They spend entire nights and days, lying on the ground, in the cold days of February and the pouring rain. They do not abandon the place. They do not shy away from the curious looks of citizens of Tirana and the police. They have walked for a long time, 130 km on foot, motivated by the truth and the belief that what rightly belongs to them cannot be taken away. What the citizens of Zharrëz have achieved is without doubt the most important act that Albanians have done in the past years. They are stubborn to reveal the truth and right a wrong when everyone else avoids it. The government is silent, the media is silent, the General Prosecutor is silent, and the company responsible for turning 70 houses of this unfortunate village into ruins is silent as well. The people of Zharrëz are not silent; they are endowed with a tenacious and epic perseverance, compelling the ones that have remained silent until now.
What has happened in Zharrëz? What is the story behind it and why isn’t the story told truthfully by the responsible Minister while being veiled instead? Is the company responsible, or are the protesters’ requests are unreasonable?
It is hard to explore what has really happened with Bankers Petroleum in Zharrëz. In this village around 70 houses have been damaged and the water has been heavily polluted by explosions that Bankers performed to extract oil from the land. The explosions were denied until now, but it is officially stated that 2,600 explosions have occurred.
The staff of Opinion has unsuccessfully attempted to investigate this story that has all the elements of legal obstruction and the capturing of the government with all its structures. It is one of the scariest stories with many questions hanging, about a contract from 2004 and its implementation for thirteen years.
First, Opinion is trying to find if there is an official contract that allows Bankers to use explosions when extracting oil. If the contract does not allow this, the 2,600 explosions confirmed by the specialized institutions are illegal and have put the lives of those people at great risk. The ones that gave the orders should face the law and be prosecuted. We cannot have a double-faced state. A resident should not be punished because he protects his courtyard while those that destroy around 70 houses and put the lives of the residents at risk receive protection from the government.
Second, Opinion is investigating whether it is the company’s obligation to repay the inhabitants of the area for the damage caused to them, and if the explosions used to extract oil are provided for in the contract? If the answer is yes, have they done this already and have stopped now, or they have never done it before?
Third, Opinion is investigating the responsible party which has control over the contract. The Ministry of Energy has appeared to be deaf-and-dumb before a situation that concerns people’s lives. Moreover, it is their legal obligation to act for this entire village.
Fourth, Opinion is trying to figure out how it is possible that Bankers is “untouchable” and has so much power? It is trying to understand where a prominent businessman finds the courage to blackmail the office of General Prosecutor asking the latter to discontinue further investigation of Bankers? What is the relationship between the businessman and Bankers?
The government is talking about a compensation that will come from state budget, even though the state has no legal possibility available to act upon this. If it goes ahead, it will be a violation of the law used to silence the protesters’ voice. If the damage has not been caused by the state or any natural force, why is the state going to spend taxpayers’ money, while it should order Bankers who pays for the damages?!
Why is Bankers appearing so powerful that the state has no guts to demand from it to fulfill the contractual terms? Where are the legal options? Where are the supervisory institutions? Why did all of them kept their silence for many years and why do they still remain silent to these days? Especially today when Bankers does not have the same ownership.
The doors to investigate Bankers affair are all closed and have been closed forever. And they wouldn’t even be slightly opened, were it not for the citizens who epically marched before the mocking eyes of powerful and the befuddled glances of their fellow citizens. Their march has put us all to shame. It has shamed us while reminding us that this country is not a colony and the country’s laws should not be dictated by companies and businessmen who have transformed our ministers into guard dogs for their businesses and illegal profits. The voice of the people must be heard. And if they do not listen to their voices, the few citizens of Zharrëz made their first attempt to show everybody how to put things right! So today, everybody and I that think alike, feel ashamed in front of their dignified act.