Statement by Kul Chandra Gautam
at Workshop on “The Peace Process in the Context of the Five-Point Agreement”
Organized by the Ganesh Man Singh Academy
Kathmandu, 10 August 2011
It is a real honour to address this distinguished gathering convened by the Ganesh Man Singh Academy. I am not sure how many – if any – of our friends from the international community present here today ever met the late Ganesh Man Singh, or have heard about his extraordinary contribution to democracy and human rights in Nepal.
He was undoubtedly one of the most courageous and principled leaders of modern Nepal whose commitment to democracy and human rights was uncompromising even against great odds – including severe physical and mental torture when he was in jail for long periods, once even facing a death sentence.
Ganesh Man had been a leader of the 1950 revolution for democracy that overthrew the century-old Rana autocracy. Four decades later, he led the 1990 People’s Movement successfully forging a united front of the Nepali Congress and the leftist, Communist parties that brought to an end 30 years of one-party Panchayat autocracy and restored multi-party democracy.
Today we all wish so desperately that our political leaders and parties would be able to forge similar unity for lasting peace and a new constitution that would enable all Nepalis to pursue our long derailed dream of a more inclusive democracy, with good governance, economic prosperity and social justice for all.
Alas, at the moment the prospects for such unity do not seem very promising. The sense of urgency needed to implement our collective commitment expressed in many agreements, the latest being the Five Point Agreement of 29 May 2011, is sorely missing.
Yet we must persevere, with hope against hope, that we can make some headway even in the remaining 3 weeks of the 3-month deadline.
We learned the hard way last year that so long as we do not make meaningful progress on the peace process – point number one of last year’s Three-Point Agreement, repeated this year also as point number one of this year’s Five-Point Agreement – we are unlikely to make real progress in other areas.
This is because there cannot be an atmosphere of trust and confidence in a functioning democracy so long as a majorpolitical party retains the right or the option to use instruments of armed insurrection against the State itself, or violence and intimidation against other parties, or the general public, to achieve its ideological goals.
A multi-party democracy implies that all parties can peacefully compete to secure the support of the people for their ideas and agenda. This is not possible ifone major party retains the unfair advantage of using or threatening the use of violence to gain an upper hand, under whatever pretext.
This is as true in Australia, Germany, India, Japan, Switzerland, or the UK, as it is Nepal.
Sometimes some people say that use of violence may be necessary or justified in a poor country with great inequalities and injustice.
Yes, we must fight to end the deep-rooted structural violence of poverty, inequality, exclusion and marginalization that has long persisted in Nepal, but that does not justify the use of violent means, as two wrongs do not make a right, nor do noble ends justify ignoble means.
I can cite dozens of countries in Africa, other parts of Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere who find themselves in a situation that is comparable or even worse than Nepal. I trust that none of us in this audience would consider it normal and acceptable if violent insurgencies were unleashed by armed groups – Marxist-Leninist-Maoist or otherwise – in all these countries of the world.
We find some degree of injustice and inequality in all societies, but we also find many inspiring and effective examples of non-violent approaches to tackle them.
People of goodwill seeking social justice, political freedoms and economic progress must, therefore, reject a culture of violence as an acceptable means for achieving any worthy goals. I hope you will agree with me that we must especially inculcate in the minds and hearts of our children and youth the values of non-violence and peaceful pursuit of all worthy goals.
Let us recall that during wars, conflicts and violent revolutions, it is not the children of the rich, the aristocrats, and those in power, including military commanders or guerilla leaders, who serve as child soldiers, or are deprived of basic education and health services.
It is always the children of the poor, often from indigenous and marginalized communities, who form the pool for recruitment as soldiers, guerillas and jihadists in “holy wars”, who are sent to the front-line as cannon-fodders.
Who suffered most from Nepal’s so-called “people’s war”? – Not the feudal oligarchs or privileged upper-class, but the sons and daughters of poor peasants and labourers.
Besides this philosophical as well as practical reasoning, there is a specific reason why the use of violence as a method of political change cannot be justified in today’s Nepal.
