Decentralization/Federalism: Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord (CHT)

B) Hill DISTRICT LOCAL GOVT. COUNCIL / HILL DISTRICT COUNCILS

19. In the section 42 the following sub-section shall be added-- The Council with the fund received from the government shall formulate initiate and implement development projects on the subjects transferred and all the development works initiated at the national level shall be implemented by the concerned ministry/department through the Council.

20. The word "government" placed in the second line of sub-section (2) of section 45 shall be replaced with the word "Council".

21. By amendment of rules of sections 50, 51 and 52 the following section shall be made-- "The government, if deemed necessary may advice or order the Council, in order to ensure conformity with the purpose of the Act. If the govt. is satisfied that anything done or intended to be done by the Council or on behalf of the Council is not conformity with law or contrary to public interest the government may seek information and clarification and give advice or instruction to the Council on concerned matters in writing".

27. By amendment of section 65 this section shall be framed as follows: Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time-being in force, responsibility of collecting land development tax shall be entrusted in the Council and the said tax collected in the District shall be credited to the Council Fund.

28. By amendment of section 67 it shall be made as follows- "If deemed necessary for co-ordination of activities between the Council and govt. authorities, government or the Council shall put proposal on certain matter(s)".

30. By omission of the words "with the prior approval of the government" placed in the first and second line of the sub-section (1) of section 69 and to add the following portion after the words "may"- "provided that if the government differs with any part of the regulation made by the Hill District Council then the government shall give advice or instruction for amendment of the said regulation".

Functions of the Council:

33. The word "supervision" shall be added after the word "order" in the No.1 of the function of the Council of the first schedule.

a. The following subjects shall be added in the No. 3 of the function of the Council- (1) Vocational training; (2) Primary education in mother tongue; (3) Secondary education.

34. The following subjects shall be added in the functions and responsibilities of the Hill District Council:

a. Police (local)
b. Tribal law and social justice
c. Youth welfare
d. Environment preservation and development
e. Local tourism
f. Improvement trust and other local govt organisations except Pourasabha and Union Councils
g. Licensing for local trade and business
h. Proper utilisation of water resources of rivulets, canals, ponds except Kaptai lake and irrigation
i. Preservation of death, birth and other statistics
j. Money lending and trade
k. Jhum cultivation.

Second Schedule: Taxes, rates, toll and fees to be levied by the Council and royalties from other Government sources-

35. The following sectors and sources shall be included in the taxes, rates, tolls and fees to be imposed by the Council as stated in the second schedule:

a. Tax on sale and purchase of goods
b. Holding tax from land and buildings
c. Tax from sale of domestic animals
d. Fees from cases of social justice
e. Holding tax on government and non-government industries
f. Part of royalty from forest resources
g. Supplementary tax from cinema, theatre and circus etc.
h. Part of royalty from licence or lease for exploration and extraction of mineral resources given by the government
i. Tax from business
j. Tax from lottery
k. Tax from fishing.

C) CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS REGIONAL COUNCIL

1. A Regional Council shall be formed in co-ordination with the 3 Hill District Local Government Council provided that various sections of the Hill District Local Government Council Act, 1989 (Act No. 19, 20 and 21 of 1989) shall be amended with an aim to make the 3 Hill District Local Government Councils more powerful and effective.

2. Chairman bf this Council shall be elected indirectly by the elected members of the Hill District Councils where status shall be equivalent to a State Minister and he must be a Jumma.

3. The Council shall be formed with 22 (twenty two) members including the Chairman. Two-third of the members shall be elected from among the tribals. The Council shall determine its procedure of functioning. Composition of the Council shall be as follows:

Chairman -- 1
Members tribal (men) -- 12
Members tribal (women) -- 2
Members non-tribal (men) -- 6
Members non tribal (women) -- 1

Among the tribal men members 5 persons shall be elected from among the Chakma tribe, 3 persons from the Marma tribe, 2 persons from the Tripura tribe, 1 person from the Murung and Tanchongya tribes and 1 person from the Lusai, Bawm, Pankho, Khumi, Chak and Khiyang tribes.

Among the non-tribal men members 2 persons shall be elected from each district. Among the tribal women members 1 woman shall be elected from the Chakma tribe and 1 woman from other tribes.

4. Three seats shall be reserved for women in the Council. One-third shall be non-tribals.

5. The members of the Council shall be elected indirectly by the elected members of the Hill District Councils. Chairman of three Hill District Councils shall be ex-officio members of the Council and they shall have voting rights. Eligibility and non-eligibility of the members of the Council shall be similar to that of the Hill District Council.

6. The term of the Council shall be 5 (five) years.

7. There shall be a chief executive officer in the Council equivalent to a Joint Secretary and priority to a tribal candidate shall be given in appointment to this post.

8. a. If the office of the Chairman of the Council falls vacant then a Chairman shall be elected from among the tribal members for an interim period by the members of Hill District Councils.
b. If any office of a member of the Council falls vacant on any reason then that shall be filled through by-election.

9. a. The Council shall supervise and co-ordinate the subjects vested under the Hill District Councils including co-ordination of all development activities conducted under the three Hill District Councils. Besides these, if there is found any lack of co-ordination and inconsistency among the three Hill District Councils in discharging their responsibilities the decision of the Regional Council shall be taken as final.
b. The Council shall supervise and co-ordinate local councils including the municipalities.
c. Regional Council may co-ordinate and supervise in the matters of general administration, law and order and development of the three Hill Districts.
d. The Council may co-ordinate the activities of the NGOs along with conducting of management of calamities and relief works.
e. Tribal laws and social justice shall be under the control of the Council.
f. The Council may issue licence for heavy industry.

10. The CHT Development Board shall discharge its responsibilities under general and overall supervision of the Council. In case of appointment of Chairman of the Development Board competent tribal candidate shall be given priority.

11. If the Regional Council finds any rule of the 1900 CHT Regulation and other related laws, rules and ordinances contradictory to the 1989 Hill District Council Acts then the govt shall remove that inconsistency by law according to recommendation of and in consultation with the Regional Council.

12. Until and unless Regional Council is constituted through direct and indirect election, the government may by constituting an interim Regional Council, entrust the responsibilities of the Council.

13. If the govt makes any law on CHT it shall be in having discussion and in consultation with the Regional Council. If there arises the necessity to amend any such law or to make any new law which may be harmful for development of the 3 Hill District or the welfare of the tribals, the Council may file a petition or put recommendation to the govt.

14. The fund of the Council shall be created from the following sources:
a. fund received from the Hill District Councils' fund
b. money or profits from all properties vested in and managed by the Regional Council
c. grant and loan from the govt or any other authority
d. grant from any institution or individual
e. profit accruing from investment by the Regional Council
f. any other moneys received by the Regional Council
g. money received from such sources of incomes as the govt may direct to be placed at the disposal of the Regional Council.

 

Implementation History

1998

Minimum Implementation

 The CHT Accord devolved numerous powers from the Government of Bangladesh to the CHT Tribal Councils. Implementation was initiated in 1998 with the passage of the amended HDC Acts by the Bangladeshi parliament, which, in essence, ratified the legislative changes called for in the CHT Accord. Under the amended 1998 legislation, the functions of the Councils included: law, police, primary and secondary education, health, agriculture, game and fisheries, cooperatives, trade, commerce, social welfare, cultural protection, roads and highways, waterways, public parks, development, justice, land and land management, conservation, tourism, licensing, statistics, and banking.

Most important among the legislative changes was the creation of a Regional Council to stand above the three district councils. Passed by the Bangladeshi parliament and approved by the president on May 24, Act 12 – the “Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act of 1998” – established the new Regional Council. Sections 2 through 14 of part C of the Accord put forth various administrative rules on the composition, selection, and duties of the Regional Council. The Accord stipulated in section C (2) that the chairman of the Regional Council was to be elected from the elected members of the 3 lower councils, have the status of a state minister, and must be a Jumma. The scope of powers that the 1997 Accord granted to the CHT councils, if fully implemented and enforced, would yield the highest level of autonomy possible, short of independence. While not every transferred power or legislative change could be discussed in detail, a few important changes stipulated by the CHT Accord and passed in 1998 were discussed.

One noteworthy reform brought about by the 1998 legislation was the repeal or deletion of section 51 from the original Rangamati Hill District Council Act of 1989, which originally read as follows:

"51. Control Over the activities of the Council: (1) If Government is satisfied that anything done or intended to be done by on behalf of the Council not in conformity with law or is inconsistent with or contrary to public interest, the Government may, by order: (a) quash the proceeding; (b) suspend the execution of any resolutions passed or order given by the Council; (c) prohibit execution of anything proposed to be done; (d) require the Council to take such action as may be specified. (2) When order under sub-section (1) is made the Council may, within thirty days of the receipt of the order, represent it to the Government. (3) The Government shall within thirty days of the receipt of the representation either confirm or modify or set aside the order. (4) If any reason the order is not confirmed or modified within the aforesaid period it shall be deemed to have been set aside.”

Given the original language of section 51 (namely, that the government may quash or suspend any law or activity that comes out of the Tribal Councils), the removal of this entire section served to substantially remove government oversight of the Council. Another important change involved section 27 of the Accord, which amended section 65 of the original Rangamati HDC Act of 1989. The original section 65 stated the following:

"65. Special regulation regarding land Development tax. Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, the Government may, by a notification in the official gazette, entrust the responsibility of collecting land development tax and may, by a similar notification, credit the whole or a portion of such tax, realized in the district, to the Council fund as grant."

This section was amended based on the 1997 Accord and now reads as follows:

"65. Collection of land development tax. Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, responsibility of collecting land development tax from taxable under the jurisdiction of Rangamati Hill District Council shall be vested with the Council and the said collected tax shall be credited to the Council’s fund."

By comparing these two sections, it is evident that the new law removed government involvement in collecting land taxes and transferred that power over to the Council. In the original act, the Government would have collected certain taxes in the CHT and granted that money to the Council. In the revised section, the Council assumed the power of direct taxation.

Section 30 of the Accord called for two changes to be made to section 69 of the Rangamati HDC Act of 1989, which dealt with the power of the Council to make regulations and laws. The original text read as follows:

"69. Power to make regulations. (1) For carrying out the purposes of this Act, the Council may, with the prior approval of the Government, make regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act or any rule."

This section was amended based on the 1997 Accord and now reads as:

"69. Power to make regulations.- (1) For carrying out the purposes of this Act, the Council may make regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act or any rule. Provided that if the Government does not agree with any part of the Regulations made, it shall be competent to give advice or directive to the Council towards amendments of the said regulations."

In accordance with the 1997 accord, the words “with the prior approval of the Government” were removed in the amended legislation, giving the Council the unfettered power to make regulations for the CHT. The 1997 Accord also added a mechanism of recourse for the Government: the Government could “give advice” to the Council if it wished. The Accord also added new Council functions. Sections 34 and 35 of the accord sought to add to the list of functions and responsibilities of the Hill District Councils. All these changes were incorporated into the new legislation passed in 1998. In all, 12 additional areas of responsibility and 12 additional sources of tax revenue were transferred to the Councils.

1999

Minimum Implementation

In February of 1999, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appointed Jyotindra Bodhipriyo Larma (Shantu Larma), the former JSS rebel leader from the Chittagong Hill Tracts, to a position of minister to head the new Regional Council.1 In May 1999, the 22-member interim CHT Regional Council was formally established in the southeastern hill district of Rangamati. However, all the members were appointed by the Government of Bangladesh rather than elected since no acceptable voter registration list was available due to the lack of progress on citizenship reform.2

Clauses 33 and 34 of the CHT Accord added to the list of powers or functions that were transferred to the Council. These changes were made in the amended legislation of 1989. The government functions listed under the revised “Functions of the Council” that were to be devolved to the CHT Council contained over 100 specific policies falling under 33 general policy areas.3

  • 1. “Bangladesh's former rebel tribal leader made minister,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, February 18, 1999.
  • 2. “Interim Chittagong hill tracts council installed,” Xinhua News Agency, May 27, 1999.
  • 3. "Amended Rangamati Hill District Council Act of 1989 (Act 19 of 1998)," accessed October 3, 2012.
2000

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2001

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2002

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2003

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2005

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2006

Minimum Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2007

Minimum Implementation

 Implementation of these transfers had been mixed. The Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (English: United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts), or PCJSS, reported that out of the 33 functions to be transferred to the HDCs, portions or limited duties were transferred in 12 functions: Agriculture, Health, Primary Education, Small Industry, Cooperatives, Social Welfare, Fishery, Livestock, Public Health, Culture, Sports, and Red Cross/Crescent Unit. Clause 35 listed 12 sources of taxable revenue to be transferred to the Councils. Of these 12 revenue sources, the PCJSS claimed that none of these revenues had been transferred to the Councils.4

Clauses 1 through 14 of part C of the CHT Accord governed the functions and powers of the Regional Council. As already stated, the Regional Council was established by the Bangladeshi parliament in 1998 and Shantu Larma was appointed chairperson on 12 May 1999. Like the HDCs, however, the election of the remaining members of the Regional Council had not taken place in the previous ten years due to the lack of implementation of electoral reform and citizenship reform, as was called for in the Accord.

Clause 9 put the three HDCs under the authority of the Regional Council. It was evident that this relationship had not been legally or judicially enforced. The HDCs were run by government appointees for the last ten years and did not follow the directives of the Regional Council. Shantu Larma and the PCJSS had issued statements that were consistent with other sources in regarding the Regional Council as powerless over the three HDCs. According to Larma, the Regional Council existed in name only; the chairperson and employees had no official offices or accommodations of their own, according to their reports.5

  • 4. “Report on the Implementation of the CHT Accord,” PCJSS, 2011, 22-23.
  • 5. Ibid, 24-25.