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First-ever Rohingya camp committee formed in Teknaf

  • Published at 02:41 pm June 28th, 2018
  • Last updated at 02:42 pm June 28th, 2018
File photo of a Rohingya camp in Cox's BazarSyed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The Bangladesh government, the UNHCR, and ADRA Bangladesh made the initiative possible

Shalbagan Rohingya camps’ first-ever management committee has been formed in the Nayapara area of Teknaf in Cox's Bazar.

The camp committee is comprised of four Rohingya representatives. The following  representatives were elected: camp leader deputy camp leader camp assistant and the general committee member. 

The Bangladesh government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and ADRA Bangladesh (the Bangladesh chapter of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency) made the initiative possible.

In the past, a number of selected Majhis – Rohingya leaders – bridged the Rohingya people and aid agencies—at the  Ukhiya and Teknaf refugee camps. 

However, in a bid to ensure transparency and accountability among Rohingya representatives, the government, and other stakeholders, formed a management committee through direct voting by the Rohingya refugees—as part of a community governance system.

“The new committee will act as an interface between the Rohingya people, and the Bangladesh government, and service providers,” said Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam.

He continued: “Earlier, Majhis were selected to distribute food. And there was no specific mechanism at that time to select the best Rohingya leaders. But, through elections, we have now been able to nominate capable leaders who will work for their community members.

“All the elected leaders are accountable to their community members. Such committees will be formed in other camps as well—in phases.”

‘No turf war allowed’

At a programme inaugurating the camp management committee, on June 26, Bangladesh Army’s Captain Sayeedul Haque, commander for Nayapara and Shalbagan camps, warned Majhis and outgoing committee membersthat if they enter turf wars over control of the camp, or obstruct the committees from discharging their due responsibilities, they will face stern action.

Emphasizing coordination among different stakeholders, the army official suggested former camp representatives and Majhis play an advisory role for the new leaders. Majhis could assist new leaders in performing their tasks; advising  leaders about how to ameliorate the situation of community members; and refraining from abusing their power.

Nayapara Camp In-Charge (CiC) Mohammad Saiful Islam further said: “The formation of this camp committee was a landmark, and remarkable, initiative that could act as catalyst to initiate community governance systems in all the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

He also warned the elected representatives of consequences if they are found to be involved in anomalies and corruption. 

In his welcome speech, Robert Patton, consultant (emergency management) at ADRA Asia Regional Office, said that every community should have a representative who will work for his or her own community.

Meanwhile, UNHCR Senior Protection Coordinator Bernadette Castel-Hollingsworth said: “We want to recognize the willingness of the entire community to engage in the process of electing representatives for the first time.

“We are committed to consulting you about everything in Shalbagan to make sure the voices of everybody are heard by all of us. And we would work together to make the conditions in Shalbagan the best possible.”

UNHCR Site Management Officer Jacqueline Julca, UNHCR Field Officer Andre Therik, ADRA Bangladesh’s Project Field Coordinator SM Liaquat Ali and representatives of different humanitarian organizations were present at the event—among others.