Not a single dispute resolved in two decades; CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission practically non-functional

The Daily Star August 06, 2019


Not a single dispute resolved in two decades

CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission practically non-functional

Following the signing of the CHT Peace Accord in 1997 between the then government and Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti, the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission was formed in 1999 in line with the accord. However, it is extremely unfortunate that two decades after its formation, the commission has not been able to solve a single land dispute, even as the complaints keep piling up. Around 22,000 complaints have been filed with the commission since 1999, but the commission remains ineffective due to a variety of reasons—primary among them being the lack of a set of rules and regulations needed for the commission to do its job.

Why, after two decades, the government has not framed the rules (under the amended CHT Land Disputes Resolution Commission Act 2001) necessary for the commission to begin hearings of land disputes is the question. It is a well-known fact that the resolution of land disputes is central for peace and prosperity in the hill districts which have endured a decades-long ethnic conflict arising out of the indigenous peoples’ desire to secure land rights. Although the peace accord brought an end to the armed conflict, indigenous people in the region are far from realising their land rights. The livelihood and wellbeing of thousands of indigenous people depend on their successful reclamation of land. Many of them became internally displaced due to the ethnic conflict and many who had fled to India returned in the 1990s, and the commission, had it been functional, could have helped these indigenous families get back their ancestral land.

This is yet another classic case of good intentions that have no bearing on reality. Although the commission has significant powers on paper (for instance, the judgment by the commission is to be deemed as a decree of a civil court as per the 2001 Act), the absence of rules and shortage of manpower mean that the body is effectively toothless.

We fail to understand the point of having a commission in place that does not have the means to carry out its duties, particularly when something as critical as land rights of indigenous people is concerned. This clearly shows a lack of political will. It is high time the government framed the rules needed for the commission to function and addressed the manpower crisis.