Saturday, May 25, 2013

Deuba faction miffed with Koirala over party appointments

KATHMANDU, May 21: The seemingly cordial relation between Nepali Congress (NC) President Sushil Koirala and the party’s senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba has witnessed a serious rift yet again following Koirala’s decision to give full shape to various 42 departments of the party. The Deuba faction has said the decision is in violation of the principle of ‘balance’ and ‘consensus’.

Deuba faction has expressed serious reservations over Koirala’s nomination of members in the party’s various departments without paying due heed to the concerns raised by it. “We are surprised to see the list of nominations made for the party’s departments. The appointments made are not only unbalanced but also against consensus,” said NC CWC member Bimalendra Nidhi, a close confidant of Deuba.

Nidhi said they had submitted a list of about 1,000 possible candidates from their faction for appointments after Koirala’s request. “He [Koirala] had assured us that he would make the appointments in a balanced manner. But as we read the list of nominations made, we were astonished,” Nidhi further said.

Koirala announced nomination of 21 members each in 42 departments of the party on Sunday. Leaders close to Deuba alleged that Koirala has not picked even 200 names nominated by the faction while appointing 882 members.

“Koirala has failed to show his magnanimity. We are receiving phone calls from leaders in various districts who doubt whether Koirala will short-change our faction while distributing election tickets,” said another Deuba-aligned leader, asking to be unnamed.

The leader further said they have accepted that Koirala as the elected president should be allowed to make the majority of appointments within all the party’s organizations. “Koirala could have spread a positive message among the party rank and file that the party is moving ahead unitedly if he had ensured proportionate representation from both sides. But he doesn’t seem to be willing to do that,” the CWC member commented. “We are demanding a fair representation, not a lion’s share.”

In a meeting with Koirala in the second week of May, Deuba and Nidhi had asked Koirala to address the issue of en masse resignation by Deuba-aligned leaders from their respective departments after Koirala announced 12 more departments other than those provisioned in the party’s statute. They had also cautioned that the decision to pass the party’s regulations through majority votes was against the provisions of the party’s statute.

Not only did he ignore these concerns raised by the Deuba faction, Koirala also rejected Deuba’s suggestion to form the departments with 10 members each. Deuba faction leaders said they had submitted a list of about 1,000 prospective candidates for appointments as Koirala did not specify as to how many members he planned to appoint in each of the departments. “The appointments are neither balanced nor made through consensus,” Nidhi told Republica.

However, Koirala faction has maintained that the appointments were balanced and were made in consensus with Deuba faction. “Party president made the appointments after holding discussions with Deuba faction. Whatever he has done is based on consensus with Deuba. It is not justifiable to raise any objections now,” said CWC member Dil Bahadur Gharti, who is close to Koirala.

Gharti said the delay by Deuba faction to sit for discussions on the issue had deferred the appointments. “It is always better late than never. The appointments have been made finally,” he further said.

UK climber heads home as Nepal probes 'illegal' video call

KATHMANDU, May 25: Even as the government starts investigating the ´illegal´ video call that British climber Daniel Thomas Hughes made from the top of Mount Everest, it has come to light that he already left Nepal on Wednesday.

Officials at Summit Nepal Trekking Pvt Ltd, a local partner of the UK-based Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013, said Hughes, along with two colleagues, left for home after arriving in Kathmandu from Base Camp via helicopter, Wednesday. Shortly after landing at the Domestic Terminal at about 4 p.m., they went directly to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to catch their flight home.

The first ever live video from atop Mount Everest, made by the 33-year old climber on Sunday morning, caused controversy as he made the video call via smartphone without prior approval of the government the video call was broadcast live on BBC television. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) subsequently sought written clarifications from Summit Nepal Trekking.

But according to Ram Sharan Maharjan of Summit Nepal Trekking, they submitted clarifications to MoCTCA stating that Hughes had not informed them about wanting to make the video call from the Everest summit. “We have also passed this information on to the UK-based company that sent Hughes on the Everest expedition,” he said. “We would have acquired all necessary permission from the government had we been informed on time about this [video call].”

Hughes made it to the top of Everest as a member of the Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013 for raising £1 million for Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty. The charity aims at driving positive change through the power of entertainment.

MoIC permission is a must for filming or making any audio-visual material for public broadcast, as per the existing law of Nepal. Anyone filming or broadcasting live from the Everest region without prior permission from the government is subject to action by both MoIC and the Sagarmatha National Park.

