Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) lodged 15 allegations to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) against ruling Awami League and the security forces charging them undue interference, motivated propaganda and harassment upon the opponent candidates in UP elections under Rangamati hill district and sought his immediate actions against these irregularities for the sake of free, fair and impartial elections.
On 20 May 2016 Subarna Chakma, president and Nilotpal Khisa, general secretary of PCJSS Renagmati district branch, submitted the said memorandum to the CEC through the District Election Officer of Rangamati hill district.
In this memorandum, PCJSS stated that the schedule for holding elections also in all the unions of Rangamati Hill District was declared to be held under the fourth phase, as part of the on-going Union Parishad Elections throughout the country. Ever since then, it is observed that centering their election issue, the ruling party Awami League and communal quarters have begun counter-productive programs violating the election rules and code of conduct by way of exercising undue interference, spreading motivated propaganda, harassing the opponent candidates, etc. in collaboration with the security forces. As part of the ill-design, the ruling party Awami League held a ‘so-called anti-terrorism demonstration’ on 24 March 2016 in Rangamati town on the plea of ‘stopping extortion and terrorism and recovering illegal arms’ with an ulterior motive aimed at destabilizing of the situation in CHT and flowing the UP elections to be held in Rangamati Hill District to different direction.
Immediately after holding the demonstration, the ruling party Awami League raised a baseless and conspiring plea alleging their inabilities in submitting nomination papers of their candidates due to ‘threats of the terrorists’ in different Unions of Rangamati Hill District. Following this, after expiry of the dead line on 27 April 2016 that was fixed for submission of nomination papers, the elections in 49 UPs were declared to have been postponed on 29 April 2016.
It is worthy to be mentioned that the allegation of causing obstruction to the Awami League-nominated candidates has been baseless and politically motivated. The Awami League, in association with the security forces and the ranks and files of intelligence agencies, began spreading such propaganda with a view to crippling the image of PCJSS and thereby ensuring victory of their candidates through conspiring maneuver. Many are in opinion that the Awami League has forfeited mass confidence and support at grass-root level for non-implementation of the CHT Accord. Having realized the fact, many of the Awami League leaders and workers were not interested in the contest using the symbol ─ ‘boat’ ─ the symbol of the party. By then, many Awami League UP candidates under Rangamati Hill District submitted their nomination papers as independent candidates, instead of using the party symbol. For examples: Amar Kumar Chakma of Balukhali Union and Pankaj Chakma of Bandukbhanga Union under Rangamati Sadar Upazila; Ms Mita Chakma of Juarachari UP, Suresh Kanti Chakma of Bonjogichara UP and Lal Bihari Chakma of Moidung UP under Jurachari Upazila and so on, submitted their nomination papers for the post of UP Chairman as independent candidates with symbols other than the party symbol.
With declaration of postponement of UP elections under Rangamati Hill District, the Army and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) intensified their searching operation in different areas. Allegation was in hand that the army and BGB personnel were in continuation to directing the people to cast their votes for the Awami League candidates and threatening the people else to face extreme consequences that would be taken against them. The combined force of army and BGB continued their operation in various places obviously to frighten the candidates and voters and thereby to create terror. The followings are some of such design:-
- A group of army from Gachkabachara camp under Dighalchari Zone of Bilaichari Upazila, led by a Major ranking officer conducted a search in various shops and houses in Jibtali Union on 3 April 2016. During the search, the army personnel went wild to rampage three shops belonging to the Jumma businessmen and offices of two local organizations leaving the goods and office papers disarrayed here and there.
- A group of army led by Zone Commander Hyder Ali of Baghaihat Zone picked up two innocent villagers for no reason from their houses in Gangaram Mukh area under Sajek union of Baghaichari Upazila at around 2:00 am on 8 April 2016.
- A group of army of 9 East Bengal from Dighinala Cantonment under Khagrachari District fired sporadically and threw two bombs at a place adjacent to Jumma dwelling under Baghaichari union in No.1 Rubber Plantation area in Rangamati district around 5:20 am on 22 April 2016 on plea of searching for terrorists. Following the act, the army searched the village and mercilessly beaten up including torture upon 5 villagers and took 24 villagers arrested.
- A group of army commanded by Zone Commander Lt. Colonel Mesbahul Khan of Jurachari Zone (Durnibar 11 Bengal) conducted a searching operation in different areas under Jurachari Sadar Upazila on 21-22 April 2016.
