Supplementary of PCJSS on the 26th Anniversary of CHT Accord
2 December 2023
A few words of the PCJSS President
I extend my warm wishes and congratulations to the Jumma people and people of the country on the occasion of the 26th Anniversary of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord.
The CHT Accord was signed aiming at resolving the CHT crisis by political and peaceful means. But due to not having the Accord implemented properly the longed solution to the problem of CHT has not been achieved as to this day.
On the contrary, the government likewise the earlier dictatorial rulers, has been continuing to adapt suppressive policy through fascist military manner as a solution to the problem. Consequently, the situation of CHT is aptly getting complicated day by day. Needless to say, democracy can never be developed in the country while keeping one-tenth part of the land like CHT under undemocratic governance.
The Jumma people as well as hill residents cherish a hope that the progressive, democratic and non-communal political parties, organizations and intellectual society will come further forward in resolving the CHT crisis.
Hence, on the occasion of the 26th Anniversary of the CHT Accord, I would like to call upon all the concerned for exercise of more extensive support and cooperation towards the movement for implementation of CHT Accord in the interest of the country and for preservation of national existence of the Jumma people.
Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma
Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti
Implementation Status of the CHT Accord
It is passing 26 years of having signed the CHT Accord in 1997 between the government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) aiming at resolution to the CHT crisis by political and peaceful means. But the Accord has not been properly implemented even within 26 years. As a result, political and peaceful solution of CHT problem has not yet been achieved.
Needless to mention that the Awami League government, signatory of the Accord, has remained in the power for the last 15 years since 2009. But the government has not step forward in implementing the spinal issues of the Accord during such a long span of time. Let undertaking effective measures for implementation of the Accord alone, furthermore, the government has been executing the planned programs counter-productive to the Accord and interest of the Jumma people. Consequently, the situation of CHT is aptly getting switched over from complex to complexier day by day.
It is worthy to be mentioned that a committee has been organized by the Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) on 28 September 2023 titling: “Inter-Ministerial Committee for Evaluation, Progress and Monitoring of CHT Accord” with an intention to evaluate review of the CHT Accord and frame up recommendations for the next step while by-passing the PCJSS and CHT Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee and thereby violating the terms of the CHT Accord.
The government (during the 22nd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held in the UN in April 2023), while referring to the prepared report of the said Inter-Ministrial Committee, placed an untrue and one-sided information saying that of the 72 sections of the Accord 65 sections have been completely implemented. Whereas, in place, of the 72 sections, only 25 sections have been implemented while 18 sections have been partially implemented and reaining 29 sections have been left completely untouched. It is for kind information to the country people, the core issues among the other unimplemented sections of the Accord have been presented in the following manner:
Preservation of Tribal-dominated feature of CHT
The CHT Accord contains the provision under Section-1 of Part-A, which reads: “Having considered the CHT to be a Tribal-dominating area, to preserve the tribal-dominating feature of the region.” It is mentionable that the issues of the Accord, the implementation of which is of urgency and unavoidable, includes: resolution of land disputes, preservation of land rights of the tribal people, establishment of ‘special governance system having done the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils effective, rehabilitation of the India-returnee refugees and internally displaced families, devolvement of the important subjects, namely, General Administration, Law & Order, Police (Local), Land & Land Management to these Councils, preparation of Electoral Roll with the permanent residents, etc.
It is also worthy to be mentioned that during formal dialogue before entering upon the Accord, in response to the PCJSS demand, the then Chief Whip and Convener of National Committee on CHT Affairs, Abul Hasnat Abdullah had repeatedly assured the PCJSS representatives by saying: The Honorable Prime Minister has given a word that the settlers numbering more than 5 lakhs who were rehabilitated in 1980s, will be rehabilitated in the plains with dignity. But due to special reason, this cannot be mentioned in the Accord. However, the settlers have not yet been rehabilitated outside CHT, which has been afflicting the tribal-dominating feature of the region.
The statement often makes by the government claiming that ‘it is under Article 23(a) of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, through which the protection and development of the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities, the tribal-dominating feature of CHT has been thereby ensured, is totally motivated. Whereas, the only steps that can ensure preservation of tribal-dominating feature of CHT are: (1) to introduce a statutory measure to the constitution stating that CHT is a region pre-dominated by multi-lingual hill/tribal people; (2) to incorporate the words ‘or the hill people of Chittagong Hill Tracts’ immediately after the words “in favour of women or children or the backward sections of citizens” in Article 28(4) of the constitution and (3) to adopt and implement a plan for rehabilitation of settlers settled in 1980s in the plain districts and (4) proper implementation of CHT Accord, as it is unavoidable.
