Dec 03, 2013

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Insufficient Progress Hampering Peace

The president of the PCJSS claims that the 1997 CHT accord is not being fully implemented, frustrating the indigenous people and preventing an effective implementation of security and freedom in the region.  

Below is an article published by the Dhaka Tribune:

The slow implementation of 1997 CHT accord that had ended a two decade-long insurgency, armed conflict and bloodshed in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region has frustrated the indigenous people.

President of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samity (PCJSS), Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, better known as Santu Larma, claimed that the ruling Awami League government was not sincere or interested in implementing the accord which it had signed on December 2, 1997.

He made the remarks while speaking to journalists at Rangamati Hill District Council Sunday on the occasion of 16th anniversary of signing the accord between the PCJSS and the government.

Santu Larma said although the accord had been signed in 1997, “progress remains the same like before.”

“One more period of the present government is about to expire but no effective steps were taken to fully implement the accord,” he said, criticising the government’s repeated claim of working on it.

He mentioned that there was no other solution but executing the accord to make the CHT region comprising Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Bandarban districts secure and peaceful.

He said the government had altered some committees and appointed indigenous people in some important posts including state minister for CHT affairs, Taskforce on Rehabilitation of Repatriated Indigenous Refugee, chairman of CHT Development Board, CHT Land Commission and recasting of CHT Accord Implementation Committee. He also mentioned about the withdrawal of a brigade and 35 temporary military camps from the CHT.

Santu Larma demanded that the three hill district councils made fully functional, amendment to the land commission law, withdrawal of around 150 permanent and temporary military camps and immediate ban on United People Democratic Front (UPDF), better known as the “anti-accord group.”

Other present included PCJSS Press and Publication Secretary Mangal Kumar Chakma, Convener of MN Larma Memorial Foundation Bijoy Keton Chakma, Member of CHT Regional Council Toimra Sing Chowdhury, and President of Parbatya Chattagram Mohila Somity Jurita Chakma.

UPDF Press and Publication Secretary Niron Chakma alleged that the accord was just a “mockery with the indigenous people of the CHT. The hill people are not getting anything that may create hope among them.” He added that most of the indigenous families remained landless.

Leaders of all indigenous groups have identified land dispute as the main obstacle behind implementing the CHT accord and ensuring peace in the region.

Secretary of the CHT land commission Abdul Hamid said they had received around 5,000 land dispute cases, of which around 3,000 were at final stage.

Refuting the claims, Secretary General of CHT Jumma Refugee Welfare Association Santusito Chakma Bakul said there were 9,780 cases only from the India-returnee refugees. The number of land dispute cases might be 10 times higher if the internally displaced people had been considered.

CHT affairs Taskforce on Rehabilitation of Repatriated Tribal Refugee Chairman Jatindra Lal Tripura said the government had rehabilitated 64,335 India-returnee refuges at different villages in Khagrachhari while 277 families rehabilitated in several areas of Rangamati.

“There is a list of 146,972 internally displaced people. But the taskforce is working on a fresh list upon a call by the PCJSS.”

Jatindra claimed that the government had been providing 1,287 tonnes of food grains to India-returnee refugees and 2,230 tonnes for the internally displaced people every month since signing of the CHT accord.

PCJSS Information and Press Secretary Mongal Kumar Chakma alleged that there were three full-fledged cantonments, four brigades, one naval base, 525 base (temporary) camps of army, Ansar, APBn and VDP camps with around 150,000 personnel defying the accord.

In the name of “Operation Uttaran,” the army still continues to interfere in the functions of the civil administration including law and order, he added.

PCJSS Secretary Tatindra Lal Chakma said the hill people were also frustrated as the government was yet to make a fresh voter list in line with the accord and the Khagrachhari Hill District Council Law. Currently, only the permanent residents of the CHT are entitled to be enlisted as voters.