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PCJSS Press Statement on on the Occasion of the 17th Anniversary of CHT Accord

Press conference on 17th Anniversary of CHT Accord

On 29 November 2014 Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) organised press conference on implementation of CHT Accord on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of CHT Accord in Dhaka. President of PCJSS, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma read out written statement of PCJSS while Dipayon Khisa, staff member of PCJSS, conducted the event. Senior leader Pankaj Bhattacharya, president of Oikya NAP; Ushatun Talukder, MP and vice president of PCJSS; Rabindranath Soren, president of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad; Numan Ahmed Khan, executive director of Institute of Environment and Development, advocate Neelufar Banu, among others, attended the press conference. Full text of press statement is as follows:

 Press Conference of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) on Implementation of CHT Accord on the Occasion of the 17th Anniversary of CHT Accord

29 November 2014, Saturday, 11:00 a.m. Hotel Sunderban, Dhaka

Dear media friends,

Do accept heart-felt wishes of PCJSS on the occasion of 17th Anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord.

As you know that the CHT Accord signed between the Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh and PCJSS passes its 17 years of coming into being. The historical accord was signed on 2 December 1997 with an aim to resolve the CHT crisis through political and peaceful means. The inhabitants of CHT dreamt for return of peace and stability in CHT through signing of the Accord. They hoped that participation of CHT people in the administrative system would be established with introduction of a special administrative system through CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils. It was through participation in the administrative system, there would be an institutional arranagement whereby the permanent residents of Jumma and Bengali people would determine their own development by themselves. But despite passing 17 years after signing of the Accord and for not being the Accord implemented, as the peoples’ participation in the adminitrative sysytem has not yet been assured of, similarly, the much longing political and peaceful solution to the crisis also has not been achieved.

During its tenure for 3 years and 8 months after signing the CHT Accord, the Sheikh Hasina-led government implemented some issues of the Accord, such as, formulation of CHT Regional Council Act, three Hill District Council Acts; formation of interim CHT Regional Council and Ministry of CHT Affairs; repatriation of Jumma refugees from India; formation of CHT Accord Implementation Committee, Land Commission and Task Force, etc. But in later periods, the Awami League-led grand alliance government after its returning to power, no effective initiative for implementation of unimplemented issues of the Accord has taken though passing almost six years.

Among the fundamental issues of the Accord, which the government has not undertaken any measure for implementation are ? preservation of tribal-inhabited-region feature of CHT; putting in place of the subjects and functions given within jurisdiction of CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils and holding elections for these councils; resolution of land disputes of CHT by bringing amendment to the contravening sections of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001; to return lands and homesteads back to the Internally Displaced Jumma families and India-returnee Jumma refugees and resettle them in their respective lands, withdrawal of all the temporary camps including de facto military rule Operation Uttoron’ (Operation Upliftment); cancellation of lease of lands given to the non-residents; appointment of permanent residents of three hill districts in all jobs available in CHT on the basis of priority given to the Jumma peoples; bringing amendment to the concerned laws in consistent with the CHT Accord; rehabilitation of Bengali settlers outside CHT with dignity and honor, etc.

During its present tenure in 2014, the present grand alliance government has transferred 5 (Five) subjects to the Hill District Councils that are ? (a) Shifting cultivation, (b) Secondary education, (c) Birth & Death and other Statistics, (d) Money lending business and (e) Tourism (Local) other than 7 (seven) functions relating to the subjects/departments already transferred before signing of the CHT Accord during its earlier tenure (2009-2013). But the other important subjects that have not yet been devolved are ? Supervision, Preservation and Development of Law & Order in the district; Land & Land Management; Police (Local); Development & Preservation of forests except reserved forest by the government; Preservation and Development of Environment; Improvement Trust and other Local  Administration except pourasava and union council; Primary Education through mother tongue, etc. More to be mentioned that devolution of Subjects or Functions/Departments upon HDCs, have also been done defectively. For instance, the Tourism (Local) has been transferred through signing an agreement between Ministry of Tourism and three Hill District Councils on 28 August 2014. But the Subject of Tourism has not been transferred properly. The said agreement confines the authority of HDCs over the issues concerning Tourism while giving provisions for developing own Commercial Tourism to Tourism Corporation, local government authorities and private sectors including the Ministry of Tourism, in place of  Eco-Tourism.

