Feb 28, 2012

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Tensions Over Land Dispute Hearings

Over 5000 cases are to be heard by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Commission from next week, but many want to wait until the Land Dispute Act is amended.

Below is an article published by The Independent Bangladesh:


Tension is brewing over a letter notifying that hearings on cases will be held to resolve decades-old land disputes in three Chittagong hill districts. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Commission (CHTLDC) issued the letter on February 20 [2012], signed by assistant judge of CHTLDC, Mohammad Abu Hanif, to hold hearings on land dispute cases on February 28 and 29 [2012] at the commission offices in Khagrachari.

It drew an angry response from the Parbattya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samity (PCJSS) on Sunday. In a statement it urged the CHTLDC to postpone the hearings until the CHTLDC Act, 2001 was amended.

If the hearings are not postponed on Tuesday [28 February 2012], the CHTLDC will be held responsible for any untoward incidents in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the PCJSS stated in its statement.
The PCJSS also described the CHTLDC decision to hold hearings as a violation of the decision of the CHT accord implementation committee, which declared on December 26 last year [2011] that hearings on pending cases would not be held until the CHTLDC Act, 2001 was amended.

The Samity statement further accused the CHTLDC of taking unilateral decisions in this regard, which, it warned, would foment troubles in the region, hindering the process of amending the CHTLDC Act.

CHTLDC Chairman Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury, who has already arrived at Khagarchari, told The Independent on Sunday evening [26 February 2012] that the commission would organize a press conference to let the people inform that it would start the hearings from Tuesday.

Earlier, the CHTLDC could not start the hearing in the face of strong protests by the Samity, which demanded an amendment to the Act.

A total of 5,000 of cases were awaiting disposal, Justice Chowdhury said.
A large number of cases, both from the indigenous and Bengali communities, have been filed with the CHTLDC till date, the commission sources said.

“A full-fledged court was set up in Khagrachari to dispose of the land disputes in the CHT,” the CHTLDC chairman said adding, “Two sub-courts have also been set up in Rangamati and Bandarban, since he joined the commission on July 27, 2009.”

Justice Chowdhury also said all necessary arrangements had been made to hold the hearings at Khagrachari.

But progress on this front is hardly visible as the commission cannot work.
“Traditional land rights and customary law of the indigenous people will be followed to settle the disputes. I would also urge the government and local political parties for greater cooperation to resolve the decades-old land disputes plaguing the region,” CHTLDC chairman Justice Chowdhury added.

On the land law, he said the government and the PCJSS should sincerely work together towards a peaceful resolution of it.