CHT peace accord: 25 years on, full implementation still elusive
It has been 25 years since the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed, but rights activists and leaders of the party that signed it with the government say key clauses of the agreement still remain unimplemented.
They say the government is not willing to implement the accord and this was resulting in a growing distrust between the indigenous people of the three districts and the authorities.
The peace accord was signed on this day in 1997 between the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghaty Samity (PCJSS) and the then Awami League government.
Former lawmaker and PCJSS Vice-President Ushatan Talukder said as per the accord, the CHT Land Commission was supposed to protect the indigenous peoples' right to their ancestral lands. "But the commission remains non-functional because the rules have not been formulated for the amended CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act, under which the commission was supposed to function," he said.
He added that the authorities were not formulating the rules because they were not willing to make the land commission effective.
"Besides, the district councils were supposed to be formed through popular vote of the permanent residents of the region. But that has not happened because there is no list of voters. Meanwhile, the ruling party men are forming these councils."
The PCJSS maintains that of the 72 clauses of the accord, only 25 have been fully implemented and 18 others were partially implemented.
The clauses that could have brought major changes in the lives of people have not been implemented at all, said leaders of the party, adding that there was a growing frustration among the people of the hill tracts for this reason.
Ushatan Talukder said the people's frustration was partly responsible for creation of organisations like the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) which was formed to oppose the peace accord but ended up committing anti-state activities.
Over 500 temporary army camps in the hill tracts were supposed to be withdrawn as per the peace accord, he said. But the process stopped after withdrawing around 130 camps.
Now Armed Police Battalions (APBn) are likely to be deployed to those camps that were supposed be used for rehabilitation of the displaced indigenous people, he said.
Contacted, CHT Affairs Minister Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing said the process of implementation of the accord has been slow for different reasons because the implementation requires involvement of different ministries.
About the "non-functional" land commission, he said, "We will sit with the land ministry regarding this."He added that the APBn would be stationed in 30 former army camps to ensure the safety and security of the people.
Pallab Chakma, executive director of rights organisation Kapaeeng Foundation, said the land commissions formed as per the accord received around 27,000 complaints over the years, but could solve none.
The displaced indigenous people who became refugees have not been rehabilitated, he added.
"A power sharing mechanism between the hills people and government was expected from this accord. But the common people could not elect their representatives," Pallab said.
He added that it was the government's responsibility to properly implement the peace accord.