May 26, 2009

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Appeal to Bangladeshi Prime Minister

Appeal for implementation of CHT Accord by adopting a clear roadmap with timeframe.


Below is a memorandum issued by the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) and Kapaeeng Foundation at the National Press Club:

Honorable Prime Minister,

Greetings! We, on behalf of citizens of the country, congratulate you for winning of Grand Alliance led by Awami League with broad majority in the general election held on 29 December 2008. Civil society hope that the country will transform into a land of real democracy with rule of law, having food security, rapid development and peaceful existence. It is very hopeful that Awami League made clear commitment in its election manifesto ‘A Charter for Change’ section 18.2 that “The 1997 Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accord will be fully implemented. More efforts will be directed toward the development of underdeveloped areas, and special programmes on priority basis will be taken to secure rights of the ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and other communities, and to preserve their language, literature, culture, and unique lifestyles.”

We hope you are aware that in order to strengthening the cooperation of the citizens of the country in implementing the CHT Peace Accord, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) and Kapaeeng Foundation jointly organised a seminar on 'Government's commitment to implement the CHT Accord and Active Popular Support' at the National Press Club in Dhaka on 31 March 2009. This seminar were attended by eminent citizens of the country including the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of CHT Affairs Mr. Promod Mankin MP and Chairman of the Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Jumma Refugees and Internally Jumma Displaced People Mr. Jatindra Lal Tripura MP. The citizens participated in this seminar urged the present government to implement the CHT Peace Accord by framing a clear roadmap.

We, on behalf of citizens of the country, are submitting a roadmap with timeframe in order to implement the CHT Peace Accord. For you kind consideration and effective measures, the roadmap is given below:

First Phase: Accord Implementation Committee (to be reconstituted by May 2009)

The Accord Implementation should be reconstituted by May 2009 by appointing representative of the Prime Minister and effective planning with timeframe should be made by this committee.

Second Phase: Relevant Acts, Laws, Regulations and Rules (to be amended by July 2009)

Alteration, amendment and addition to relevant Acts, Laws, Regulations and Rules should be done by July 2009 as per CHT Peace Accord. These are given below:

1.    To execute the CHT Regional Council (CHTRC) Act of 1998 properly and for this purpose-
(a)    To approve the Rules of Business of the CHTRC;
(b)    To finalise the CHTRC Chairman and Members’ Privileges Regulation 1999
(c)    To determine the Status of the Rank of CHTRC Members.

2.    To execute the three Hill District Council (HDC) Acts and for this purpose-
(a)    To approve the Rules of Business of the HDCs;
(b)    To transfer all subjects to the HDCs prioritising including law and order, police (local), land and land management, mother language education and secondary education, environment, youth development, local tourism, etc
(c)    To transfer subjects along with institutions, man powers, functions of all levels by administrative order rather than agreement between different ministries and HDCs.
(d)    To make following initiatives for the election of the three HDCs-
(i)     To formulate the Electoral Rolls Ordinance and the Rules on Electoral Rolls;
(ii)    To prepare voter list with permanent residents of three hill districts;
(iii)   To demarcate the constituencies (electoral areas).

3.    To start functioning of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission by taking following measures-
(a)    To amend the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act of 2001 as per recommendations of the CHTRC;
(b)    To start functioning by appointing the Chairman and man power of the Land Commission.

4.    In order to demilitarisation-
(a)    To fix the time-limit for withdrawal of the all temporary camps of military forces by phases as per CHT Accord; and to start withdrawal of camps from May 2009 and complete it by 2010;
(b)    To withdraw ‘Operation Uttoron’ of military forces;
(c)    To stop pacification programme of military forces.

5.    CHT Accord stipulates for rehabilitation of only internally tribal displaced families. However, violating this provision, Special Affairs Division under Prime Minister’s office sent an order on 19-07-1998 to Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Tribal Refugees and Tribal IDPs asking to rehabilitate the Bengali settlers in CHT identifying them as IDPs. This office order should be withdrawn.

6.    CHT Accord and HDC Acts authorise Circle Chiefs to issue permanent resident certificate in CHT. However, violating this provision, MoCHTA issued an office order on 21 December 2000 authorising Deputy Commissioners of three hill districts side by side Circle Chiefs to issue permanent resident certificate. This office order should be withdrawn retaining only authority of Circle Chief to issue permanent resident certificate.

7.    To formulate Rules and Regulations for enforcing the provision for the appointment of permanent residents with the preference to the Jumma candidates in services of the CHT region and to insert necessary provisions to relevant regulations in this regard.

8.    Decisions to withdraw 720 cases lodged against PCJSS members and permanent residents of CHT involved with PCJSS activities have been taken by three District Committees for Withdrawal of Cases and sent to Home Ministry for necessary action. However, the decisions are yet to be implemented. Hence, withdrawal of cases should be published in official gazette.

9.    To withdraw all cases lodged against PCJSS members and permanent residents during BNP-led coalition government and caretaker government through Review Committee.

10.    To increase quota in government jobs and higher educational institutions for indigenous peoples and implement it properly, and to formulate a written policy for the came;

11.    To revise all laws and regulations applicable to the CHTs in consultation with the CHTRC or insert special provision to them in order to synchronize with the CHT Peace Accord. To take necessary effective measures in this regard through the Bangladesh Regulatory Commission.

