RC attends Indigenous Peoples Day 2013
On 3 August, the Bangladesh Indigenous People’s Forum, supported by ILO and UNDP, observed International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which falls on August 9. The event held in the packed auditorium of the Institution of Engineers in Dhaka was attended by development partners, rights activists and members from Bangladesh’s diverse ethnic communities. At the event, the chief guests and speakers urged the government to implement its pledges to the country’s indigenous communities before the end of its term.
UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Neal Walker, observed that it was for the people of Bangladesh to determine how they would define the word ‘indigenous’ but noted that indigenous peoples have certain characteristics that ethnic groups in Bangladesh also share. He commended the Government for the progress made on implementing the CHT Accord but observed that much remained to be done and focused on several priorities. He urged the Government to amend the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act in conformity to the CHT Peace Accord in the next session of Parliament, because land is the root cause of conflict in CHT and most pending issues could be solved if the land disputes are settled. He also pointed out in addition to completing the transfer of subjects to the Hill District Councils as per the Accord, the Government needed to ensure the allocation of required human and financial resources to carry out the functions which had already been transferred, particularly in health and education, so that HDCs could properly manage and deliver these crucial services to their people.
Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, a signatory to the CHT Accord, expressed disappointment in the lack of progress in the implementation of the Accord, saying that successive governments, including the current government, had failed the peoples of the CHT.
His disappointment was echoed by the Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous Issues Chairman, Mr. Rashed Khan Menon, who lamented that there had been a chance for Bangladesh to redress past wrongs by recognising indigenous people in the 15th amendment to the Constitution but it failed to do so. “We could go one step forward by recognising small ethnic groups but it took us ten steps backward,’ he said.
The Chakma circle chief, Devashish Roy, also a member on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, called on the government to honour the treaties it has signed, reiterated that the clauses of 1997 CHT Accord were yet to be implemented and on a personal note, stated that individuals have the right to self-identification as framed in the many human rights instruments that Bangladesh acknowledges. EU delegation charge d ’affaires Andrew Bernard, Danish charge d ’affaires Lene Volkersen, Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong, CHT women’s activist Chaitali Tripura and youth activist Sohel Hajang also spoke at the event.