Meanwhile, MoCTCA has formed a three-member committee to investigate the ´illegal´ video call from the top of Everest and recommend necessary action under existing law.

While MoIC and Sagarmatha National Park can initiate separate legal action against the ´illegal´ act, Hughes may be banned from entering Nepal for five years and from setting foot on Everest for 10 years.

The committee comprising official from the Ministry of Law, MoCTCA and a person who has scaled Everest will also probe the brawl that occured between Sherpas and climbers in early May.

"We hope the recommendations of the probe committee will help avoid such unpleasant situations in future," said an official at the Tourism Industry Division under MoCTCA.

Govt to probe 'illegal' video call from Everest summit

KATHMANDU, May 20: The government has initiated investigation into the incident involving a British national who made a live video call from the top of the Mount Everest without taking prior approval from the authorities.

Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) on Monday sought a written clarification from the local agency-- Summit Nepal Trekking Private Limited -- that coordinated the expedition of British climber Daniel Thomas Hughes over the incident involving live video call with BBC television from the Everest summit without taking due permission from the concerned government agency.

"We have also asked liaison officer of the expedition team to furnish details," said Chief of Tourism Industry Division under the MoCTCA Purna Chandra Bhattarai. Bhattarai said legal action will be taken against Hughes and his expedition team for involving in the activities other than those permitted by the government.

"The expedition team had permissions only to take three walkie-talkies and set up a base camp," he said.

A member of the Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013, Hughes made it to the top of the Mount Everest Sunday morning. Not only did he make a live video call to the BBC Television, Hughes, upon the request by the TV anchor, had even briefly panned his smartphone from the top of the Everest, showing BBC audience across the globe a spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains.

MoCTCA officials said the expedition team leader has signed in the agreement that reads, "All news regarding the expedition must be conveyed first to the MoCTCA and only then can be sent to others." Not only did Hughes broadcast live from the top of the Everest, but he did so without due permission from the government. The 33-year old British national is also found to have breached the agreement that clearly states that the information relating to the ascent be first made available to the government, officials said.

Likewise, the agreement signed also clearly states that satellite, VHC, UGV, wireless set and any other communication equipment are strictly prohibited without the permission from concerned authorities and must not be used for commercial purpose. "Failure to do so may result in confiscation of equipment, cancellation of the expedition permit and additional penalty according to the law," the agreement states further.
As per the provisions in the Tourism Act 2035 BS, Hughes is likely to face charges on grounds of ´immoral´ activities and flouting existing laws of Nepal.

While Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) and Sagarmatha National Park can initiate separate legal actions against his ´illegal´ acts, Hughes may be banned from entering Nepal for five years and from setting foot on Mount Everest for 10 years as per the Tourism Act 2035 BS.
The MoIC permission is a must for filming or making any audio visual materials for public broadcasts. While it costs $10,000 for acquiring permit for filming or producing audio/visual materials, any climber who wishes to take satellite phone has to pay Rs 120,000 to acquire government permission for each of its terminal.

Live video call from Everest summit causes controversy

KATHMANDU, May 20: "It´s a very proud moment to be here. It´s been two-and-a-half-years in the making," said a British explorer Daniel Thomas Hughes in the first ever video call from the top of the Mount Everest, Sunday morning.

The video call made via smartphone from the highest peak in the world was aired live by BBC World. As per the request made by the TV anchor, Hughes had briefly panned around his smartphone from the top of the Everest, showing BBC audience across the globe a spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains.

In the video call that lasted 2 minutes and 45 seconds, Hughes said, "This is the world´s highest live video, never had been this before."
Taking a pause to breathe in enough oxygen, he added, "It´s windy here. They are Sherpas aroud me. I can see big holes around here. This is the highest peak I had ever been to."

Hughes scaled Mt Everest in an attempt to raise £1 million to Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty. The charity aims at driving positive change through the power of entertainment.

The Comic Relief together with its sister project Sports Relief alternatively host Red Nose Day telethon biennially to raise fund for charity in the UK.
May is the most popular month for Everest climbs because of more favorable weather. Hughes along with 140 other climbers made it to the top of the Mount Everest a day after 64 climbers, including a Saudi Arabian woman, successfully scaled the 8,848 meter high peak.

When Hughes reached to the top he put on his red nose, a symbol of charity in UK, and made the first ever live video phone call from the summit. During the final part of the climb he had to walk uphill for 12 hours straight.

