Vol. 5 Num 805 Thu. August 31, 2006  
Front Page

Govt agrees to say 'no' to Asia Energy
Rajshahi mayor, negotiating with Phulbari people, announces open-pit mining won't be allowed in country

Asia Energy will wrap up from Bangladesh and no open-pit mining will be allowed in the country, the government announced after a negotiation meeting in Parbatipur upazila yesterday as they agreed to meet all the six demands of Phulbari demonstrators.

The government will provide a compensation of Tk 2 lakh to each of the families of those who died on Saturday while the injured and those affected otherwise will get a block allocation of Tk 9 lakh, Rajshahi City Corporation Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu announced at a public rally at Phulbari last night.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources and Electricity-port withdrew all its agitation programmes following the government announcement.

As per the agreement, from now onwards, the government will decide the method of mining in the country on the basis of public opinion.

A committee comprising Phulbari upazila nirbahi officer (UNO), assistant superintendent of police (ASP), a representative of the civil surgeon, and two members of the national committee will assess the compensation.

Two national committee members will be included in the body that is probing the August 26 incident at Phulbari.

Another committee comprising an additional deputy commissioner, an ASP and two national committee members will investigate the alleged hiding of dead bodies.

The SP will take steps against the "identified collaborators" of Asia Energy on the basis of specific allegations.

The cases filed against the demonstrators will also be withdrawn and no new case will be filed against them.

The government will also build a monument at Phulbari in memory of the deceased.

People from all walks of life rejoiced at Phulbari following the government announcement.

Meanwhile, no official of the Asia Energy could be contacted for comments last night.

Terming the August 26 incident "very inhumane", Minu said at a press conference at Parbatipur prior to the rally, "The demands were accepted for the sake of people and the decisions will be implemented soon."

"Since the government has announced to meet our demands, we are withdrawing all our programmes," national committee member secretary Anu Muhammad said at the press conference.

"If we notice any dilly-dally or ambiguity in fulfilling the agreement, people will form an irresistible movement," he later told reporters.

Minu signed the deal on behalf of the government while Anu Muhammad represented the national committee.

Mayor Minu announced the agreement before thousands of people at Nimtoli crossing in Phulbari town. "The demands will be met as a respect to people's sentiment," he told the rally.

"Why would we honour a deal that goes against the interest of the country?" he told ATN Bangla last night over telephone.

"It is sad that the government had to bear the curse of such a deal signed during the tenure of the previous government," he said, adding that the deal was signed in 1998.

The negotiation meeting between the government and the demonstrators protesting Asia Energy's operation at Phulbari coalmine site began at the office of Parbatipur UNO at 7:15pm yesterday.

Rajshahi Mayor Minu, Deputy Minister for Food and Disaster Management Asadul Habib Dulu, Deputy Commissioner of Dinajpur Tahsinur Rahman, SP Delwar Hossain Miah, UNOs of Phulbari and Parbatipur, and Dinajpur district BNP president and secretary attended the meeting on the government side.

The 40-member national committee team was led by Dinajpur unit convenor of the committee Syed Mosaddek Hossain, its Phulbari unit leaders and some locals. National committee member secretary Anu Muhammad, leader Zunaid Saki and Workers Party of Bangladesh leader Haider Akbar Khan Rono later joined the meeting.