Discussion meeting on land and cultural rights held in Rangamati
On 16 December 2015 a discussion meeting on “Roles of the Headman, Karbari (village chief) and Civil Society for protection of Land Rights and Culture of Indigenous Peoples” held at Tangya conference hall in Rangamati. This meeting was jointly organized by Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Headmen Network and Kapaeeng Foundation with the support of ILC.
His Excellency Barrister Devasish Roy, Chakma Circle Chief and also an expert member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was the chief guest while Premalal Chakam vice president of CHT Headmen Network presided over the program. Goutam Dewan, President of CHT Citizen Committee; Nirupa Dewan, member of National Human Rights Commission; Eminent educationist Professor Mong Shanoo Chowdhury; Mangal Kumar Chakma, Adviser of Kapaeeng Foundation and indigenous leader Bijoy Keton Chakma were present among others. Shaktipada Tripura vice president of CHT Headmen Network delivered welcome speech.
On his speech Raja Devasish Roy said that CHT Accord has signed to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples in CHT. Through this peace agreement the region was recognized as indigenous inhabited area in the country. Unfortunately, government and others administrative stakeholder are not abiding it. Many development projects like tourism has been designed and implemented without the consent and consultation of CHT Regional Council, Hill District Councils, and other traditional leaders. Developing business in the name of tourism sometimes cause eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land. That’s why he suggested developing eco-friendly tourism with the consultation of local institutions.
Goutam Dewan said consultation with CHTRC and HDCs has to be taken into consideration while formulating any laws relating to CHT. But in reality, it is not being practiced. All the laws designed from Dhaka and CHT indigenous peoples are not consulted as a result these are socially, culturally, economically and geographically contradicting with CHT context. These laws are not consistent with the reality. He also added that forest has been destroyed while implementing development project. Water sources became dry up due to lifting of rocks from the hilly streams in the region. Additionally, the Tourism Department has not been transferred properly to the HDCs as a result they do not have control over all type of tourism development in CHT.
Nirupa Dewan said District council which is the main institution in CHT is become corrupted institution. There is no practice of democracy in these institutions. Locals should raise their voice against this corruption.
Mr. Mangal Kumar Chakma said that the tourism projects are being designed and implemented without representation of indigenous people. Any programme that harms ethnic diversity, tradition and nature is unacceptable, he added. For using the land of CHT in a appropriate way the contradictory provisions of the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act should be amended without further delay. More importantly strengthening of local institutions through direct election is also essential for proper land management in CHT.
Arun Kanti Chakma Chairman of Sadar Upazila Council said elected council in the HDCs can ensure land rights of local people. Right now the councils are not elected by common people. Locals do not expect anything good from these unelected councils. He demands to return the power to the mass. Mass movement should be raise against the corruption of council. Until and unless there are elected HDCs land rights of local peoples will remain unaddressed.