Hill Voice, 30 April 2022, International Desk: For ensuring the rights of self-determination of the indigenous Jumma peoples, it is urgent to transfer political, administrative and economic powers and functions to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils, says PCJSS representative Ms. Augustina Chakma at the 21st session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Ms. Chakma raised this demand in participating in the Agenda Item 4: “Discussion on the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum (economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights), with reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” of the Permanent Forum’s session.
Her statement started saying that “Without the rights to self-determination, sustainable development of indigenous peoples cannot be obtained. The indigenous Jumma peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are no exception in this regard.
The historic CHT Accord was signed between the Government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS in1997, to introduce a special governance system consisting of three Hill District Councils at district level and the CHT Regional Council as the apex administrative body at regional level.
But due to the government’s delay-dallying tactics in the proper and full implementation of the Accord, such a system of self-governance has not yet developed in CHT. In the last 25 years, these councils have not been entrusted with the subjects of general administration, law and order, police, land and land management, forest and environment, tourism, development of communication system etc.
The Election Rules and Electoral Roll Rules for making voter list with permanent residents have not been enacted for the purpose of election of these councils in the 25 years. As a result, these councils have so far been governed by unelected interim councils, which have been a hindrance to the establishment of self-determination.
The absence of participatory role of CHT people in the administrative system has been spreading dreadful negative impact on national entity of indigenous Jumma people and existence of their birth land, their culture and livelihoods, human rights and the environment and biodiversity of this region.
The present government has been following the policy of military means like the earlier dictators. At present, the CHT region has completely been handed over to the army under the jurisdiction of de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’. The armies have been creating various obstructions. Hence, the human rights situation in CHT has become extremely critical. Indigenous Jumma peoples are now forced to live in a suffocating state.
The armies have been carrying out wide-scale propaganda and conspiring programs intending to identify the PCJSS activists and supporters engaged in the movement demanding for implementation of the Accord, as ‘terrorists’, ‘extortionists’ and ‘armed miscreants’ etc.
Therefore, to ensure the rights of self-determination of the indigenous Jumma peoples, I urge the Permanent Forum to play due role in withdrawing all temporary camps including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ and transferring political, administrative and economic powers and functions to the CHT councils and to initiative for implementation of recommendations of the Permanent Forum regarding CHT adopted in 2011.”
It is to be mentioned that the 21st session of the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is convening now from 25 April to 6 May 2022 though in-person and online participation at the UN Headquarters in New York. The session dovetailed with the theme of the Forum’s twenty-first session – ‘Indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent’ – and start of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032.
From Bangladesh, Priti Bindu Chakma, on behalf of PCJSS, and Chanchana Chakma, on behalf of Bangladesh Indigenous Women’s Network, are attending the session of the Permanent Forum online and in-person respectively.