Govt needs to show earnestness in resolving CHT land disputes
THAT the Awami League-Jatiya Party government is yet to nominate a new chairman for the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Commission although the fifth commission served out its tenure without resolving a single dispute tends to betray the indifference, if not downright unwillingness, to address a crucial component of the CHT Treaty, which was signed almost 15 years ago. The land secretary was quoted in a report front-paged in New Age on Friday that the ministry had sent a proposal ‘to the law ministry for the appointment of a new commission chairman’ and that it was ‘waiting for a reply.’ He would not, however, say if there would be a new chairman or the outgoing chairman would be reappointed, while sources in the CHT affairs and the land ministry hinted that the government was more inclined towards retaining the services of the outgoing chairman.
The question, however, is not only about the appointment of a new chairman or the reappointment of the outgoing chairman to the commission; it runs deeper. As the New Age report points out, the four previous commissions did not resolve a single dispute, either, giving rise to the obvious question as to what the utility of such a commission is if it cannot deliver on its mandated responsibility. Meanwhile, all the political parties of the hill people — the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, the United People’s Democratic Front, and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (MN Larma) — have asserted that a new commission would do no good in dispute resolution unless certain clauses in the 2001 act governing the formation of the commission are amended. They insist that these clauses are antithetic to the spirit of the 1997 treaty.
On the whole, the dithering over the appointment of a new commissioner to the land dispute commission could only lend credence to the growing suspicion that the AL-Jatiya Party government is not serious and sincere about resolving the land disputes in particular and implementing the CHT treaty in general, just as its predecessors were not. What the incumbents need to realise such suspicion is not good either for the CHT region or the country in general. There have been more signs than one that the region is becoming increasingly volatile, with tension rising among and between the leading political entities there. Most importantly, the political entities appear to be becoming increasingly mistrustful about the intent of the government. Such suspicions and mistrusts need to be dispelled by the government with decisive and demonstrative actions — the sooner the better.
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