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Kapaeeng Watch News Release on CHT Situation: 23 June 2008

GoB declares district and session judge’s courts in the CHT to be functioned from July

The Government of Bangladesh announced that District Judge Courts would be functioning in the three hill districts of CHT region from 1 July 2008. It is mentionable that on 24 February 2008 the High Court directed the government to set up civil and criminal courts run by judicial officers in the CHT within a year to implement the CHT Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2003. Though judicial power of the administrative officials ended with separation of the judiciary from the executive on November 1 last year, the Deputy Commissioners of three hill districts still retain the civil judges’ posts while the divisional commissioner acts as district and sessions judge as per the CHT Regulation, 1900. An amendment to the Regulation in 2003 made it mandatory for the government to establish district and session judge’s courts in the CHT, but that has yet to be implemented.

In the CHT Regulation 1900, a three-tier social court headed by three hill circle chiefs (or king) and their subordinate headman and Karbari is mandated to resolve only some social and family conflicts in the ethnic communities.

Consultation on PRSP held in Rangamati

On 21 June 2008 a consultation on Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) was held at conference hall of Deputy Commissioner’s office in Rangamati district. The consultation was organised by General Economic Relation Division and Planning Commission with Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati district Md. Nurul Amin in the chair. Public representatives, government officials, civil society members, development activists, media persons etc attended the consultation.

Chairman of the CHT Regional Council Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma said that CHT is a home of multi-lingual ethnic peoples. So, problem of this region is also multiplex. He urged government to undertake development initiatives considering this distinctiveness and reality of this region in order to achieve poverty reduction in this region.

A keynote on draft 2nd PRSP has been presented by Zafar Ahmed Chowedhury, Secretary of Finance and Planning Ministry. Participants raised the issues of land rights and settlement of land disputes, protection of indigenous peoples’ rights over land and forest, undertaking social safety net and food assistance programme during disaster, environment-friendly development initiatives etc. It is mentionable that government is formulating 2nd PRSP for nest three years.

Indigenous leaders alleged that government organised this consultation through Deputy Commissioner’s office bypassing the apex body of CHT governance institutions i.e. CHT Regional Council and HDCs. The office bearers of these institutions have only been invited as general participants. They said that it is nothing but to indirectly paralyze the special governance system in CHT.

Follow-up: Sajek arson attack

On 18 June 2008 Bengali settlers destroyed 5 houses of Jumma villagers at recently blazed area in Sajek union under Baghaichari upazila of Rangamati district. Sources said that the Bengali settlers with the help of military forces are opposing Jumma villagers to build houses on their land. On the other, Bengali settlers are occupying land of Jumma villagers.

For instances, on 3 June 2008, a Bengali settler named Alam (30) planted banana saplings on the land of Niharu Chakma (36) at Balughat village. On 4 June 2008, another settler named Md. Jamal (35) (elephant keeper) and his four labourers planted banana saplings on the land of Kiron Chakma (37) s/o Natun Chandra Chakma of Balughat village. The same day, Shaha Alam (40) planted various kinds of saplings including banana on the land of Pattor Moni Karbari. Another settler named Mr. Kamal (known as Lambaya among the Jummas) planted jackfruit and other fruit tree seeds on the land of Lalu Chakma (55) at Gongaram Mukh village.

It is learnt that most of the affected Jumma villagers did not take Tk. 10,000 for construction of house declared by army chief General Moeen U Ahmad protesting against direct involvement of military forces of Baghaihat army zone with this arson attack on 7 indigenous Jumma villages committed on 20 April 2008 at Sajek union in Baghaichari sub-district that left 78 houses of Jumma people burnt to ashes. Report has also been received that military forces conducted operation through out the affected areas to gather affected Jumma villagers at Baghaihat army zone for distribution of this government grant. Sources conformed that a few affected Jumma villagers were caught up by the army and compelled to receive the grant.

It is also learnt that an innocent affected Jumma villager named Sneha Kumar Chakma (38) who was also gathered at Baghaihat zone for distribution of Tk. 10,000 for house construction was arrested by Baghaihat army on 1 June 2008 with an old case. He was handed over to Baghaichari police station and sent to Rangamati jail.

The army implicated him in a criminal case filed previously against unnamed persons on 13 January 2008 under sections 143/144/149/224/332/34 of the Bangladesh Penal Code. It is believed that Sneha Kumar Chakma was arrested because he was vocal against land aggression and expansion of illegal Bengali settlement in Sajek. At present, the victim is being provided legal aid by BLAST in Rangamati.

Sources also informed that Bengali settlers declared road blockage programme at Baghaihat bazaar for indefinite period in order to blockade transportation of agricultural products of Jumma villagers to other markets. It is mentionable that indigenous Jumma people have been boycotting Baghaihat bazaar since 20 April following the arson attack. Most of shopkeepers and dwellers of Baghaihat bazaar are Bengali setters who committed 20 April arson attack on Jumma villagers.

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Aungkyew Mong

Coordinator

Kapaeeng Watch

(A human rights group for indigenous peoples)

Jagannath Hall, Dhaka University

Dhaka, Bangladesh

E-mail: kapaeeng.watch@gmail.com, kapaeeng.watch@micico.ch



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