Probe finds Destiny's plundering of hills | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, September 11, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, September 11, 2009

Probe finds Destiny's plundering of hills

'Commercial plantation' on indigenous people's land in Bandarban

A probe by Bomang chief of Chittagong Hill Tracts found network marketing company Destiny Group's involvement in hill cutting and commercial planting of trees on land owned by indigenous people of Bandarban.
The report of the investigation carried out by Bandarban Bomang Circle King Aung Shoi Prue Chowdhury at the request of the district administration was submitted to Bandarban Deputy Commissioner Mizanur Rahman on August 28.
The Bandarban DC acknowledged receipt of the probe report and said the district administration imposed Section 144 in different areas of the district on August 27 to protect the indigenous people's land from being gobbled up.
"No matter how much power one holds, all are equal in the eyes of law," he told The Daily Star.
Asked about the probe findings, former army chief Lt Gen (retd) Harun-ur-Rashid who is president of the Destiny Group, denied his involvement. "I personally do not own any land in Bandarban," he said.
Harun said Destiny Tree Plantation Ltd, a subsidiary of the Destiny Group, has planted hundreds of trees on over 4,000 acres of land, 90 percent of which is in Bandarban, since 2006 through profit-sharing arrangements with lessees of government property.
He said problems arose recently following a dispute over a 25-acre plot at Toinfa mouja in Bandarban and Destiny is trying to solve it.
Sources in the Bandarban district administration said use of leased out hill land, which is meant for rubber cultivation and orchards, by a third-party is a violation of the lease contracts.
"As I understand, sub-leasing is prohibited, but what Destiny did is kind of a profit-sharing arrangements with the lease-holders. There is no question of us owning or grabbing land in Bandarban," explained Gen Harun.
The investigation report says people of the retired army chief cut hill slopes 5km off the Ali Kadam-Thanchi road and planted saplings on jhum land owned by indigenous people.
It says during a recent visit to the spot Toinfa Mouja Headman Reng Pung Mro, who was with the investigation committee, expressed his ignorance about how the retired general and his men got hold of the land there.
The probe body received allegations from locals that the mouja headman had sold out land ownership to retired army officials. Allegations of other wrongdoings were brought against the headman's staff Mojammel Haq.
Arun Das, a member of the probe body, told The Daily Star that under the patronage of Destiny Group, Mojammel grabbed land owned by indigenous people. He said U Ky Rang Tripura and Malini Tripura were evicted from their homes near the Dolujhiri canal.
Destiny Tree Plantation's Director (Operation) Md Farid Akhter told this correspondent at his Dhaka office on Tuesday that they did not get any land allocation from the government in Bandarban.
"We made agreements with lease holders and they rented out the land to us for commercial plantation," he said.
Farid said they have around 3,500 acres of land in Bandarban under the plantation programme. Denying having evicted anyone from their ancestral land, he said Destiny Group is rather creating jobs for the local people.
In the wake of gross irregularities centring land by Destiny Group and mounting pressures on the administration from locals against land grabbing, Bandarban DC Mizanur Rahman issued an order on August 30 banning Destiny's tree plantation there.
Gen Harun, however, told The Daily Star that the ban was applicable for the disputed Toinfa mouja only--a claim the Bandarban district administration dismissed.
Earlier, Destiny said through press advertisements that a total of 5,330 acres of land is under its control by means of buying, leasing, hiring and partnership. And of this, more than 4,225 acres of land is in 22 moujas in Bandarban.
But Nazemul Islam Chowdhury, a director of Destiny Tree Plantation Ltd, could not explain how they owned land in Chittagong Hill Tracts region without any permission of the district administration.

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