Source: New Age, Dhaka, August 7, 2012, http://www.newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2012-08-07&nid=19884#.UCDsh_YgeWw
Speakers at a discussion organised by the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples at the Central Public Library also demanded that the government formulate a law to protect indigenous people’s rights.
Industries minister Dilip Barua was the chief guest, whilst state minister for cultural affairs Promod Mankin inaugurated the meeting.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president Hasnaul Haq Inu, ruling party lawmakers AKM Mozammel, Shawkat Momen Shahjahan, Sarah Begum Kabori, Ziaur Rahman and Rubi Rahman spoke at the programme.
Workers Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon, convenor of the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples, presided over the programme.
Speakers condemned the circular issued by the Local Government and Rural Development ministry on March 11 which directed all district administrations not to co-operate in the observance of International Day for Indigenous Peoples and disseminated a message along the lines of there being no ‘Indigenous peoples’ in the country.
Promod Mankin said that the state should observe the day, the way other international days are observed in Bangladesh.
‘I am a cabinet member but I can not give my identity as a member of an indigenous community as the constitution does not allow me’ he said.
Promod Mankin urged the government to count the numbers of indigenous people and their ethnic groups properly.
Rashed Khan Menon said that it was unfortunate that a ministry had issued a circular not to co-operate in the observance of the day and that there were apparently no ‘Indigenous Peoples’ in the country.
He demanded the government withdraw the circular as soon as possible.
Hasanul Haq Inu said that the recent debate on indigenous day was nothing but ‘foolish’.
He also demanded the proper constitutional recognition for the indigenous people of the country.
‘Clause 23A of the constitution of Bangladesh which reads “The culture of tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities” should be replaced with “indigenous” as soon as possible’ Inu said.
He also demanded the government to formulate a law to protect indigenous people’s rights, titled ‘Bangladesh Indigenous People’s Rights Act’.
AKM Mozammel asked what the problem was if people used ‘indigenous’ instead of ‘tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities’ to identify themselves.
Dilip Barua said the current government was non-communal and friendly towards indigenous people. He said the government was implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty signed in 1997.
The Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Peoples organised the discussion in association with International Labor Organisation, Oxfam and Research and Development Collective.