A view exchange meeting is in progress in Rangamati Hill District Council’s seminar room

[Day-2/November 17: A view exchange meeting is in progress in Rangamati Hill District Council’s seminar room;]   [Photo: Maleya]

Recently from 16-18 November, 2012, three MPs…i)Advocate Sohrab Ali Sana, Khulna-6, ii) Capt.[Retd.] Giasuddin Ahmed, Mymensingh, and iii) Golam Sobur Tulu, Barguna-2…who are members of the parliamentary committee on the proposed “Forest (Amendment) Act 2012” visited Rangamati hill district from Dhaka at the initiative of the same number of organizations. Maleya Foundation, Prodipan and Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights in CHT [MPFLR]…with the financial assistance from Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF).

The MPs’ entourage included, among many, Ferdausur Rahman, executive director of, Saudia Anwar, advocacy coordinator of, and Ahsan Titu of, Prodipan NGO, and Pragati Chakma of Maleya Foundation.

The distinguished guests are being received by young children with bouquets on the formers’ arrival at Uttar Hattoli village in Longadu upazila of Rangamati hill district

[Day-2/November 17: The distinguished guests are being received by young children with bouquets on the formers’ arrival at Uttar Hattoli village in Longadu upazila of Rangamati hill district;]    [Photo: Maleya]

While addressing the view-exchange meeting with the local indigenous leaders held at Rangamati Hill District Council’s seminar room in the late afternoon of November 17, the MPs said the process of the proposed “Forest (Amendment) Act 2012” was at its last stage at present before being finally passed in the House, therefore the indigenous leaders present at the meeting should not expect the committee to bring any major changes to it. They however gave assurance by telling that they would discuss on the clauses against which the indigenous leaders have complaints, with their other committee members to make “Forest (Amendment) Act 2012” as pro-people as possible.

The MPs and the indigenous leaders including His Majesty Raja Devasish Roy are seen immersed in casual talks while in a dinner at Sabarang restaurant in Rangamati hill town;

[Day-1/November 16: The MPs and the indigenous leaders including His Majesty Raja Devasish Roy are seen immersed in casual talks while in a dinner at Sabarang restaurant in Rangamati hill town;] [Photo: Maleya]

While in their turn, the indigenous leaders pointed out that the explanation of the term, ‘other forest’ in the proposed ‘Forest Act (Amendment)2012’ is against the interests of the indigenous peoples as the term includes Jum farming lands and village common forest of the indigenous peoples. If Jum farming lands are declared as ‘govt forest,’ it would wreak havoc on the traditional life and livelihood of the indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, if the recently issued govt circulation on ‘making new reserve forests’ is implemented, many Mouzas would no longer exist because these Mouzas do not have the amount of land that every Mouza according to the govt circulation has to declare as a reserve forest in its territory. It is feared again that if the proposed ‘Forest Act (Amendment) 2012’ is passed in the House, the traditional rights of headmen, and the indigenous peoples in general would be seriously violated.

The convoy of speed boats carrying the distinguished guests is heading towards Uttar Hattoli village through the waterways of scenic Kaptai Lake

[Day-2/Nov’ 17: The convoy of speed boats carrying the distinguished guests is heading towards Uttar Hattoli village through the waterways of scenic Kaptai Lake;] >[Photo: Maleya]

An issue that in spite of many indigenous peoples living inside a reserve forest, there the forest authority does not allow to establish a govt school, was also brought forth at the meeting. This situation would get worse if existing reserve forests are expanded, and the proposed ‘Forest Act (Amendment) 2012’ is passed, said at the meeting.

The indigenous leaders picked up 10 clauses from the proposed ‘Forest Act (Amendment) 2012,’ which they say are directly against the interests of the traditional life and rights of the indigenous peoples.

The distinguished guests and others in Uttar Hattoli village

[Day-2/Nov’17: The distinguished guests and others in Uttar Hattoli village;] [Photo: Maleya]

Moderated by Gautam Dewan, top person of Movement for the Protection of Forest and Land Rights in CHT, the view exchange meeting saw the presence of a good number of indigenous leaders that include, among many, Joy Sen Tanchangya, Bilaichari upazila parishad chairman, Thoai Aung Marma, organizational secretary of Rangamati district headmen association, and Santo Chit Chakma, general secretary of Jumma Refugees’ Welfare Association. At one stage of the program, Shakti Pada Tripura, a central committee member of Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) read out a memorandum.

Earlier in the day of November 17, the MPs paid a visit to Uttar Hattoli village of Hattoli Mouza under Longadu upazila in Rangamati hill district to have a firsthand look at some village common forests well managed by local indigenous villagers. His Majesty Chakma Circle Chief Barrister Raja Devasish Roy, a member of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, was with the guests at that time.

The MPs and their entourage left Rangamati for Dhaka in the early hours of November 18, 2012.

Related news link: http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2012-11-18/news/306497