Parliamentary watchdog fears for unrest in CHT ahead of national elections

STAFF REPORTER

The use of illegal weapons is steadily increasing across the three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Inhabitants of these hills now find themselves confronted by armed groups like the KNF, whose actions have earned them a reputation as silent killers, spreading fear and panic throughout the region.

This troubling situation has raised concerns, especially in light of the impending 12th national election. There is a genuine fear that the law and order situation could deteriorate rapidly due to the presence of these well-trained and terrorist-affiliated groups. Such deterioration could potentially disrupt the peaceful voting process. To address these concerns, the parliamentary committee has recommended implementing measures aimed at recovering illegal weapons.

Discussions centring on the law and order situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts reportedly took place prior to the Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting on the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs at the National Parliament’s headquarters on Tuesday, September 19th.

During these discussions, Committee Member Dipankar Talukdar voiced his concerns, saying, “The hill areas often experience unrest due to illegal armed terrorists.” He proposed a series of measures to recover illegal weapons in the three hill districts before the upcoming national elections.

Mr Talukdar further said, “We have proposed measures designed to foster peace in these three districts, stabilise the environment, and ensure that the general public can exercise their voting rights without fear. Illegal arms wielders exert significant influence over voters, making it imperative to guarantee free and peaceful voting in this region.”

Another committee member, ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury, expressed his apprehensions during the meeting about the rising incidents of silent extortion and terrorist activities in the hill areas, including the local neighborhoods. He advised relevant authorities to take immediate action to recover illegal weapons and restore law and order.

In the same meeting, Minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and Member of Parliament for Bandarban, Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, offered his commitment to providing full support for the recovery of illegal weapons from the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Additionally, Bandarban District Council Chairman Ka Shye Hla raised concerns about the heightened state of fear and panic among residents in the neighborhoods of Bandarban district, attributed to the presence of various groups and sub-groups. He voiced his apprehensions that the law and order situation could further complicate matters in the upcoming national parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, the Parliament Secretariat’s press release highlighted the importance of maintaining law and order by coordinating efforts with local administration and public representatives. The committee recommended that strict measures be taken by the police administration to prevent illegal firearms from entering the country ahead of the next national parliamentary elections.

In a separate discussion during a previous meeting, the issue of the CHT-based extremist group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) was addressed. Bandarban District Council Chairman Ka Shye Hla noted that while KNF initially presented itself as a social and non-political group, it has now evolved into a military group. The group’s registration was revoked by the Department of Social Services due to its involvement in various political disruptions and law and order issues.

It has come to light that Bandarban District Council has established a liaison committee to engage with KNF. Although the committee has conducted two Zoom meetings thus far, efforts are underway to facilitate a direct meeting in the near future. KNF has outlined certain conditions for the meeting, including the removal of two army camps, to which the district council did not acquiesce.

Chairman Ka Shye Hla shared, “We are actively working to reintegrate them into normal life. A specific location for a direct meeting has been identified, and the date for this meeting will be confirmed within the next two to three days.”

Furthermore, the meeting expressed dissatisfaction with the delay in commencing construction work on the Rangamati Medical College building, as originally scheduled. The committee has recommended that the relevant ministry expedite the project.

Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, including Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, Dipankar Talukdar, ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury, Basanti Chakma, and Noman Al Mamun, actively participated in the meeting, which was presided over by its Chairman Dabirul Islam.

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