Dec 12, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: National Body To Be Set Up To Protect Rights

Parliamentary Caucus urges the government formulate a law with a legal framework to address issues of indigenous people.


Below is an article published by the Daily Star:


Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous People yesterday proposed to set up a “National Commission” under an act to ensure the rights of indigenous communities on their ancestral lands.


The caucus, proposing the act “Bangladesh Indigenous People's Rights Act” at a meeting in a city convention centre, urged the government to formulate a law in light with the act to ensure indigenous people's economic wellbeing and protect their socio-cultural heritage.


Proposing the act, Mesbah Kamal, general secretary of Research and Development Collective, said, “The act will lay down the legal framework to address indigenous people's poverty in order to alleviate the plight of the country's less developed community.


“The act will also stipulate that the indigenous communities have the responsibility to maintain the ecological balance, restore denuded areas and adhere to the spirit and intent of the act.”


Mesbah Kamal, a Dhaka University professor of history department, said the act will also uphold the rights of indigenous people on self-governance and empowerment.


On the “National Commission”, he said it will monitor and oversee the act's implementation.


The caucus chief Rashed Khan Menon said the existing laws are not adequate to ensure the rights of the indigenous people. “Therefore, we need a comprehensive legal framework where all existing laws will be incorporated.”


“The indigenous people have always been ignored historically. We are yet to ensure their rights on their land in the hill areas,” said Menon, adding that the government had formed a land commission which failed to perform properly.


The commission failed to recover lands of indigenous people grabbed by the local influential people, said Shapan Adnan, a member of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission.


He also said the lives of indigenous people have been badly affected by “traditional development” such as eco-tourism, the Kaptai barrage and rubber plantation in the CHT areas.