We, the undersigned, condemn the brutal killing of at least five and the grievous injury to more than 50 workers of the Banshkhali coal-fired power plant in Chattogram (Chittagong), Bangladesh.
At least five people were killed, and numerous others gravely injured when state security forces started shooting live ammunition at the construction workers of the coal-fired power plant (currently under construction) of the S. Alam Group in Chattogram's Banshkhali. The Banshkhali Coal Power plant site has witnessed previous two occasions in 2016 when local people were killed by law enforcing agencies for protesting against land acquisition by the project itself, fearing negative impact on their lives.
Our inquiries reveal that the workers were acting within their democratic rights by staging a protest over several legitimate demands, including the non-payment of wages due. NGO Forum on ADB and the undersigned civil society groups, strongly condemn this event, which is a significant violation of human rights and the provisions in the Constitution of Bangladesh on peaceful assembly. Using deadly force against workers protesting for their due wages and dignified working conditions is against the rule of law. This brutal killing by the police is nothing but abuse and unlawful use of power.
According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, state security forces or police do not have the right to shoot at innocent civilians and workers who are protesting within their lawful rights. According to Police Regulations 1943, police are allowed to use minimum force as a last resort for democratic assemblies, which they deem a severe security concern; but the purpose of using the minimum force would be breaking the assembly apart and under no circumstances should be intended to kill anyone. As of late, police brutality against civilians has extended beyond the limits of the law in Bangladesh, and yesterday's action was a clear demonstration of that. Yesterday's incident is a clear violation of the law by state security forces.
As the country struggles with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the life of the working class has turned into a living nightmare. In such a time, workers not being paid their due wages constitutes a serious violation of the Bangladesh Labour Law and fundamental human rights. The fact that one of the country's top industrialists, S. Alam Group has failed to pay their workers and settle their dues, despite the ongoing lockdowns in the country amid the holy Ramadan month is wholly unacceptable and deserves a full, independent, and transparent investigation. It is now incumbent upon the state to decisively withdraw its agreement with the S Alam Group for the Banshkhali coal-fired power plant to be built in light of the failure of the S Alam Group to duly comply with its legal obligations as an employer, as they have proven themselves as an unfit project developer fully lacking in due diligence -- prepared to violate both social and constitutional norms.
We demand that all the workers be paid their due wages immediately and that they be compensated not only for lost wages but also for the delays in payments over the past year. More importantly, we demand compensation not only for the delayed payments but also for the sheer loss of lives of all the workers (aged 18, 24, 28, and alike) and those who have been injured.
It has come to our attention that the police after yesterday’s incident has filed criminal cases against 3000 plus workers and have labeled them as unidentified 'miscreants'. This labeling and criminalization of peacefully protesting workers will stigmatize them for the rest of their lives. We demand an immediate withdrawal of all 3000 plus harassing legal cases against the workers.
We demand that the strictest legal measures be taken by the government against S. Alam group, SEPCO III, the HTG Development Group involved, and the state-supported security forces for depriving the workers of their legitimate dues, pushing them to protest, and eventually unleashing the use of deadly force on unarmed civilians. Consequently, we demand that all workers have effective access to remedy through a fair, neutral, and transparent investigation of this event by an independent judicial probe committee leading to punitive action against the police officers involved, HTG Development Group, SEPCO III, and S Alam group, with guarantees of non-repetition, reparations, as well as due recourse and restitution to the workers along with the grieving families. We further demand that all financiers of the project including BOC, ABC, CHEXIM, CCB, CDB, CMB, PAB are held accountable for their lack of safeguarding of the workers.
This appalling incident at the site of the Banshkhali Coal Power Plant comes just days before the “Leaders’ Summit on Climate” hosted by US President Biden, where the Government of Bangladesh, along with state representatives of 40 other nations, will discuss the critical issues of climate change, Paris Alignment, and COP26. At this event, it is expected that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, will receive formal recognition for her leadership in tackling climate change concerns. The NGO Forum on ADB, as an international network, hopes that after this heinous incident around a coal power plant, the Government of Bangladesh will use this global platform and demonstrate authentic climate leadership. For those bereaved and struggling at Banshkhali and all the climate-vulnerable people of Bangladesh, we urge the Prime Minister to announce an immediate end to all socially unacceptable coal and thermal power plants in the country and suspend the construction of the Banshkhali Coal Plant immediately.
Last May 27, 2021, Faruk Ahmed, the Chief Coordinator of Banshkhali Power Plant, filed the case under sections 25, 29, and 31 of the Digital Security Act, alleging "offensive and false disclosure, creating animosity, instability, and chaos." Case No. 48/173. According to the statement of the case, Engineer Shahnawaz Ahmed, a resident of Gandamara, wrote in a Facebook post on May 26, 2021, at 3:00 pm: "Breaking News: The people of Banshkhali thought that the environmentally destructive coal power plant which already has killed 12 lives, would have made the Gandamara Union floating in the tide of development. But in reality, Gandamara is drowning in the tidal surge. The youth of Banshkhali should play a leading role against injustice and for development through fearless writing."
