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Prepare CHT voter lists as per peace accord

Political, civil society leaders in hill dists demand
Shantimoy Chakma and Jashim Majumder in CHT

Indigenous and Bangali political leaders in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) belonging to different parties have demanded preparation of voter list in the three hill districts according to provisions of the CHT peace accord.Signed in 1977, the accord provides for enrolment only of ‘permanent residents’ of the hills in any voter list.

The leaders opposed preparation of voter list by enrolling all eligible voters in CHT.

Sources said the Election Commission (EC) is planning to prepare voter lists in the CHT as per the Constitution, which allows enrolling all eligible voters.

The Daily Star Correspondents in Rangaamati and Khagrachhari talked to indigenous and Bangali political leaders on the issue. They said preparation of voter list by ignoring the CHT peace accord would be breach of trust with the people of CHT. The CHT peace treaty was signed between the then Awami League government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) which spearheaded the insurgency.

Some top leaders of PCJSS seeking anonymity said the peace treaty ended three decades of insurgency by ethnic people and established peace in the hills.

They said people in CHT have been demanding full implementation of the peace accord for consolidation of peace and development of the three hill districts but the two governments since signing of the accord did little in that direction. Preparation of the voter list by avoiding provisions of the peace accord would create a ‘fresh source of tension’ in the hills, the PCJSS leaders said.

The peace accord provides for preparation of voter list with only Bangali and indigenous people who are permanent residents of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari hill districts for holding national and local body elections, they said.

District Awami League secretary Md. Selim Chowdhury said, “We demand full implementation of peace accord. Everything including preparation of electoral roll should be done as per provision of the accord”.

He said peace in the hills is becoming fragile day by day as because the peace accord is yet to be implemented fully.

Civil society leader Nirmalendu Tripura said the peace accord was signed considering CHT as a special region, different from other areas of the country. The Election Commission should not ignore the peace accord, he said.

Dr. Nilukumar Tangchangya, a top leader of PCJSS and member of CHT Regional Council, said, “All people in CHT want proper implementation of CHT peace accord. There are some options in the Constitution also for welfare of ethnic people. So, government should follow it,” Nilukumar added.

PCJSS leader Sadhuram Tripura in Bandarban said preparation of voter list by ignoring the peace accord would mean its violation, which will hurt the sentiment of permanent residents and spoil peace in hills.

Secretary of Upajatiya Samajik Forum Sukumar Dewan said the caretaker government should respect the peace accord as it was signed by a former government.

Bandarban district Awami League president Prashannakumar Tangchangya said the caretaker government has taken some steps which have been appreciated by all sections of people.

When contacted, a high official at Khagrachhari district election office said, they would prepare the new voter list according the Article 121 of the Constitution, which says, “There shall be one electoral roll for each constituency for the purposes of elections to parliament, and no special electoral roll shall be prepared so as to classify electors according to religion, race, cast or sex”.

PCJSS leaders said Article 17 of Khagrachhari Parbataya Zilla Parishad Ain (act) also provides for enrolling only permanent residents in the voter list.

Kayas Mong, a PCJSS leader and Regional Council member from Bandarban said, “We heard about Election Commission (EC) decision. Neither the government nor the Election Commission (EC) talked to us in this regard”.

PCJSS central leader and Regional Council Member Rupayon Dewan said, we have right to demand a voter list as per the peace accord.

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