Feb 26, 2007

Political Repression of Indigenous Leaders in CHT


Below is a statement by the Peace Campaign Group on the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

State of Emergency in Bangladesh and Political Repression of Indigenous Leaders in CHT. 

 

Bangladesh has been in the state of emergency since the mid-January 2007. 

 

The "joint forces" consisting of military, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), police and intelligence servicemen have been given special power to control "corruption" and "crimes" in the country.

 

Several top level political leaders including former ministers allegedly involved in "corruption" and "crimes" have been arrested and put into the bar. Dozen of deaths under RAB custody have been reported.

 

The Jumma indigenous people resisting Bengali (Muslim) domination in their traditional  homeland, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and demanding autonomy for protection of their

distinct identity and culture since 1972 have been the worst victim of the heat. The "joint forces" are using the state of emergency as a political tool to suppress their democratic voice for proper implementation of the CHT Accord, a prerequisite for democracy, peace and development in the region.

 

The Accord signed between the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), the political organization representing the indigenous people, and the Awami League Government of Bangladesh on December 2, 1997 provides limited autonomy to the indigenous people and addresses, among others, the demilitarization of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

 

Indigenous political leaders are being specially targeted.

They are being arrested, tortured and jailed indiscriminately. They are now even afraid of talking openly to international human rights groups and media about the situation for the fear of being exposed and punished.

They have no freedom of association and speech. They cannot freely move from one place to another place. There are military check posts everywhere in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Telecommunications system has been under the control of the military. Mobile phone services have been banned. Internet services are being monitored and checked.

Indigenous organizations cannot freely communicate with international human rights groups and media on the situation through e-mails. Common people are living in great fear and insecurity.

 

Dozen of indigenous political and student leaders including the General Secretary of PCJSS Mr. Satyabir Dewan have been under the detention of the "joint forces". Mr Dewan was arrested on February 18 on the ground of keeping "illegal arms" with him. A source unwilling to be identified for security reasons said that the military deliberately kept arms in his house at Rangamati town and made it a pretext to arrest him. It is reminiscent of a usual practice resorted to by Bangladeshi military during the active phase of the conflict to suppress indigenous political movement.

 

In a press release issued on 21 February, many intellectuals like Dhaka University Associate Professor Mezbha Kamal, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples' Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong and Director of Ain O Salish Kendra (Law and Justice Centre) Mohammad Noor Khan stated that Mr. Dewan was "innocent" and he could not be arrested under any provisions of the emergency law. Mr. Dewan is an "ideal and clean political leader" and no cases are pending against him in court, the statement added. They demanded his immediate and unconditional release. He was sent to police custody on 20 February.

 

Some of the other innocent indigenous political and student leaders arrested are:

 

1) Mr. Bimal Kanti Chakma, Central Member of PCJSS from Jurachari on 18 February

2) Mr. Ranjit Kumar Dewan, President of Jurachari branch of PCJSS from Juranchari on 18 February

3) Mr. Udayjoy Chakma, General Secretary of Jurachari branch of PCJSS from Jurachari on 18 February

4) Mr. Mayachan Chakma, Organising Secretary of Jurachari branch of PCJSS from Jurachari on 18 February

5) Mr. Railai Mro, Chairman of Sualok mouza and Headman of Sualok mouza from Badanban on 23 February

6) Mr. Bikram Marma, President of Kaptai branch of PCJSS from Kaptai on 4 February

7) Mr. Saimong Marma, Organising Secretary of Kaptai branch of PCJSS on 11 February

8) Mr. Sumit Chakma, Assistance General Secretary of Rangamati district branch of Hill Students Council from Dhaka on 6 February.

 

Peace Campaign Group (PCG) is deeply concerned over political repression and gross human rights violations by the "joint forces" against indigenous political and student leaders in the Chittagong Hill Tracts under the state of emergency.

 

PCG feels that human rights must be respected in all circumstances -- no matter whatever situation arises in a country.

 

PCG urges international human rights groups and parties concerned with Bangladeshi affairs to use their good office to ensure unconditional and immediate release of the indigenous political and student leaders arrested and early restoration of people's fundamental rights and freedoms in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

 

PCG also urges the international community to put pressure on the Caretaker Government to hold the general elections as early as possible for restoration of democracy in the country and proper implementation of the CHT Accord.

 

Background:

 

With the end of its five-year term, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 4-party coalition government of Bangladesh demitted the office on 28 October 2006. It left a "controversial" Caretaker Government consisting of eleven Advisors headed by the President of Bangladesh Iajuddin Ahmed and assisted by the Secretaries of various government departments and an Election Commission to look after the business of the state and general elections in the country.

 

 

The 14-party opposition alliance led by Awami League rejected the Caretaker Government for its "biased" and "pro-BNP" role in the election process, and demanded, among others, formation of a "neutral" Election Commission for free, fair and credible elections. It resulted in a serious political crisis in the country with violent confrontation between the Caretaker Government and opposition parties.

 

To maintain "law and order situation" the President deployed military across the country. It deepened the crisis, and the opposition alliance demanded resignation of the President from the post of Chief Advisor to the Caretaker Government.

 

The President declared the state of emergency under Article 141A (1), (2), (3), 141B, 141C (1), (2) and (3) of the Constitution and resigned from the post on January 11, 2007.

 

It paved a way for formation of a new Caretaker Government headed by the Chief Advisor Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed on January 12, 2007.

 

Please write your letter of concern to:

 

1. Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed,

Honorable Chief Advisor, Caretaker Government,

Office of the Chief Advisor,

Old Airport Road, Tejgaon, Dhaka-1000,

People's Republic Bangladesh

Fax: + 880-2-811 3244, 913 3722

 

2. Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Choudhury,

Honorable Advisor on the Ministry of Foreign and CHT

Affairs,

Caretaker Government,

People's Republic Bangladesh

Fax: + 880-2-9555283/956 5300

E-mail: mochtadh@bttb.net