Wildlife Act passed in the parliament, indigenous leaders spark into reaction

On 8 July 2012 the Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament) adopted the Wildlife (Protection and Safety) Act 2012 without having consultations with and opinions of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council and indigenous peoples of the country. Indigenous leaders, environmentalists and rights bodies expressed deep concern over some provisions of the Act.

During the adoption of the Wildlife (Protection and Safety) Act 2012 bill in the parliament on 8 July, Environment and Forest Minister Hasan Mahmud said that the government consulted with indigenous leaders during the formulation of the Act. However, indigenous leaders alleged that the government did not organise any effective consultation with indigenous peoples of the country.

Convenor of the CHT Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement Goutam Dewan said that earlier the government held a meeting with few indigenous leaders including him in Dhaka. But at that meeting, they opined that they were not representing all indigenous peoples, hence they urged government to organse a wide-range consultation with indigenous peoples including representatives of CHT Regional Council (CHTRC) and rights bodies working for environment. But the government did not hear their recommendations, he alleged.

Chakma Raja Barrister Devasish Roy said the government enacted the Wildlife Act without going through related laws in other countries and this would cause the people of the forest regions to lose their rights (The Daily Star, Monday, July 9, 2012).

The newly adopted Wildlife Act would affect the rights of people dependent on forests including indigenous peoples. The Act did not ensure the forest people’s rights regarding occupations, traditions and livelihoods.

Ushtan Talukdar, member of the CHTRC said that the government did not seek opinions and suggestions from the CHTRC before the Wildlife Act was placed in the parliament. It is mentionable that Section 53 of the CHT Regional Council Act 1998 stipulates that the Government if it initiates to make any law concerning the CHTRC or the CHT shall take necessary measures for making the law in consultation with the CHTRC and the concerned Hill District Council and after by considering the advice of the Council. However, the government did not send the draft bill to the CHTRC.

National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman urged stakeholders concerned of the country’s forests to submit their objections on the Wildlife (Preservation) Act, 2012 to the commission. “I myself will forward the objections, alongside the commission’s recommendations on removing the inconsistencies, to the speaker, standing committee on forest and even to the prime minister,” he said (The Daily Star, Monday, July 9, 2012).

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