Wednesday, October 6, 2010
The International Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission recommends explicit recognition of the distinctive identity, culture and rights of the indigenous people in the constitution.
This was one of the advices from a five-point recommendation that the commission placed before the government in a press statement yesterday.
The commission disclosed its recommendations with a hope that the government and other concerned parties would take immediate steps to implement the advices.
The recommendations are based on findings that come out following the commission's visit to the CHT area last month.
In the list, the commission suggested a high level independent enquiry to make a detailed and impartial investigation into the arson attacks and killings in Baghaihat and Khagrachhari town in February 2010.
It also recommended amendment of CHT Land Dispute Settlement Commission Act 2001 in accordance with the articles of the CHT Accord and the recommendations forwarded by the regional council.
The commission also advised a phased withdrawal of temporary military camps from the region in accordance with the CHT Accord to restore normalcy and full civilian administration in the region.
It also advised on implementation of all clauses of the CHT Accord with a clear process and timeline.
The CHT Commission conducted the mission to Bangladesh from September 4 to 10 including a visit to the CHT region.
Its purpose was to assess the overall political developments related to the CHT Accord and follow up on issues raised in the commission's memo to the prime minister following its visit to the region in June 2010.
The commission has been heartened by the prime minister's repeated assurances that full implementation of the accord is a personal commitment on her side. But there is concern from various groups about the slow progress of implementation in general and the controversial activities of the land commission in particular, read the press statement.
There has been no headway in initiating an independent investigation into the February arson attacks in Baghaihat and Khagrachhari though some ministers assured the commission members of such.
The ministers said there would be an inter-ministerial meeting and subsequently a series of meetings to bridge the misunderstandings amongst the different parties, the commission observed.
There still seems to be disagreement between the administration and the indigenous leaders about whether to first carry out a land survey or settle the disputes pertaining to land, the press statement adds.
All indigenous political and citizen's groups of the CHT region renewed their demands for incorporating provisions on their distinctive identity and rights in the constitution ahead of expected constitutional amendments.
The mission members visited Rangamati and Khagrachhari and spoke to various civil society and political groups and enquired about the current situation.
The indigenous groups from the Baghaihat-Sajek area informed the commission members that there had been no further arson attacks and violence upon them after the incidents of February 2010.
However, they claimed that the army has been constantly keeping watch and harassing them since then.
Three Co-Chairs of the CHT Commission Eric Avebury, Sultana Kamal and Ida Nicolaisen were signatories to the press statement.--------------------
Report drom "NewAge":
CHT commission urges govt to
ensure distinctive identity,
rights of ethnic minorities
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission on Tuesday urged the government for incorporating provisions on the distinctive identity and rights of the ethnic minority communities in the planned constitutional amendments after annulment of the fifth and seventh amendments to the constitution.
After visiting the hill districts in September the commission in its report cited the concern raised by different groups in the region over implementation of proposed action plans and recommendations for the CHT through the establishment of a ‘Strategic Management Forum’, as reported in the national press with reference to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The mission members visited Rangamati and Khagrachhari between September 4 and 10 and spoke to various civil society and political groups and enquired about the current situation.
The commission referred to the most worrying concern on the ethnic people over the counter-productive outcomes of the functioning of the land commission under its present chairman.
‘There are still strong objections and misunderstanding among the indigenous groups regarding the way in which the Land Commission has been made to operate unilaterally by its Chairman, without the participation and consent of the Commission’s Pahari members,’ the report said.
‘The indigenous groups fear that if a survey is carried out before the settlement of the disputes arising from illegal occupation of their lands, most of the indigenous people will become landless as many of them do not have formal documents pertaining to rights to the lands that they have been occupying under customary law.
Leaders of the indigenous people of Bandarban told the Commission about their experience of being evicted from their lands as well as their apprehensions about potential evictions in the future. They reported hearing about plans by the armed forces to build tourist resorts on a large stretch of lands over which the indigenous people have held customary rights for many generations, the report said.
‘All the civil society groups spoken to in the CHT and in Dhaka expressed high expectations from the present Awami League government, but at the same time said that the non-implementation of many critical clauses of the accord as yet has resulted in deep disappointment amongst them,’ the report said.
The commission urged the government to institute a high-level independent investigation of the arson attacks and killings in Baghaihat of Rangamati and in Khagrachari town on February 19-23 this year.
‘The commission also called for thoroughly examining the allegations that the acts of violence had taken place in the presence of security forces and law enforcement personnel and bringing persons responsible to book,’ the commission said.
The commission called for undertaking a phased withdrawal of temporary military camps in the region in accordance with the CHT accord, so as to restore normalcy and full civilian administration in the region, including the unfettered role of the CHT-specific institutions like the Regional Council, the Hill District Councils, and the traditional institutions of the Chiefs, Headmen and Karbaris.
The commission suggested implementation of all clauses of the CHT accord in full and declare a clear process and timeline for doing so, and establish the agencies and departments necessary for the effective implementation of the accord.