In signing the 12-point understanding of November 2005, and the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) of November 2006, the CPN-Maoist Party officially gave up its armed conflict and politics of violence in exchange for the end of autocratic monarchy, formation of an interim government, election for a Constituent Assembly, and progressive transformation of society.
As part of these and subsequent agreements, former Maoist combatants were placed in temporary cantonments pending their eventual integration with national security services or rehabilitation in society. The United Nations was requested to assist in this process.
After elections to the Constituent Assembly in April 2008 which led to the formation of a CPN-Maoist led government, an agreement was reached among political parties in June 2008 which spelled out that integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants would be completed within 6 months, and that the government would not be responsible for those combatants who were not integrated or rehabilitated after 6 months.
A high level, constitutionally-mandated Special Committee for this task has been hard at work to implement these tasks with support from a Technical Committee, and subsequently a full-fledged Secretariat.
Why has this very important and urgent task which was supposed to be completed in 6 months, not yet been completed even 3 years later, and 5 years after the signing of the CPA?
There are many reasons, many excuses, and enough blame to go around to tarnish all parties – the government, the non-Maoist political parties, the Nepal Army, UNMIN, and of course, the UCPN-Maoist. Some would even blame one or more of our neighbouring countries and donors.
Having closely observed the peace process over the past 3 years, I would like to offer the following observations:
Differing interpretationand deliberate distortions
To me what the Interim Constitution, the CPA and Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA) say about integration and rehabilitation is very clear.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal provides for “verified Maoist combatants who choose integration to be deemed eligible for possible integration with the security bodies, after fulfilling the standard requirements”.
It is important to note the careful wording: the integration option is not for all combatants but only for the verified ones; and only for those who choose integration. Combatants do not have a right or entitlement to be integrated, but only to be considered for possible integration. And integration is not necessarily with the Nepal Army but with any or all security bodies including the NA. And those wishing integration must meet the standard norms of the various security forces.
But different political parties and individual leaders have interpretedand distorted this fairly clear provision differently, often in rather deceptive and self-serving manner.
Distortions by NC/UML
Contrary to what was already agreed to in the CPA, AMMAA and the Interim Constitution, during 2008/09 some senior leaders of the NC and UML argued that none of the Maoists combatants could be integrated into Nepal Army, as that would lead to politicization of a professional national army. Some argued that there could only be a symbolic integration and that the bulk of the combatants had to be rehabilitated in civilian society. Yet others argued that the combatants could be eligible for competing for recruitment into the security services like all other citizens of Nepal, and that no preferential treatment could be given to them.
Some argued that to protect the Nepal Army from politicization, combatants should only be integrated into the police force or some new independent force, e.g. as forest guards, while others made exactly the opposite case, saying only the Army could provide a disciplined and regimented environment to keep these politically-motivated party cadres under control, and they should not be let loose in society at large to avoid them being involved in inappropriate forms of political or criminal activities.
Thus very mixed messages were sent which created mistrust and suspicion on the part of the Maoist party and the combatants themselves.
But to the credit of NC and UML, and the Madheshi parties, it must be said that while some of their political leaders have given irresponsible, confusing and mixed messages, senior officials representing them in the Special Committee and the Technical Committee have been quite consistent, reasonable and open-minded on the subject of integration and rehabilitation.
Distortions by the UCPN-Maoist
On the whole, the Maoists leadership has tended to give very mixed messages, sometimes by making outlandish claims and demands, reneging on agreed commitments and often changing the goal posts.
For example, contrary to what is clearly stated in the CPA, AMMAA and the Interim Constitution, some Maoist leaders make a wishful claim that there was some kind of “understanding” on abolishing the old Royal Nepal Army and the Maoist “People’s Liberation Army” and creating a brand new “national army”. They even imply that that was the intent behind the call in the CPA about professionalization of the PLA and “democratization” of the Nepal Army.
Another deceptive claim by some Maoist leaders says that that all 19000+ combatants certified by UNMIN as eligible for cantonment should be considered automatically qualified for integration; and that rehabilitation was meant only for the physically disabled or wounded combatants and those who volunteer to opt out of integration.