Amendment to the laws:
The CHT Accord contains the obligatory provision under Section-2 of Part-A in which it has been mentioned: “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 Agreement, the relevant laws, regulations and practices according to law as early as possible. The government claims that the provision of the Accord has been implemented through bringing amendment to the three Hill District Council Acts 1989. Whereas, in order to make the said provision of the Accord effective, amendment to the other laws applicable in CHT including Police Act 1861, Police Regulation, Forest Act 1927 and the special laws relating to CHT (such as, CHT Regulation 1900, etc.) is unavoidable. Though recommendations have been placed for amendment to a good number of laws, regulations and circulations on part of the CHT Regional Council, the government has not yet taken any measure. Even the Rules of the Land Commission has not been formulated as to this day. So, the government opinion of ‘having the provision of the Accord completely implemented’ is not correct.
Introduction of ‘Special Governance System’ incorporating the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils
It is through the provisions mentioned under Part-B and Part-C of the CHT Accord, the introduction of Special Governance System incorporating CHT Regional Council and three (Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban) Hill District Councils has been provided. But it is due to non-implementation of core issues of the Accord, the Special Governance System has not yet got an institutional shape.
(a) The Hill District Council
The government claims that relating to the Hill District Council, 33 sections out of 35 of Part B have implemented while 1 section has been partially implemented and implementation of the remaining 2 sections are undergoing. But in true sense of the term, it is only 16 sections have been implemented, 4 sections have been partially implemented while 15 sections have remained unimplemented. The significant sections as mentioned under Part-B of the Accord of which the government claims to have been implemented but in fact, those have not yet been implemented, are given as under:
It is true that the definition “non-tribal permanent resident” as mentioned under Section-3 of Part-B has been included in the three Hill District Act (s) but it has not been made effective. Having the said provision of the Accord violated, the Deputy Commissioners have been empowered to issue Permanent Resident Certificates in parallel to the tribal Circle Chiefs through an office order from the Ministry of CHT Affairs on 21-12-2000 – the order, despite making repeated demand for withdrawal, has not yet been withdrawn. The Deputy Commissioners have been continuing to issue Permanent Resident Certificates to those non-tribals who are not permanent residents of CHT.
Section-9 of Part-B of the Accord contains the provision: “Qualification of becoming a voter and preparation of Electoral Roll,” which has though been included in the the Hill District Council Act but has not yet been made effective. In 2000, the Ministry of CHT Affairs formulated Drafts of Electoral Roll Rules 2000 for the Hill District Councils and Election Rules 2000 for Chairman and Members of the Hill District Councils. The CHT Regional Council submitted its recommendations on the Rules following Section-53 of the Act. But the draft Rules so framed up has not yet been approved for the final. So, the government opinion claiming the provision of the Accord to have been implemented, is not correct. On the other, Section-10 of Part-B that mentions “delimitation of constituencies” has though been included in the Hill District Council Act, yet it has not been made effective.
However, relating “to formulation and implementation of Development Projects,” under section-19 of Part-B of the Accord, it says: “All development Programs undertaken by the concerned Ministry/ Department/ Institution at national level, shall be implemented through the Councils” – the part of the provision has not been added to the act. On the other side, the development programs of the three Hill District Councils are implemented subject to approval of the Ministry of CHT Affairs. Besides, most of the development projects are implemented by the CHT Development Board on approval of the Ministry of CHT Affairs while by-passing the CHT Regional Council. Consequently, the self-determined development approach of CHT people involving themselves in the process of determining and implementing their own development programs through the Hill District Councils could not have been established. So, this provision of the Accord as claimed by the government to have been ‘partially implemented’ is not correct.
The government claims the provision under section 24 of Part-B of the Accord that reads: ‘Appointment and Transfer of the Sub-Inspector and below ranks of the Hill DIstrict Police’ to be under the implementation process. This provision has though been included in the Act but no measure has been undertaken to make it effective. The Hill Police Force has not yet been organized from among the permanent residents with priority preference of the tribal people. On the other end, the power of transfer, punishment, etc. of the police force has been being directly exercised by the higher authority of police, as it has been before.
It is to be mentioned that it has been resolved in the session of CHT Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee that goes: ‘to transfer the subjects of ‘Police (Local)’ and ‘Preservation and Development of Law and Order’ to the three Hill District Councils through executive order and to form hill district police force. But instead of implementing the decision, an order was issued from Armed Police Battalion (APBN) Headquarters to deploy APBN personnel to the withdrawn army camps, which is a direct violation of the Accord.