Dear journalist friends,

The government, in one hand, has been making dilly-dally in implementing the core issues of CHT Accord while propagating untrue, confusing and fabricated statement concerning implementation of the Accord both at home and abroad, on the other. Many ministers and bureaucrats including the Prime Minister have been propagating that 48 sections out of 72 sections of the Accord have been implemented in the mean time and 15 sections out of the rest have been partially implemented while the remaining 9 sections are under implementation process.

In fact, the said statement or report made by the government on implementation of the CHT Accord is not true as a whole. As per the study of PCJSS, only 25 sections out of 72 sections of the Accord have been implemented. There are 34 sections of the Accord still remain unimplemented while 13 sections of the Accord have been partially implemented. It means that two-third sections of the Accord are lying unimplemented as of this day. Implemented 25 sections out of 72 of the Accord include to retain the word `tribal’; to rename the `Hill District Local Government Council’ with `Hill District Council’; to replace the words `Deputy Commissioner’ with the words `Circle Chief’; If the post of Chairman falls vacant or in his absence in the council meeting, one tribal member is to chair the meeting; appointment of officers and staff of the councils;  in place of the word government, as the case may be, to replace with the words Council or Ministry; to cancell Section-70 of the Hill District Council Act; arms deposition of Jana Samhati Samiti members, etc.. But the core issues of the Accord have been kept unimplemented.

As examples, analysis over the Sections of 1, 2, 3, and 4 under Part-A, which the government claims to have already been implemented, exposes vivid picture of untrueness being uttered by the government. According to PCJSS, the first 3 of the said 4 sections are still lying unimplemented. Not only that the said sections have been left unimplemented but also they are extremely violated by the government in some cases. Firstly, as per Section-1 under Part-A, the CHT has been declared to be a `Tribal-inhabited region’. But this has been left confined to the papers as yet. No legal or effective safeguard measures was taken to preserve tribal-inhabited feature of the region. No office order, directives or notification to that effect has been promulgated on part of the government. As a result, immigration of outsiders is taking place by different means and ways unabatedly and this has led to losing tribal-inhabited feature or status of the region. Secondly, According to the provision laid under Section-2 states, “Both the parties have agreed to make alter, amend and add to, in consonance with the consensus and responsibilities expressed in the different section of this Accord, the relevant laws, regulations and practices according to law as early as possible” ? the provision in accordance to which, though the three Hill District Council Acts and CHT Regional Council Act were formulated in 1998, the other laws in force in CHT have not yet been made undergo alteration, amendment and addition till this day. For instance, the acts such as, Bangladesh Police Act, Forest Act, Local Government Council Acts (Union Council, Upazila Council, Municipality), CHT Regulation,1900, Charter of Duties of Deputy Commissioners, etc. have not been amended. That the fore mentioned information simply depicts out the voidness of content in the claim of the government on implementation of the CHT Accord.

The government claims that with exception to Section-4(d), 9, 19, 24, 27 and 34 under Part-B of the CHT Accord, the remaining 29 sections have been completely implemented. But indeed, that is not correct. In 1998, except Section-19 relating to development, though all the sections under Part-B have been included in the three Hill District Acts properly but inclusion in an act cannot be a logical claim for complete implementation. Even after 17 years of signing of the Accord, no elections have been held in the three Hill District Councils and CHT Regional Council till now. Instead of forming 34-member elected Hill District Council, the Hill District Councils are being operated undemocratically by the interim Committees of 5-member nominated body in each council. Hence, where there is no application of law, there cannot be claimed that the laws have been implemented. In fact, it can safely be said that such confusing, absurd and ficticious claim is being uttered to achieve mean objective of making the public opinion  totally confused.

Besides, from among the sections that are being claimed to have been partially implemented by the government, section-4(d) relating to issuance of permanent resident certificate by the Circle Chief; section-9 relating to making electoral roll with the permanent residents in the three hill districts; section-19 relating to development; section-24 relating to formation of Hill District Police Force; section-26 relating to authority of imposing restrictions over land giving in lease, settlements, buying & selling, transfer and acquisition; section-27 relating to realization of land development tax and section-34 relating to functions and responsibilities of Hill District Councils ? claim for partial implementation is also not correct, as a whole. As examples can be cited that claiming for partial implementation of Electoral Roll is nothing but a frenzy where the Electoral Rolls Rules and Election Rules for the three HDCs have not yet been formulated. Where the subject of Hill District Police Force has not been transferred as yet, the questions of appointment of sub-inspectors and all members of ranks subordinate thereto of the Hill District Police and to transfer them and to take punitive action against them by the HDCs cannot be raised. So, how the government claims that these subjects have been partially implemented? The main objective is to confuse the public opinion by way of spreading untrue, confusing and of frenzy propaganda. There are some subjects, which are being claimed by the government to have been completely or partially implemented, indeed, they are being violated, let alone the implementation.

