Chittagong Hill Tracts: New Discussion On Implementation Of Land Act
Meeting showed involvement of media and general public, and opened new opportunities for dialogue.
Below is an article published by the Kapaeeng Foundation :
Decision was taken to amend the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 and all concerned authorities were asked to take necessary measures as per decision, says Dr. Gowhar Rizvi, advisor to the Prime Minister on international affairs. He also added that there should be no doubt over the government's commitment to implementing the CHT Accord.
Dr. Rizvi was speaking at a discussion titled “Implementation of the CHT Accord and Election Commitment of the Government: Achievement and Opportunities” jointly organised by Kapaeeng Foundation and the Association of Land Reform and Development (ALRD) at Cirdap auditorium in Dhaka. Retired justice Golam Rabbani presided over the discussion while Dr. Gowhar Rizvi was present as chief guest.
Dr. Rizvi in his speech said that the prime minister is fully committed to implement the CHT Accord. He admitted that the process of implementing the Accord has so far been slow, but all should be optimistic. He urged all to be patient as the CHT Accord would be implemented within the tenure of this government. He said that he was not vested responsibility, but asked to help in implementing the Accord. He said that after leaving the office in 2001 by the previous Awami League government, no work was done to implement the Accord by the BNP government, causing regression in the development of implementation process of the Accord that the government had taken. Moreover, new complications arose over the following seven years, he added. Now, the government is working to untangle the complicated issues of the CHT. He expressed that both the signatories of the Accord- the government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana S! anghati Samiti (PCJSS) have responsibilities to implement the Accord. He said that from now on the meeting of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee would be held every month to review the progress of implementation of the Accord. He added that the CHT Accord is not a only solution, if necessary, new law would be enacted and new system would be introduced. But implementation of CHT Accord is a first, he said. He further said that many international organisations working in CHT were often complicating situation and these complications delay development works in the hilly areas. They should focus only on how to implement the Accord, he opined.
President of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and member of parliamentary caucus on indigenous affairs Hasanul Haque Inu said the indigenous people had been suffering from a sense of insecurity and a lack of trust. The government should regain their trust by ensuring their security through the implementation of the Accord. He recommended formulating an indigenous peoples’ rights act to establish the rights of indigenous people and also a national indigenous peoples’ commission to deal with their issues. He demanded looking into how many civil and military officials had owned land in the hilly areas and making that public. He urged the government to implement the Accord as soon as possible with firm political commitment; otherwise government would be called as betrayer. He said military forces would stay in CHT as per CHT Accord, but not military rule.
Chairman of Bangladesh Economic Association Abul Barkat said that in order to Islamise CHT region, the population transmigration was implemented in 1980s by the government. It was already proved by presence of huge numbers of Madrasa and training camp of Islamic militant groups in the CHT, he added. He said election commitment of the present government created hopes and possibilities to implement the Accord, but it was turned into vain, as the government did not take any initiative in this regard. He further said that the government also failed to recognise indigenous peoples as “indigenous” in the constitution though government in its election manifesto termed them as “indigenous peoples”, government made u-turn in June last year after adopting a decision by ECOSOC on CHT issue and then Foreign Minister said that there was no indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. This stance of the government was unexpected. He recommended to recognise traditional land rights of indigenous peoples, to form a land reform commission for indigenous peoples of plain land, to enact indigenous peoples rights act, to form a national indigenous peoples commission and to set up resource bank on indigenous peoples.
Coordinator of Nijera Kori Ms. Khushi Kabir said that the Bengali settlers should be relocated from CHT.
Member of the National Human Rights Commission Ms. Nirupa Dewan said that hopes were emerged soon after signing of CHT Accord in 1997, but it became frustration as the Accord was not implemented. Criticising activities of Land Commission chairman, she urged the government to remove chairman of land commission from the post of chairmanship soon. He also added that deputy commissioners of the hill districts of CHT were continuing to interfere on the subjects transferred to the Hill District Councils. Human rights violation related to land conflict was continuing in CHT. She urged the government to stop these heinous human rights violations on indigenous peoples soon.
Local leader of Awami League from Khagrachari and principal of Panchari College Samir Datta Chakma said that it was already to late to resolve the land dispute. If delay continued in resolving the land dispute, the human hazards would be created. He said that in order to sake of law and order situation in the CHT, police should be appointed from among permanent residents of CHT by the Hill District Councils as per CHT Accord.
In his speech justice Golam Rabbani said that Bangladesh is not nation-state, but a geographical state. But the politicians in Bangladesh could not realise it. That is why, the hindrance in implementing the CHT Accord is created in the country. He urged politicians and ministers of the country to talk less and work more for smooth functioning of the government and implementation of the Accord as well.
Information and publicity secretary of PCJSS Mangal Kumar Chakma presented keynote paper in the discussion. He suggested in his keynote paper to implement special governance system with CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils properly by executing the Acts of these councils, to amend CHT Land Dispute Commission Act 2001 as per recommendations of CHTRC and Ministry of CHT Affairs during current session of parliament and to remove present chairman of Land Commission to pave smooth functioning of the Commission and to rehabilitate internally displaced Jumma families as per CHT accord etc.
Among others, general secretary of CHT returnee Jumma refugee association Santoshito Chakma Bakul, leader of CHT forest and land rights movement Zumlian Amlai Bawm, Sabbir Ali, M A Taher at el spoke during the open discussion. Chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation Rabindranath Soren moderated the programme while executive director of ALRD Shamsul Huda delivered welcome speech.
Conclusion: The discussion opened up new opportunities for dialogue to pursue the implementation process of the Accord. The print media widely published coverage of the discussion and electronic media aired news of the discussion which could contribute to gear up implementation of the CHT Accord. Huge participation among from indigenous peoples and mainstream population proved that public is very keen for implementation of the CHT Accord.