Hughes, 33, made it to the top of the Mount Everest as a member of member of the Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013. A local company named Summit Nepal Trekking Private Limited had coordinated the expedition team that included Hughes.

Meanwhile, government officials in Kathmandu said Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013, which took Hughes to the top of the Mount Everest, is found to have not taken due government permission to film Mount Everest. "It is found that the company concerned is found to have taken permission only for taking walkie-talkie for communication," said a senior official at the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), which issues permits for filming and taking other means of communications.

Officials said the permission of the MoIC is a must for filming or making any audio visual materials for public broadcasts. While it cost $10,000 for acquiring permit for filming or producing audio/visual materials, any climber, who wishes to take satellite phone with him/her has to pay Rs 120,000 to acquire government permission for each of its terminal.

Chief of Tourism Industry Division under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) Purna Chandra Bhattarai said the live video call from the top of Mt Everest without due permission from the government agencies concerned has drawn their serious attention. "We will inquire with its local agency first about the incident and recommend to the concerned authorities for necessary action after further investigation," said Bhattarai.

As per the existing government legislation, both the Ministry of Information and Communications and Sagarmatha National Park are authorized to take legal action against any climber taking such equipment to the mountain without prior approval. "The successful ascent of Hughes to Mount Everest summit may itself be questionable as he is found to be engaged in the activities other than those permitted to him," said another senior official at MoIC.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Back home, ex-Qatar Academy teacher plans to devote life to charity

KATHMANDU, May 15:  His recent arrest in Qatar over alleged insult to Islam has brought a turning point in the life of a former Qatar Academy chemistry teacher Dorje Gurung.

The 42-year old high school teacher with 16 years of teaching experiences in various nine countries abroad, including the US and the UK, has now decided to devote the rest of his life contributing to the education sector in Nepal.

“I don´t want to remember the past. I will now work toward making a difference in the lives of Nepali children,” said Gurung, who arrived home Monday evening after the authorities in Doha set him free.

Gurung says he plans to set up science labs and libraries in public schools across the country. Apart from financing the studies of poor children, he also plans to contribute to the society through social work. “I have decided not to go abroad for employment. I will now work for the cause of educating the poor children,” said Gurung.


The Qatar Academy had relieved Gurung of his duty last week over a derogatory comment on Islam-- something Gurung denies. He says all this could have occurred due to misinterpretation of what he actually said during an argument with a group of his students on April 16. “I never made remarks against Islam. I do not know what exactly the 7th grade students accused me of saying. But I was told by the police that I insulted Islam,” he said.

The school management had called a meeting with him on April 17 and he was asked to submit a written clarification over the issue. “As the school management decided to relieve me of my duty on April 21, I had made all necessary plans to return home on May 3,” said Gurung. “But I was stunned when police arrested me on May 1.”

Gurung´s friends and former students from both within Nepal and abroad had launched a facebook campaign to secure his release. “I still can not find words to thank you -- words that would sufficiently express my gratitude to you all. The gift of freedom! (Ask any of my friends and colleagues at Qatar Academy who received me upon my release yesterday afternoon- I was just a wreck. All I could do was cry and bawl),” he said in a facebook comment after landing in Kathmandu late Monday evening.

Born in Chusang VDC of Mustang 42 years ago, Gurung studied up to grade III at a local school in Pokhara and then was admitted to St Xavier School in Godavari, Kathmandu. After passing School Leaving Certificate (SLC) level in 1987, he went to Italy to pursue a two-year IB Diploma. A Chemistry graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, USA, Gurung started his teaching career in Italy (1994-1995) and then moved to Hong Kong, where he had another one year of teaching experience.

He came back to Kathmandu after spending a year in Norway (1996-1997) as a teacher. Gurung then worked as teacher in various local schools in Kathmandu till February 1999 before he flew to Australia to pursue a one-year Diploma in Education degree.

Gurung again started teaching career abroad since 2001 with first two years in the USA and following three years in the African country of Malawi. Gurung then taught at an international school in Azerbaijan (2007 to 2010) and Vietnam (2010 to 2011) before joining the Qatar Academy in August 2011. “As a teacher working in different parts of the world, I always had a desire to work in an Islamic country. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Qatar,” he said while cautiously avoiding the bitter experience he had for the remarks he says he did not make.

