First Session of the United
Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
13 - 24 May 2002, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Agenda Item No. 6 : Economic and Social Development
Statement by Rev. Prajnalankar Bhikkhu, Peace Campaign Group
Thank you Mr. Chairperson for giving an opportunity to address the
historic First Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous
Distinguished government delegates and representatives of indigenous
peoples, NGOs and various UN specialized agencies.
May I take this opportunity to offer my deepest honors to those indigenous
and non-indigenous heroes, who once dreamt, worked and sacrificed their
lives for this Forum. Let us invoke their holy spirits to join us in this
historic moment and to guide us in achieving the objectives of the Forum.
Indigenous peoples fought a long-drawn battle with state parties for their
life and identity. Many people from both sides lost their lives in this
battle. Indigenous peoples were the worst victims of it. Many Indigenous
Peoples lost their homes, lands and resources. Their history, language,
culture and identity have been put to near extinction. Finally, both sides
reached a reconciliation-the Permanent Forum- based on a shared vision to
make a just world for the humanity. A new beginning has started with the
Forum-a new beginning of partnership in action to shape our future.
Following the famous definition of democracy given by former president of
the United Sates of America Woodrow Wilson I would like to say that
development has to be for the people, by the people and with the people.
In my homeland, the Chittagong Hill Tracts peace, stability, economic and
social development largely depend on proper implementation of the
Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord signed by our political party
Parbattya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the former Awami
League government of Bangladesh in 1997. However, I am sorry to state in
this Forum that the government of Bangladesh failed to respect the Accord
in spirit. As a result, poverty, hunger, diseases, unemployment, political
and social instability is affecting the Jumma Indigenous People and
thousands of Jumma refugees and internally displaced Jumma families remain
deprived of their homes and lands. From this Forum we are again calling
upon the government of Bangladesh to extend its friendly hands to us to
work in partnership to cope with these problems.
For development and restoration of peace and stability in the CHT the
government should make a master development plan. This plan should include
the following steps on priority basis:
First priority: Settlement of land disputes between the Jummas and Bengali
Second priority: Rehabilitation of the Jumma refugees and internally
Third priority: Development on agricultural and health sectors
Fourth priority: Development on other sectors like education, small-scale
industries, livestock etc.
It is notable that without rehabilitation of the Bengali Muslim settlers
outside the CHT, the first and second priorities will be impossible and
without the first and second priorities the other priorities will be
impractical and unsustainable. Therefore it is necessary for the
government and other development agencies to resettle the settlers in
plain districts concurrent with settlement of land disputes and
rehabilitation of the Jumma refugees and internally displaced Jummas.
The politics of peace played by the government of Bangladesh with the CHT
Accord is, perhaps, one of the best examples of how some governments or
state parties fail to honor their obligations to many national and
international treaties and conventions. I wish other indigenous peoples
not to be victimized of such politics. So, Mr. Chairman, I request the
Permanent Forum to voice its concern over some states' possible lack of
political commitment to comply with recommendations made by the Permanent
Thank you Mr. Chair for your kind attention.