- A 10-15-member group of army from Fakirachara camp led by the camp commander Mohammad Nasir, Senior Warrant Officer of Drnibar-11 Bengal surrounded the houses of Sadhanananda Chakma, Jarulchari Mouza Headman and also candidate of Moidaung union around 11:00 pm on 15 May 2016. They interrogated the people about the terrorists and returned to the camp at 3:00 am.
- A rumor was spread out to the affect that the regional party terrorists abducted Sukanta Chakma and Prgyan Chakma, respectively proposer and supporter of Suman Chakma, Awami League-nominated UP Chairman candidate of Marishya Union council on 15 May 2016.
- Zone Commander Lt. Colonel Mesbaul Haque of Durnibar-11 Bengal, Jurachari Zone of Jurachari Upazila ordered the Election Officer of Jurachari Election Office over phone between 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on 17 May 2016 forbidding to accept ‘withdrawal’ of any candidate without recommendation of the Army Zone Authority.
- On 17 May 2016, around 8:30 am a self-introducing ASP (Circle) of Rangamati District made a call from a cell phone numbering +01711738495 to Bacchu Chakma, PCJSS of Rajasthali Upazila Branch informing him that an allegation was filed against him and that he was to remain cautioned. It is to be noted that the Awami League-nominated Chairman candidate Ubacha Marma and Athinsing Marma, Upazila Chairman went to the Rajasthali police station in the evening that day and after talking for an hour, they duo also went to the Rajasthali army sub-zone headquarters.
- The police personnel from Baghaichari police station took Ripon Chakma, an independent candidate of Surboatali Union into their ‘Pick-Up Van’ while he went to withdraw his candidature at around 10:00 am on 18 May 2016. While communicated, the Officer-in-Charge made it known that since the Baghaichari BGB Zone Commander wanted to talk to him; hence he was called from the police station. He was released and handed over to his family in the evening after keeping under detention up to 19 May 2016 at Baghaichari BGB Zone so that he could not withdraw his candidature (The Daily Prathom Alo on 20 May 2016 and The Daily Manabkantho on 19 May 2019).
- A group of army from Dighalchari Zone took position at Bilaichari Upazila Election Office on 18 May 2016. The army posted therein forbaded Dilip Kumar Tanchangya (N0.-8 Ward), Subrata Tanchangya (Ward No.5), Pradip Tanchangya and Khushi Tanchangya (Ward No.4) and Amar Singh Tanchangya (Ward No. 6) of Farua Union to withdraw their UP member candidature and the candidates interested to withdraw their candidature were categorically asked to go to the Bilaichari army zone for taking permission or recommendation for withdrawal. However, despite being interested in withdrawal, with exception to only one, the remaining candidates could not manage withdrawal of their candidature.
- On 18 May 2016, after withdrawal of independent UP Chairman candidature, the election office informed Chandra Lal Chakma to report to the Dighalchari army zonal headquarters. As he went to the Army Zone, the army personnel detained him and handed him over to the Bilaichari police station without any reason. He was detained in the police station till the evening of 19 May 2016 in compliance with the order of army zone following which he was released from the army zone. Chandra Lal Chakma was ill.
- On 18 May 2016, a group of army led by a Major surrounded the residence of Shubha Mangal Chakma, Chairman of Bilaichari Upazila Parishad. They left after asking whereabouts of Jiban Tanchangya, acting member and also UP member candidate of Ward No.6 under Farua Union.
- On 18 May 2016, Delwar Hosain of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Alamgir took position at Rajasthali Election Office since early morning. They began preventing the candidates interested in withdrawal of their candidature. Though some UP member candidates could manage withdrawal of their candidature, two UP member candidates were not allowed to withdraw their candidature. On 19 May 2016, a group of army from Rajasthali zone arrived in the morning and surrounded the Upazila Office disallowing the candidates intending to withdraw their candidature.
- An army personnel from Jurachari Zone took position at Jurachari Election Office on 19 May 2016 and prevented the candidates from withdrawal of their candidature.
- On 19 May 2016, a group of army went to the Election Office of Longadu upazila and it was known that they prevented the candidates interested in withdrawal of their nomination papers.
Therefore, PCJSS sought CEC’s kind attention on the issues stated above and immediate actions to ensure the environment so that free, fair and impartial elections could be held in all the Union Parishads under Rangamati Hill District.
Please find Bangla copy of this memorandum here.