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Workshop on Land Issues in CHT stopped by the Government of Bangladesh

On 23 November 2005 workshop on Land Issues in Chittagong Hill Tracts was stopped by the Government of Bangladesh in Rangamati.
The six indigenous NGOs and POs, namely, Hill Tracts NGO Forum, Kapaeeng, Mrochet, Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land
Rights (MfPFLR), Maleya and Taungya with the support of Human Rights and Good Governance-Programme Support Unit, Royal Danish
Embassy/Danida arranged the workshop on 23-24 November 2005. The objectives of the workshop were: 

·         To identify key land related issues, strategic priorities and possible programme and initiatives for the intervention for the promotion and
      protection of the land rights of the CHT.
·         To identify and assess the constrains, and opportunities of various actors on the issues of land rights of the CHT at local, national and international level.
·         To provide an opportunity for the CHT peoples to further strengthen their network on the issues of land at the local level.

The workshop was divided into four core issues, such as, (1) Present land related situation of CHT and land dispute between indigenous
people and settlers, (2) Land settlement, acquisition and transfer system and lease, (3) Mouza Forest and Reserved Forest AND (4) Jumma
Refugees and Internal Displaced Persons.
Ms. Nathalia Feinberg, Deputy Head of Royal Danish Embassy was supposed to inaugurate the workshop. But she could not inaugurate the
workshop as she was also asked not to attend the workshop from her Embassy. On the other, as per schedule, the workshop was started
at 9.30 on 23 November. After the morning session, Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati district referring an order of Prime Minister’s office
issued to the organizers to stop the workshop and informed police authority to take necessary action for the same. Soon after receiving the order,
the police also rushed the workshop venue for taking necessary action. Consequently, the organizers were compelled to stop the workshop and the
participants including six organizing organizations decided to hold press conference protesting the Government order to stop workshop. In the
workshop 65 participants from three hill districts both from indigenous Jumma people and permanent Bengali residents attended.
Many representatives from governmental bodies and civil society and other professional organizations and indigenous elders also attended the workshop.
In the press statement the participants and organizers opined that land is a burning issue in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We know that the government
of Bangladesh has kept taking various initiatives for implementation of the 1997 CHT Accord, and many Ministers expressed commitment for the
same on various occasions. Land is one of the crucial issues addressed in the CHT Accord. Implementation of the CHT Accord is not possible at all
without a solution to this issue. We organized a two-day long workshop with an aim to extending our cooperation to the government for implementation
of the Accord. The main purpose of the workshop was to identify the land-problems and make recommendations, which are of great importance
for the Land Commission and the government as well in terms of solution to these problems. However, by dint of an order No. 2016/Joint
Ops (A)/1304 dated 21 November 2005 issued from the Prime Minister Office, Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati sent a letter to the office of the
Hill Tracts NGO Forum ordering stop of the workshop.

We, the undersigned leaders of various development organizations, express our indignation and protest this undemocratic and unconstitutional order
of the government. We think that this order has violated our fundamental right to expression of opinion and freedom of speech, and it is against the
fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. The order from the Prime Minister Office to stop the workshop without any reason is not
understandable to us. As citizen of a democratic country everyone has the right to participation in meetings peacefully and to expression of his/her
opinion. This order amounts to violation of the right to speech of the people of the CHT.

We think that this undemocratic and autocratic order of the government is a threat to democracy, human rights, good governance, and development,
and such unlawful order will definitely hamper the implementation process of the Accord.

We have called this press conference to take up this matter with the people of the country through the media friends present here.
We call upon the government and the people of Bangladesh to ensure the fundamental rights of the people of the CHT and to solve their land-problems.

The signatories of the press statement were:

1)      Mr. Lalit Chandra Chakma, General Secretary, Hill Tracts NGO Forum
2)      Mr. Gautam Dewan, President, Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights
3)      Advocate Shaktiman Chakma, President, Hill Tracts NGO Forum, Rangamati District Committee
4)      Mr. Shaktipada Tripura, President, Headmen Association, Khagrachari District
5)      Mr. Santosita Chakma, (Bukul), General Secretary, CHT Jumma Refugee Welfare Association
6)      Mr. Sudatta Bikash Tanchangya, General Secretary, Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights
7)      Mr. Mukta Ranjan Chakma, Secretary, Hill Tracts NGO Forum, Khagrachari District Committee
8)      Mr. Ranglai Mro, President, Mrochet
9)      Mr. Udbhasan Chakma, Member Secretary, Kapaeeng
10)   Advocate Bhabatosh Dewan, Secretary, Maleya
11)   Mr. Amlan Chakma, Executive Director, Taugya
12)   Mr. Bishwa Kalyan Chakma, President Union Parishad Forum, Khagrachari
13)   Janab Mohammad Ali Ahmed, President, Global Mission, Bandarban
14)   Ms. Tuku Talukdar, Organizing Secretary, Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights
15)   Mr. Jumlian Amlai Bawm, President, Bawm Social Council
16)   Mr. Arun Librace, President, Khyag Kalyan Sangstha
17)   Mr. Chaithoai Marma, President, BRAPA
18)   Advocate Susmita Chakma, Joint Secretary, Movement for the Protection of Violence Against Women, Rangamati
19)   Mr. Ashok Kumar Chakma, Executive Director, Trinamul
20)   Mr. Bishwa Priyo Karbari, Ex-Chairman, Khedarmara UP, Baghaichari
21)   Ms. Sagarika Roaza, Advisor, Tripura Kalyan Foundation.

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