An injured man rests on a wheelchair after being treated at a hospital in Chittagong on April 17, 2021, following a protest by demonstrating workers at the construction site of a Chinese-financed power plant. (AFP)
A Catholic leader has condemned the killing of five workers by police who opened fire on a protest by workers at an under-construction power plant in Bangladesh.
Workers at the S. Alam group-owned SS Power Plant in Banshkhali in Chittagong district were holding a demonstration on April 17 about their working conditions and overdue salaries when police fired on them, killing five and injuring at least 30.
Worker Abdul Mannan, 30, said workers were protesting peacefully over accommodation conditions, a lack of pay rises and payment of arrears.
“We could not imagine that the police would fire at us. We were peacefully pursuing our demands,” he told UCA News.
Holy Cross Father Liton Hubert Gomes, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Bangladesh Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the Church can never accept the killing of innocent people.
“The government has to think about the rights of the workers involved. We have to develop the country, otherwise such incidents will happen again. I strongly condemn this incident and demand justice,” the priest told UCA News.
I urge a proper investigation and compensation for the families of those who were killed and for the injured
Akhter Kabir Chowdhury, general secretary of Citizens for Good Governance (Sujan) in the Chittagong area, told UCA News that the police had behaved intolerantly.
“The responsible police personnel should be identified and brought before the law through a proper investigation,” he said.
“The company is also responsible for the incident. I urge a proper investigation and compensation for the families of those who were killed and for the injured.”
Police have accused 2,500 unidentified persons of attacking law enforcers, while power plant authorities have filed a case accusing 22 named and 1,040 unnamed persons of setting vehicles on fire, Shafiul Kabir, officer-in-charge of Banshkhali Police Station, told UCA News.
Investigation committees have been set up by police and Chattogram district administration.
Chattogram deputy commissioner Mominur Rahman told UCA News that the government has pledged to provide 300,000 taka (US$3,535) to families of deceased workers, while the injured will be given 50,000 taka each and their medical expenses will be paid for.
Chinese companies SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction Corporation and HTG Development Group are also funding the 1,224-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
On April 4, 2016, four people died when police fired at a protest against the construction of the plant.