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Land Commission for CHT needs reform It is crucial to bringing complete peace in the area

2 April 2008
The Daily Star (Editorial)

FOOD and Disaster Management Adviser AMM Shawkat Ali in a roundtable on “Land Disputes in CHT: Ways to settling the issue” has broken a news. The present government is going to reconstitute the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Commission. A new chairman and two full-time members will be appointed to the commission to facilitate its working.

In terms of the CHT peace accord, consummated more than a decade ago, a Land Commission was formed to primarily solve the long standing disputes between the indigenous communities and the settlers from plain land. With the signing of the peace accord, surrendering of weapons by the Shanti Bahini and return of tribal refugees from India, the protracted insurgency in the region was brought to an end. This is a major achievement in a trouble-torn area.

However, another important element of peace lay in resolving land disputes between the communities which remains virtually unaddressed todate. This is why the news of reconstituting the Land Commission is so important. The commission we have seen working for all these years have done little. The much-vaunted cadastral survey has not taken place yet, without which documentation of land rights cannot be made. This is a very complex and time-taking operation; and we have already lost a good deal of time making a quick restart of the process highly imperative.

A durable solution to land disputes is a precondition for enduring peace in the region. The assurance from the adviser that government would investigate why lands in the CHT area have been handed over to settlers despite the ban on reallocation, reflects the right spirit of the government. The birth rights of tribal people must be protected at any cost. Chakma Raja Debasish Roy’s recommendations for consensus between the commission and the regional parishad in settling the disputes and framing the required rules merit consideration. In the limited time at the disposal of the government it can reconstitute the commission and meaningfully set out its terms of reference and see the commission restart the work along substantive lines.

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