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Friday, July 20, 2012

A Sweet Donation from C’est Bon Bon for GHRD Project

In the mid of the economic crisis of 2009, we opened C’est Bon Bon ­– a luxury confectionary store. Well, it took a lot of guts to begin this undertaking. We created a beautiful store from scratch with a loyal customer base. We united the best confectioners and pastry bakers from around The Hague in one store. Our store offers a great variety of goodies. Besides delicious bonbons, we also sell pastries, diverse chocolate truffles and luxurious Portuguese wine.


When we opened the store, we (my colleague Mukti Ramautarsing and I) realised that we had the responsibility towards society. In this sense, we were on a mission to find a good cause – a good cause that we supported a full 100%. Luckily, we did not have to search for a long time, because Mukti’s sister worked for GHRD. Of all GHRD’s projects, we believed that the Back to School Bali project suited us the most. Our customers agreed with us, given the amount of donations!


In the mean time, Mukti ensured that we had a collection box with the text of the project on our store’s counter. I had agreed with Mukti that we would also contribute to the project, in addition to our customers’ donation. In the end, our customers contributed around 190 Euros, which we raised by 60 Euros to make an end donation of 250 Euros. We hope that with this money more children will go back to school so that they can fulfill their dreams through a proper education!!

Two weeks ago, we contacted GHRD with the message that we had raised a nice amount of money for them. The response of GHRD was super! They were extremely happy with the amount. Subsequent to our conversation we scheduled an appointment to hand over the money.

On July 19th 2012, two employees from GHRD came to our store to present us a lovely certificate, which thanks our customers and us for our contribution. Of course, we will give the certificate an honourable spot in our store.

GHRD has won our hearts with their warm response. We hope that we are able to donate another lovely amount to them the next time.
Written by Sen Raumatar, Owner of C’est Bon Bon.
Besides running his luxury confectionary store, he is also consultant for TNT Post in The Hague.

Visit C’est Bon Bon here:
Nathaliegang 128
2719 CS Zoetermeer
The Netherlands

Monday, July 16, 2012

URGENT APPEAL: Protect the Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh: Implement the Peace Accord now!


To: the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Dhaka, the Office of the Prime Minister, London and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals are joining forces to urge the Government of Bangladesh to keep its promise to protect its indigenous peoples, and implement the CHT Peace Accord before the next general elections in 2014.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed in Bangladesh in 1997 to promote peace and to protect its indigenous population. Today, almost 15 years later, it remains unfulfilled and violence against the indigenous peoples has continued.

Bangladesh has ratified numerous international human rights treaties and it is also the largest provider of UN Peacekeepers in the world. Despite this, it continues to violate the rights of minorities and its indigenous peoples. The indigenous people, known as Jumma in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), have been under attack for over 35 years, ever since the Government brought in large numbers of Bengali settlers onto their ancestral land. Influential settlers – supported by the military who are heavily deployed in the region – have been attacking the indigenous peoples who have lost their lands at an alarming rate and have endured endless human rights violations ever since.

The protection of indigenous peoples and the implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord was one of the key election pledges of the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. Unfortunately, at the end of her mandate, it remains unfulfilled.

We note with concern how violence against indigenous communities in the CHT has been escalating in recent months.

We are disturbed that this Government has rather taken regressive steps that work against the essence of the Accord, including publicly denying that there is an indigenous population in Bangladesh, refusal of giving constitutional recognition to indigenous groups and also recently demanding its district officials to take action against the celebration of World Indigenous Day.

Therefore, we urge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to take immediate and urgent action to fulfill her election promise and fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord within this tenure, to ensure the protection of Jumma lives, land, identity and culture.

In particular:
• Dismantle all temporary military camps in the CHT and demilitarize the region according to the Accord.

• Investigate and publicise all allegations of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples by the security forces.

• Solve the land disputes fairly; amend the Land Dispute Settlement Commission Act of 2001 according to the spirit of the Accord.

• Give constitutional recognition to the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.
With the elections coming up in Bangladesh, there is a great fear that the CHT Peace Accord will remain unimplemented and that the situation will only worsen in the future, threatening the peace and existence of the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh!

