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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Little headway in move to settle CHT land disputes

Little headway in move to settle CHT land disputes

Abdullah Juberee

Initiatives for settlement of land disputes in Chittagong Hill Tracts have made little headway as the government is still ‘working’ on the proposals for amendment to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001.

The move for resolution of the land disputes was halted amid widespread protests by the hill people against the ‘controversial’ act.

In the face of protests by the hill people, the national committee on implementation of Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord at its third meeting on December 26, 2010 in Khagrachari resolved that all activities of the commission would remain suspended until the act was amended.

After seven months, the ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs prepared draft proposals for amendment to the act and sent it to the land ministry.

A meeting between the land ministry and representatives of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council on Thursday agreed to the draft proposals and decided to send it to the national committee on implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord for further scrutiny.

After scrutiny the committee will send the draft to the cabinet for approval before it is placed in parliament for passage.

The minister for land, Rezaul Karim Hira, told New Age termed ‘fruitful’ Thursday’s meeting with the hill people’s representatives and hoped the stalemate would be over soon.

‘We held the discussion in a cordial atmosphere and they [hill people’s representatives] agreed to the draft amendment proposals. We agreed to send it to the national committee for further scrutiny,’ he said.

KS Mong, a member on the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, said a draft amendment proposal was placed before them and they did not oppose it. ‘We have decided to send it to the national committee [on implementation of the CHT accord] for scrutiny,’ he said.      
‘I think it is a step forward towards a settlement of the issue,’ he added.

Sources in the government saw the outcome of Thursday’s meeting as a positive sign against the backdrop of growing bitterness between the hill leaders and the government over the issue of giving the national minorities ‘indigenous’ status.   

All activities on the land commission stopped after the December 26 meeting of the national committee on implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, said officials at the land ministry.
National minority leaders in the hill districts are demanding amendments to the 2001 act as regards the land commission as, they say, many sections of the act are against the 1997 CHT agreement.

Protests brewed against the incumbent land commission chairman, retired Supreme Court judge Khademul Islam, after he pressed for carrying out a cadastral survey before settling the land disputes. His move was initially endorsed by the government.

The government on October 10, 2010 accepted the demand of national minority groups for settling the land related disputes in the CHT before conducting a survey.

An inter-ministry meeting on the CHT land survey and dispute settlement held in Rangamati also decided to expedite implementation of the 1997 CHT accord in cooperation with the representatives of regional and district councils.

Hill people became frustrated after the commission chair had called for hearing applications, mostly submitted by Bengali settlers, on December 27, 2010.

Just a day before the hearing, the CHT agreement implementation committee decided to suspend the commission’s activities.

courtesy: New Age

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