Living martyr finds solace in music

(A story  I wrote back in 2009)
KATHMANDU, April 24: He fought to restore the rights of the Nepali people. But that battle for freedom on behalf of the people cost Rabin Shrestha his own rights, the inalienable right to see. The 28-year-old lost both his eyes to a tear gas shell during the democratic movement in April, 2006.
And for almost three years now, Shrestha has been confined to a small room in his house, in the suburb of Bhainsepati, Lalitpur.
Getting to listen to the FM radio and playing the guitar is what freedom means to him now. Today, he has to live with composing music from within the four walls of his room, but he´s happy about some of the things that Jana Andolan II has brought about. “I am happy that I get to listen to the news as it happens, since there is no censoring of radios and televisions now,” says Shrestha.
Shrestha was one among the sea of youth who actively took part in the democratic movement spearheaded by the then Seven Party Alliance (SPA). “I had an opportunity to watch the interview of youth leader Gagan Thapa that was aired on a local TV show,” he says. “Though I did not know him personally, I was really inspired by his statement that youth should take to the streets to restore civil liberties.”
On April 6, 2006, the first day the of the street movement-in spite of the government"s prohibitory orders on street protests-Shrestha did just what Gagan Thapa had asked of people like him. Shrestha, along with his friends, reached New Baneshwor Chowk, to stage a demonstration against the totalitarian regime.
It was about 4:30 pm. A fierce clash ensued between the protestors and police personnel. And Shrestha got hit by a teargas shell. “All I can remember is that everyone else managed to flee the scene and that I had collapsed after being hit on my face by a teargas shell. I was then thrashed by the armed police personnel deployed there,” says Shrestha.
The next thing he knew, he was on his way to Bir Hospital in a police van.
Three years on, democracy has been restored and the 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA) has already been elected to draft a new constitution. But the dreams that drove Shrestha during the democratic movement have not materialized. “I am dismayed to hear that the people have not been able to live the independent lives that they thought they would live, due to the strikes and protests organized every other day,” he says.
What hurts Shrestha the most, however, is the apathy that the government has shown towards the cause Shrestha fought for. “The government that was formed with the sole mandate to draft a new constitution and build a New Nepal is now engaging in trivial issues like dismissing the army chief. It"s only looking out for its own partisan interests,” he says.
“People like me didn"t participate in the protests to further our own narrow interests,” he says, offering a point of contrast between the people on the street and the people now in government.
And Shrestha has a message for the people in government: He wants the leaders to put the country and its people first. “This is the last chance for you leaders to build a New Nepal. Do not misuse this opportunity,” he says.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A tale of a sovereign nation dictated by foreigners

"Chakrabyuhama Chandra Surya"

The debates on foreign interference in Nepal’s internal affairs are so deep and intense that there are hardly any sectors left untouched by it in Nepal. However, no one, including the political leaders who keep harping on the issues of patriotism and nationality, has dared speak out in public the kind of interferences and unwarranted foreign interventions Nepal faces from foreign elements.

Journalist Saroj Raj Adhikari deserves special appreciation for meticulously analyzing and documenting numerous instances of foreign interventions in Nepali politics and other internal affairs in recent years in his book, “Chakrabyuhama Chandra Surya.”

Not only has the book exposed how our country’s political leadership on various occasions is dictated by foreign forces, many of the incidents the book deals with make one to painfully apprehend that the very existence of sovereign Nepal may fall into jeopardy should foreigner forces continue maneuvering all developments that take place in Nepal, and we Nepalis fail to work unitedly against such unwarranted interferences.

Adhikari combines the highest standards of his research works with his experience as a journalist covering issues relating to security and politics in Nepal for the past several years. He begins by giving examples of a series of ‘sponsored killings’ of businessmen, politicians, media owner and goes on to describe various issues of security challenges that Nepal faces mainly after the political changes that occurred in Nepal in 2006.

While the first two portions that deal with the cases of sponsored murders and issues of security challenges during the transition period set as background to its overall conclusion that Nepal’s national security and sovereignty are under a serious threat, the concluding portion that includes three separate chapters acutely show how Indian security as well as other interests that are at play in Nepal are shaping our national politics and how we have fallen into difficult situation due to our geostrategic location between two giant neighbors—India and China.

Although the book is a pure non-fiction evidenced by facts so rare for the public, one gets an impression of reading a racy thriller while reading the 323-page long book published by Sangrila Book, Kathmandu. While the first chapter deals with threats that former crown prince Parash Shah faces from underground criminal elements, eight succeeding chapters deal with the sponsored killings of Mirja Dilsad Beg, Kamal Singh, Majid Manihar, Shaukat Beg, Jamim Shah, Phaijan Ahmed and the murder attempt on Yunus Ansariat in the central jail in Kathmandu.

Adhikari has made painstaking efforts in depicting how these seemingly usual cases of murders were linked to critical interests of foreign state and non-state criminal elements and exposing how they pose serious threats to Nepal’s national security and sovereignty. He merits due appreciation for digging deeper into the causes and consequences of each of the murder case and analyzing the interests foreign powers have in Nepal.

Of course, the strategic location of Nepal between two emerging economic superpowers, India and China, presents it a great opportunity. But Nepal finds itself trapped over the Tibet issue as western countries, including the US, continue to exert pressure on Nepal to provide ‘safe passage’ to Tibetans who flee their homeland to make their way to India and elsewhere, and China mounts diplomatic pressure to stop giving any such privilege to Tibetans.

Besides analyzing how the interests of westerners on Tibet has added security challenges, the book also meticulously examines the maneuvering of external elements in Nepal’s security issues –something very critical against Nepal’s national interests.

The book also deals with other critical issues pertaining to Nepal’s national interests, such as citizenship distribution by birth, the President’s move to revoke the decision of the Maoist-led government to sack the then army chief Rookmangud Katawal under the title “Security in Transition Period.”

While serving various instances where our political leadership has made blunders, the book stresses on the need to have clear policies and commitments by Nepal on issues related to national security.

“We never became subservient to anyone. This is a matter of pride. But we could never become independent, either. We are exercising controlled sovereignty. In practice, we are still in a semi-colonial state.” T he author has thus summed up Nepal’s situation after giving so many instances of foreign interventions, mainly from India, in Nepal’s internal affairs.

Though Adhikari accomplishes a lot in the book and makes his message clear with his convincing skills and ability to make connections between a particular event and its consequences, readers at times feel that the author would have done much better had he devoted a little more effort in linking each of the incident mentioned in the book to national politics and how those incidents shaped political courses ahead.

Nevertheless, for those who would prefer informed action over foreign interference and other aspects in Nepal, this book by a journalist who has so closely observed Nepal’s politics and security for the past several years is no doubt a blessing. The book is especially valuable for Adhikari’s insights, contacts, and ability to get confidential documents and get concerned officials and analysts to speak honestly in both on- and off-the-record interviews, and his objective analysis of the events.

Live Enrollment Centers planned in 68 districts, 32 missions abroad to ease MRP issuance

KATHMANDU, May 11: With the objective of making passport service delivery hassles-free and quick, the government has started necessary preparations to set up Live Enrollment Centers (LEC) in various 68 districts and 32 diplomatic missions abroad.

Department of Passports (DoP) can download the passport application forms along with the photos of the applicants directly in Kathmandu once the LECs are set up.
Under the existing practice, passport applications are first collected at various district administration offices and missions abroad and then they are sent to the DoP for further processing.

While it takes three months in minimum to get passport if a person has applied from diplomatic missions abroad and at least one month if applied from the district administration office concerned, due to the delay in reaching applications to the DoP. Officials believe that service seekers may receive the passports in half the time once the LECs are set up.

The DOP, which works under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), is the central government body entrusted with the issue of passports. “Preparations are under way to set up live enrollment centers to provide passports to service seekers without unnecessary hassles and displace hand-written passports as soon as possible,” said MoFA Spokesperson Arjun Bahadur Thapa.

Addressing a regular press briefing at MoFA on Friday, Thapa said feasibility study including technical aspects involved in setting up the LECs have already been completed. “We have decided to set up live enrollment centers in various 68 districts and 32 diplomatic missions of Nepal abroad. We have sought necessary budget from the Ministry of Finance to execute the plan,” he said.

It is estimated that it will cost at least Rs 1 billion to execute the ambitious plan.

Thapa said they are mulling to make an arrangement for the applicants from the remaining seven districts to apply for passports from the neighboring districts. "Since it costs a huge amount of money to set up such a facility, we have decided not to set up live enrolment centers in seven districts keeping in view the low turnout of passport applicants," Thapa further said.

Nepal currently has embassies in various 27 countries, two permanent missions and three consul general offices. The government plan to set up live enrollment centers does not include soon-to-be established embassies in Oman and Bahrain and consul general office in Guangzhou.

