Address indigenous concerns
Source: The Daily Star, 20 January 2015
The establishment of a Rangamati Science & Technology University has generated widespread protests by indigenous communities and civil society groups who believe that, in the absence of full implementation of the CHT Accord, the project will further displace and deprive already marginalised indigenous communities. We urge the government to take serious note of these concerns.
Why should indigenous people be opposed to development projects? Obviously there are reasons for this opposition. First, they take it as an imposition, as the decision was taken without prior consultation with local communities and representative institutions, even though the Accord stipulates that no land within the control and jurisdiction of the Hill District Council (HDC) shall be acquired or transferred by the government without consultation and consent of the HDC. It also recognises the rights of indigenous people to decide their own development priorities through representative institutions.
Second, the track record of the government in matters of development project in the CHT has not been one of trust and confidence-building. Indigenous communities fear that they will be evicted from their lands, as they have been in the past, to make way for the institution and for non-indigenous students, teachers and staff who will consequently settle in the area.
Development in a democracy must be of, for and by the people. Any decision taken without the people's consultation and in violation of the Accord can hardly be effective or desired.
We implore the government to prioritise indigenous demands in designing development projects and to implement the accord without further delay, allaying all concerns.