31 March, 2011.
Ruling alliance lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon on Wednesday urged the ethnic community people to strengthen movement to realise their demand including the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord signed in 1996.
‘We are working in the government for the implementation of the peace accord… Now you [the ethnic communities] need to strengthen your movement,’ he said at a discussion on the amendment to CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001.
Menon, also president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, said that policymakers would need to change their mentality regarding ethnic community people if they sincerely wanted to resolve their problems such as the land dispute in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. "Land disputes and other problems involving indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot be resolved unless those people are given constitutional recognition," he said. He added, "The government should go for amendment to the CHT Land Commission Act after discussing the matter with the regional council". He also voiced concern over the activitiees of a few vested quarters that are trying to prolong the crisis in the CHT.
CHT Civil Society, Kapaeeng Foundation and Khagrachari District Headmen’s Association organised the discussion at the National Press Club.
‘Nothing but personal interest and opinions of policymakers and bureaucrats towards indigenous peoples are creating additional problems rather than resolving the issues,’ Menon said.
Stressing the need for constitutional recognition of ethnic minority communities, Menon said that the customary laws followed traditionally by ethnic communities would fail to draw the government’s attention if they were not constitutionally recognised.
There is a common tendency to question the necessity of laws for the hill tracts. He pointed out that the difference between the ‘government land’ in the plains and in the hill tracts CHT should be addressed in a different manner as in the hill tracts, ‘government land’ is used for shifting cultivation widely known as jum cultivation by ethnic communities.
‘Amendment to existing laws or enactment of new laws will not help to solve the issue. Land disputes along with the implementation of the CHT accord could not be fully resolved as the indigenous peoples have no recognition in the constitution,’ Menon, also the president of the parliamentary caucus on indigenous issue, said.
He gave an assurance that the constitution would recognise the ‘indigenous people’ in the constitution. He pointed out that most of the laws including Small Anthropological Groups Act 2010, the ruling Awami League’s election manifesto and even the prime minister’s message contain the term ‘indigenous.’
The speakers also demanded immediate removal of Justice Khademul Islam as the chair of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Disputes Resolution Commission, amendment to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001 as it contains 23 sections which contradict with the CHT accord and its implementation. (New Age, The Daily Star)
Mangol Kumar Chakma, an adviser to the Kapaeeng Foundation, presented the keynote paper and said initiatives were taken to amend the CHT Land Commission Act after its enactment in 2001. But the Act is yet to be amended.
He said amendment to the act is essential for implementation of the CHT Peace Treaty.
Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, said the chairman of the Land Commission must be removed to make the commission functional.
The commission chief does not understand the feelings of indigenous people, he said. (The Daily Star)
The CHT Civil Society chair, Gautam Dewan, rights activist Shaktipada Tripura, Rabindranath Soren, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong, columnist Abu Syed Khan and Action Aid country director Farah Kabir also spoke. (New Age)
Source: New Age: http://newagebd.com/newspaper1/frontpage/13617.html
The Daily Star: http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=179861