The biggest distortion that the Maoist make is in their unilateral conditionality that somehow the drafting of the new constitution and the completion of the peace process must go hand in hand, some even claiming that the PLA should not be disbanded until there is a guarantee of a progressive “people’s constitution”- i.e. a constitution to the liking of the Maoist party.
When reminded about their party’s written agreement to complete the peace process in 6 months whereas the completion of the constitution according to the original schedule would take 2 years, the Maoists conveniently blame the other parties for the delay and quickly change the goal posts and bring new arguments, conditionalities and slogans.
For example, during much of 2009-2010 the Maoists demanded the resignation of an incumbent Prime Minister, “restoration of civilian supremacy”, assertion of “national independence”, preparation of a comprehensive national security policy, “democratization” of the Nepal Army, and similar slogans as pre-conditions for completing the peace process.
The Maoists are correct in reminding that the CPA does call for “democratization” and right-sizing of Nepal’s security services. However, they are being disingenuous in adding a new goal-post that completion of the “integration and rehabilitation” of Maoist combatants must await the development of a new national security policy in the context of the restructuring of the Nepali state.
Precisely in light of the impending restructuring of the state, and the changing security dynamics of the country, we should initiate the debate but must not rush to finalize a new national security policy and structures in a hurry. But “integration and rehabilitation” of ex-combatants must be completed expeditiously, because one country cannot have two armies, nor can one political party have its own army in a functioning democracy.
Recently, the Maoists have added one more new conditionality in speaking about integration and rehabilitation, which was not mentioned in any of the previous agreements. This is captured in a new self-serving catch-phrase which calls for “sammaan-janak” or honourable and dignified options. In practice, it seems to imply pay-off of huge financial packages that are totally disproportionate to the kind of compensation that any other Nepali civil servants or security personnel would get.
This rather extortionist demand implies that the whole Nepali nation and Nepal’s treasury owe the Maoist guerillas a great debt of gratitude for their extra-ordinary “sacrifice” – never mind how many other Nepalis were killed and how the country regressed economically during their fratricidal “people’s war”.
The Maoist leadership often tries to make big issue out of non-issues. For example, at times they claim that they had their own standard norms for recruitment into PLA and would not accept the national security forces’ norms. They also tend to exaggerate that the norms for recruitment and for integration are or must be quite different.
The rhetorical debate on ‘standard norms’ is partly a diversionary tactic for public consumption and to boost the morale of ex-combatants, because the Maoists do agree in informal private discussion that even a Maoist-led government would want to see a professional army that, for example, would qualify for UN peace-keeping services, which requires meeting certain “internationally agreed” norms.
It turns out that the norms currently used by Nepal’s security services already meet most of those requirements, unlike the Maoist norm requiring “commitment to revolutionary transformation” which could very well be counter-productive for a professional army in a democracy.
Distortions by UNMIN
In the face of such distortions and sometimes the lack of good faith among Nepal’s political parties, many Nepalis and the international community expected the UN Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) to play the role of an honest broker and arbiter. But regrettably, UNMIN too failed on a number of issues on several crucial occasions.
When UNMIN was formally established in early 2007, Nepalis felt great assurance that it would provide impartial and competent help for the peace process as well as for election observation.
Many ordinary people did not fully understand the very limited mandate given to UNMIN by the Security Council. But seeing its huge infrastructure – with hundreds of highly visible vehicles and staff roaming around the country, people felt reassured that such big presence of the UN would surely discourage violations of the CPA and usher in peace and reconciliation among the parties.
But things started to turn sour when people began to see and hear about many illegal and criminal activities taking place in Maoist cantonments or by Maoist combatants outside the cantonments, and UNMIN’s seeming inability to control or even monitor such activities.
When a video-tape of Maoist Chairman Prachanda addressing his ex-combatants at Shaktikhor cantonment in early 2008 showed him gleefully boasting how the Maoists had hoodwinked the UN into accepting much larger number of combatants than was actually the case, and how the party intended to use its cadres, including its combatants, to influence the election, UNMIN’s credibility nose-dived.
Increasingly a growing number of leaders of the non-Maoist political parties, civil society and the media became critical of UNMIN’s performance, many attributing a certain pro-Maoist bias on the part of UNMIN.
