GCM organises regular community meetings as part of our commitment to ensure local communities remain fully informed on all aspects of the planned coal mine and power plant developments. As part of this routine activity a series of programs were organised for Tuesday 25/11 and Wednesday 26/11 to cater for the communities’ requests to meet and hear directly from the Asia Energy CEO.
All of these community meetings were well attended and very successful with the pinnacle two hour meeting on Wednesday 26/11 at our coreyard open space attended by over 300 people of diverse backgrounds including businessmen, community leaders, public representatives and farmers. The focus was GCM’s key policy message of “preferential local employment and purchasing good and services locally”. The extensive question and answer session covered many topics but the number one issue was how to get a job and how to reap the benefit for themselves and their children.
It was when back at the office for lunch we were informed of a small group under the banner of OGPC gathering at Nimtola Morh. This in itself was nothing new as this group have regular gatherings of 30 or so and really are seen as having diminishing support.
Several police arrived at the office led by the OC and OC (Investigation) and were trying to persuade me and our staff to leave the premises. I questioned why and reinforced that this is our long term office and had no such intention. Rather we stressed the right to be there and that it was the role of Police to maintain law and order. The UNO also arrived and we had a similar discussion. He agreed with our rights and still suggested we should leave.
Not long afterwards we heard a chanting mob of about 50 youths and boys as witnessed by us and reported in the media being prominently led by the Mayor of Phulbari, Manik Sarker and other OGPC leaders, Nuruzzaman and Aminul Islam Bablu. This was not a large mob and it’s seems unfathomable that they could have been prevented from coming anywhere near, particularly given the clear nature of their intent (to attack the premises). Instead the authorities became witnesses as the mob broke our gates and vandalise cars and office windows. They proceeded with the vandalism including throwing stones and sticks at windows with full knowledge we were behind them. We were not intimidated by this mob and our actions following the attack were to assess injuries and damage. Of greatest concern was one of our security guards had been beaten unconscious and hospitalised.
We have been invited by the Government to work in Bangladesh but continue to be victimised because this group often are allowed to go beyond the law with little or no restraint. It is a basic right that Foreign Investors are protected by the law and are given freedom to carry out their work as any other Bangladeshi company is entitled.
We respect people’s right to have differing opinions and protest but do not condone vandalism by thugs acting like terrorists. Nor do we condone such a group intimidating the community who largely support the coal mine development. The media were correct in its reports attributing this unsavoury incident to the Phulbari Mayor and OGPC as clearly they do not represents the views of the community. We standby the local community and are more determined than ever before to work with them and the Government to implement the Project so that all may share in the enormous benefits.