Friday, March 27, 2009

Lal Thanhawla government must cancel all “backdoor appointments” to fight corruption

By Paritosh Chakma

Yesterday, i.e. on 26 March 2009, Minister of Personnel & Administrative Reforms, H Liansailova made a shocking revelation in the State Assembly of Mizoram. He stated that 1,730 “backdoor appointments” had taken place in various government departments during the last five years of MNF rule. Except for 41 appointments, the rest had taken place without advertisements, which means that the right persons had not been appointed for public services.

These included three veterinary doctors, nine accountants, nine cashiers, 36 coordinators, 17 data entry operators, one PA to SSA project director, 35 project assistants, 52 group D officers, three riders, two assistant engineers, seven junior engineers, 80 upper primary teachers, 1363 education volunteers, one sub-inspector, five ASI (M)s, 41 constables and 66 medical officers, the minister informed.

This also proves that corruption is deep – rooted in Mizoram. Of course, every one of us knows of it but the admission by a cabinet minister this time has officially confirmed it.

The Congress party had rode to power on the wave of promises to provide a corruption- free administration and good governance. If it is committed to root out corruption from public domain it must take measures to annul all such illegal appointments as these actions had clearly violated Article 16 providing for “Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment”, among others, and take legal action against the accused. All such posts must be advertised again for appointment of suitable candidates.

Such stringent actions are necessary not to show the MNF in poor light but to restore the faith of the people on the present government. By taking proper legal actions, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla can demonstrate that his administration has “zero tolerance” against corruption and stands in favor of transparent, efficient and good governance.

Now, Mizoram Chakmas threaten to boycott polls

By Paritosh Chakma

The elections are the best season for the voters to demand something from the political parties and the government in power which is seeking re-election.

It is also the best time for the voters to express their angst and dissatisfaction with the things around them. The political class has no option but to give way to the voters’ demand (whether these demands will be fulfilled or not does not matter), lest the voters decide against them on the D-Day. In other times, who listens to the woos of the common man? He has to run from pillar to post in search of justice.

Hence, the elections I think are god’s gifts in a democracy.

The Chakmas of Mizoram also seem to have realized the importance of their votes – which is good for them. This time around, they have threatened to boycott the forthcoming General Elections if compensation is not paid to them for their losses due to the India-Bangladesh Border Fencing. I have been thinking of this for a long time. I thought whether the Chakmas were politically awakened enough or united enough so as to boycott the elections for realizing their demands. In mainland India such threats have always dominated the press and the media.

Recently the Chakma representatives from three villages – Marpara South, Tarabonye and New Sachan (along the India-Bangladesh border) met Mizoram governor Lt Gen (Rtd) M M Lakhera to express their concerns. They have made it clear that unless justice in terms of providing proper compensation was provided, they are going to boycott the elections.

The total voters population of these three villages are not much (could be less than 1500) but their action could have enough political significance in a democracy like India and the good name which Mizoram as a peaceful, progressive state enjoys. Hence, the Governor has assured all help to assuage their concerns with regard to border fencing and the Chakma villagers have reportedly withdrawn their threat.

Recently, the government of Mizoram has stated that Chakmas who have fallen outside the border fencing are NOT displaced because the border fencing is not the international boundary. Hence, the displaced persons are free to stay where they are. (see, "Chakma fencing victims not displaced: Mizoram govt", http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=15710225 ). It means, the government has no plans to rehabilitate and resettle them. The Chakmas have since grown quite restless and suspicious of the government’s motives.

If the victims are not rehabilitated, it will have long term negative impacts on their lives. (For details of it, see "The Border Burden", http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/02/border-burden.html)

It will be a black day for democracy in Mizoram if the displaced Chakmas, who have lost everything they had, given up for national interest, are not resettled and looked after properly. These ethnic minority people will loss faith totally in the administration system controlled by the Mizos. Any move against proper compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation will prove to be detrimental to Mizoram’s peace, progress and development.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The HRW, Mizos and Chins: Human rights and paradoxes

By Paritosh Chakma

After the New York-based global human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch brought out its report “We are like forgotten people” to champion the cause of the Chin refugees in India, it faced the strongest rebuffs from the most powerful social organization of Mizoram, the Young Mizo Association (YMA). The YMA has taken serious note of the accusations made in the HRW report against Mizos and YMA who have been accused of committing further abuses against the vulnerable Chin refugees.

