Chittagong Hill Tracts: Government to replace members of CHT local body
The CHT Regional Council, the nucleus of the CHT local government, consists of the 21 members of whom seven are non-indigenous. The Interim Council was formed under Article 54 (1) of the CHT Regional Council Act of 1998 in 1998 while the Awami League -- now in opposition -- was in power and mandated to carry on its functions until it is formed with the members elected by the elected members of the three Hill District Councils. The seven non-indigenous members are believed to be in lenience with the Awami League. So, the BNP government wants to replace them with BNP and Jamat-e-Islami party workers. The government has sought legal opinion from the Ministry of Law in this regard. The opinion of the Ministry of Law given to the government is as follow:
“1. …The rules for resignation and dismissal of the elected Chairman and members of the Regional Council have been stated in Article 13 and 14 of the CHT Regional Council Act. Whereas, no rules have been maintained in the Act for dismissal of the members of the Interim Regional Council although there are rules for their resignation in Article 53 (3) of the Act.
2. Article 16, Clause X of the General Clauses Act of 1897 says,
‘Whereby by any Act of Parliament or Regulation, a power to make any appointment is concerned, then unless a different intention appears, the authority having for the time being power to make the appointment shall have powers to suspend or dismiss any person appointed whether by or any other authority in exercise of that power.’
It means that Article 16, Clause X of the General Clauses Act of 1897 clearly indicates that the power of dismissal is included in the power of appointment of the appointing authority.
3. The government has formed the Interim Regional Council with its nominated members under Article 54 (1) of the Regional Council Act, although there is no rule or provision in the Act for dismissal of the Chairman and members of the body. In these circumstances, the government can certainly dismiss the Chairman and members of the Council by dint of Article 16, Clause X of the General Clauses Act of 1897. So there is no legal barrier for the government to dismiss the seven non-indigenous members of the Council and nominate seven new non-indigenous members in the body.”
Having found no legal means in the CHT Regional Council Act of 1998, the government is trying to misuse an Act -- which was passed during the British colonial rule in India in 1897 and which has nothing to do with the Council -- for dismissal of the seven non-indigenous members from the Council.
If the move is put in practice, the government, if so wishes, can dismiss any members of the Council or replace any members of the body with its selected persons or party cadres at any time. It is illegal and dictatorial and an aggression on a democratic institution and a multi-party democratic system. The move is bound to provoke mass agitation and violence in the hills.
It is extremely important to make first the electoral rolls with “only permanent residents” of the CHT as stated in Part B, Article 9 of the CHT Accord and then hold free and fair elections of the three Hill Districts Councils -- including that of the three parliamentary constituencies in the CHT -- for proper implementation of the CHT Accord and establishment of genuine democracy in the region.
It may be mentioned that since the very beginning the government of Bangladesh has been misinterpreting and violating various Articles and Clauses of the Acts passed on the CHT Accord to serve its hidden political interests, such as continuation of the Bengali settlement program undertaken by the successive military rulers of Bangladesh in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the CHT.
International community should intervene with the issue for protection of democracy, multi-party democratic system and sanctity of the rule of law in the CHT.
Source: Peace Campaign Group