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CHT district councils may be restructured

Shantimoy Chakma, from Rangamati

The caretaker government is going to bring changes in the three Hill District Councils (HDC) formed by the past four-party alliance government, sources in the CHT affairs ministry said yesterday.The newly selected chairmen and councillors of the district councils may take over within a couple of days, added the sources.

However, the Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari district councils did not receive official orders as of yesterday, officials of the HDCs said. Fax messages from the ministry regarding the changes are being expected by today or tomorrow.

Rangamati and Bandarban district councils have been dissolved entirely while Khagrachhari district councillors have been replaced and its chairman retained, a source in the CHT affairs ministry said.

The ministry sources said retired chief engineer of Public Works Department (PWD) Jagat Jyoti Chakma and Prof (retd) Thanjama Lusai have been made chairmen of Rangamati and Bandarban district councils. Monindra Lal Tripura is to remain chairman of Khagrachhari district council.

The new members of Rangamati District Council are UP chairman Bihari Ranjan Chakma, principal of Rangamati Charukala Academy Ratikanta Tangchangya, Aungsusain Chowdhury and Mohammad Rana.

Persons selected as members of Bandarban District Council are advocate Aminur Rashid, TS Bom, Chingsa Pru and Usoinu Marma.

Animesh Dewan, Sanumong Marma, Ruibi Karbari and Abubakkar Siddique have been appointed as Khagrachhari District Council members.

As per the HDCs acts of 1989, permanent residents of the hill districts are supposed to elect a chairman, (indigenous) and 30 members (indigenous and Bengali) for each HDC (then Local Government Council or LGC). There is also a provision for three reserved seats for women (two indigenous and one Bengali) in each HDC, said HDC sources.

On December 2, 1997, the Local Government Councils of the hill districts were renamed as Hill District Councils (HDCs) after signing of the historical peace accord between the National Committee of Chittagong Hill Tracts and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS).

The present caretaker government only followed the footprints of past political governments by installing new interim HDCs, the HDC sources added.

The then Awami League (AL) government in 1996 first installed interim HDCs. Each five-member council consisted of a chairman (indigenous) and four members, one of them being Bengali, HDC sources said adding, the AL’s predecessors, the four-party alliance government, also selected their own interim HDCs after the general election of 2001.

The last HDC elections in three hill districts were held on June 25, 1989, sources said.

Goutam Dewan, the first elected chairman of the then Rangamati LGC (now HDC), told The Daily Star that the latest move of reconstructing the HDCs by the present government is praiseworthy, but “…. I don’t think members of such interim councils can serve the purpose of the public because it’s against the concept of the HDC.”

The HDC is a community based institution and the concept is that participation of every indigenous person in the community will have to be ensured in the HDCs by directly involving them with all sorts of development activities. Otherwise, the HDCs will never turn into real public organisations, Goutam explained.

He urged the government to take steps for holding HDC elections immediately to ensure participation of all indigenous people for sustainable development of the region.



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