The government decision comes in the wake of fast-approaching International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) deadline to replace all hand-written passports with Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) by November 24, 2015. “Currently, some 2.5 million hand-written passports are in use. All these passports will become invalid on the same day after two years,” said Director at the DoP Rajendra Pandey.

Director Pandey said the urgency to make the passport delivery service quick and effective was felt as the ICAO deadline is approaching. “We need to have a whole new system that is effective and can deliver passports faster than it is today to address the possible problems,” he further said. “We, therefore, are planning to set up live enrollment centers in various places in partnership with France-based Oberthur Technogies.”

Nepal started issuing MRPs on December 26, 2010 -- nine months after the original deadline of April 10, 2010 set by ICAO for starting to issue MRPs. Officials at DoP said over 800,000 MRPs have already been issued so far.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Desperate to mend ties, Dahal was all sweetness with India


UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal continues to hog media headlines for his remarks, often controversial ones. He dominated the headlines again this week not only for his ´trilateral cooperation´ proposal between India, Nepal and China, but also for his visit to India after five years of ´bittersweet´ relations with the southern neighbor. The visit is widely seen as Dahal´s bid to mend his strained relations with India, especially after the UCPN (Maoist) launched what they called ´a struggle for national sovereignty and civil supremacy´ following an unsuccessful attempt by the then Maoist-led government to sack army chief Rookmangud Katawal back in 2009.
Upon his arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport on Tuesday after a four-day visit to India, Dahal told media that the visit was successful in building an environment of trust between the Maoists and India. The leader of the former rebel party could successfully convey to the Indian leadership that his party had now chosen peaceful democratic polity over aggressive nationalism and also took the opportunity to propose a new chapter of friendly relations. The kind of confidence Dahal has been demonstrating and the kind of remarks he has been making after his meeting with top Indian leaders including Prime Minister Manamohan Singh, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party Chairman Raj Nath Singh, among others, are understandable enough.

India midwifed the 12-point Agreement between the then Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists in November 2005, paving the way for the Maoists to join mainstream politics. But to India´s dismay, the Maoists developed cold feet with India when they emerged as the single largest party after the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections. The events leading up to the May 4, 2009 resignation of Dahal from the post of prime minister over his controversial decision to sack the then army chief was a tipping point for relations between the Maoists and India. The subsequent hurling of shoes at then Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood and targeting of various Indian joint ventures had had only accentuated the differences between India and the Maoists.

What has remained unique on the part of Dahal this time round is that he was ´all sweetness´ with the Indian political leadership. Already having refrained from terming "domestic reactionary forces backed by India" as the principal enemy of the party in the political document endorsed by the Hetauda General Convention earlier this year, Dahal neither mentioned the 1950 treaty nor did he raise the issue of Indian interference in Nepal´s internal affairs, something his party used to keep harping on. Let alone raising other irritating factors such as border disputes, the issue of ´illegally operation´ of the Indian embassy´s ´field office´ in Biratnagar --something his own party colleague and former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha has been raising vociferously-- did not figure in any of his meetings. The only thing he repeatedly said at different meetings and forums during his stay in New Delhi is: "We are in the process of learning. We want to move ahead by correcting the mistakes and shortcomings we have had in the past."

All this substantiates a candid observation made recently by a senior Indian foreign ministry official before Nepalese journalists. "Nepalese politicians come to us not with the agenda of broader national interests of Nepal, but often with petty personal and partisan interests."

Dahal apparently had no national agenda in hand and he had nothing to say about how he wanted to redefine Nepal-India relations so that these two countries can enjoy ´problem-free´ relations. What our leadership must not forget is we do have certain issues with India and they need to be resolved amicably without any further delay. This requires being honest and frank in sharing the concerns we have and putting forth our views to the Indian side for resolving them. Negotiations between the two sides can eventually yield anamicable solutions to the problems. The recent border incursion by Chinese security forces in India-held Depsang Valley in the Ladakh region should be a lesson for both India and Nepal that keeping border issues in status quo for long could only breed problems and tensions in future.

It is high time India also pondered why there is so much of anti-Indian sentiment in Nepal despite it being a great development partner. Many critics in Nepal say the ´magnanimous´ India often falls short when it comes to petty issues, giving grounds for ´nationalist´ elements to blow the issue out of proportion. For instance, the Indian embassy´s ´field office´ is currently one of the main issues for protest by various agitating political parties in Nepal. The field office was set up to facilitate vehicular movement through Indian territory when a section of the road on the Nepal side was disrupted by the massive flood in 2008. Though there was an agreement to close the office after the damaged road section was repaired,the Indian side relocated that office to Biratnagar and shown no sign of closing it even though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has twice written to it to close the office as this was no longer necessary. There is also concern that India tends to micro-manage developments in Nepal.