The government claims that the implementation process of the provision relating to restrictions on land settlement, transfer of ownership, sale and purchase, lease and acquisition without prior approval of the Hill District Council as mentioned under section-26 of Part-B of the CHT Accord is undergoing, In practice, the provision has though been included in the Act but is not being put in place. The said subjects and power have not been devolved to the Councils as to this day. The Deputy Commissioners are exercising their power on the issues of transfer of ownership of lands, settlements and giving leases, etc. on plea of the CHT Regulation 1900.
The ‘Land & Land Management’ is a subject within jurisdiction of the Hill District Council as has been conferred under section-34(a) of Part-B of the Accord. But the said subject has not yet been transferred to the Hill District Councils as to this day. Even the functions of Headman, Chainman, Amin, Surveyer, Kanungo and Assistant Commissioner (Land) have not been brought under control and supervision of the Hill District Council.
The government claims the section-27 under Part-B of the Accord, which is related to ‘collecting the Land Development Tax’ to have been implemented through its inclusion in the Act. Whereas, the power of collection of land development tax in the district has not yet been devolved to the Hill District Council. The Deputy Commissioners has been exercising the power as of this day. Hence, the government opinion of having the section ‘implemented’ is not correct.
Section-33 and Section-34 of Part-B under CHT Accord contain the subjects and functions devolvable to the Hill District Councils have been though incorporated in the Act but they have not been properly made effective. For instances, the subjects of law & order, police (local), land & land management, forest & environment, development of communication system, etc. have not been devolved to the Hill District Councils as yet. Besides, the subjects, such as, tourism, secondary education, etc. have been erroneously transferred to the Hill District Councils. Hence, the government opinion of having all these subjects completely ‘implemented’ is also not correct.
(B) CHT Regional Council
It has been mentioned in the government report stating that all the 14 sections relating to the CHT Regional Council under Part-C of the Accord have been implemented. The under-given significant sections relating to the CHT Regional Council mentioned under Part-C of the Accord of which the government claims to have been implemented but in reality, they have not yet been implemented:
The government claims the Section-2 of Part-C wherein stated: “The Chairman and Members of CHT Regional Council shall be elected indirectly by the elected members of the Hill District Councils” – has been implemented. Whereas, despite passing 26 years after signing the Accord, elections have not yet been held in the Hill District Councils and it is for not holding elections in the Hill District Councils, the election of CHT Regional Council could not be held as of today. Hence, the government opinion of having been the section implemented is not correct.
Further to be mentioned that the provision of conducting supervision and coordination in all development programs implemented by the Hill District Councils including the entrusted and the subjects that fall within its jurisdiction, has been though included in the CHT Regional Council Act, but the power of supervision and coordination has not been put to effect. As of this day, it is due to non-cooperation on part of the Hill District Councils and Ministry of CHT Affairs, all other functions of the three Hill District Councils including the development programs could not have been brought under supervision and coordination, as defined in the Act.
The provision of supervision and coordination in the affairs of General Administration, Law & Order and Development in the three Hill Districts has been though incorporated in the CHT Regional Council Act, it has not been put to effect. Alongside the “Operation Uttoron,” the Deputy Commissioners, have been exercising all powers relating to the general administration in accordance with the CHT Regulation 1900 as before. Hence, the government version of having the Section-9 under Part-C of the Accord been implemented, is not correct.
The government considers that Section-13 under Part-C of the Accord relating to the prerogative right of the CHT Regional Council in framing up CHT related laws to have been implemented just for the reason of its inclusion in the CHT Regional Council Act. In practice, this section is not being followed. The government is not accepting or ignoring the advice of CHT Regional Council in framing the laws relating to CHT. For instances, the cases with CHT Development Board Act 2014 and three Hill District Council (Amendment) Act 2014, the suggestion/opinion provided by the CHT Regional Council was ignored.
Rehabilitation of Jumma Refugees
The government claims that Section-1 of Part-D under the Accord relating to repatriation and rehabilitation of India-returnee Jumma refugees to have been implemented. But according to the Jumma Refugee Welfare Association, 9,780 families have not got back their homesteads and lands and also other demands have not been implemented. The lands, homesteads and 40 villages of the India returnee Jumma refugees located in Matiranga, Manikchhari and Ramgarh Upazila of Feni Valley under Khagrachari district, Dighinala of Maini Valley, Mahalchari upazila of Chengi Valley and Longadu Upazila of Maini and Kachalong Vally under Rangamati Hill Ditrict, are still under complete possession of Bengali settlers. Hence, the government opinion of having the provision ‘completely implemented’ is not correct.
Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Jumma Refugees:
It is also mentioned in the report of the government that the Section-1 of Part-D wherein mentioned ‘identification of internally displaced Jumma families in the three hill districts and to rehabilitate them by the Task Force,’ also has been ‘implemented,’which is not correct.
During the 3rd meeting of Task Force held on 27 June 1998, definition for the “internally displaced persons” in the three hill districts was determined and in accordance with the view, 93 thousand families were identified as the internally displaced Jumma families. But despite being so, no initiative was undertaken to ensure proper rehabilitation with the return of their lands and homesteads.
Resolution to the Land Disputes and Land Commission:
The CHT Accord contains 3 sections, (Section 4, 5, and 6) under Part-D. According to the government opinion, the Section-4 has been ‘partially implemented’ while Section-5 and Section-6 have also been ‘implemented’ the claim of which is not correct. During the last 26 years after signing of the Accord, not a single land dispute has been resolved.
After 15 years, the contravening sections contained in the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Act framed in 2001 got modified through passing the CHT Land Dispute Resolution (Amendment) Act 2016 in the parliament on 6 October 2016. After getting the law passed in the House, the CHT Regional Council formulated a draft of Rules of CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission and submitted to the Ministry of Lands on 1 January 2017. But the government has not got the draft Rules finalized as to this day. Consequently, the judicial function on land disputes could not have taken place as to this day. Besides, the Land Commission does not have adequate fund, man power and logistics.
Cancellation of leases given to the non-residents and non-tribals
The government has been claiming that Section-8 of Part-D relating to ‘cancellation of leases given to the non-residents and non-tribal individuals’ to have been ‘implemented,’ which is not correct. It is to be mentioned that in the meetings of Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT Affairs Ministry held on 20 July and 18 July 2009 respectively at Khagrachari and Rangamati, it was resolved from among the leases given to the non-residents in Bandarban district, to cancel the leases of the lands in which no rubber plantation or grove plantation have yet been done as per the agreement. In light of the decision, leases on some 15,000 acres of lands given against 593 plots were cancelled by Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban district and leases on some 350 acres of lands were cancelled by Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati district.
However, at two-month end of cancellation of leases, violating the decision, most of the cancelled leases were restored by Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban district by notification of Memo No.JPRABAN/Lease/Mo No.1060(d)/80-81/2009 dated 19-11-2009. On the other hand, the rest of the leases have though been cancelled in papers, the leasees concerned have kept the lands under their occupation.
Relating to withdrawal of Temporary Camps including “Operation Uttoron”
After signing of the Accord, 66 temporary camps were withdrawn from 1997 to 1999 in two phases and afterwards, 35 temporary camps were withdrawn within the span of 2009 to 2013. But many withdrawn camps have been restored in the mean while. Of them, at least 20 camps were re-established during the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
As per this provision of the Accord, no time-line for withdrawal of the temporary camps back to their respective permanent stations has been fixed. Though 101 temporary camps out of 545 have been withdrawn, yet more than 400 temporary camps of Army, Ansar and VDP forces have not been withdrawn.
It is to be mentioned that in place of “Operation Dabanol” (Operation Wildfire), the government one-sidedly promulgated “Operation Uttoron” (Operation Upliftment) on 1 September 2001. It is by merit of the Operation Uttoron, the army authority posted in CHT has been playing the decision-making role in all the affairs including general administration, law & order, tourism and development in the hills.
On the other hand, in place of withdrawal of the remaining temporary camps, a directive was served on 13 April 2022 from the Armed Police Battalion Headquarters stating: “The police force will be deployed at 240 number of withdrawn army camps in phases.”
Appointment of permanent residents in all jobs in CHT with priority preference to the Jumma people
This provision is not getting properly effective. The CHT Regional Council submitted recommendations to the Ministry of CHT Affairs and Ministry of Public Administration requesting to make the provision effective. But the provision has not been put to effect.
In this context, the Ministry of Public Administration advised in favor of making the provision effective on 22 October 2000 and accordingly, on 25-08-2002, the Ministry of CHT Affairs sent letters to various Ministries, Departments and institutions to incorporate the provision in the appointment rules/regulations thereof. But finally, no progress was made to that regard.