UNMIN’s explanation of its inability or unwillingness to share certain basic information with the government on the numbers, identity and movements of the combatants in and out of cantonments may have been legalistically and procedurally correct, but it gave ordinary people an impression that it was being uncooperative with the government in its seemingly legitimate efforts to ascertain certain facts, e.g. for payment of salaries of the combatants.
While there was undoubtedly a certain amount of scape-goating of UNMIN, many observers pointed out that in the SRSG’s body language, statements, and reports to the Security Council, there was a certain imbalance, often by omission rather than by commission, that gave undue benefit of doubt to the Maoists.
In September 2010, four former Foreign Ministers of Nepal coming from different political parties wrote to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon protesting the lack of balance in UNMIN’s report to the Security Council. In an even more blunt and unusual manner Nepal’s Permanent Representative to the UN circulated a Note Verbale to members of the UN Security Council documenting point by point how the report of the S-G and the statement introducing it by the SRSG was biased and inaccurate.
Because some leaders of the old established parliamentary parties were known as having a shady past, and notoriety for corruption, nepotism and internal squabbles, many Nepalis and friends of Nepal in the international community tend to be rather disenchanted with them. By contrast, the Maoists presented themselves as progressive champions of change and social justice.
It seemed that the Maoist rhetoric of social justice and inclusion had a certain romantic appeal among many Nepalis, especially from historically marginalized and deprived communities and among some European diplomats and even the UN, including UNMIN.
Partly out of this perception, and partly to be seen as even-handed, UNMIN tended to overlook the Maoists’ deeply authoritarian and violent behaviour equating it with the messiness of other parties.
In dealing with foreigners, the Maoists profess their commitment to peace and multi-party democracy, and even sound like Scandinavian social democrats, but with fellow Nepalis they can be very threatening and intimidating, accusing anyone who disagrees with them as being “feudal, retrogressive, anti-nationalist, and agents of foreign powers”.
Contrary to their progressive and egalitarian proclamations, many Nepalis see the Maoists as ruthless rent-seekers prepared to strike deals with anyone, including criminal gangs, shady businessmen, corrupt leaders and the most conservative and authoritarian elements of society.
There is a perception that this dimension of the Maoist’s wheeling and dealing is often under-recognized by many Western diplomats, the UN and UNMIN who tend to be more enchanted with the Maoist rhetoric of inclusion and social justice than by their deep aversion to truly democratic values.
The fact that the Maoists emerged as the largest political party through elections, seems to have further enhanced their respectability in the eyes of certain European donors, academics, NGOs, and the UN. Among Nepalis, there continues to be a debate about how truly free and fair the Constituent Assembly elections were, but the political parties accepted it at the time as the price of the peace process. But for many outside observers, the election results were enough to prove the Maoist transformation into a civilian democratic party. So a certain license to misbehave was readily granted to the Maoists even when they frequently disregarded past agreements and constantly changed the agreed goal-posts.
Perhaps the biggest dis-service UNMIN did to the peace process – and the principal cause of its ineffectiveness – was in its seemingly fair but misguided attempt to be “even-handed” and “balanced” in dealing with the Nepal government and the UCPN-Maoist (and by implication, the Nepal Army and the “Maoist Army”) as co-equal parties.
In doing so, it tended to selectively invoke the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the AMMAA, and often ignored the Interim Constitution and subsequent agreements in which the UCPN-Maoist essentially became one of the political parties, and ran in elections and even led the Government.
UNMIN reports systematically referred to “parties to the conflict”, “both sides” “two sides”, etc. even when the Maoists themselves were leading the government, essentially conferring on them a privileged dual status as a special party, or even a parallel government within a government commanding its own private army and paramilitary structure.
Such reporting was not only misleading and unhelpful, but it also ignored the fact that article 6 of the CPA declared the “end of the armed war”, and article 10.5 declared that the concept of “two sides” would cease to exist after promulgation of the new constitution by the Interim Legislature-Parliament in which the Maoists were fully represented.
