The announcement by the Prime Minister that she wants to put an end to land disputes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) gives a glimmer of hope that the most sensitive component of the CHT Peace Accord may be resolved under the PM's leadership. It is hard to understand, however, why even after 18 long years, the Peace Accord has not been fully implemented, especially since it was the PM and her government who had initiated this historic agreement.
During these years the ethnic minorities of the CHT have been living in uncertainty regarding the ownership of the land they have lived on for generations. Influential people have taken advantage of the situation and intimidated these communities in various ways. Allegations of human rights abuses have been regular. The Peace Accord had been a promise to these people that they would be treated as equal citizens and given the dignity of such a status.
The PM has referred to all the development work that has been done in the CHT to improve the lives of the people such as building roads, improving telecommunications and providing power supply, which is commendable. But the fact remains that land reforms are crucial for the stability of the region and unless they take place, taking into account the rights and demands of the ethnic minorities, there will continue to be fear, intimidation and uncertainty. This will be in contradiction to the sprit of the CHT Peace Accord. We hope that the words of the PM regarding finding a solution through dialogue will be brought to fruition soon – eighteen years is far too long a time for the ethnic minorities of this region to wait for the government's commitments to be entirely fulfilled.