Chittagong Hill Tracts: Meeting on amendment of CHT Land Commission Act held at CHT Ministry
UNPO member PCJSS outline important details from meeting with State officials concerning land disputes involving the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Below is a publication by the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS):
On 22 September 2010 at 11.00 a.m. a meeting on amendment of CHT Land Dispute Settlement Commission 2001 was held at the conference hall of the Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) with State Minister for CHT Affairs Mr. Dipankar Talukdar in the chair.
From the government side, chairman of CHT Development Board MP Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, chairman of the Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) MP Jatindra Lal Tripura and officials from MoCHTA, Land Ministry, Forest & Environment Ministry and Law Ministry including secretary of the MoCHTA Mr. Masud Ahmed attended the meeting
From CHT Regional Council (CHTRC) side, its members Mr. Goutam Kumar Chakma and Mr. Sneha Kumar Chakma were present in the meetings while Chakma Circle Chief Raja Devasish Roy, representative of Bohmong Circle Chief Chaw Hla Prue Jimi and Mong Circle Chief Saching Prue Chawdhury participated in the meeting.
It is mentionable that the CHTRC reviewed the recommendations/decisions adopted in the meeting held on 06 December 2009 chaired by the Land Minister and participated by CHTRC delegation in its 49th session (27 April 2010) and accepted decision to place recommendations once again on few sections of the CHT Land Dispute Settlement Act 2001 to the Government of Bangladesh (GoB). Accordingly the CHTRC placed the recommendations to the Land Ministry and passed its copy to the MoCHTA as well.
Discussion was started on the basis of CHTRC’s recommendations for amendment of CHT Land Dispute Settlement Commission 2001, where following decisions adopted on the concerned sections were as below:
1. Section 2- Definition of Rehabilitated Refugees: CHTRC recommended including the refugee returnees, who got returned from India in 1992-1994 as per the 16 point Package Deal between the GoB and the refugee leaders. GoB side not once again denied accepting it and the State Minister opined that yet these refugees would be able to have the opportunity of receiving settlement of land disputes as non-refugees.
2. Section 3(2)(Gha)- To add representative of concerned Circle Chief: Present provision narrates Circle Chief (concerned). CHTRC recommended to replacing it with the provision as ‘Circle Chief (concerned) or his representative nominated by him’. This recommendation was accepted in the meeting.
3. Section 6(1)(ka)- To add all others’ Land disputes: This provision narrates that land disputes of only the refugee returnees would be settled. CHTRC recommended, as per the CHT Accord, to adding all others’ land disputes. Decision was adopted to amend this provision as per the Accord.
4. Section 6(1)(Ga)- Condition: This provision narrates that Reserved Forests, Kaptai Hydro Electric Project Area, Betbunia Earth Satellite Centre, state owned Industrial Areas, lands recorded in the name on GoB or local authorities would remain outside the jurisdiction of the Land Commission. CHTRC recommended, as per the CHT Accord, to omit it. Decision was made to recommend for omitting it.
5. Section 7(3)- Quorum: This provision narrates that Chairman and other two members would fulfill the quorum of the Land commission meeting. Raja Devasish Roy explained that as per this provision the Commission even in absence of the concerned circle chief and the concerned HDC Chairman were entrusted with the power of settlement of the land disputes, which as a consequence, may not be proper and hence presence of anyone of these two institutions must be imperative. In light of it, decision was made that this provision would be amended stating that ‘Chairman and three other members would fulfill the quorum’.
6. Section 7(5)- Process of taking Decision: CHTRC put recommendations that in the meeting of the Land Commission decision would be adopted unanimously and if it fails then it would be adopted with votes of majority members including the Chairman. In this meeting decision was accepted to put recommendation to the Land Ministry for reviewing the recommendation of the CHTRC.
7. Section 10: To use the term Deputy Commissioner: CHTRC put recommendation to replace the word ‘Zella Prashasak’ with the word ‘Deputy Commissioner’, which is in use in CHT as per the CHT Regulation, 1900. GoB side preferred to retain the word ‘Zella Prashasak’, which is used in the country.
In the meeting the State Minister for CHT Affairs Dipankar Talukdar opined the decisions of this meeting would be placed to the Land ministry, which would be asked for holding a meeting for finalizing the amendments on the Land Commission Act as early as possible.
It is notable that it is yet to be known whether the minutes to be framed by the MoCHTA and signed by the State Minister (as chaired by him) would include the decisions of the meeting properly.
In the meeting it was observed that most of the officials of the MoCHTA and the representative of the Forest and Environment Ministry, being anti-Accord elements, were quite against of the decisions particularly on the area jurisdiction of the commission adopted in the meeting.