Another factor at play is the role of India. It is well-known that India often plays a rather high-handed role in dealing with Nepal. After 2009, India began to take a tough stance against the Maoists, partly because the latter began to take a stridently anti-India position, not so much out of principle, but out of sheer frustration and hope that an anti-Indian nationalistic position might help turn the tide of public support in their favour.
Somewhat relegated to playing a second fiddle vis a vis India in relation to the Nepali political players, UNMIN and certain western diplomats tended – perhaps unwittingly and inadvertently – to be more “understanding” of the Maoists and their seemingly underdog position.
A case in point is how UNMIN and the Western diplomats stayed neutrally mum on the Maoist changing the goal posts on the question of the sequencing of the peace process versus the drafting of the new Constitution of Nepal. While the CPA and the Interim Constitution do not explicitly address the issue of the sequencing of these actions, subsequent agreements clearly anticipated the peace process to be completed long before the drafting and promulgation of the new constitution.
It was on the assumption that the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants and dismantlement of the cantonments would be completed expeditiously – within 6 months or at most a one year period – that UNMIN was given a series of short-term mandates.
If the completion of the peace process was going to take as long as the drafting of the constitution, and that completion of a constitution that is acceptable to the Maoists were a precondition for completing the integration and rehabilitation of combatants, the UN Security Council should have been advised accordingly, and asked to give UNMIN the same life-span as that of the Constituent Assembly.
Had such conditionality and linkage – as the Maoist claim to exist – been explained explicitly to the Security Council, it is doubtful that it would have constructed UNMIN’s mandate the way it did. Indeed, each time UNMIN’s mandate was extended, it was understood that the period of extension would suffice to complete the major part of the peace process, regardless of the pace of the constitution drafting. Curiously, even Ambassadors of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council who approve UNMIN’s mandate and who fund its operations did not speak out on this issue.
Given these realities, where do we go from here to complete the peace process and to create a more conducive atmosphere for the writing of a progressive but fully democratic new Constitution?
Ideally one would wish that the debate on options for integration and rehabilitation would be guided by what would be in the best long-term interest of the nation rather than competing political parties trying to maximize what they find as acceptable or beneficial for their parties in the short run.
Two years ago, I presented 3 separate papers on integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and democratization of the Nepal Army, precisely from perspective of the best long-term interest of the nation. The ideas contained in those papers were generally well-received by all parties, but which fell by the wayside as parties reverted back to bargaining from their partisan perspectives.
I find most current proposals in front of the SC and its Secretariat for integration and rehabilitation of the ex-combatants primarily as an attempt to concoct the least objectionable compromises, rather than what would be in the best interest of the nation.
Under the current circumstances, finding the least objectionable compromises may still be better than allowing the status quo to continue, as it has been very costly for the nation, both in terms of money and the opportunity costs of the delay in the drafting of the new constitution, and getting on with the job of national development and reconstruction.
Even without counting the cost of UNMIN and the many donor-funded projects and junkets on conflict resolution, this poor nation has already spent over 20 billion rupees (about US$ 300 million) for the upkeep of the ex-combatants with no obvious benefit to the nation. It is, therefore, urgent that we conclude an integration and rehabilitation package, dismantle the cantonments, and end once and for all any remnants of one country at peace having two de facto armies under any pretext.
Let us recall that during the decade of conflict, the size of the Nepal Army grew from 46,000 to 96,000. And Nepal’s defense budget increased from less than NRs. 3 billion to over NRs. 15 billion. This is not counting the size and cost of the Armed Police Force which was another costly by-product of the armed conflict.
Today, during peace time, most political parties, including the UCPN-Maoist, agree that there is a need to reduce rather than increase the overall size of the Nepal Army and probably the Armed Police Force, and reallocate some savings in our military security budget to human security priorities of our people.
In that context, it seems logical that priority should be given to “rehabilitation and management” of the Maoist combatants rather than to their large-scale “integration” which will further inflate the size of the
Nepal Army and APF. On the other hand, given our commitment as part of the peace process, creative ways must be found for some degree of “integration” of the combatants in Nepal’s security forces, including the Nepal Army.
