Courtesy: The Daily Star, Dhaka, Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Settling land disputes in CHT
Early addressing of unresolved issues key to sustainable peace
The reported suspension of the hearings by the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Land Dispute Resolution Committee (LDRC) to settle the local indigenous population's long unresolved land ownership issue is disconcerting. The seemingly differing views of the LDRC's chairman that the disputes could be resolved through the existing Land Commission's laws, while the agitating tribal people's demand that those have to be amended including their additional demand seeking resignation of the LDRC chairman has further complicated the situation.
The question that naturally arises is were not those in charge aware of this stance of the tribal people vis-à-vis that of their own before preparing for the inaugural occasion to hold the hearing? No doubt the suspension of the hearings by the government is reflective of the lack of its contact with the ground realities obtaining in the region. And unless those in the CHT Peace Accord Implementation Committee (PAIC) and the representatives of the tribal people are earnest in reaching an understanding to remove the newly emerged roadblocks before starting the hearings, peace in the CHT will remain elusive. And it is not only the peace in the region; the desired development of the area is also getting inordinately delayed due to the non-resolution of the land disputes.
But why is it that the peace accord is coming up against no end of hurdles in resolving all the disputes towards establishing lasting peace in the region? For there is no question that the peace accord signed about a decade and a quarter back had successfully put an end to the two decades long insurgency in the CHT and brought back the dislodged indigenous people to their ancestral home. So, after so many years of inking of the accord, the wind of peace, reconstruction and development should have by now started to blow in full strength. In fact, it is only after the resolution of the land-related disputes that the government and the international development partners could start to invest in the reconstruction and economic growth of the region. So, it is not only the government, the indigenous people of CHT have also a huge stake in seeing an early settlement of the disputes. But the recent developments have only put a damper on the prospect.
Whoever is to bear the responsibility for the ongoing stalemate, the indefinite delay in the process of settlement will serve no one's purpose. The land commission's laws, which the Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) leader Shantu
Larma and other tribal leaders claimed to have contained some disputed provisions have meanwhile been largely resolved through discussions with the government. So, after resolving the remaining issues like holding of regional polls and demarcation of lands, other lesser irritants should be addressed amicably without further delay through consultation between the government and representatives of the indigenous people. Otherwise, if these problems are allowed to fester, that would be a grave blow to the prospect of peace in the entire region.