Our call will be delivered to Governments in three countries on World Indigenous Day, August 9, in Dhaka, London and the Netherlands.

Yours Sincerely,

Global Human Rights Defence (The Netherlands)

Jumma Peoples Network (UK)

Kapaeeng Foundation (Bangladesh)

Hana Shams Ahmed, writer and activist

Join our shared efforts in protecting the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Take action today and sign our petition here!]

JUMMA PEOPLES NETWORK UK                                 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


On a chilly February day, GHRD met with a Jumma refugee who left the Chittagong Hill Tracts in a quest to create international support and awareness for the plight of his indigenous people: the Jumma. "If we can get strong backing from the European politicians, then we can add more pressure to the Bangladeshi Government to implement the peace accord and to claim our rights”, he says quietly.

While his family is still in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, he is the only one of his tribe who has left the village. Some of his relatives’ lands are now occupied by the army camps.

Here, he shares his memories of how his life changed when the army came to his village when he was a child.

A beautiful sky

“Above my village, when I grew up you could see the sky, there was no pollution. You could see the insects spinning, it was beautiful. I could see the army barracks from my home. There was no electricity for the indigenous people, but I could see the army barracks had their lights on even at night. The army came to my village when I was about four or five years old. Everybody was in panic. They thought they can kill us anytime. They would tell the villagers they needed porters; whether they were elderly or sick or not, they would force them to carry their belongings. They would ask the villagers if they knew the whereabouts of Shanti Bahini (“peace force” / resistance movement) if they said they didn't know, they would beat them”.

 Under the army’s wing

“We built the army camps. As a boy, at 10 years old, I had to work as a porter, and I didn’t get paid. I had to cut their grass, supply the bamboo thatch and the wood to build the army camps. We provided their food, fruits, vegetables; we had to give them our animals, with minimum pay. I am the witness: I was there.

There was no freedom of movement; the army had the right to stop us at any time, we felt like captives. We grew up with fear of the Bengali army at all times: even when we were at home, we felt fear as we heard the sound of army boots passing by our house. The Bengali people who came to the village, they could move freely. We could not even buy matches; we had to get permission from the army to do that. When we would buy things, we had to report. We could not buy more than two matches. They claimed if we bought three, we must be giving one to the Shanti Bahini. We know the army is there to protect the settlers, but we have to live there.

The problem started from '75 onward, when they started bringing the illegal settlers and the armies. The illegal settlers see us as their enemy, and we see them as our occupying enemy as well. The army used to ask the village people to entertain them; young people had to dance and perform in the army camp, we were bound to do that. They sent letters to the village leaders who would inform the young people they had to go and perform and sing or dance for the army, whether it was rain or flood or whatever to make them happy. I went too, of course. They could do anything they wanted because they were the holders of power. There were incidents where army personnel abused the women, but not all”.

Assalumu Alaikum

“One night I witnessed how they tortured my people. The army teams led by 2nd Lieutenant Musharaf Hussain, from 1st Bengal battalion/regiment, a young man who belonged to the Muslim religion, had taught the young villagers to say Assalamu alaikum (Muslim greeting) This night, the army patrolled by and because some of my villagers, young people, forgot to say Assalamu alaikum, the officer became angry. Then the army brought them in front of our house. They started kicking, punching and beating them with their belts. They also beat them with the knives of their guns and they started bleeding. The villagers were crying and told them to ask pardon; the soldier stepped on their heads, like they were footballs. I was the witness to all this, together with other children. And this army officer, the Musharaf Hussain, I heard he got a promotion”.

We just want our freedom

 I went to boarding school, and when I came back, my village was destroyed. They had accused my village of harbouring the Shanti Bahini, so they destroyed it. Not only our village, several others too. The army beat them and put all the villagers into a kind of refugee camp.

 This was in the 1980s, but today the situation is the same. If there was no problem now, why are there no foreigners allowed into the Chittagong Hill Tracts? The main problem is the presence of the army. If they move from there, the problems will be solved with the settlers. Because with the army presence, the illegal settlers have the power. In the media they say that several hundred camps have been removed, but that's not true; they just shift to other places. We don't fight, but they claim there is a conflict. The government and army create the conflict. We want to live there as other people are living. We don't want to see the army. We just want our freedom”.