PRESS STATEMENT
June 14, 2018

Indian Government must prioritize life over profit;
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific denounces Tamil Nadu massacre and calls for Vedanta to be brought to account for environmental and human rights violations.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific denounces the massacre of Tamil Nadu residents by Indian security forces during protests against the Sterlite Copper Smelting Plant on May 22.

“We condemn the killings perpetrated by Indian Police against environmental defenders protesting the operations and planned expansion of the Vedanta owned Sterlite Copper Smelting plant. We demand justice and accountability for the state perpetrated killings from the Indian government. We demand the permanent closure of the Sterlite Smelting Plant and that Vedanta be brought to account for damages to the environment and the people’s health.” said Theiva Lingam, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific Regional Facilitator.

“The Indian government has been remiss in protecting the rights of its citizens from the harmful effects of the Sterlite Copper Smelting Plant. It should have used its power to go after Vedanta, not open fire on the Tamil Nadu residents. Once again we witnessed the full coercive power of the government used against its citizens – Citizens rightfully demanding the state adheres to its obligation to protect their basics human rights; the right to life, health and the environment, while corporate crimes and violations against the people are perpetrated with impunity. We remind the Indian government of its obligation to protect the rights of individuals working against human rights violations.” said Romel de Vera, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific Environmental Human Rights Defenders Project Coordinator.

“13 protesters were killed and more than 100 injured. The Indian government must ensure that the perpetrators of the massacre be charged in court for the killings and brought to justice,” De Vera added.

In the aftermath of the massacre, the Indian government ordered the closure of the Sterlite Copper Plant . In response Vedanta raised the threat of economic disruption and loss of jobs should the government push through with its closure order.

Friends of the Earth International Executive Committee member Hemantha Withanage criticized the response of Vedanta, “The economic well-being of the people should be based on sustainable development, and development cannot be sustainable if the environment is degraded and the people are sick and dying of pollution. Vedanta’s operations across India are continually opposed due to multiple environmental crimes, human rights violations and even violations of the law in its pursuit of its own economic interests. This must stop: Life should always be prioritized over profit.”

The Sterlite Copper Smelting Plant has been shut down several times in the past after protests by residents, only to continue operations again. The smelting plant has been opposed from the beginning, but Vedanta always finds ways to reopen and continue operating its smelting plant, aided by different and conflicting governmental agencies. Withanage demanded that the Indian government “protect the long-term interests of its citizens.”

“This time the closure must be permanent. Vedanta should not be allowed to operate this copper plant again. Vedanta must be held to account for its environmental and human rights crimes.”

Theiva Lingam, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific Regional Facilitator reached out to the protesters of the Sterlite Copper Plant, “We stand as one with the struggle to protect communities and the environment against the operations of Vedanta. We are humbled by the sacrifice made by the residents of Tamil Nadu. Even as we grieve for the protesters killed by the police, we will ensure that their deaths are not in vain. Their killers will be punished and Vedanta will be held accountable for its crimes to Indian communities and environment.”

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For further information, please contact:
Romel de Vera
FoE Asia Pacific Environmental Human Rights Defenders Project Coordinator
Tel: +63 917 700 2301 Email: mel.lrcksk@gmail.com