Santu Larma & Home Minister meet to restore peace in hills and implement CHT Accord

Photo: Meeting between Santu Larma and Home Minister

Hill Voice, 01 March 2021, Special Correspondent: A meeting has been held between Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and one of the signatories of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord, President of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and CHT Regional Council Chairman Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma).

The meeting started at 11:30 am on February 28, 2021 at the office of the Home Minister of the Bangladesh Secretariat in Dhaka, sources said. At first, the Home Minister had a bilateral meeting with Santu Larma for about 20 minutes. The second round of meetings lasted for another hour. The meeting was attended by the Home Secretary, Inspector General of Police and several officials of the home ministry along with Santu Larma and the Home Minister.

The meeting discussed the current unrest and instability in the CHT and how the peace process can be made more sustainable. During the meeting, the Home Minister pointed out plans to deploy police instead of army in various army camps withdrawn after the Accord to restore peace in the CHT and improve the law and order situation.

At the time, Santu Larma said the CHT Accord was signed to restore peace and stability in the CHT and to achieve a political and peaceful solution to the CHT problem. But the Accord was not implemented properly. Peace has not returned to the hills as the Accord has not been implemented. Mr. Larma said there was no alternative to implementing the CHT Accord to restore peace in the CHT.

Santu Larma further said that it would be difficult to bring back the desired peace in the CHT by setting up only police camps instead of withdrawal of all the temporary camps of the security forces including de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’. He opined that it was not possible to restore peace in the CHT by simply deploying police without implementing the Accord.

For implementation of CHT Accord, he pointed out the unimplemented issues including proper implementation of CHT Regional Council Act 1998 and three Hill District Council Acts 1989, transfer of subjects of ‘Police’ and ‘Law and Order’ to the Hill District Councils, amendment of Police Act 1861, Police Regulation and CHT Regulation of 1900, Transfer of ‘Land and Land Management’, Formulation of Rules of Land Commission, Transfer of non-transferred subjects and functions through Executive Order to three Hill District Councils etc. He also mentioned that the permanent residents of the CHT serving in the police force should be posted in the three hill districts.

Santu Larma further told the Home Minister that the CHT Accord Monitoring Committee headed by Abul Hasnat Abdullah is in charge of the implementation of the Agreement. Therefore, the involvement of this committee in the meeting on implementation of the Accord is vital, he said.

The meeting also discussed which clauses of the CHT Accord have been implemented and which clauses have not been implemented. At that time, Santu Larma handed over the 2019 report of the PCJSS on the implementation of the Agreement to the Home Minister.

It was decided at the meeting that meetings will be held soon with the other responsible persons concerned with the implementation of the CHT Agreement and the CHT Accord Implementation Committee will be involved in the meeting.

It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently ordered Home Minister to hold meeting with Santu Larma to restore peace in the hills. Accordingly, the Home Minister himself initiated to convene the meeting. According to meeting sources, the issues were discussed in a cordial atmosphere. Santu Larma assured the Home Minister that he would extend full cooperation in the implementation of the agreement as before.

The CHT Accord was signed on 2 December 1997 between the Government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS to resolve the CHT problem peacefully and politically and to establish the just rights of permanent residents of the CHT including Jumma people.

But even though the last 23 years have passed, the government has not fully and properly implemented the Agreement. In addition, in recent times, by stopping implementation process of the Accord, the government and the administration resorted to repression against the leaders and activists of the PCJSS and the Jumma people who are vocal for implementation of the Agreement. As a result, the CHT region is constantly moving towards a volatile, turbulent and complex situation.

It may be mentioned that at the last meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of CHT Affairs, Abul Hasnat Abdullah, member of the standing committee and convener of the CHT Accord Implementation Committee, said that the process of making Santu Larma minus is not appropriate. He said it was never possible to restore peace in the hills without Santu Larma.