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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Indigenous Rights To Be Protected By Constitution

Source: UNPO

Will the rights of Bangladesh’s indigenous peoples finally be recognized by the country’s constitution?

Below is an article published by Indigenous Portal:

Co-chairman of Special Parliamentary Committee for Constitution Amendment (SPCCA) Mr. Suranjit Sengupta, MP, said the rights of the indigenous community would be recognised incorporating their rights in the Constitution.

He was addressing as chief guest at the seminar on ‘Constitutional Recognition of the Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh, organised by Bangladesh Adivasi Forum with the support of Action Aid Bangladesh at CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka.

Suranjit Sengupta also said that earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told them to take it seriously when we discussed the issue with her. “I am impressed with the presence in this house; especially to see the movement that indigenous peoples have shaped successfully, at least intellectually. Now we have a good-chance to establish rights for all in the Constitution. We will incorporate the good things that were left out from the Constitution of 1972,” he said. He urged the indigenous community to place a draft to the SPCCA outlining the way they want their rights incorporated in the Constitution.

“The SPCCA will take decision about the recognition of the rights of the indigenous people in the Constitution,” Suranjit said. Bangladesh emerged through a bloody battle to establish the rights of the people not to deprive them, he said. He also urged the leaders of the indigenous community to continue their movement to materialise the dream of Manabendra Narayan Larma, the pioneer leader of the indigenous community.

In his speech, Hasanul Huq Inu, MP, and member of the SPCCA said, the issue of constitutional recognition of the indigenous community would be taken seriously. I personally as a member of the SPCCA and conscious citizen of the country support the demand for recognition of their rights in the Constitution, he added. ''Many high profile politicians do not want the indigenous people's constitutional recognition,'' he added.

Eminent columnist Syed Abul Maksud said that national recognition of the ethnic minority was logical as they were citizen of Bangladesh. He hoped that this government would take it seriously to establish secular order in the country.

Information Commissioner Prof. Dr Sadeka Halim said that indigenous peoples should be recognised in the constitution as ‘indigenous peoples’. He urged indigenous leaders to continue their movement and to put demands before the government as they want.

Prof Mesbah Kamal said with the constitutional recognition the spirit of Bangali nationality will not be undermined. ''We have to honour the emotion of the indigenous people who want their own identity, and the best way to honour their spirit is to give them constitutional recognition.''

General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum Sanjeeb Drong presented the keynote paper while Robaet Ferdous moderated the seminar.

Publicity Secretary of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samity (PCJSS) urged the government to include a definition of indigenous community in the Article 152 of the Constitution, side by side to insert the rights to participation, identity, consent and self-government of indigenous peoples.

In his keynote paper, Sanjeeb Drong said that USA, Canada, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Venezuela had recognised the rights of indigenous community in their Constitution. Not only constitutional recognition of their rights but also traditional land rights and ownership of territory were recongnised in the constitutions of these countries, he mentioned in his keynote paper. Drong mentioned the specific articles of the Constitution Article 3, 28(4), 59, 65(3a) and 80 to incorporate the term of indigenous community.

Among others general secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad Rabindranath Soren and Action Aid country director Farhah Kabir spoke at the seminar.

It is mentionable that Manabendra Narayan Larma, founder of Parbatya Chattagra Jana Shanghati Samity, who was a member of the parliament in 1972, had opposed the original constitution since there was no mention about the indigenous community.

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