Thus we are faced with two seemingly contradictory requirements – from the point of view of Nepal’s genuine security needs, we probably need to reduce the size of our security forces, especially the Nepal Army. But from the point of view of the peace process, we need to “integrate” some Maoist combatants thereby increasing the size of our security forces.
So a question arises, can we find a win-win formula whereby we can integrate several thousand Maoist combatants in a manner that would actually help strengthen the Nepal Army and other security forces, qualitatively, because we do not need to strengthen them quantitatively?
Our answer has to be: yes, we can and must undertake integration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants in a manner that would actually enhance the inclusiveness, democratization, professionalization and modernization of our security forces, which would be in Nepal’s national interest.
The key elements of a win-win formula would involve integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants in a manner that would reinforce our genuine need for a numerically slightly smaller, but qualitatively and professionally much stronger security apparatus that is more inclusive of such historically under-represented groups as women, Madheshis, Dalits, and other marginalized communities.
As the UCPN-Maoist claims to be a party that wants agragami paribartan, (progressive transformation), I wish it would not only insist on maximizing the number of combatants to be integrated, but would suggest how inclusion of its ex-combatants would lead to qualitative improvements in Nepal’s security services.
I hope, therefore, that in discussing numbers, the parties would also insist that priority should be given to integration of women, Dalits, Madheshis and other historically under-represented groups among the Maoist combatants into Nepal’s security services.
It is important to explain to the combatants that in the process of integration, some groups that have been historically marginalized and under-represented in Nepal’s security services will be given preference over others, in the larger national interest of Nepal. The UCPN-Maoist leadership itself must explain clearly to its cadres this reasoning and understanding.
I have argued in the past that, besides making Nepal’s security services more inclusive, gender-balanced and gender-sensitive institutions, which is, of course, in Nepal’s larger national interest, a major justification for giving priority for women combatants who are willing and able to join Nepal’s security services would be to enable Nepal to respond to UN Security Council resolution 1325, under which the UN is encouraging all Member States to provide more women officers in its peace-keeping missions. Nepal could make a valuable and mutually beneficial contribution to world peace by having a dedicated contingent of women soldiers and police officers.
On the flip side of giving priority to ex-combatants with such attributes for integration into the national security services, care should be taken to exclude Maoist combatants and officers known to have committed serious human rights violations. (The same human rights standards should apply, of course, to Nepal Army soldiers and officers, when it comes to their recruitment, promotion, and deputation on special assignments).
For the majority of ex-combatants who are not integrated into the national security services, ideally arrangements should be made for them to be trained, equipped and rehabilitated into attractive civilian jobs thus making a valuable contribution to national development.
Regrettably, I have noticed that in the past the UCPN-Maoist has not shown a great deal of enthusiasm in developing an attractive package of technical and vocational training and alternative job placement for its combatants, always preferring to maximize the number to be integrated into security services – and preferably with a large number being given high level command posts – or seeking huge sums of money as “golden hand-shake” as its preferred options, now euphemistically called “sammaan janak” (honourable) solution.
This is a great pity, because a massive programme of skill training and job placement in civilian development functions would not only be “sammaan janak” and in the national interest, but unlike integration into security services, we could actually mobilize considerable international donor support for a creative civilian rehabilitation package.
For a proletarian party, the UCPN-Maoist seems to be excessively motivated by financial gains. I remember whenever there were discussions in the TC and SC of financial packages, the Maoist negotiators seemed prepared to strike a deal if a “just and fair” compensation was offered. But their sense of the worth of their cadres’ and combatants’ contribution to the revolution is such that, they do not hesitate to demand outlandish amounts that a poor country like Nepal simply cannot afford or justify.
Based on past example of the UCPN-Maoist collecting compulsory levies from payments made by the State to its combatants and parliamentarians, other parties rightly suspect that a big chunk of any “sammaan-janak” financial package given to combatants will actually end up in Maoist Party coffers.
I have noted that most non-Maoist members of the TC, now the Secretariat of SC, try to come up with proposals that are “technically” sound and justifiable. They often go out of their way to be maximally flexible, giving every benefit of doubt to the Maoists, to try to accommodate them recognizing their political “compulsion”. Informally, the Maoist members of the TC would often agree to most such proposals based on logic and common sense.
