May 29, 2007

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Peace Accord Implementation

The Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs advisory committee is to hold its third meeting in seven years with the objective of achieving the full implementation of the 1997 peace accord.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs advisory committee is to hold its third meeting in seven years with the objective of achieving the full implementation of the 1997 peace accord.

Below is an article written by Jasim Majunder and published by the Daily Star:

Indigenous and Bangalee leaders in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) have welcomed the caretaker government's decision to hold a meeting of the CHT affairs ministry advisory committee.

The meeting is scheduled for May 31 in Dhaka would be the third in seven years. The advisory committee was formed by the then Awami League (AL) government which signed the CHT peace accord with Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) on December 2, 1997 that ended two decades bush war by PCJSS.

The first meeting of the advisory committee was held on February 11, 2001 and the second one on May 22 at the fag end of its tenure, sources said.

The BNP-Jamaat government did not hold any meeting of committee during its five-year rule.

Talking to this correspondent, leaders of Bangalee and indigenous communities belonging to different political parties said it is a good sign that the caretaker government has taken initiative after seven years to 'at least reactivate' the advisory committee. This shows its positive attitude towards the people in hills, they said.

"We will raise implementation of the peace accord and several vital issues discussed in earlier meetings", said advisory committee member and former president of Khagrachhari district Awami League Nurunnabi Chowdhury.

The then opposition BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami opposed signing of the peace accord, terming it a threat to independence and sovereignty of the country, Nurunnabi said.

The immediate past BNP-Jamaat government did not make clear its position on the peace accord. It has however filled up some vacant positions as per the accord, but violated some of its clauses. Some of its steps also cut facilities of hill people, he said.

The last meetings during AL rule discussed issues including proper settlement of indigenous refugees who returned from India after signing of the peace accord, withdrawal of cases against Shanti Bahini (arms wing of PCJSS) members after surrender following the peace accord, activating the land commission, more coordination between the district administration and Hill District Councils (HDCs) and handover of police department to HDC, sources said.

The decision of the caretaker government has created new hopes among the people, they said.

Advisor Azizur Rahman from Bandarban said, "Even they (BNP-Jamaat government) did not appoint any full fledged minister for CHT affairs. Moni Sawpon Dewan was appointed state minister as an eyewash".

Advisor Mong King Raja Paihalaprue Chowdhury said, Awami League government could only form certain committees and set up some offices in their three and half years in power after signing of the peace accord.

Most of the internal refugees who returned home from India following signing of the peace pact are yet to get back their lands. No government took any meaningful initiative to rehabilitate them, he said.

Khagrachhari Hill District Council (KHDC) Chairman Monindra Lal Tripura said, "We have to consider interests of both the indigenous community and Bangalee communities. There is no alternative to implementation of the peace accord to change the lot of hill people.

"I will try to raise all the issues and ways for their solution", he said.

Advisory committee member and Rangamati Jatiya Party leader Mohammad Shahjahan said, "In last five years I did not know whether I was still a member of the advisory committee or not. I was surprised after getting the invitation letter to attend a meeting after six years".

"Lasting peace is not possible without total implementation of the peace accord," he said when contacted over phone.

"Calling a meeting (of the advisory committee) shows the caretaker government's good intention", he said.