The Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission still remains ineffective in absence of the commission chairman and corresponding rules under the law keeping the fate of 22,000 petitions on land dispute hanging in the balance.
The commission, formed in 1999, failed to resolve any land dispute. Commission officials and people concerned blamed some provisions stipulated in the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001 for the failure.
Although the provisions were amended in October 2016, after holding several meetings, the commission became practically non-functional in absence of a set of rules needed for the proper implementation of the act.
The government has yet to appoint a new chairman of the commission since September 6, when the tenure of former chairman Justice Anwarul Haque expired.
‘There is no chairman for the land dispute resolution commission since September 6,’ said Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti president Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, widely known as Santu Larma, also a member of commission.
‘We do not see any initiative to appoint a new chairman,’ he said.
The government is yet to frame the rules under the amended act although the commission submitted a draft rules on January 1, said Santu, also CHT regional commission chairman.
‘The commission is yet to start hearing the land disputes in absence of the rules,’ he added.
PCJSS publicity secretary Mangal Kumar Chakma said that at least 22,000 applications from aggrieved hill people for resolution of land disputes remained pending with the commission.
The commission set up in line with CHT accord signed in December 2, 1997 is vital for resolving decades old land problems for ethnic minorities in three hill districts – Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban, said Santu and Mangal.
On July 12, 2001, the day before handing over charge to the caretaker government, the then Awami League government hurriedly passed the CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001 allegedly without considering recommendations
made by the CHT Regional Council.
The hill people’s protests against the ‘discretionary’ power of the commission chairman in decision making and the government’s apathy to the resolution of land disputes left the commission ineffective, said Santu and Mangal.
On October 6, 2016, parliament passed the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission (Amendment) Act to remove the stalemate in the commission.
Justice Anwarul Haque Chowdhury was appointed the first chairperson of the commission in 1999, but he died before taking the charge. Justice Abdul Karim was appointed chairman in 2000, but he resigned on health ground.
Justice AM Mahmudur Rahman was appointed the commission chairman in November 2001 and till his death in 2007 he failed to resolve any dispute in the face of opposition from the hill peoples’ organisations, who demanded amendment to the act.
Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury was appointed chairman in July 2009 and Justice Mohammad Anwarul Haque was appointed chairman in September 2014. According to the 2001 act, the tenure of the chairman is three years.
National Human Rights Commission report in November 2014 said, ‘It is the understanding of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh that the resolution of land disputes is the key to an overall peaceful situation in the region.
The Land Commission set up to deal with these issues proved incapable and failed to gain the trust and confidence of the CHT people.’
A commission source said that the draft rules proposed that commission should take an initiative on the land dispute after taking opinion and advice from the regional council and the CHT affairs ministry.
For proper functioning of the commission, local administration, police, and all other organisations have to provide all cooperation to the commission on a priority basis. Otherwise, the commission can take legal action against any organisation or person concerned, said Santu.
Santu Larma also said that the commission’s works were hampered due to crisis of manpower and separate office in Bandarban and Rangamati.
‘Government is on the process of appointing a new chairman. We will take necessary step as soon as possible,’ said land secretary Abdul Jalil.
‘I will enquire about the rules,’ he added.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country