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Monday, August 8, 2011

Indigenous issue draws arguments:Bangladesh Law Minister's dual face

Indigenous issue draws arguments

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma on way to the dais at the closing session of a two-day long national conference on "Land, Forest and Culture of Indigenous Peoples", in the city's LGED Bhaban. Photo: STAR
Against the backdrop of much debate over constitutional recognition of non-Bangalee indigenous communities, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday said in light of the ILO convention no 169 they are "tribal" people, not "indigenous".

There are two criteria in the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention no 169, he said adding, the first criterion which gives definition of tribal people is applicable for Bangladesh, but the second criterion that gives definition of indigenous people is not applicable for Bangladesh.

Following the minister's remark, Dhaka University history professor, Mesbah Kamal, who works with indigenous minority communities, categorically disagreed with the minister, saying they have all qualities to be regarded as "indigenous".

The ILO convention no169 says, "This convention applies to (a) tribal peoples in independent countries whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations. (b) peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions."

The law minister was speaking as the chief guest at the closing session of a two-day long national conference on "Land, Forest and Culture of Indigenous Peoples", in the LGED Bhaban in the capital on the occasion of International Day of Indigenous People tomorrow.

Blaming Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Commission members for making the commission dysfunctional, Shafique Ahmed said, "The chairman calls meetings but the members do not attend. If the commission cannot function, land dispute will not be resolved." He was referring to the land dispute between indigenous minority people of CHT and Bangalee settlers.

But, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, widely known as Santu Larma, alleged that the commission remains dysfunctional due to undemocratic attitude of the chairman.

Larma, who chaired the session, firmly demanded amendment of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, 2001.

Earlier in a separate session, Obaidul Quader, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on information ministry, said if there are some anomalies in the latest constitutional amendment, necessary measure might be taken to further amend the charter.

Mozammel Haque, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on land ministry, said measures taken by the government to end discriminations against indigenous people in CHT and to protect their rights are insufficient.

Presenting the keynote speech, Information Commissioner Prof Sadeka Halim said indigenous people shrunk from 80.6 percent to 51.4 percent between 1974 and 1991 in CHT.

Barrister Sara Hossain, chairperson of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, said the government insulted indigenous people by defining them as "tribal", "ethnic minorities", and "small nationalities".
Sultana Kamal, co-chair of the CHT Commission, also spoke at the session.

Earlier two separate sessions titled "International Mechanism and the Wider Regional Context", and "Courts, Commission and Council: The Effective Use of Existing Institutions" were held.

Prof Meghna Guhathakurata, executive director of the Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB); and Prof Amena Mohsin of the international relations department of Dhaka University, chaired the sessions respectively.

Dr Vincent Darlong, country programme officer of International Fund for Agricultural Development, India; Sanjoy Hazarika, director of the Delhi based Centre for Northeast Studies; Basilio Wandag, executive director of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) of the Philippines were present at the sessions among others.


courtesy: The Daily Star

However, just a year back, Law minister Shafique Ahmed said the exact contrary:

Discrimination against indigenous people 'unlawful': Shafique 


Dhaka, Aug 9 (bdnews24.com) – "Anybody or any authority who are found to be directly or indirectly discriminating against indigenous people will be dealt with through the law," the law minister Shafique Ahmed has said.

"The rights to culture and self-identity of any citizens are constitutionally recognized. No one can deny them," he said.

He was speaking at a discussion marking International Adivashi Day at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

He alleged that the 2001-2006 BNP-led government created barriers to implementation of the CHT Peace Accord signed in 1997, when Awami League was in power

The Bangladesh Adivashi Forum president Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma alias Santu Larma presided over the discussion. 


The above news was published on BDNEWS24, a year ago. 

Link: http://world.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=170288&cid=2

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