Civic rights groups demanded to pass the CHT Land Commission (Amendment) Act 2013 Bill during the running session of the Parliament for sake of resolution of long-standing land disputes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) as per CHT Accord.
The demand was raised in a press conference organized by the civic groups in facilitation of Kapaeeng Foundation and Association of Land Reform and Development (ALRD) at Toufiq Aziz Seminar Hall of Daily Star Building on 23 October 2013.
The press statement was presented by Razib Mir, associate professor of Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Jagannath University on behalf of the civic rights groups while the programme was moderated by Robayet Ferdaus, associate professor of Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Dhaka. Eminent columnist and researcher Syed Abul Maksud, the executive director of Association for Land Reform and Development Shamsul Huda, the director of Ain O Salish Kendra Noor Khan Litan, the general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum Sanjeeb Drong, and the chairperson of Kapaeeng Foundation and the president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Rabindranath Soren were present at the press conference among others.
Expressing his concern columnist and researcher Sayed Abul Maksud said that the Government is following dilly-dallying tactic in amending the said Act. However, the Government does not have any lack of sincerity in this regard. They can amend any act if they intend to. He also added that every political party has to clearly explain the issues of indigenous peoples in the election manifesto of the upcoming election and whichever party forms the government, they have to adhere to those promised issues rigorously.
Shamsul Huda said that those who are appointed as the chairman of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission must have thorough knowledge about the laws, customs and practices of indigenous peoples in the CHT. Previously, the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission could not be made effective since the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act was not consistent with the CHT Accord.
In his speech, Sanjeeb Drong expected that the government’s good will to properly pass the CHT Land Resolution (Amendment) Act 2013 during the running session of the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) will arise through the interference of the Prime Minister.
Rabindranath Soren said that present government came to power after it had committed to recognize the traditional land rights of indigenous peoples along with full implementation of the CHT Accord in its election manifesto. For this reason, the government is responsible for ensuring the land rights of the permanent residents of the CHT through passing the Bill of amendment of the CHT land Commission Resolution (Amendment) Act 2013 during the running session of the Jatiya Sangsad along with implementation of the CHT Accord.”
In the press statement Razib Mir pointed out that even though the CHT Land Commission was formed by the Awami League through enactment of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 in its previous term, the Land Commission has failed to begin resolving land disputes even after 12 years. This failure to resolve land disputes in the CHT has happened due the inconsistency of some sections of this act with the CHT Accord. As a result, the problems in relation to land, forest and natural resources are getting more complicated as the days going by. Recently on 3 August 2013, an incident of horrendous communal attack against indigenous peoples occurred at Taindong union of Matiranga Upazila under Khagrachari District.
Razib Mir also noted that civil society was happy when it came to know that the Government took an initiative to amend the Land Commission Act in order to resolve the land disputes in the CHT. For this purpose, the government even put forward the bill in the Jatiya Sangsad on 16 June 2013. However, only 10 out of 13 point amendment proposal finalized by the CHT Regional Council and the Ministry of CHT Affairs were included in the Bill. Rest three important amendment proposals were excluded while two of the 10 proposals of the Bill were not presented properly. Besides, even though the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Land Ministry was supposed to provide its final opinion in a meeting held on 3 October 2013, it has mysteriously kept the issue of providing opinion on the CHT Land Dispute Resolution (Amendment) Act 2013 pending whereas the last (running) session of the Jatiya Sangsad is going to be ended in few days.
Finally Razib stated that the civic groups were of the opinion that such decision and policies made by the Government would undoubtedly be suicidal. Sustaining any problem does not bring any welfare to the interest of the country as a whole. For this reason, the civic groups urged the government very urgently to pass the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act 2013 Bill according to the 13-point proposal of amendment in order to resolve the land disputes in the CHT as soon as possible. Rzaib also stated that recently Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Mani promised to amend this act properly in the 24th Session of Human Rights Council held in Geneva on 20 September 2013. So, if the land commission act is not amended properly, the government would have a very negative impression both at home and abroad.
Please find below link for media report on this press conference-
Source: Kapaeeng Foundation