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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Enemy Property Act (euphemistically called Vested Property Act) 2009 will be revoked.

Source: BHBCUC, USA


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26, 2010

New York - The Enemy Property Act: BHBCUC, USA Welcomes the Bangladesh Government’s Decision to Revoke the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009 and Reformulate a more humane Vested Property Restoration Act.
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist & Christian Unity Council, USA welcomes Bangladesh Government’s decision to rescind the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009, which was recently approved by the cabinet but later withdrawn by Land Minister in the face of serious concern expressed by BHBCOP, civil society and concerns expressed by such international bodies as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (Please see attached its Press Release on this issue).
At the instruction of Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wazed, yesterday, the 25th of January 2010, the Deputy Leader of the House Begum Sajeda Chowdhury held a haring on the issue of the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009.
The victims of the Enemy Property Act and the potential victims of the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009, which had been approved by the cabinet on but withdrawn by the Speaker at the request of the land Minister Rezaul Karim Hira, were represented by a delegation of five officials of Bangladesh Hindu, Bouddha Christan Oikya Parishad , Sector Commander, Major General ( Retd.) C. R. Dutta Bir Uttam, General Secretary Advocate Rana Das-Gupta and Presidium Members: Supreme Court Advocate Subrata Chowdhury, Mr. Kajal Debnath and Mr. Parimal Guha.
The Government of Bangladesh/Parliament was represented by the Deputy Leader of the House Begum Sajeda Chowdhury, three Chairmen of the Parliamentary Standing committees: Barrister Shafique Ahmed, M.P. ( Law), Mr. Surnajit Sengupta, M.P. (Parliamentary Affairs), Advocate Muzammel Haque, M. P. (Land), Land Minister Mr. Rezaul Karim Hira , Minister for Local Government & Rural Development Syed Ashraful Islam, M. P. ( also the Secretary General of the Awami League), State Minister for Land Advocate Mustafizur Rahman, M. P., Mr. Ahsanul Haque Inu, M. P. (Jatiya Samajtantrik Daal ‘Party’), Mr. Rashed Khan Menon, M. P. (The Workers’ Party), among others, who included the bureaucrats -- Secretaries , too).
The hearing began with the opening statement made by the Deputy Leader of the House Begum Sajeda Chowdhury. In her statement, she stated that, the hearing was being held at the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and in response to the concern expressed by Bangladesh Hindu, Bouddha Christan Oikya Praishad (Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist & Christian Unity Council). She also mentioned that, this was an unprecedented meeting in that no such meeting was even held in the history of Bangladesh Parliament. Having said that, she requested the delegation of BHBCOP to make its presentation on the issue.
Advocate Rana Das-Gupta, Secretary General of BHBCOP made the presentation, in which he basically said that, when the victims of the Vested/Enemy Property Act , that is the minorities of Bangladesh were patiently waiting for the government to enact a modified version of the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2001 reflecting the Supreme Court verdict of March 23, 1974 which rendered Enemy Property Act null and void, and including the right of inheritance by the co-sharers and owners of adjacent properties of the same religious group, all of as sudden the cabinet passed a new Vested Property Restoration Act, namely the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009, which would augment the sufferings of the victims rather than ending their sufferings, which it is seemingly purported to do. After explaining how the Vested Property Restoration Act could be used to harass the minorities and seize more land form them, he made an impassioned appeal to the parliament and the government to take the following steps, immediately:
  • (i) Discard the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009 altogether; and
  • (ii) Enact a modified version of the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2001, reflecting the Supreme Court verdict of March 23, 1974 and by adding the right of inheritance by the co-sharers ( relatives) and the owners of adjacent property belonging to the same religious group.
After Advocate Das-Gupta, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs Mr. Suranjit Sen-Gupta, M. P. spoke. He completely supported Advocate Ranan Das-Gupta’s proposal. He bluntly accused the corrupt politicians and evil bureaucrats for
drafting the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009, which not only failed to improve upon the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2001 but hurt the victims even further. Speaking after him, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Law and Judiciary Affairs Barrister Sahfiqul Haque also supported the position of Advocate Ran Das-Gupta. In the face of severe criticism the Land Ministry by Mr. Suranjit Sen-Gupta and the Minister for Law and Judiciary Affairs, the Land Minister said that the bill was not drafted by them and supported the proposal of BHBCOP. The state Minister of Land said that after holding five meetings on the issue he sent his recommendations; however, those recommendations were not reflected in the real bill that was drafted.
In the face of severe criticism of the bureaucrats, one of the Secretaries present at the meeting said that they follow orders given by the politicians [which implies that some political leaders of Awami League and perhaps a few corrupt and racist bureaucrats conspired to craft a bill that would hurt rather than help the minorities or the victims of Enemy Property Act.]
In the end, Deputy Leader of the House Begum Sajeda Chowdhury also agreed that the points made by Advocate Rana Das-Gupta were very reasonable and valid. She then declared that:
  • (i) Soon the Land Minister would address the parliament and revoke the Vested Property Restoration Act of 2009 by making mention of the fact that it was being done in consultation with the representatives of the BHBOP; and
  • (ii) A new Vested Property Restoration Act would be drafted under the direct Supervision of the Chairmen of the Parliamentary Standing Committees on Law, Judiciary, Land and Parliamentary Affairs, that is Barrister Shafiqul Haque, MP, Mr. Suranjit Sen-Gupta , MP, Mr. Rezaul Karim Hira, and Advocate Mozammel Haque, M. P.
Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist & Christian Unity Council, USA firmly believes this would not have been possible unless the U. S. Commission on Religious Freedom had acted decisively and in a timely fashion (Please see the USCIRF’s Press Release on this issue at www. uscirf.gov).
BHBCUC, USA would like to thank not only the USCIRF but also the many kind officials of the U. S. Department of State, DRL, House and Senate Committees on Foreign Relations the compassionate Senators and Congressmen as well as the officers of the AI USA, HRW, the U.N., NDI, and the Refugees International.
P.S. This press release is written based on a telephonic communication between Advocate Rana Das-Gupta, Secretary General of BHBCOP, who made the presentation at the said hearing and Dr. Dwijen Bhattacharjya, Official Spokesperson for BHBCUC, USA and, hence, there might be some minor errors in the details of the news.
Contact: Rup Kumar Bhowmick,
Director Communications & Publications