Dear media friends,

It is a fact that the government has not remained calm and quiet by keeping the core issues of the Accord unimplemented for the years together or by way of spreading untrue, confusing and frenzy mispropaganda on implementation of the accord; further more, it has also undertaken formulation of  anti-accord and anti-Jumma interest laws and programs. Instead of undertaking initiative to implement the unimplemented significant issues of the Accord, in opposite turn, the government, having the Accord violated and trampled the legal provisions that oblige the government to consult with the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils in framing up laws on CHT or the laws applicable to CHT, has stepped up unilateral initiative to amend the Hill District Council Act and frame up CHT Development Board Act and establishing Science & Technology University and Medical College in Ranngamati.

Without holding elections in the three Hill District Councils and in contrast to the opinion of CHT Regional Council and CHT people, the Parliamentary Standing Committee, having the size of three interim Hill District Councils enhanced by increasing the numerical strength of its members from 5 to 15 including the Chairman, placed the three bills of Hill District Council (Amendment) Act 2014 before the Parliament on 17 November 2014 and accordingly the bills were passed by the house on 23 November 2014. In opposition to the public opinion, the main objective of bringing amendment to the three Hill District Council Acts, is to keep by-passing the elections for the three Hill District Councils and CHT Regional Council, to deprive the hill peoples from their political and citizen rights to franchise and representation and above all, to veer the implementation of the CHT Accord tactfully.

Similarly, having the opinion of the CHT Regional Council ignored, the government passed the CHT Development Board Act 2014 during the Budget session of the Parliament on 1 July 2014. The CHT Development Board has been turned into a statutory body through the act. Indeed, the main institutions that constitute the Special  Administrative System in CHT are the three Hill District Councils at district level and the CHT Regional Council at region level. It is through formulation of CHT Development Board Act 2014, the Special Administrative System of CHT comprising of the three Hill District Councils and CHT Regional Council has been thereby underrated the act of which will create complexity in administration and development.

In the same way, recently the government has also undertaken initiative to establish a Science & Technology University and a Medical College in Rangamati by trampling the opinion of CHT Regional Council and the hill peoples. The government formulated ?Rangamati Science & Technology University Act 2001” without having consultation or discussion with the CHT Regional Council. The government did not take into account even a speck of factual realities arising out of the issues such as, special administrative system in CHT, its unique feature, ethnic diversity and backwardness. It is quite natural that the enrolment will have to be fulfilled by 90% of outside students if the admission process is complied as per the existing laws and policy of University-Medical College. Besides, the same situation will also be created in cases with recruitment of teachers, officers and staff for the University of Science & Technology and Medical College. As a result, the University and Medical College will become the centers for infiltration and it will detriment the tribal-inhabited regional feature and status of CHT seriously. In fact, due to gradual settlement of the outsiders and occupation of lands by illegal means for political motive, the life & livelihood of the Jumma peoples, profession and land crisis have turned up extremely acute. It is beyond doubt that if the projects of Science & Technology University and Medical College get implemented, the existent problems of hill peoples in the social, cultural, political and economic spheres will be more complex.

It is needless to say that as the result of undertaking this sort of Anti-Accord and formulation of undemocratic and anti-people laws against the will of the hill peoples in this manner and above all, if the rights of Jumma peoples and their existence get pushed towards the brink and if the dilly-dally policy of the government in implementing the Accord continues, the government will have to pay penalty undoubtedly.

Dear journalist friends,

Recently, conspiracy leading to illegal occupation of homesteads and religious sites of the Jumma peoples and their recorded and traditional lands has increased widely. Alongside non-government initiative of illegal land occupation, especially, this illegal occupation process has become mighty with the initiative taken by different government authorities. Especially, alongside establishing and expansion of the army camps, establishing BGB camps elsewhere and activites of their expansion are noteworthy. Racing with these activities, various tourist spots, resorts, restaurents, luxurious motels, entertainment and business centers etc. are being set up in the homesteads, Jum lands, already occupied and used lands of the Jumma peoples. At this, many indigenous families have either been compelled to take shelter to other place leaving own homesteads or many are at the verge of being uprooted.

