MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-08-26


No step yet to cancel deal with Asia Energy

Staff Correspondent, NewAge

26th August 2007

The government is yet to scrap the deal with Asia Energy on the Phulbari coal field as was agreed to a year ago after three people were killed and more than a hundred injured in firing by the Bangladesh Rifles during a furious protest.

The law enforcers opened fire when several thousand people protested against the Asia Energy's open-pit mining plan at the coal field on this day in 2006. Three teenagers -- Tariqul, Amin and Salekin -- were killed.

After four days of spontaneous demonstrations by several thousand people, the Rajshahi mayor, Mizanur Rahman, on behalf of the then BNP-led government of the time signed an agreement with the protesters, led by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port on August 30, 2006, to cancel the government deal with Asia Energy.

The agreement also provisioned that Asia Energy would be driven out of Bangladesh and no open-pit mining would be allowed in the country.

The Prime Minister's Office at that time asked the Energy and Mineral Resources Division on September 29, 2006 to take 'necessary steps' to implement the mayor's agreement.

The division asked for the law ministry's opinion on the issue, but any decision on the issue has yet to be made.

The power and energy adviser, Tapan Chowdhury, told reporters on Tuesday that the law ministry was yet to give its opinion regarding the scrapping of the deal with Asia Energy.

'They [law ministry] has made some queries and we have sent in our replies. We have not received any decision as yet,' he said.

When asked whether the government would allow Asia Energy to develop the Phulbari coal field, he said, 'We are a caretaker government. Why will we make any decision on the matter?'

As for open-pit mining, he said the government would not go against people's wish and interest.

The oil and gas protection committee member secretary, Professor Anu Muhammad, who signed the agreement on Asia Energy ouster on behalf of the people, told New Age on Friday they on the first anniversary of people's movement against the company demanded that the government should implement the major points of the agreement.

The committee has declared August 26 Phulbari Day and urged the government to make an official announcement in this regard.

Anu said the interim government time and again said it was fighting against corruption. 'The Phulbari deal with Asia Energy is a major example of corruption in the country. So if the government really means that it is against corruption, it should cancel the deal,' he said.

'It is sad that the company, for which three people were killed, is still active in Bangladesh. It is still cheating people in England and it is trading shares on the London Stock Exchange by showing that they are developing the Phulbari coal field,' he said.

Anu said the committee had planned to observe the day with programmes on a limited scale with placing flowers in memory of the deceased, rallies, exhibition of photographs, indoor memorial and prayer meetings because of the state of emergency, but the authorities requested them to hold only prayer sessions.

A number of socio-political organisations issued statements, expressing their concern about the 'conspiracy to sell out national resources' to the British company.

The Workers Party hoped that the government would implement the agreement signed between the government and the people in 2006. The party also protested against the present government's restriction on the observance of the day.

The Bangladesh Movement for Rights of Indigenous Peoples will organise a seminar at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity on Monday as part of the observance of the first anniversary of the people's movement at Phulbari.

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