The HRW report states - “Chin in Mizoram face security abuses, severe discrimination, religious repression, and lack of jobs, housing, and affordable education. They live largely at the mercy of the local population in Mizoram.” (Page 65) HRW also accused the YMA and the student body, Mizo Zirlai Pawl of forcible refoulement of Chins from Mizoram. Forcible refoulement is not permitted as per the international law.

Some of the allegations could be true. Take for example, following a brawl between the local Mizos and Chin refugees at Tanhril village, about 20 km north of Aizawl, all the Chin refugees were served “quit notice” asking them leave the village by 4 October 2008. According to the media reports, the brawl took place after some refugees allegedly teased some Mizo girls of the village while they were taking bath.[1] But instead of taking action against the specific accused person or persons, the decision to serve the “quit notice” on all Chin refugees was reportedly taken in a joint meeting of Young Mizo Association (YMA), Tanhril village council, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women organisation) and Mizo Upa Pawl (elders’ organization). At least 40 Chin refugees have reportedly left Tanhril village following the “quit notice”.[2] While any person who has committed a crime must be punished as per the procedures established by law, “collective punishment” is illegal and banned by international law.

The HRW provides interviews of some Chin refugees to validate its accusations. In one such interview, a Chin woman has been quoted as saying in Aizawl, “The way [the Mizos] think is that killing a Chin person is like killing a dog. It is not that serious.” (Page 69)

This could be a wild accusation. I don’t think this is true. The law in this country is not so weak so that any one can so easily escape trial and prosecution after killing a human being like a dog.

The YMA, whose membership is spread throughout the length and breadth of the state, has threatened to take action against the Chin refugees if they did not “apologize for the report” of the Human Rights Watch. The YMA blamed the Chins for providing “false information” to the HRW about their alleged mistreatment by the Mizos in Mizoram, with whom the Chins share much cultural affinity. As threats of reprisal loomed large, a section of the Chins have already disowned the HRW report.

On its part, it is only natural that the HRW defended its report. The HRW clarified that creating a misunderstanding or discord between the Mizos and Chins was not at all the objective of the report and appealed to the YMA to see the report from the human rights point of view”.

That is true.

Footnotes:
[1]. Quit notice to Burmese migrants in Mizo village, The Shillong Times, 30 September 2008
[2]. Myanmarese migrants move out of Tanhril, The Newslink, 6 October 2008

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kerala church Vs Mizoram church in politics

By Paritosh Chakma

Is it necessary to put religion aside from politics? Well, the Church in Kerala does not seem to think so. Recently, the powerful Latin Catholic Church in Kerala has reportedly sent a recommendation letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi urging her to consider Hybi Eden, president of Congress’ student wing National Students Union of India in the state, as party candidate for the Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat.

The letter, written by the Varapuzha Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, who is also president of the Kerala Regional Latin Catholic Council, provides two other names whom he deems suitable. Incidentally, all the three including Hybi Eden belong to the Latin Church.

This re-ignites the debate whether politics should be separated from the religion and religious institutions. Surely by recommending specific names the Kerala church is being directly involved in the politics.

Or does it want a social change through politics by fielding better (read as clean and efficient) candidates like the Presbyterian Church of Mizoram?

In Mizoram, the Presbyterian Church formed an election watchdog called Mizoram Peoples Forum (MPF) ahead of the state assembly elections held on 2 December 2008 to bring political and electoral reforms in the state. The MPF, backed by many other mass-based organizations including the all-powerful Young Mizo Association, has urged the voters to vote for candidates having good track records, who are clean and efficient to address the concerns of the people. It rightly did not name any specific candidates to the political parties or canvassed for any candidate. Recommending or campaigning for particular candidates would have surely eroded the impartiality of the Church and its child, MPF. It would have been then seen as an act of impropriety and as direct involvement in political affairs. This is where the Church of Kerala fundamentally differs from the Church in Mizoram.

In Mizoram, the MPF campaigned, among others, against use of money by the political parties/candidates to buy votes, house to house campaigning which encouraged bribes and mass feasting. In the run up to the elections, the Church and MPF asked the political parties to desist from fielding corrupt candidates (including the ones with criminal records).

I know the MPF had little impacts in many constituencies, particularly in rural pockets but the motive to keep politics clean and progressive has been commendable. The diktat - if we can call it so - of the MPF had no legal implications but it in “no non-sense” term warned of action by taking up the matter with the Election Commission if adequate evidence of violation was found against any candidate.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Chakma News - new webpage

"The Chakma News" has been given a face lift. The new format can be accessed at: http://chakmanews.blogspot.com/

The blog says - "This blog seeks to provide news on the Chakmas as they come from various parts of the world". For archives, you can visit http://chakmanews.rediffblogs.com/