Developing a clear roadmap for the land dispute resolution act was the biggest concern to emerge from a meeting held on Friday to mark the 19th anniversary of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord signing.
The peace accord inked on December 2, 1997 between Shanti Bahini and then Awami League government of PM Sheikh Hasina ended decades of bloody armed struggle in the volatile hill tracts region.
However, speakers at a forum jointly organised in Dhaka by Bangladesh Indigenous peoples Forum and Kapaeeng Foundation on Friday stressed the need for a strong political will of the current Hasina government to end the problems that have developed from not fully implementing the CHT Peace Accord.
Sanjeeb Drong, Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, said indigenous peoples in the CHT have been waiting for 19 years but the main points of the accord "are not yet implemented".
Professor Mizanur Rahman blamed the lack of a strong will to implement the deal for creating "deep scars" over the past two decades.
“I am confident that the state will not have to spend much time implementing other parts of the accord if the land dispute act is properly implemented,” he said.
The government has recently approved 'The Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act, 2016' aiming to resolve the land disputes in the hills speedily.
Shamsul Huda, Executive Director at Association for Land Reform and Development, said a great deal of bravery was required to amend the CHT land dispute resolution act 2016 and same bravery was also needed to implement it now.
“Only amendment is not enough, there should be a clear roadmap for implementing the act,” he said.
Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, the chief of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), presided over the discussion and used his closing statement to take aim at the government.
"It is clear to me that the reasons behind the unwillingness of the government to implement the accord is its undemocratic, ego-centric and fundamentalist mindset,” he said in his closing statement.
Other speakers included former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Dr Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma and its General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong, Dhaka University Professor Mesbah Kamal, Chakma Circle Chief at CHT Barrister Raja Devashish Roy, Executive Director at Manusher Jonno Foundation Shaheen Anam, formar Information Commissioner Dr Sadeka Halim.
Kepaeeng Foundation Executive Director Pallab Chakma presented the keynote paper at the beginning of the discussion.
In a similar event organised by the United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF) on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of CHT Accord, its central committee Chairman Sachib Chakma said the peace accord is yet to bring peace to CHT and people are still living in fear as arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, land-grabbing and extortion have become everyday matters for those living there.