STATEMENT OF THE PCJSS
ON THE 13th ANNVERSARY OF THE CHT ACCORD
The historic CHT Accord was signed on 2nd December, 1997 to bring peace in the strife torn CHT. The signing ceremony was witnessed by foreign diplomats, national and international media representatives, in addition to distinguished personalities of the country. Many countries, personalities, and organizations including the United Nations greeted the Accord. An international conference on the Accord was also organized jointly by UNDP and the government of Bangladesh. The Accord had helped to brighten the image of the country and the 1998 Felix Houphouet Boigny Peace Prize of UNESCO which was accorded to the honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in recognition, brought unique honor to the country. But to what extent the Accord was implemented in these thirteen years! While appraising the governance periods of two Caretaker and three Elected Governments, we find that none of these governments was sincere in the execution of the Accord. Rather, they were keen in violating the Accord by avoiding implementation of the basic aspects of the Accord.
The government is yet to take initiative to amend the controversial sections of the Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, 2001. It was our principal demand to set up a Land Commission and make it functional by amending the aforementioned Act in accordance with the provisions of the Accord. Thus far, the government did not go for amending the Land Commission Act and the Land Commission, instead of resolving the land disputes, sets its mind on conducting land survey and continues to hold meetings and carries out other activities contravening the procedures generally followed in the matter. At last, in the face of demands from all sections of Jumma people and different pro-Accord quarters the government has agreed to amend the controversial sections of the Land Commission Act. We welcome the positive mindset of the government. However, we expect that the controversial sections of the aforesaid Act are amended without further delay and the activities of the Land Commission are picked up in pursuance of the Accord.
Jumma people grew apprehensive of the future status of the CHT Accord following the High Court verdict declaring the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (CHTRC) and some sections of the Hill District Councils (HDCs) void. People are overwhelmed with massive frustration at government’s failure to show sincerity and credibility in implementing the Accord in the last twenty three months. This ground reality has made the demand, to include the Accord in the constitution, into a timely and sensible claim.
One of the burning issues of the Jumma people is the problem of the internal refugees. Despite formation of the Task Force by the government, no concrete steps have so far been taken in resolving this issue. As a result, thousands of Jumma families could not return to their rightful lands and premises. Recently, following an attempt to grab Jummas present temporary living places, the horrific incident as the one occurred at Baghaihat on 19 February 2010 could take place. The CHT, instead of turning peaceful, is gradually drifting to restlessness.
Since the emergence of Bangladesh, the civil administration has failed to play its assigned role. The CHT has so far been run and controlled by both civil and military hands. The CHTRC and the HDCs, on the other hand, were not made properly effective. This has helped the overall situation of the CHT to deteriorate gradually. The present government, after assuming power, withdrew some temporary army camps but kept “operation Uttoran” running. The civil administration in the CHT is not being strengthened by transferring important subjects such as local police to the HDCs. This has its adverse manifestation in the generation of undesirable communal clashes like the one occurred in Khagarachari on 23 and 24 February 2010. Deep frustration has taken root among the Jummas in consequence.
As per section 3 of Part B in the CHT Accord, the government is supposed to settle 2 acres of land locally with each tribal family either landless or owns less than 2 acres of land in order to ensure their ownership of land. In case of unavailability of required land, grove land shall be provided. Had this plan been implemented in favor of poor and landless Jummas, a greater section of the Jumma people would have been benefited.
On the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the CHT Accord, we would like to hope that the government will come forward with all its sincerity in implementing the Accord and would put an end to all the indigenous related issues by implementing all sections and sub-sections of the CHT Accord and by giving constitutional recognition to the indigenous peoples.
Side by side, we are making a call to all the political parties, personalities, institutions and organizations at the local, national and international level to play active and effective role to help bring an end to the ongoing conflicts in the hills and to enforce the CHT Accord including the demand for constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples.
CENTRAL CONVENING COMMITTEE, PARBATTYA CHATTGRAM JANA SHAMHATI SAMITI
KHAGARACHARI, THURSDAY, THE 2nd DECEMBER, 2010
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