Declare a Time-bound Roadmap for CHT Accord Implementation, Speakers of Seminar on 18th Anniversary of the CHT Accord Opined

To mark the 18th anniversary of signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord 1997, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) and Kapaeeng Foundation jointly organized a national seminar titled “18th Anniversary of CHT Accord: Rights and Realities of Local People” on 29 November 2015at A. S. Mahmud Seminar Hall, The Daily Star Bhaban, Dhaka. The speakers of the seminar opined that a time-bound roadmap for implementation of the CHT Accord of 1997 is urgent for sustained peace in the CHT.

Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Chairman of CHT Regional Council & President of the BIPF presided over the seminar while Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Honorable Prime Minister was present there as the chief guest. Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Honorable Chairmen of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Bangladesh; Barrister Raja Devasish Roy, Chief of Chakma Circle; Professor Dr. Sadeka Halim, Former Information Commissioner; Ms. Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation; Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of BIPF and Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation, among others, addressed the event. Mr. Magal Kumar Chakma, Adviser of Kapaeeng Foundation presented the keynote paper of the seminar.

In his keynote Mr. Mangal urged that the two-third of the provisions of CHT Accord have not been implemented yet. He mentioned that while Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), one of signatory parties, is claiming that only 24 provisions of the Accord out of 72 have been implemented while the Government is claiming to have implemented 48 provisions. As the CHT Accord has not been implemented yet, the special administrative system composed of the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils has not been established yet. He recommended to declare a time-bound roadmap for full and proper implementation of the Accord and urged the Honorable Prime Minister to provide special directives for the proper, speedy and full implementation of the CHT Accord in consultation with the CHT Accord Implementation Committee.

In his concluding statement, Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said that the implementation process of the CHT Accord stands still. He mentioned that although the CHT Accord was signed to deal with the ‘problem’ of the CHT, which is a national as well as a political problem, but it has not been implemented even in 18 years. Hence, for the greater interest of the country and the nation, there is no alternative but to fully implement the CHT Accord. Although the government finalised the amendment of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, it could not place it in parliament due to opposition from a vested quarter, Santu Larma said, adding that that vested quarter is making tourism facilities encroaching upon indigenous people’s land. Full implementation of CHT Accord is not taking place due to aggressive nationalist, communal and undemocratic outlook of the rulers and policy makers, he addded.

Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, urged indigenous Jumma peoples to be patient and have faith in the government about implementation of the CHT Accord. He said that the government is sincere interest to implement the CHT Accord fully, especially Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He also agreed that a time-bound roadmap for implementation of the Accord is imperative. In response to indigenous people’s demand for a road map to quickly implement the accord, Rizvi acknowledged the government should make a road map with a timeline that will show how and when the government would implement it.

Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman of NHRC, mentioned that having not been able to keep promises is shameful for the government. The non-implementation of the CHT Accord is pushing the CHT into an unexpected situation. He expressed his concern that the process of turning the CHT Islamized and militarized is underway.  He said that after detailed discussion with indigenous people, the NHRC came to know that the ownership of land was the most crucial issue there and it was seriously threatening the social harmony between the indigenous and Bengali-speaking people.

Ms. Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, said that different forms of human rights violation including communal attack, killing, rape, and abduction on indigenous peoples and minority communities are on rise across the country. In the recent times, the danger of violence to indigenous women and children has increased to an alarming state in the CHT.

Professor Dr. Sadeka Halim, Former Information Commissioner, said that the land disputes in CHT have to be resolved as early as possible and there is no other alternative but full and proper implementation CHT Accord. Government should come up with a roadmap for implementation of the Accord.

It is to be mentioned that the CHT Accord of 1997 signed between the Government of Bangladesh and PCJSS is poised to step into its 18 years of existence since its signing. While the core issues of the Accord relating to political and constitutional, economic and land rights, withdrawal of all temporary military camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ and rehabilitation, were left out from being addressed. In consequence, the Special Administrative System embodying the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils could not be evolved narrowing eventually the scope for mass peoples’ participation in the management of administration as well as the chances for political and peaceful solution to the CHT crisis. The government continues to maintain absolute indifference and is extremely passive as far as the implementation process of the Accord is concerned. In fact, the implementation process of the CHT Accord is totally stalled.

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