MAC: Mines and Communities

Mahmud, Oil Gas Committee trade barbs

Published by MAC on 2006-08-28

Mahmud, Oil Gas Committee trade barbs

Staff Correspondent, NewAge

28th August 2006

he energy and mineral resources adviser, Mahmudur Rahman, and Asia Energy on Sunday came up with almost identical conclusions blaming the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port for the bloody incidents at Phulbari.

The company chief executive officer, Gary Lye, who met Mahmud at his office, also thanked the authorities for ‘protecting’ the company personnel at Phulbari (by taking actions against demonstrators which left at least five persons killed).

The committee, however, said that the government including Mahmud was the ‘patron’ of the company and the government and the Asia Energy were solely responsible for Saturday’ tragic incident when law enforcers opened fire on ‘peaceful demonstrators.’

Mahmud told reporters that the leftists as well as the committee were trying to get political benefit by making the people of Phulbari ‘guinea pigs’.

‘They [the committee] are responsible for Saturday’s tragic incident. They instigated the violence, which was unnecessary as the government has not yet taken any decision to allow the company to go for mining,’ he said.

‘It is up to the authorities to determine exactly what happened, but I would say that the unforgivable events and the needless loss of lives and sufferings that took place yesterday in Phulbari were entirely the fault of the organisers [the committee],’ Gary said in a statement.

The committee member-secretary, Professor Anu Mohammad said, ‘Mahmud was trying to shift the blame for the killings on the committee. It is natural that when criminals commit crime they try to shift the blame on the innocent and sufferers,’ he said.

‘People are not so foolish that we can make them guinea pigs. They are well aware of their rights and thousands of locals joined the demonstration spontaneously as they knew that the company would harm them, that the (coal mine) project was a threat to their livelihoods,’ he told New Age.

‘We thank the authorities for protecting our personnel… I have got 40 people and their families living out there at the moment and I am concerned about their security. The situation is also intimidating for them and it’s not fair,’ Gary Lye said in his statement.

He also expressed his ‘deepest condolence’ to the people who lost their children, who are not going to be around to enjoy the ‘benefits’ of this ‘wonderful project’. ‘And that is a real a tragedy’ he added.

When asked whether the police firing on demonstrators was necessary, Mahmud told reporters that the district administration could say better and that the home ministry would handle things emerging out of the tragedy.

The future of the coal mine project and Asia Energy would not be determined by the tragedy but by the law, the coal policy and national interest, Mahmud declared.

‘Rejection of the Asia Energy agreement must be avoided. If we reject it the question of compensation might arise,’ he added.

Anu said that the energy adviser himself termed the agreement ‘against the interest of the country’ a few months back. ‘We want this anti-state agreement scrapped. Yes we want to gain something and it is for the interest of the country,’ he said.

Australian High Commissioner, Douglas Foskett, meanwhile, met Mahmud on Sunday and expressed grave concern over the security of Australian nationals, working at Phulabari coalfield.

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