Third Phase: Main Spirit of the Accord (to be implemented by December 2009)

In order to preserve the characteristics of Jumma indigenous peoples-inhabited status of CHT region, to strengthen the special governance system of CHT with CHTRC and three HDCs, to ensure rights of indigenous Jumma peoples, above all to ensure democratic good governance in CHT, the following issues should be implemented on priority basis-

1.    In order to preserve the characteristics of Jumma indigenous peoples-inhabited status of CHT-
(a)    To stop ongoing process of forceful grabbing of Jumma lands by Bengali settlers, and to return the land to the Jumma peoples.
(b)    To rehabilitate the Bengali settlers outside CHT with dignity. For this purpose, to stop rations by phases in CHT and in lieu of it, to offer rehabilitation package facilities including rations to them outside CHT. To accept financial aids of donor communities and development partners in order to voluntary relocation of Bengali settlers.

2.    In order to strengthen and make effective the CHTRC-
(a)    CHTRC is vested with coordination and supervision of the general administration, law and order and development; however three HDCs, Deputy Commissioners, Superintendent of Police, CHT Development Board and government authorities at different levels ignore the CHTRC authority. Hence, effective measures should be taken for ensuring the coordination and supervision of the CHTRC.
(b)    To implement the project of the CHTRC complex (land acquisition and fund allocation);
(c)    To allot a house in Dhaka or plot of land with fund for the CHTRC & HDCs
(d)    To take necessary steps to bring the CHT Development under overall supervision of CHTRC as per CHT Accord.

3.    For the purpose of holding elections of three HDCs-
(a)    CHT Accord stipulates that voter lists of three hill district will be prepared only with the permanent residents (tribal and non-tribal permanent residents) of CHT. To prepare voter lists in accordance with this provision and accordingly to take necessary measures for elections of three HDCs;
(b)    To demarcate electoral areas for election of HDC.

4.    To transfer the Jumma police officers and constables to the three hill districts and form a mixed police force under HDCs as a definitive measure to improve the law and order in the hill districts.

5.    For the purpose of immediate resolution of the land disputes-
(a)    To start resolution of land disputes through Land Commission and complete it by 2010.
(b)    To return the land abandoned by the military camp to the original owners.

6.    To cancel all land lease given to non-residents before and after signing of the CHT Accord;

7.    In regard to rehabilitation of returnee Jumma refugees-
(a)    To return the land grabbed by Bengali settlers to 9,326 refugee families;
(b)    To exempt bank loan of returnee refugees.

8.    To take necessary measures for consideration of services of reinstated 64 PCJSS members and 196 returnee refugees during the period of insurgency as qualified service-period, seniority, regularisation of pay-scale, allowances and retirement benefits etc.

9.    Rehabilitation of PCJSS members-
(a)    To allocate fund for the 1,429 self-employment projects submitted by the PCJSS members to the government.
(b)    To exempt bank loan amounting Taka 22,783 of 4 PCJSS members.

10.    For the ministry to.

11.    To appoint permanent residents as officers and staff of the Ministry of CHT Affairs, with priority for Jumma people in order to ensuring active role in implementation of the CHT accord and to sensitising the MoCHTA. To appoint competent Jumma officers on contract basis in this regard.

Forth Phase: Constitutional Recognition and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (to be implemented as early as possible)

Bangladesh is the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country. A number of 45 ethnic groups of indigenous peoples other than mainstream Bengali population have been living in this country since time immemorial. The Constitution of Bangladesh does not recognise the presence of indigenous peoples in the country. However, for the sake of integrity, development, democracy and human rights, constitutional recognition of these ethnic is a must. The Article 28(4) of the Constitution provides scope for affirmative action in favour of the ‘backward section of citizens’. For this purpose, the following issues should be addressed-

1.    Constitutional recognition-
(a)    To recognise ethnicity, languages and culture of the 45 indigenous ethnic group in the Constitution;
(b)    To recognise traditional land rights of indigenous peoples in the Constitution in accordance with ILO Convention no. 107 and 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted in 2007.

2.    Indigenous Peoples’ Rights-
(a)    To make efforts to ratify ILO Convention no. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
(b)    To make efforts to revise national sector-level policies by including indigenous peoples’ perspectives in them;
(c)    To include training module on the CHT Accord, the special administrative system in the CHT, and indigenous peoples’ rights in the curricula of the Bangladesh Public Administration Training Center (BPATC), judicial services, police services, Bangladesh Military Academy and the National Defense College;
(d)    To reserve seats for indigenous peoples in the parliament and local government councils for all regions inhabited by indigenous peoples, including the 3 parliamentary seats of the hill districts.

Citizens of the country strongly believe that implementation of the CHT Accord is a must for strengthening the democratic good governance, ensuring the people-oriented and environment-friendly development and rule of law in CHT. Civil society also believes that this is right time to take initiative for implementation of the CHT Peace Accord. Therefore, we, on behalf of citizens of the country, would like to draw your attention to take initiative immediately for implementation of CHT Accord on priority basis.

Sincerely Yours

On behalf of citizens of the country-

    Name                                Signature/illegible

1.    Khushi Kabir, Coordinator, Nijera Kori
2.    Abul Barakat, Professor and Chairman, Department of Economics, Dhaka University
3.    Mangal Kumar Chakma, Information and Publicity Secretary, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS)
4.    Pankoj Bhattachariya, Presidium Member of Gono Forum
5.    Shamsul Huda, Executive Director, ALRD
6.    Dipayan Khisa, Vice Chairperson, Kapaeeng Foundation