had addressed the rally.
When the demonstration was almost at the end, Rumana Hashem, a researcher and Part-time teacher of University of East London started to read out the blockade speech. At this moment, one of the shareholders of the GCM came out and tried to disrupt the speech by saying derogatory things to the protestors. However, the protestors were vigilant and although enraged kept chanting slogans at him addressing him as burglar, blood soaker etc. In the face of the resistance from the general protestors he had to quickly leave the scene. The volunteers appeased the protestors and Rumana completed her speech. In saddened voice she described her experience in Phulbari resistance during August 26 2006. She said they have killed my friends and to hide their bloody hands they have changed their name from Asia Energy to GCM. She said "We want to express to our friends in Phulbari that we are at your side, we will be at your side and we have come so far as to blockade the meeting of Asia Energy in London."
In addition to the speeches the protestors observed that although the AGM was scheduled to start at 11 am, there were not many shareholders entering the building. There was only a hand full of them. When these few investors were leaving their meeting around 11.20 under protection of security guards and police, they did not carry any AGM documents or booklets. At around 11.46, an online financial News Portal in London had published a press release about their meeting. Many had raised questions about the reliability of the process of completing the meeting in such a hurry and preparing the meeting minute so quickly to publish it in the internet.
In addition to this, the share price of GCM has started to plunge in the London based Alternative Investment Market (AIM) right after the end of the protest. The price per share declined from 265 pence to 233 pence on 6th December 2010. The organizers of the protest outside the AGM have reasons to believe that the shareholders will be more aware of the risk to invest in this company and soon would withdraw their investment completely.