kumarbh@hotmail.com
Phone: (646) 240 – 5840
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist & Christian Unity Council , USA
Presidents: Mr. Julius Gomes, Mr. Swapan Das & Mr. Ranabir Barua
Executive vice President: Mr. Probir Roy
General Secretary: Mr. Bappi Sen
Treasurer: Mr. Shontosh Shaha
Director Policy: Dr. Jiten Roy
Director Communications & Publications: Mr. Rup Kumar Bhowmick,
Chairman/Board of directors: Mr. Shyamal Sharma
Vice Chairman/Board of directors: Mr. Bidyut Das
Member Secretary/Board of Directors: Mr. Ranjit Bhaduri
Official Spokesperson: Dr. Dwijen Bhattacharjya

MPs go against cabinet decision: Oppose changes in vested property return law

Source: Daily star

In an unprecedented move, a high profile meeting of lawmakers yesterday rejected all proposals approved by the cabinet for amending the Vested Property Return Act 2001, saying if translated into law, it will go against the country's minority community.

Chaired by Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, the meeting termed the proposals unnecessary and said if enacted, the law will also destroy the basic spirit of the original act passed by the Awami League-led government in 2001, meeting sources said.

The law and land ministers, chiefs of parliamentary standing committees on law, land and education ministries and senior officials of the land ministry attended yesterday's meeting, an extraordinary one as such meeting was never held in the country's parliamentary history.

The meeting decided to enforce the act of 2001 by bringing some minor amendments to it.

A number of senior parliamentarians present at the meeting expressed surprise as to who drafted the proposals and how they managed to get the cabinet's nod, the sources said.

The cabinet approved the Vested Property Return (Amendment) Act last November under which vested properties of the minority community members are supposed to be returned to them.

Incorporating the proposals, a bill was supposed to be placed in parliament on January 11, but following objections the land minister at the eleventh hour declined to submit it.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was informed about the objections and the consequences if the proposals are translated into laws. Hasina then asked the deputy leader of the house to hold a meeting with senior parliamentarians to discuss the issue, sources said.

Ranadas Gupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Khristan Oikya Parishad, was present at yesterday's meeting and placed some proposals to make the existing act more effective.

The association has been opposing the drafted proposals since they were disclosed, saying the amendments will go against the interest of the minority community of the country.

Suranjit Sengupta, chief of the parliamentary standing committee on law ministry, told The Daily Star that the act of 2001 clearly stipulates the way for transferring vested properties to their owners.

The act has a specific provision for formation of tribunals consisting of retired judges to do the task, Suranjit said. "But the bill proposed deleting this provision and introducing committees to do it."

The bill also proposed making lawmakers advisers of these committees at upazila, district and metropolitan levels.

"The proposals will create complexities if those are made laws," Rashed Khan Menon, chief of the parliamentary standing committee on education, told The Daily Star after the meeting.

The standing committee on land ministry drafted the proposals, which Suranjit termed an act beyond the committee's jurisdiction since the House had not sent the bill to it for scrutiny, a meeting source said.

Talking to The Daily Star about the fate of the bill, Suranjit said the meeting finally decided that the land minister will place it in parliament any day during the current session after scrutiny by his committee and removing unnecessary proposals.

He said some minor amendments to the act will be proposed.

The proposals include amending the definition of transferable vested properties to make its range wider and the provision that specifies the price for leasing unclaimed properties.

According to the original act, unclaimed properties may be leased at the government fixed price, which might be amended to set a token price for such lease.

The process of returning vested properties to their owners has remained stalled since the last BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government came to power in 2001.