Among the instances of building BGB camps in the lands of Jumma peoples are the initiative of establishing BGB Battalion Headquarters at Babuchara of Dighinala by way of uprooting 21 Jumma families and occupying a primary school building; initiative of establishing BGB Sector Headquarters in the lands including the religious shrine and funeral site and lands already occupied by the Jumma peoples and in the lands under process for settlements located  at Krykhyong Para and Hangsama Para by the Bandarban-Roangchari road under Hlapaikhyong mouza of Rowangchari upazila; initiative for establishing BGB camps by uprooting 500 Marma families from Paindupara, Chandupara and Chaipopara under Paindu mouza and Poly mouza of Ruma upazila; and initiative of establishing BGB camp at Chatalachara under Uashu mouza of Matiranga upazila by uprooting the Jumma families from their homesteads and lands.

Instances of establishing tourist spots, resorts, motels, various entertainment and business centers by the army are ? construction of tourist spot at Ruilui area under Sajek union of Baghachari upazila by uprooting 65 Jumma families; establishment of magnificant tourist center under Ruma upazila by uprooting the Bawm inhabitants; establishment of various tourist centers over an area of 600 acres at Dola Mro Para (Jibannagar), Kaprupara (Nilgiri), Chimbuk Sholo Mile, Y Junction (Baro Mile) and at Keokradong of Bandarban Sadar Upazila; initiative of building tourist center at the summit of Keokradong mountain by the army, etc. are mention worthy. The subject of Tourism, though falls within the jurisdiction of Hill District Councils, the army is establishing these tourist centers ignoring the legal jurisdiction of the Hill District Councils. Besides, for expansion of Ruma cantonment and establishment of training centers, an initiative has been undertaken to take 75,686 acres of hill lands only in Bandarban districts. These project plans undertaken by the army, if implemented, would create hostile situation to the social, cultural and economic life of the Jumma peoples. Especially, the Mro and Bawm communities of the tradition will face irrepairable loss. The army is also offering prevention in construction of Buddha images at Dwitila and Gangaram areas under Baghaichari Upazila.

On the other hand, a conspiracy is being hatched by the Forest Department to declare the mouza lands of an area of 84,542 acres under 20 Mouzas by violating the provisions of CHT Accord and traditional rights of the Jumma peoples. It is mention worthy that as a part of reserved forest program, the Forest & Environment Ministry has taken initiative to occupy 218,000 acres of lands through gazzette notification made to public on and from  25 June 1990 to 31 May 1998. These lands include the homesteads, orchards, tree plantations, lands under process for settlements, Jum lands under traditional usages and including already occupied lands of settled families under various government projects ? all of permanent residents belonging both Jumma and Bangali people. For examples may be cited, declaration as reserve forest area measuring 500 acres under Shukarchari mouza of Rangamati district. In the report submitted by the Deputy Collector on 6 July 2014, it is mentioned that 46 families have been dwelling in that area under proper settlement process and the other 42 families have applied for their settlement in the said area. The report also mentioned that apart from having homesteads, they have already raised tree plantations and fruit gardens and  there is no lands free from occupation. In this way, conspiracy for uprooting the Jummas is underway by declaring resrved forest or protected forest areas despite the Jumma peoples are having their legal settlements and raised gardens. It is noteworthy that Protected Forest and Unclassed Forest fall under the subject within the legal jurisdiction of Hill Dicstrict Councils. The government, instead of transferring the subjects upon the Hill District Councils, is conspiring to uproot the Jumma peoples through Forest Department.

