Bangladesh: Land dispute in CHT may not be resolved


    DHAKA, Sept 11: The electoral commitment of the government for resolving the land dispute—the thorn in the relations between ethnic minorities and settlers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts—may go unfulfilled, as it is yet to pass the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2013. On May 27, the land ministry placed the draft CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2013, before the cabinet, which approved it on June 3. It was placed before Parliament, on June 16, for adoption.

    The Parliament sent it to the parliamentary standing committee on the land ministry, soliciting its opinion. The ministry of land and the ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs could not confirm about passing the amendment Bill in the upcoming session.
    Similarly, on July 12, 2001, the day before handing over charge to the caretaker government, the then Awami League government had hurriedly passed the “CHT Land (Disputes Settlement) Commission Act, 2001”, in Parliament, without taking into account the recommendations given by the CHT regional council. Prime Minister’s international affairs adviser, Prof. Gowher Rizvi, on Wednesday, said the CHT Land Dispute (Amendment) Bill, 2013, is likely to be passed in this session.
    He assured that both ethnic and non-ethnic people will be happy with the amendment to the Act. “Mojammel Haque, MP, chairman of standing committee on land ministry, held discussions with both Bangali and ethic minorities, to note their opinions regarding the proposed Bill,” he said, adding, “We are trying to satisfy all the stake holders.”
    Obviously, the CHT Land Dispute (Amendment) Bill will be helpful to implement the CHT Accord. “We are trying to build up confidence among CHT people gradually, making them realise that everybody will be benefited after implementation of the accord.
    “As a result, the provisions of the Act, which the main players in the CHT politics describes to be in conflict with the CHT Accord and appear to be detrimental to the interest of the ethnic minorities, remained unresolved,” observed Gautam Chakma, an influential leader of PCJSS and member of CHT Regional Council.
    About the Amendment Bill, the president of PCJSS, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, alias Santu Larma, on June 20, said that a new crisis will arise in the hills, if Parliament passes the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Bill.
    Santu Larma alleged that the government has unilaterally brought the amendment, without consulting with the council, although the implementation of the Land Dispute Commission Law is supposed to be done in consultation with it, as per the peace accord that ended decades of insurgency in the hills, led by PCJSS, for self-rule.
    At present, the post of CHT commission has been lying vacant since July 19, 2012, after the tenure of Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury.
    Talking to The Independent on Tuesday, state minister of CHT affairs, Dipankar Talukdar, MP, said that until amendment of the Act, no new chairman will be appointed to commission.
    He further said that the Act should have been amended earlier, but, that got delayed as the government considers all stockholders’ demands, to ensure the rights of both Bangali settlers, and ethnic minorities.
    Dipanker Talukdar brushed aside Bangali settlers’ claims that the Act has ignored their rights in the CHT region. He urged people not to indulge into any anarchy, being provoked by anyone.
    As per the Act, the CHT Land Commission will have five members, three memberships have been reserved for the tribes people, while the chairman of the commission will be a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, with the Divisional Commissioner of Chittagong, or an additional Divisional Commissioner nominated by the Divisional Commissioner, being the other members.
    However, a senior official of the law ministry told The Independent that the ministry has  proposed several retired judges, but no one has shown any interest in taking charge as the chairman of CHT Land Commission.
    Bangali settlers fear the Act would hurt their interests, an apprehension described as “unfounded”, by the government.
    The CHT treaty implementation committee made 13 suggestions in the wake of PCJSS demand for amendment to the CHT Land Commission law. In that meeting, the ministries concerned had reached a consensus on including the clauses suggested by the CHT Treaty implementation committee.
    On the other hand, Gautam Chakma expressed fears that the land ministry may not accept three, out of 13, clauses suggested by the CHT Treaty implementation committee.

    Source: Kapaeeng Foundation

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