By Alfred Donovan
The Notice of Annual General Meeting currently arriving through the letter boxes of Royal Dutch Shell plc shareholders contains an apology by Shell for the jailing of the “Rossport Five”. They are the five Irish citizens jailed at the behest of Shell for three months because they opposed on environmental grounds, the laying of the Corrib gas pipeline in Ireland.
The apology on page 9 of the report says: –
“Shell regrets that five people were imprisoned for contempt of court and recognises the very negative impact this has had on the local community. Shell acknowledges that it must work in more effective partnership with the local community to recover the situation and to ensure wide acceptance of the way forward for Corrib. It believes that the Government-led mediation process, together with the ISR, will enable that partnership to move forward.”
The whole section relating to the Corrib project is printed at the foot of the article.
Shell had little choice but to comment on the pipeline controversy after the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (the ECCR) succeeded in securing support from enough Shell shareholders to force a related resolution on to the agenda for the Royal Dutch Shell AGM being held on 16 May. The ECCR resolution also relates to serious concerns about Shell’s activities in Nigeria and Sakhalin Island in Russia.
At the request of the ECCR an appeal for shareholder support was featured for several weeks on my Shell related websites prior to the deadline for submitting resolutions (*www.royaldutchshellplc and www.royaldutchshellgroup.com). My websites contain over 8,000 news articles about Shell, leaked Shell documents and internal communications, as well as Shell insider revelations and commentary.
At last years AGM, the then Shell Chairman, Lord Oxburgh, was gung-ho about Shell jailing opponents of the Corrib pipeline. Action was taken immediately after the AGM. Due to the huge national and international support for the Rossport Five, Shell ended up asking the courts to release them, even though no guarantees had been received about further protest activity against the pipeline project by the individuals involved.
It is ironic that while Shell is now apologising for jailing one set of principled objectors to its activities, it is simultaneously hell bent on the imprisonment of the courageous Malaysian geologist, Dr John Huong, who worked almost 30 years for Shell. Articles published on my websites under his name are the subject of a High Court Injunction/Restraining Order obtained collectively by EIGHT Royal Dutch Shell companies for alleged defamation. The companies in question are currently pressing forward with contempt proceedings against Dr Huong, seeking his imprisonment for alleged further publication of defamatory statements and court documents on my websites.
It appears that Shell management has learnt nothing from the PR disaster arising from the jailing which has resulted in the Corrib project being held up indefinitely. The public rightly strongly objects to a multinational goliath having people jailed for exercising their basic human rights to freedom of expression and the right to engage in peaceful demonstrations.
The directors of Royal Dutch Shell plc – all 15 board members – are recommending that the ECCR resolution be voted down. It is interesting to note that 11 of the directors, including Shell’s Chief Executive Officer, Jeroen van der Veer, are Defendants in a U.S. Class Action alleging fraud in respect of the Shell reserves scandal which has already resulted in multimillion dollar settlements of other litigation related to the scandal and the payment of $150 million dollars in fines by the financial regulators for market abuse.
Events in the last year do not inspire confidence in the judgement and competence of the senior management of Royal Dutch Shell plc.
EXTRACTS FROM “Notice of Meeting Annual General Meeting The Hague and London May 16, 2006
DIRECTORS’ RESPONSE – YOUR DIRECTORS UNANIMOUSLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU VOTE AGAINST RESOLUTION 15 FOR THE REASONS SET OUT BELOW.
• The Corrib project will enable Ireland – which imports over 80% of its gas – to replace imports with indigenous supplies (Corrib can supply 60% of Ireland’s needs). It will create over 500 direct jobs during construction, and around 50 permanently.
• Corrib has been through an exhaustive public consultation and regulatory process. The final project design – to internationally recognised safety standards – was fully endorsed by the authorities. The Government-commissioned Independent Safety Review (ISR) draft report states that: ‘Proper consideration was given to safety issues in the selection process for the preferred design option and the locations of the landfall, pipeline route and terminal’. The draft report found that levels of risk to individuals living near the pipeline are within recognised international limits. Shell has committed to comply with the recommendations of the ISR.
• Shell regrets that five people were imprisoned for contempt of court and recognises the very negative impact this has had on the local community. Shell acknowledges that it must work in more effective partnership with the local community to recover the situation and to ensure wide acceptance of the way forward for Corrib. It believes that the Government-led mediation process, together with the ISR, will enable that partnership to move forward.
*Shell unsuccessfully attempted to seize both of these top level domain names last year (royaldutchshellplc.com and royaldutchshellgroup.com) in proceedings via the World Intellectual Property Organisation – but that is another story. Suffice it to say that Shell has ended up in the highly embarrassing position of its oldest adversary (in more ways than one – I am 89 years old this month) owning the dot com domain name for its new $223 billion (USD) unified company.
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