Prominent citizens of the country have demanded full implementation of all the commitments in line with the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord by removing all obstacles, noting that expectation still remains unfulfilled.
On December 2, 1997, the government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti signed this historic agreement in an effort to find a political solution to the problems in the CHT.
Forty-one eminent citizens placed an eight-point demand mentioning that the implementation of the peace accord has not advanced as anticipated.
“It is a matter of great regret that in the 25 years of the agreement, no progress has been made as expected in the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts agreement though several clauses of the agreement have been implemented,” reads a joint statement signed by Shamsul Huda, Executive Director of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD).
Read more: Celebrating the Peace Accord in Hill Tracts
In particular, the eminent citizens said that it is very sad that no effective initiative has been taken to advance the process of implementing the agreement though the Awami League government that signed the agreement has been in power for the third consecutive term.
“We are deeply concerned about the ineffectiveness and inaction of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Commission. Recently, their regular meetings had to be adjourned several times due to interference from vested interests. The silence of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs or the government in this regard is very sad,” they said in the statement.
Specific demands from the civil society include full implementation of all commitments proposed in the agreement, necessary budget, manpower and visible support of the highest level of government for the proper functioning of the land dispute resolution commission.
Rights activist Sultana Kamal, ALRD Chairperson and Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir, eminent economist and researcher Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Research Initiative Bangladesh (RIB) Executive Director Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad Rana Dasgupta, Executive Director of TIB Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Dr. Abul Barkat, Prof Mesbah Kamal and Shaheen Anam are among the 41 signatories of the statement.
Read more: CHT Peace Treaty: A chase of an illusion!
Recently, a high-level delegation of the United Nations in Bangladesh and key development partners visited the Chittagong Hill Tracts to see first-hand the development initiatives in the area.
The week-long visit from November 13 to November 17 covered the hill districts of Khagrachhari and Rangamati.
The delegation included UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis, EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley, UK High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson and Norway Ambassador Espen Rikter-Svendsen.
UNDP Resident Representative Stefan Liller, UNFPA Country Representative Kristine Blokhus, FAO Country Representative Robert Simpson and UNICEF Country Representative Sheldon Yett were also in the delegation.
UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis said development work in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been hugely successful, but lack of access and remoteness of many communities remains an ongoing challenge.
"The indigenous communities in the CHT have led impressive efforts to preserve and rehabilitate forests and their natural habitat. Climate change has made their work even more vital,” Lewis said on Thursday.
Lewis also said that the visit provided her with a scope to familiarise herself with the region, listen to the concerns of women and adolescents and visit a range of different programmes.
“UN and Partners’ support in CHT must be inclusive and in line with Agenda 2030’s promise of leaving no one behind to achieve a concerted, effective and sustainable development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts,” she added.