UCA News



Updated: January 22, 1998 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :

Church leaders have welcomed the signing of a peace treaty they hope will end 23 years of conflict between the Bangladesh government and the ethnic minorities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

"We are positive about the peace agreement. It is one of the good signs of change in the world, that it is moving toward peace," said Father Patrick Gomes of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB).

"This peace agreement is one of the best gifts for Christmas for us," the CBCB deputy secretary general told UCA News Jan. 9, adding that the success of the peace treaty will depend on its implementation.

The treaty was signed Dec. 2 at Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed´s office between the government and Parbatto Chattogram Jono Shanghati Samity (PCJSS, Chittagong Hill Tracts people´s integration society), the political wing of the Shanti Bahini (SB, peace battalion) insurgents.

After 23 years of armed resistance in Khagrachhari, Rangamatia and Bandarban districts of the CHT in southern Bangladesh, SB members were to surrender their arms within 45 days.

Under the peace agreement, a land commission headed by a retired justice is to be set up to settle land disputes in the CHT region. The decision of this commission will be considered final.

The agreement asked that the government retain the quota system for hill people in government jobs and institutes of higher education until the tribals attain the same educational level as non-tribals in other areas.

The treaty also stated that a three-member committee comprising government and PCJSS members be set up to monitor the implementation of the agreement.

Father Benjamin Costa said that a positive aspect of the treaty is that hill people will experience a sense of belonging, and will be able to live in harmony with Bengalis as equal citizens of the country.

While giving credit to the present government, the former Vice Provincial of the Holy Cross Fathers added that "without the efforts and negotiations of the previous governments this final agreement might not have been possible."

Father Costa expressed fears that if the treaty is not properly implemented, the socio-economic development of the region will be hampered.

Holy Cross Brother Lawrence Subal Rozario, headmaster of St. Placid´s High School, Patharghata, Chittagong, said that before the peace contract, he had visited the hill people in the CHT.

"There was barbarism against the tribals from the people on the government side in some areas of CHT," he told UCA News, saying that he hopes the peace agreement will "decrease the sufferings of the local people."

While lauding the government´s initiatives to ease problems in the CHT, he urged the government to abide by the peace terms, saying the agreement would have positive results if implementation is not influenced by politics.

Tribal refugees are now returning to their native lands, he added.

The treaty was signed by Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) Chief Whip Abul Hasnat Abdullah, convener of the National Committee on CHT affairs and Joytindra Bodhpriya Larma, PCJSS chairman.

Among others, PCJSS leaders Goutam Chakma, Rupayan Dewan and Roktotpal Tripura were present during the signing of the treaty.


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia