Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Nepal's Peace Agreement

Much of what the international community, including India, learns in the events in Nepal surrounding the peace agreement they will probably attempt to use in Sri Lanka. We must pay attention to what happens in Nepal. Notable is the widespread opposition to the monarchy among all sectors of society, which has opened the way to changes in the constitution and the nature of the state.

Two of Seven Cantonment Sites Approved: Martin

Staff Reporter, Rising Nepal
KATHMANDU, Nov. 17: The Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General to assist in Nepal's peace process Ian Martin Friday said that the government, Maoists and the UN had reached an agreement on two of the seven proposed cantonment sites to house the Maoist combatants.

Ian Martin He said the three sides had tacitly agreed on the proposed divisional sites in Ilam and Sindhuli while the prospects of other sites were still under consideration. He also informed that the inspection of 21 brigade sites was yet to take place.

He further said that the UN would decide on the experts essential for the monitoring of the cantonments sites only after it reached an agreement with the government and the Maoists.

Martin said that the government, the Maoists and the UN were involved in tripartite negotiations adding the delay in reaching an agreement about UN's role would also delay the demobilisation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Addressing a press conference at the UN House Pulchowk today, Martin said that he had drawn Maoist chairman Prachanda's attention to the reports that his party was recruiting soldiers including children and received assurances from the latter to stop such activities. He said the UN team did not have information on the number of combatants and the weapons they possessed.

Martin informed that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had on Thursday received a letter from Nepal government regarding the November 8 agreement between the seven political parties and the Maoists. He said the Secretary General would now write to the Security Council for the needful.

Martin said the UN was preparing to send experts to help in Nepal's peace process. He said three military experts would arrive soon.


U.S.: No Funding for Guerrilla-led Ministries

China View, November 17, 2006

KATHMANDU, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard A. Boucher has said the U.S. government would not support any program or ministry led by guerrilla officials, the local daily The Kathmandu Post reported.

    "We won't be able to fund programs that they (guerrilla official) run. We won't be able to fund programs where they are in charge," Boucher was quoted as saying at a press conference on Thursday.

    However, Boucher remarked that the United States is taking a "wait and see" policy towards the guerrilla in the interim government, which is to be constitute.

    A U.S. diplomat said the U.S. government is fully prepared to take the guerrilla off the designated list of terrorist organizations "when they stop being a terrorist organization".

    "That doesn't mean we can't deal with them as part of the government," Boucher said. adding U.S. assistance to Nepal would continue. "We can continue our programs, perhaps we will have to find some new mechanisms for doing that."


Rebel Chief Considers Bid to be Leader of Nepal

Somini Sengupta, The New York Times, November 18, 2006

Prachanda in New Delhi November, 2006 NEW DELHI, Nov. 18 — He was introduced as Mr. Prachanda, a future aspirant to the presidency of Nepal. Never mind that Nepal has no president, and remains, on paper at least, the last Hindu kingdom in the world. Nor that Prachanda, which means “fierce” in Nepali, is his nom de guerre and that he is the leader of Nepal’s feared Communist rebels.

On Saturday, Prachanda, in a rare public appearance here, received a rock star’s reception at a newspaper-sponsored conference about India and the region headlined by an eclectic lineup of politicians and corporate titans, including the former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

It was after Mr. Giuliani’s address, in which he praised Ronald Reagan for his crusade to combat Communism, that Prachanda took the podium. Wearing a gray blazer and a blue checked shirt, he said he would sign a peace accord in the coming week to end an 11-year civil war in Nepal, cordon his troops into cantonments, and accept the verdict of elections scheduled for next year that will effectively decide the future of the monarchy.

“When we sign the agreement, the main essence of the agreement will be ending the civil war,” he said.

The Maoists came out of the cold in April after King Gyanendra was forced by street protests to return power to an elected Parliament. That Parliament had been dissolved four years earlier. Since April, the interim government and the Maoists have been engaged in peace talks, with the promise of elections to rewrite the constitution and decide once and for all whether Nepal would retain or dissolve its monarchy.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, said he would not join the current interim government, on the grounds that it would have little or no power to carry out meaningful change. He did not deny that he was aspiring to be president. In fact, he told reporters that he favored a parliamentary government with a strong president.

Throughout the day, on a whirlwind tour through the Indian capital, where he once lived incognito as the underground leader of the Communist Party of Nepal, Prachanda sought to cast himself as a political leader who could be trusted to play by the rules of democracy. At the same time, his comments made it clear that he did not quite trust it.

The big question is what Prachanda and his armed cadres, who have called for the abolition of the monarchy, will do if a majority of Nepalis choose otherwise. Prachanda on Saturday sought to allay fears. “We will respect the verdict of the masses, the people,” he said. “We will not go to violent revolution. We will try to convince people in a peaceful way.”

His deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, put it this way later in the day: “The monarchy is down, but not out.”

According to newspaper reports from Nepal, as well as a recent finding by the National Human Rights Commission, an independent agency, the Maoists continue to collect what they call “donations” from civilians and recruit children into their ranks. Prachanda said the collections would stop as soon as the United Nations gives money to feed and house his troops. He denied reports of child recruitment, saying the Maoists simply feed and house the children of fighters killed in conflict.

Once the peace accord is signed, Prachanda has agreed to contain his troops in barracks and to keep their weapons locked up, but the keys would remain with his party and under closed-circuit cameras monitored by the United Nations. He has demanded that Maoists be integrated into a new Nepali Army, whose size would be shrunk to less than a third of its current strength of 95,000 troops.


Nepal rebel heralds peace, keeps armed option open

by Simon Denyer and Gopal Sharma, Reuters

CHUNDEVI, Nepal, Nov 16 - Nepal's Maoist rebels believe in the peaceful transformation of their poor Himalayan nation, but will not rule out a return to armed struggle, their leader said on Thursday.

As the government and rebels hammered out the final details of a comprehensive peace deal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who goes by the nom de guerre Prachanda, told Reuters it was still too early to declare an end to the decade-long insurgency.

But even if the road to a permanent peace remained "tortuous", he was confident the end was in sight.

"We have a political agreement to change the socio-economic conditions in a peaceful way -- a peaceful transformation is possible now and armed conflict is going to be over," he said in an early morning interview on a hilltop overlooking the mist-filled Kathmandu Valley.

The Maoists have achieved their main aim -- agreement to hold an election to a special assembly to draft a new constitution and, they hope, abolish the centuries-old monarchy.

Next month, they are due to join an interim government meant to conduct that election by June 2007.

Prachanda, a bespectacled 51-year-old former school teacher with a salt and pepper moustache, said that represented "historic change".

"There are some difficulties. but the peace process will not break, it will not derail," he said.

Nevertheless, the rebellion would not end until his forces were integrated with the national army, a process he expected to be complete shortly after those elections.

In the meantime, the "masses" would be on alert for any signs of "sabotage" or violence from "feudal lords", the monarchy or the army.

"If the old army and the old state will make a repression of our masses, if they will resort to any kind of violence against our masses, the right of resistance of the masses will be there," Prachanda said, speaking in fluent but accented English.

"Until and unless the integration of the army and developing a new national army is reached, it will not be over."

Respect the verdict

The peace deal was due to be signed later on Thursday, but the rebel chief said negotiations were continuing and the ceremony might be delayed.

Prachanda, who translated his name as "strong" or "militant", said he was confident the people of Nepal would vote to abolish the monarchy but would respect their verdict.

Maoists could not remain in government if the monarchy was retained, he said, but would try to peacefully persuade people they had made a mistake.

"If any kind of monarchy will be established, then we will not be part of the government, we will go again among the masses, try to convince them and we will try to organise a peaceful movement."

The rebels and the government have observed a ceasefire for more than six months, and have also agreed to confine their forces to camps or barracks in the run-up to the constituent assembly vote.

Last week, the rebels also agreed to store their arms under United Nations supervision.

But Nepalis say extortion and conscription have continued or even accelerated since the ceasefire. This week, hundreds of young men, including boys of 15, were reportedly recruited in the countryside.

Prachanda denied forcible recruitment, insisting that unemployed youth wanted to join the rebels in the hope of finding a job. Recent recruits would not be counted among those to be integrated into the army, he added.

Sceptics, notably the United States, have warned the Maoists' ultimate aim was to seize power by any means and they were not sincere democrats. But Prachanda said the Maoists would use their time in the interim government to win over the doubters.

The rebel chief said he had never taken part in fighting or fired a gun in anger. Although he was proud of the achievements of the insurgency, which cost more than 13,000 lives, he said he was upset by the violence.

"I am very sensitive in my nature. When large numbers of people were killed on any side, I was shocked," he said. "I could not sleep, I could not eat."


News Sources with regular coverage of events in Nepal

International Crisis Group, April, 2006

Nepali news sources


Nepal: A Turning Point in History?

by Charles Haviland, BBC, November 8, 2006
Nepal's midnight peace deal between the government and Maoist rebels aimed at ending the 10-year insurgency is being hailed in fulsome terms.

In the words of one politician, it is "a new era for Nepal". Another sees it as the beginning of the end of the monarchy; while for one Maoist leader it is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of Nepal.

With it, the politicians are trying above all to bring an end to the bloody conflict that has brought this desperately poor country to its knees.

The mainstream parties are also attempting to bind the Maoists irrevocably into the political mainstream.

But for King Gyanendra and the institution of the monarchy, the deal offers barely a shred of comfort.

The accord, to be formalised in mid-November, offers gains and losses for all Nepal's political players.

Above all, this is about the Maoists - the communist faction that went underground 10 years ago to wage insurrection, complaining that six years of democracy had brought no good to the country and had failed to uplift its people.

Rebel gains

The deal offers them huge gains.

Until May they were regarded as terrorists here; their leaders were wanted men.

But by 1 December they will take their place in a temporary cabinet, sharing ministerial posts equally with each of the other main parties - an attainment of political respectability.

They have made a concession on their weapons - the issue that has constantly hampered progress on an earlier peace agreement which was signed in June but which glossed over many key issues. The Maoist army will soon be confined in camps and its weapons will be separately locked up. This move will satisfy Prime Minister GP Koirala, who has insisted on rebel disarmament before next year's elections.

But the Maoists will keep the keys to the stores, albeit under strict United Nations surveillance. This will, it is believed, prevent the senior rebels losing face among the junior ranks, and eliminate any impression that they are surrendering.

Precarious future

The official Nepalese Army is also having to make concessions: it will have the same number of weapons confined.

Having had a bloody role in the conflict, it has moved some way since April. The traditionally royalist institution has had its links with the monarch cut, and its new chief - who has had a highly controversial record in fighting the insurgency - has sworn allegiance to parliament.

The mainstream political parties are having to accept the Maoists, who have never won electoral seats, on equal political terms.

On the other hand, they will occupy key roles in the new transitional government and parliament, with the largest party - the Nepali Congress - keeping, by a small margin, the largest number of parliamentary seats.

Parliamentarians deemed to be "pro-regression" will, however, be excluded from the interim legislature. This move appears to be aimed at staunchly pro-royalist politicians and may attract some criticism as a kind of "victor's justice".

For King Gyanendra and the entire royal establishment, the only comfort is that the monarchy, for the time being, remains in place rather than being suspended. It now looks as if the first meeting of the assembly due to be elected by June will decide, by a simple majority, whether Nepal will be a kingdom or a republic.

The future of the controversial Shah dynasty, 238 years old, has never looked more precarious.

Its reputation was shattered by the royal massacre five years ago. The present king, Gyanendra, is widely seen to have brought about disaster through his political manoeuvrings; while his wildly unpopular, trigger-happy son, Paras, is unthinkable as a monarch for most Nepalis, even those who maintain respect for the monarchy.

Unfinished business

If the dynasty survives, it is impossible to imagine it being given any more than an emasculated, ceremonial role.

Nepal has much unfinished business.

There are unsolved political disappearances committed by both the armed forces and the Maoists; numerous cases of torture and killing in which justice has not even begun to be done. It is an uncomfortable fact that many of the country's political players have blood on their hands.

Currently the onus is particularly on the Maoists to show they can adapt to democratic ways.

Their track record so far is poor. Ironically, within hours of the peace deal being signed, demonstrators were on the streets of Kathmandu, condemning the Maoists for going around houses demanding that Maoist cadres be given food and shelter during a huge Maoist rally planned for Friday.

The Maoists deny exerting such pressure, but the demonstrators insist they are being threatened with violence if they do not comply. It is the latest example of the Maoists throwing their weight around, acting as if they are already in charge of the country.

Under the deal, however, their extortions and kidnappings will have to stop. They will even have to dismantle their sophisticated legal system, which has won some admirers.

In one clue to the future, the Maoist spokesman, Krishna Mahara, says the party is changing from being a rebel force into a political force and has promised new policies soon.

The drawing of a rebel movement into peaceful politics always opens a door into the unknown.

Nepalis are now set to learn how these communist rebels, with their red bandanas and seemingly anachronistic beliefs, will adapt to the strange new role of government.

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