The cabinet yesterday approved a draft law that curtails the discretionary decision-making power of the chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission.
The approval of the draft CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act, 2016 came at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The move was made as part of the government's efforts to resolve the longstanding land disputes in the CHT.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said the draft law also modified the existing provisions regarding quorum for the meeting of the commission.
The draft law included several proposals agreed on by the government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) at a meeting on January 9 last year at Chittagong Circuit House.
The Daily Star contacted several PCJSS leaders for opinion on the matter, but they refused to say anything before discussing the issue in their forums.
On December 2, 1997, the then Awami League government and the PCJSS inked the CHT peace accord, ending the nearly two-decade-long insurgency by the hill people.
Since then, PCJSS President Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma several times alleged that the government had signed the accord apparently to disarm the hill people, not to protect their rights.
The PCJSS leaders have been demanding full implementation of the accord.
At the briefing, the cabinet secretary said the amendment would make the CHT land reform law more time-befitting.
According to the existing law, the chairman's decision is considered as the commission's decision. But the draft law proposed that no decision would be valid without approval from the majority of the commission members.
About the structure of the commission, Shafiul said a retired judge of the Supreme Court would be at its helm, while the chairman of the CHT Regional Council or his representative, chairmen of zila parishads of three hill districts, the chiefs of three CHT Circles and the divisional commissioner of Chittagong would be members of the commission.
It would require at least three members, instead of two at present, to have a quorum for a meeting of the commission, he said.
Given the urgency of the matter, the draft law would be made effective through an ordinance, as the Jatiya Sangsad would not be in session in the next two months, he added.
Later, State Minister for CHT affairs Bir Bahadur U Shei Ching told reporters that the amendments would resolve the longstanding land disputes in the CHT.