Cancellation of CHT districts council bills demanded

Staff Correspondent
Nagarik Samaj forms a human chain at Shahbagh in Dhaka on Saturday, demanding withdrawal of bills placed in parliament to amend hill district councils acts and suspension of election to hill district councils.— New Age photo

Nagarik Samaj forms a human chain at Shahbagh in Dhaka on Saturday, demanding withdrawal of bills placed in parliament to amend hill district councils acts and suspension of election to hill district councils.— New Age photo

National minority leaders, politicians, academics and right activists on Saturday demanded cancellation of three bills tabled in parliament for increasing to 11 from the existing five the number of interim members of the three hill district councils in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Addressing a human chain in front of National Museum, they said that the bills incorporated government ‘ill intention’ of keeping the hill districts under control of selected people without direct votes of national minorities in the region.
Khagrachari unit of Parbatya Bangali Chhatra Parishad, however, at a human chain in Khagrachari town, demanded inclusion of seven Bengali people and one vice-chairman in CHT district councils as per ratio of the inhabitants in the proposed bills.
Th state minister for CHT affairs, Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, on July 1 tabled the Rangamati Hill District Council (Amendment) Bill 2014, the Khagrachari Hill District Council (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Bandarban Hill District Council (Amendment) Bill 2014.
The bills proposed that the number of interim members of the hill district councils would be increased at 11 from the existing five including three non-tribal members.
The parliamentary standing committee on the CHT affairs ministry on November 17 recommended passage of the bills after scrutiny.
Although the laws stipulate that 34 members including the chairman of each of the hill district councils have to be elected, the government has so far taken no move for the elections, rather it is going to control the councils by increasing the number of selected interim members, the human chain in Dhaka was told.
The speakers said that the CHT affairs ministry did not discuss the matter with hill people including Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, Parbatya Chattagram Anchalik Parishad and the local lawmakers before placing the bills in the parliament.
Oikya NAP president Pankaj Bhattacharya said, ‘Elected members are needed for the proper functioning of the hill district councils…Mere increasing the number of interim members would neither ensure the accountability of the councils nor the councils would represent the hill people.’
He said the bills were a clear violation of the CHT Peace Accord.
‘The undemocratic forces would take a strong footing in the hills if the bills are passed,’ he said.
Parbatya Chattagram Anchalik Parishad member KS Mong said that the government was acting in a hostile attitude to hill people. ‘Government is forcing us to choose the way of blood-stained fighting,’ he said.
International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission member Khushi Kabir said that the government wanted to take over the hill districts under its control through the bills, ignoring the interests of the hill people.
Bangladesh Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeev Drang said that the government was deceiving the hill people time and again but it was not implementing the CHT accord.
Journalist Abu Sayeed Khan, academics Mejbah Kamal, Rubaiyat Ferdous and Razib Mir, among others, also spoke.

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