MAC: Mines and Communities

Asia Energy asked not to interfere in govt policy / Lye’s letter stuns energy adviser

Published by MAC on 2005-03-24

Asia Energy asked not to interfere in govt policy / Lye’s letter stuns energy adviser

by Aminul Islam, NewAge

24th March 2005

Sharply reacting to the letter of the Asia Energy chief in Bangladesh, the government on Thursday asked the company not to interfere with the policy decision of the country after the company had termed ‘unwarranted’ the energy and mineral resources advisor Mahmudur Rahman’s comments on Phulbari coal field agreement.

Gary Lye, chief executive officer of Asia Energy in Bangladesh in a letter to Mahmud on March 19 raised question about the ‘legitimacy’ of the adviser’s remarks that the company’s contract with the government was ‘anti-state’.

‘This issue is a policy matter of the government and you are strongly advised not to try to interfere in the policy decision of a sovereign country,’ Mahmud wrote to Lye on Thursday.

Mahmud on March 16 told reporters, ‘the interest of the country has been compromised with the signing of the agreement with Asia Energy in 1998 and those who had signed the agreement should be tried.’

The people involved in the signing of the original agreement with the BHP Mineral International during the tenure of the previous BNP government in 1994, should also be punished, Mahmud said.

Lye in his letter claimed that the contract was not ‘anti-state’ and it was based on the prevailing laws and regulations of the country. ‘Furthermore the government of prime minister Khaleda Zia approved the contract in 1994,’ he noted.

‘Therefore to contend that the contract is ‘anti-state’ is to imply that the law and the actions of the government are also ‘anti-state’, a position which is plainly absurd,’ Lye wrote.

‘The company is also seriously concerned that your unwarranted statement could well incite violence against our property and personnel. Bangladesh as we all appreciate, is going through a delicate period in terms of internal security and we, along with all other foreign investors, would look above all to the government to protect, and not endanger, our security,’ the letter said.

Lye’s letter surprised the officials of the energy and mineral resources division as well as Mahmud who told New Age that it was unexpected that a foreign company should raise questions about the legitimacy of a government policy.
‘We are surprised to receive your letter. Your observation on the comments made by the undersigned [Mahmud] is unwarranted and totally unacceptable,’ Mahmud wrote to Lye.

He, however, assured Asia Energy that the government would continue to address their genuine security concerns as before.

Meanwhile, the British deputy high commissioner in Dhaka, Stephen Bridges met Mahmud on Thursday and discussed about the Asia Energy related issues.

Mahmud showed him the letter of Lye as well as the reply and apprised him that the company’s development programmes in Phulbari would be approved as per the proposed coal policy and the report of an experts committee.

The experts committee, headed by professor M Nurul Islam, director of Institute of Appropriate Technology of BUET, is likely to submit its report by April.

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