Alongside the BGB, army and the Forest Department, illegal land occupation is being scrambled by the outsiders such as, influencial individuals, business personnel, political leaders, military and civil bureaucrats unabatedly. In Naikhyongchari, Jum lands occupied by former Union Council chairman Faruk Ahmed uprooting 21 Chak families; forcible occupation of 175 acres of lands by so-called ?Laden Group” headed by Mohammed Anisur Rahaman and Mohammad Mohasin Badal by uprooting 75 families belonging to Mro, Tripura and permanent residents of Bangalis and an ill-effort of forcible occupation of lands measuring 500 acres led by Mujibul Haque and company through attacking the Marma villagers under Lama upazila; an ill-effort for having settlement and forcible occupation conducted by one outsider Sadek Ali by means of forgery to occupy the lands already occupied under 33 Marma families; the incident of forcible occupation of recorded and traditional lands measuring 1,000 acres belonging to Mro, Tripura and Marma communities, perpetrated by one Bodiul Alam and Company in Alikadam Upazila may be cited for examples. In this way, due to land aggression under patronization of the administration, the local Jumma peoples and permanent Bengali residents have fallen under compulsion to lead a life amid extreme insecurity and  uncertainty.

As the result of non-implementation of the CHT Accord, the situation of CHT is very delicate, as a whole. It is due to continued dilly-dally of the government in implementing the CHT Accord and conspiracy of the quarter of vested interest, the communal and fanatic groups and the ultra nationalist groups already concealed in the state machineries or outside the state machineries have enhanced their ill-efforts. These evil forces have enhanced their communal and fundamentist activities in the three hill districts to foil the CHT Accord implementation process. Using as rear zone, they are widening the fundamentalist and ultra-communal activities across the country. Raising communal sentiments, they are conducting communal attacks upon the Jumma peoples one after another. In continuation to that 7 communal attacks have taken place under patronization of security forces and administration. One of such incidents is the Matiranga-Taindong attack that took place on 3 August 2013. Continuation to that incident, a savagery attack upon the visiting CHT International Commission members was conducted by the terrorists of ultra-communal organization in Rangamati on 5 July 2014.

On the other side, under indulgence of certain quarter of administration, the armed terrorist group belonging to Anti-CHT Accord element designated as UPDF and detracted group known as Reformists are conducting terrorist activities such as, extortion of money, taking hostage, killings, etc. in CHT. After signing the Accord, these Anti-Accord elements killed more than 300 peoples including 93 PCJSS members and took hostages and meted out tortures upon numerous people as of this day. Due to indifference and covert support on government part, the Reformist-UPDF elements are at their capability of conducting terrorist activities one after another in this manner.

Communal attacks, rapings, killings, abductions with barbaric violence and tortures upon the indigenous peoples and religious minority have heightened in a bid to occupy lands and uproot them from their ancestral lands throughout the country. Especially, the gravity of violence against indigenous women and girls has increased to an alarming degree in recent times. Very recently, during the last three months from September to November, in CHT and in the plains, at least 16 indigenous women have fallen prey to sexual and physical violences. In the attack and sexual violence incident of a Union Council member and award receipient public representative named Bichitra Tirki, the perpetretors got release from the jail without any trial for which, the indigenous peoples cannot but be worried of.

Dear media friends,

At present, the government pushed the implementation process of unimplemented core issues of the CHT Accord towards uncertainty. Seeing approaches of the government it can evidently be said that the government will not take any effective initiative to implement the Accord. At best, it will continue to utter only its wordy commitment towards implementation of the Accord to confuse the public opinion and if it takes any initiative in the name of Accord implementation, in that case also it will undertake Anti-Accord or counter-Jumma-interest programs on the plea of accord implementation the main aim of which is to continue ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Jumma peoples and to turn the non-Muslim CHT into a Muslim dominated region.

CHT crisis is a national and political problem. In fact, the CHT Accord was signed in greater interest of the country and hence, the duties and responsibilities of the government is primary in the implementation of the Accord. In this circumstances, PCJSS earnestly calls upon the government to undertake timeline-based initiative to implement the unimplemented issues of the Accord without delay any further. Otherwise, the government will have to responsible for any sort of undesireable situation in CHT. With this, the PCJSS declares that ?

If the government does not undertake time-line-based effective initiative within 30 April 2015, as such, from 1 May 2015 ? (1) Non-cooperation movement against the government will be commenced under PCJSS leadership and (2) All out resistance movement against Anti-Accord and counter-Jumma-interest programs will be accelerated.

Dear journalist friends,

You might have been informed that rallies, mass gatherings and discussion meetings  are going to be held at Upazila and District levels in CHT including Dhaka and Chittagong at PCJSS initiative on the occasion of the 17th Anniversary of CHT Accord. I call upon the country men to join those programs launched by PCJSS through you.

My heartiest thanks to all of you for patient listening.

(Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma)

President

Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti