The government is yet to nominate a new chairman to the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Commission although the fifth commission served out its tenure on Thursday without resolving a single dispute.
The four other commissions in the past also did not resolve a single dispute related to land in the three hill districts.
Land ministry officials said that they had sent a proposal for the appointment of the next chairman at the commission.
‘We have sent our proposal to the law ministry for the appointment of a new commission chairman. We are waiting for a reply,’ the land secretary, Mokhlesur Rahman, said.
He was silent on whether there would be a new chairman or the outgoing chairman would be reappointed although sources in the CHT affairs and the land ministry hinted that the government prefers to retain Khademul Islam as the commission chairman for another term.
All the political parties of the hill people — the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, the United People’s Democratic Front and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti([MN Larma) — said that a fresh commission would do no good in dispute resolution
unless clauses in the 2001 act that were against the spirit of the 1997 CHT accord, which ended decades of insurgency in hills, were changed. The government in May said that it would place a bill in the parliament seeking amendment to the act in the budget session but it was yet to get the cabinet’s approval.
Regional political parties and other organisations of hill people have warned the government against retaining Khademul the commission chair as ‘he triggered controversies for his biased role.’
The commission of Khademul Islam, which served out the tenure on Thursday, at its last meeting on May 23 set a date for hearing cases on July 22 and 23. The commission earlier failed to hear cases for quorum crisis. But after the last meeting in May, it said that it would continue hearing cases even amid a quorum crisis.
The commission’s secretary Abdul Hamid said that it was not a problem for the commission to hear cases after serving out its tenure as the commission would be in office till the next chair was appointed.
In such a situation, organisations of hill people went on demonstrations against government move to reappoint Khademul the commission chair without amending the act that constitutes the commission.
The Pahari Chhatra Parishad, the Hill Women’s Federation and the Democratic Youth Forum held protests in hill districts on Thursday and they decide to burn Khademul in effigy in Dhaka on Friday.
The commission passed out its tenure amid fresh reports of occupation the land of hill people at Ramgarh in Khagrachari and in Bandarban.
The commission of Khademul Islam was set up on July 19, 2009 for three years and it had held 24 meetings.
Representatives of hill communities have been boycotting meetings since the fifth commission meeting.
Khademul invited controversies by emphasising a cadastral survey of the hill districts ignoring traditional land rights in the place.
In line with the CHT accord, the government appointed Justice Anwarul Huq Chowdhury the commission chair on June 3, 1999 but he died before assuming office.
On April 5, 2000, Justice Abdul Karim was made the chairman but he resigned on medical grounds. After a year and a half, the government appointed Justice Mahmudur Rahman the chairman on November 4, 2001 and he died in November 2007 after being in office for two terms.