But when the crunch comes to take decision, the Maoist members of the TC/Secretariat, habitually claim that they need to refer the matter to their “higher-ups”. And the message from the “higher-ups” invariably rejects most sensible proposals either by coming up with political slogans that defy logical proposals or by trying to link “technically sound” proposals with totally un-related political demands and conditionalities.
For the ex-combatants, there are many ways to serve the nation and contribute to its progressive transformation. As a progressive party, the UCPN-Maoist should be encouraging its cadres and combatants to choose the path of acquiring knowledge and skills to improve their lives and contribute to nation-building as civilian activists rather than swelling the ranks of our already bloated security services. For a country like Nepal, it is in our long-term national interest to build a peaceful future, try to reduce excessive militarization and arms expenditure.
The UCPN-Maoist leadership does a great dis-service to its combatants by inculcating in their minds that they must insist on joining armed security services as the only or the best way to serve the nation.
This obsession is leading the Maoists to disregard great opportunities for developing exciting rehabilitation packages, for which we can also get considerable international support. If the Maoist ex-combatants were told that the opportunities in the civilian sector are potentially far more attractive than service in the security services, many would most likely opt for the civilian rehabilitation option.
I hope it is not too late to still strive for developing a massive skill training and job placement programme for a large number of ex-combatants, after a small number are integrated into the security services. Lessons learned from the efforts to provide vocational training and job placement for the “under-age and late recruits” would be very valuable in this context.
Such a programme would also be a valuable entry into a larger skills training revolution that is needed to modernize Nepal, to engage in new sectors, and to enable our migrant workers to get higher salaries and positions when they seek foreign employment.
Fortunately, we have a very competent Secretariat of the Special Committee. Once there is broad political consensus on the overall outline for integration and rehabilitation of the ex-combatants, the Secretariat is fully capable of working out detailed modalities and managing its implementation. We have had plenty of external advice and experience exchange, and do not need any more study visits abroad or external technical assistance for the “integration” component. We will, however, need and can benefit immensely from international support for a strong “rehabilitation” component.
In the past the Technical Committee of the SC came up with many thoughtful and sensible proposals, which were all derailed – usually by the Maoists changing goal-posts in the last moment, and coming up with new sets of political demands and conditionalities, which led to long periods when the SC could not meet or take any decisions.
The time has now come for there to be a high level political decision on the broad outline of integration and rehabilitation, and allow the Secretariat to implement it under the supervision of the Special Committee, but with no further political guidance or interference from outside the Special Committee.
After all, the SC already comprises high level representation of the major political parties, and there is absolutely no need for any further interference by any political party’s Central Committee, Standing Committee, Politburo or supreme leadership, which only tend to politicize matters leading to further delay and derailment.
Before I conclude, I wish to emphasize that, while it is urgent and important to conclude the integration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants, this is not enough for the real completion of the peace process in Nepal.
In accordance with accepted international norms, there is no room for violent politics in a functioning democracy. The UCPN-Maoist party’s strategic policy of maintaining theoptions of bothpeaceful and violent politics to attain state power has created an environment of deep distrust among other political parties and the general public. In order to remove such distrust, the party must abandon its militarist mindset.
The UCPN-Maoist party must declare, in a manner that will be understood clearly by the party membership and the public at-large that it has abandoned the politics of violence, that is does not have any military units within the party, and that ithas no plans for such units in thefuture. The party must confirm that, with the exception of the party functionaries assigned to help the Special Committee for the integration and rehabilitation of its ex-combatants in the cantonments, no Maoist leader has or will or needs to take any military responsibility within its party structure.
I believe that such a public commitment backed up by supportive follow-up action, will help create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation among all political forces, and the public, which will help erase the mood of gloom and doom in the public, and will develop confidence in peace-building and the new constitution.
I sincerely believe that this would also be the best way for us to honour the memory of Ganesh Man Singh, our great national hero who devoted his whole life for democracy, peace and prosperity of Nepal.