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Dhaka Tribune

‘CHT needs a functioning land commission’

Update : 15 May 2014, 08:12 PM

The status of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission of Bangladesh was discussed on the third day of the UN conference on indigenous people.

The governments, indigenous peoples’ organisations and the UN agencies took part in the open dialogue on Wednesday during the 13th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York. The session will end on May 23.

The matter came to the fore during a discussion on the best practices and examples in respect of resolving land disputes and land claims in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Africa.

Devasish Roy, chief of Chakma Circle and member of the UNPFII, in the keynote paper compared two case studies from the Philippines and the CHT. He pointed out that although the Land Commission conceptually conforms to the contents of Articles 27 and 28 of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), there still remained a number of challenges to making the Land Commission functional – including transfer of authority to the Hill District Councils, cancellation of commercial leases, the allocating of “reserve forests.”

Bangladesh is among the 11 countries that have abstained from endorsing the UNDRIP.

The cabinet approved in principle the draft of Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution (amendment) Bill 2013 on May 27 last year and it was placed in parliament on June 16. However, the bill has not been passed yet.

Ambassador Ib Petersen, the permanent representative of Denmark to the UN, made a joint statement on behalf of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland in support of making the Land Commission functional.

In the statement, Peterson expressed concern over the fact that the Land Commission had not been able to solve any land disputes until date.

The statement also urged the government to ratify ILO Convention 169, implement some important clauses of the CHT Accord including demilitarisation, rehabilitation of displaced persons, and ending the transmigration process.

Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP) and Shimin Gaikou Centre also gave a joint statement highlighting the need to pass a bill in parliament accepting the 13 amendments proposed by CHT Regional Council.

Kapaeeng Foundation and Maleya Foundation in a joint statement said about land grabbing by the army personnel for expansion of its garrisons and tourism, and establishment of camps by the Border Guard Bangladesh.

Secretary of the CHT Affairs Ministry Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura was expected to join the session yesterday.  

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