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Saturday, October 06, 2012

LAND COMMISSION ACT, Hill people frustrated as amendment move stalls

 New Age, Dhaka, main news

Sept 6, 2012


Hill people frustrated as amendment move stalls

Abdullah Juberee 

Slow pace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 amendment has frustrated hill people as the amendment is required to ensure their rights to land.
The government on July 30 agreed to amend the act in keeping with the demand of the hill people in the latest session of the parliament but the no bill has as yet been drafted, even about two months after the meeting.
Officials said that the ministries were examining the draft of the amendment but hill people’s representatives who attended the meeting on July 30 said that there was no development and even the minutes of the meeting were not readied till September 20.
‘The officials say that the things are rolling but I have found no development in the process. Even the bureaucrats have failed to ready the minutes of the meeting and its resolutions till September 20. I do not understand when the draft will be vetted and be placed before the cabinet for approval,’ said Gautam Kumar Chakma, a member on the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, who represented the council to the meeting.
The law minister, Shafique Ahmed, said that the land ministry was supposed to draft the amendment based on the decisions made at the meeting and the law ministry would then give its vetting. ‘But they are yet to send us the draft,’ the minister said on Wednesday evening.
Although last land commission served out its tenure on July 19, without making any headway in land dispute resolution, the government is yet appoint a chairman of the commission.
The meeting of July 30 also agreed that once the law was amended, the commission would be allowed to resolve the disputes it had received so far and also the matters related to incidents of illegal occupation of land that had happened since the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord in 1997.
The national committee for the implementation of the CHT accord made 13 suggestions in the wake of growing pressure from hill people for the amendment to the act.
The hill people have opposed the 2001 act regarding the land commission as it was drafted against the spirit of the 1997 CHT accord. Governments since 2002 have said that objections of the hill people were rational but have done nothing to amend the act.
Amid a controversial move by the immediate-past chairman of the land commission Khademul Islam to conduct a cadastral survey first and then to resolve disputes, the hill people rallied against the move. The government in December 2010 said that the act would be amended in the next session of the parliament.
Since then, the government has repeated the same assurance but the amendment draft has not been placed before the cabinet. The land ministry also raised questions to three sections of the amendment proposal. 
The meeting on July 30 finally decided to amend the act in keeping with the demand of the hill people, including empowerment of the commission to resolve disputes over ‘illegal eviction’ on land acquired by the government, in reserved forests and other state-owned projects and industrial areas. 
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on September 18 iterated that the hill people would get back right to their land and the government would extend all support in this regard. ‘The problems in hills begins with ownership of land. I can assure that you will be the owner of CHT land and we will do whatever needed to establish your rights,’ she said.
After her comments, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti and United People’s Democratic Front said that they would consider the prime minister’s statement an empty rhetoric until her pledges were implemented.

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