17 November 2020, Bandarban – 62 eminent citizens of the country have issued a statement calling for the cancellation of the five-star hotel construction project of the Sikder Group by occupying the land of Chimbuk Hills in Bandarban and withdrawing all involvement of Bangladesh army from the project.
The dignitaries also said that it was important to immediately investigate the allegations of intimidation and threats against the protesters in the name of the army and take appropriate action to stop such atrocity and issue an official statement from the army.
The call was made in a statement signed by Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) on behalf of the signatories.
The eminent citizens were: Professor Emeritus Sirajul Islam Chowdhury of Dhaka University, human rights defender Sultana Kamal, coordinator of Nijera Kari Khushi Kabir, economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, trustee of the Gono Swastha Kendra Dr. Jafarullah Chowdhury, former governor of Bangladesh Bank Salehuddin Ahmed, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of the Manusher Jonno Foundation Shaheen Anam, Chief of the Chakma Circle Raja Devasish Roy, Executive Director of the Mass Literacy Campaign Rasheda K Chowdhury, Honorary Fellow of the CPD Debapriya Bhattacharya, Professor Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University, Professor Geeti Ara Nasreen and Professor Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University, among others.
The statement said that Bangladesh Army has set up a Marriott Hotels in joint venture with R&R Holding Limited, an affiliate of the controversial Sikder Group at Kapru Para, Dola Para and Shong Nam Hung on the Chimbuk-Thanchi road in Bandarban district of Chittagong Hill Tracts. In the meantime, the need for the proposed installation has begun to be cut down and Mro people have been disrupted in movement from one place to other places, including crematoriums and water sources.
The citizens termed the construction of the luxury facility as an act of aggression and occupation of homesteads of 10,000 people and crop lands violating the Constitution of Bangladesh, the CHT Regulation, the Hill District Council Act, the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act and without taking free prior and informed consent of the Mro people.
Other indigenous hill people, including Mro people, have demanded an immediate halt to the construction of the facility and the cancellation of the hotel and amusement park project. A spokesperson for the Sikder Group on behalf of R&R Holdings Limited told the media that the Hill District Council was involved in the construction of the hotel and amusement park.
The statement said it would be illegal under customary law. The Bandarban Hill District Council cannot consent to the transfer of ownership of land without the consent of the people concerned and the recommendation of the concerned mouza headman. If so, they believe it violates the Principles of Natural Justice. The statement said that the construction of such facilities against the interests of the people is also against the constitution of Bangladesh, as the constitution recognizes the rights of the people to life, property and profession.
“There have been allegations of intimidation to the leading Mro people to stop the movement and protests, which we believe will tarnish the image of the army,” the statement said. “In this context, we fully support the demands of the Mro people for their livelihood, access to natural resources, heritage, culture and security,” the statement said.
“We demand the immediate suspension of all other unauthorized economic activities, including tourism, which is conducted in a sensitive environment like Bandarban, only for the interests of the certain group and business, by ignoring the public and the national interest, and the eviction of occupiers from the occupied land for such activities.”
The 62 eminent persons also demanded immediate implementation of the Land Commission to protect the indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts from the ongoing land aggression of the government and non-government actors.
Originally published by Hill Voice on November 17, 2020.