Through this post, Shahnawaz Ahmed has expressed his opinion on the project and called on the youth to stand against injustice through writing which is in no way an aggressive, false, or unreasonable attempt to create unrest and chaos. There are enough reasons to believe that the Banshkhali police have arrested him on a baseless and contemptible case filed by a coal power project officer under the controversial sections of the Digital Security Act to suppress the dissent forcibly.
CSOs monitoring the development of this incident are seriously concern that no impartial investigation and effective legal action has been taken in the adventure of killing and injuring villagers and workers by the police firing in Banshkhali. Instead, the project owners and the police have filed cases accusing 3,562 unarmed workers and locals, creating opportunities for continued harassment. Besides, two lawsuits filed in favor of the victims in 2016 have been quashed by the district judge's court due to the administration's hostility.
NGO Forum on ADB stand in solidarity and fully support the rights of the people of Banshkhali to lives, livelihoods, property, and environment and demand that -
Respecting the order of the Honorable Court, the case filed in the name of Engineer Shahnewaz Ahmed should be immediately withdrawn, and he should be released;
Repeal oppressive and unconstitutional Digital Security Act 2018;
Police members responsible for the April 17 shooting must be identified and brought to justice;
A case must be filed on behalf of the victims in Banshkhali;
The environmentally destructive Banshkhali coal-fired power plant must be scrapped, and appropriate action must be taken against the mismanagement and illegal actions of the sponsor companies;
Adequate compensation and rehabilitation of the dead and injured should be arranged.
Endorsed by the following organizations:
350.org Asia, Asia
350.org Pilipinas, Philippines
Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Bangladesh
All India Union of Forest Working People AIUFP, India
Anu Chenoy, india
Asian Energy Network (AEN), Philippines
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Bangkok, Thailand
Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Regional
Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation (BBWWF), Bangladesh
Bangladesh Institute of democracy and development, Bangladesh
Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED), Bangladesh
BWI Asia Pacific, Philippines
CADTM India, India
Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), Philippines
Center for Environment and Participatory Research - CEPR, Bangladesh
Center for rural child development (CRD), Bangladesh
Centre for Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka
Centre for Financial Accountability, India
Charmian Beabout, Australia
CLEAN ( Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), Bangladesh
COAST Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement, DRC
Construction Safety Campighn IK, UK
CPI ML Liberation, India
DY Patil International University, India
Environics Trust, India
Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh [EquityBD], Dhaka, Bangladesh
Families Against Corporate Killers, United Kingdom
Financial Express, Bangladesh
Focus on the Global South, Thailand
Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines
FRESH EYES, United Kingdom
Harvard Chan School of Public Health, USA
Healthy Public Policy Foundation, Thailand
HK Social Security Society, Hong Kong
Human Rights and Peace Activist, India
Independent Consultant, Activists, Bangladesh
Indian Community Activists Network (ICAN), India
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
Integrated Social and Agriculture Development Organization (ISADO), Bangladesh
International Accountability Project, USA
ISDE Bangladesh, Bangladesh
Karmojibi Nari, Bangladesh
KRuHA - people's coalition for the right to water, Indonesia
Labour Education Foundation, Pakistan
Mangrove Action Project, USA
Market Forces, Australia
Market Forces, Australia
Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, United Kingdom
MAUSAM Movement for Advancing Understanding of Sustainability And Mutuality, India
Mineral Inheritors Rights Association, India
Mines mineral and people, India
Mongla Nagorik Somaj, Bangladesh
Nash Vek, Kyrgyzstan
National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), India
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, Sri Lanka
New Trade Union Initiative, India
OHSA Gujarat, India
OHSA Gujarat state, India
Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia
Pabna University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh
Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, Pakistan
Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, India
Pakistan Kissan(Farmer) Rabita Comittee, United Kingdom
Peoples Training & Research Center, India
Phulbari Solidarity Group, Bangladesh and Britain
Rivers without Boundaries Coalition, Russia
Rivers without Boundaries Coalition (Mongolia), Mongolia
Safety and Rights Society (SRS), Bangladesh
Shramik Mukti Dal, India
Social Economic Development Society [SEDS], Bangladesh
Society for Participatory Education and Development (SPED), Bangladesh
Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning (SPELL), Philippines
TuK INDONESIA (Supervisory Board), Indonesia
UK Hazards Campaign, United Kingdom
University of Barishal, Bangladesh
University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
WomanHealth Philippines, Philippines
Women & Child Development Organizatio (APARAJITA), Bangladesh
Worker's Initiative, India
YouthNet for Climate Justice, Bangladesh