International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission
Bangladesh Secretariat: 10/11, Iqbal Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka 1207
Embargoed till 3pm, 18 August 2009
INTERNATIONAL CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS COMMISSION
The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) appreciates that after 12 years since the signing of the CHT Accord some important measures have been taken to implement the Accord. These include specifically the setting up of the National Committee for Implementation of the CHT Accord, re-establishment of the Land Commission and the Task Force for CHT Refugee Rehabilitation Affairs, the cancellation of plantation leases that have not been properly developed, and the withdrawal of temporary military camps. This has generated a sense of momentum which the CHTC appreciates and encourages. The CHTC congratulates the Prime Minister on her statement on the occasion of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Day in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This statement encourages not only the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh, but also all over the world.
Between 11-16 August members of the CHTC visited all three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Commission members met with government representatives, the three brigade commanders and their zone commanders, senior police officers, politicians and civil society leaders, including both Pahari and Bengali representatives.
During meetings with the brigade commanders and their staff the CHTC members were informed that they saw no security risks with compliance to the government policy on the withdrawal of the camps. This view was confirmed by the police and local authorities.
In meetings with all parties the land issue was presented as the main concern. The CHTC therefore considers it of utmost importance that the Land Commission becomes fully activated and funded, including its function as a tribunal to settle land disputes, which should be disposed of before the cadastal survey is undertaken.
The CHTC is disappointed, however, at the rate of progress towards activation of the Land Commission; the Commission’s lack of progress on the determination of disputed land claims; its apparent decision to hold the cadastral survey beforehand and the absence of proposals for electing the Hill District Councils.
The CHT Commission hopes that the Land Commission will establish a database of all disputed land claims, providing the claimants with forms on which they can supply the information required for this purpose. This might be the subject of an approach to international agencies such as UNDP for financial and technical assistance. Because of the complexity of overlapping titles on the same land plots granted in different circumstances, a definitive set of rules should be developed by the Land Commission to rank the relative priority of different kinds of land titles. For those whose claims to land are disallowed, the government should draft rehabilitation measures for discussion with community leaders.
The CHTC was alerted to the necessity of activating and properly funding the Task Force for CHT Refugee Rehabilitation Affairs. Moreover, there is a need for a speedy development of government guidelines for the interaction and division of labour between the Task Force and the Land Commission.
The CHTC further urges continuing measures to enhance access to justice within the CHT, including the activation of legal aid committees.
It is imperative that elections are held for the CHT Regional Council and Hill District Councils and the CHT Commission recommends that alternative electoral methods are explored promptly.
The CHTC has collected a large amount of information including documents given to us by Bengalis and Paharis which remains to be analysed, and as usual will be producing a report on this visit utilising these data We have a further international visit planned for the coming year.
We are convinced that the vast majority of the people of all communities in the CHT are determined to maintain the peace and harmony of the region, and that they will cooperate with the processes that are essential for the purpose. Peace is an essential human right, and all the efforts of both government and people should be devoted to its achievement.
List of meetings
Civil society in Bandarban
Tribal Muslim Welfare Association
Hill District Council Chairman, Bandarban
Deputy Commissioner, Bandarban
Brigade Commander, Bandarban
Civil society in Rangamati
CHT Regional Council Chairman
Jana Sanghaty Samity (JSS)
United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF)
CHT Forest and Land Committee
Hill District Council Chairman, Rangamati
Deputy Commissioner, Rangamati
Brigade Commander, Rangamati
Civil society in Khagrachori
Brigade Commander, Khagrachori
Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina
Finance Minister, Abul Mal Abdul Muhith
Foreign Minister, Dipu Moni
CHT Land Commission Chairman, Khademul Islam Chowdhury
Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT and Cultural Minister, Promod Mankin
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
CHT Minister, Dipankar Talukder
Law Commission, Justice Mohammad Abdur Rashid
Donor de-briefing meeting