That neighbors ought to work together in a spirit of mutual accommodation and that engagement is a two-way street are facts no one can deny. Nepal and India should internalize these verities and act accordingly in the days ahead. Nepal as a poor country sandwiched between two emerging economic superpowers, can serve her larger interests only by becoming good friends to both India and China and playing a catalytic role in further enhancing "constructive cooperation" between these two countries. India´s desire for the same can be understood from the remarks of Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid to visiting Nepalese journalists last week: "You [Nepal] be friends and tell them [China] to be good to India also. And if you like to tell us to be good to them, let us all be good to each other. But please do not give them [China] anything that will hurt India." This will not only ensure political stability and development in Nepal, but also in entire South Asia. Also, it will eventually help realize the trilateral cooperation that Nepal wishes to see.

While centuries-old interaction at the level of the people has continued to strengthen Nepal-India relations despite some occasional hiccups at the political level, track II diplomacy has also played an equally important role in cementing our ties. But what seems missing for further enhancing our relations is direct communications between the Nepalese and Indian political leadership. Experience shows that communications through bureaucratic channels often leave the Indian political leadership unable to properly understand the issues Nepal has with India. Hence, there is a need on the part of the Nepalese political leadership to cultivate friendship with Indian leadership and develop personal relations. It is to be hoped that Chairman Dahal and other senior Nepali politicians will be able to develop better rapport with their Indian counterparts and use that rapport not just for personal and partisan interests, but in the broader interests of Nepal and the Nepalese people.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Striving for sustainable peace

Seven years after the historic peace agreement, Nepal still struggles to restore peace

Tulasa Pariyar, 23, joined the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) when she was still in Grade VI at a local school in the remote district of Rolpa. Not only did she drop her studies but also put everything, including her family and personal life, at risk for the party she joined.

The armed conflict formally came to an end in 2006 with the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the CPN (Maoist) signing the historic Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). But this has failed to bring any respite in her personal life. Instead, she’s now passing through a battle of a different form – a struggle to live a decent life in society.
“We had a dream to win the whole world when we joined the Maoists. But the reality now is totally different,” says Pariyar.

Maoist combatants performing during a function organized to formally bring them under Special Committee on January 22, 2011 in Shaktikhor, Chitwan.

After signing of the CPA, Pariyar, like her comrades, began living in the cantonment where she fell in love with and subsequently married a boy from the Chhetri community with the Party’s consent. But as the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) ‘disqualified’ her later during the verification process, only then Pariyar realized that her life was actually battered.

Worse still, this mother of a two-year old son was also not accepted as daughter-in-law in her new family as she is from a Dalit community.

“All I’ve known is how to use guns. I feel my life is ruined,” adds frustrated Pariyar who has a strong feeling of rebellion against her own party and the government.

Tulasa is a typical case in a point. As the integration process of the Maoist army- a key component of the Peace Process – draws close to its end, frustrations and disenchantment of the people who were either directly part of the conflict or were subjected to sufferings, tortures and loss of family members at the hand of the rebels or the state are reaching their tipping point.

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (L) and then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal exchanging an agreement at a function held in Shaktikhor, Chitwan to bring former Maoist combatants under Special Committee on January 22, 2011.

“There’s a wrong notion that the Peace Process is just about the management of former Maoist combatants. But it in a real sense is addressing various social problems that were created in the course of the conflict,” says former Minister for Peace Rakam Chemjong who is now Vice Chairman of the newly formed Federal Socialist Party.

The government formed a separate Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MoPR) in April, 2007 in the aftermath of the signing of the CPA to support the technical aspects of the Peace Process, including the implementation of the provisions of the CPA both at political and post-war reconstruction works at development level.

“The Ministry is doing all it’s mandated to do. Besides post-conflict reconstruction and other peace-building initiatives, we’re also working to addressing the concerns of conflict victims to ensure sustainable peace in the country,” says newly appointed Peace Secretary Dharanidhar Khatiwada who holds expertise in conflict management. The process will further be expedited once the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) takes shape and starts its actual works.

But as political parties stand oddly over a provision of granting general amnesty even to those involved in serious cases of human rights violations during the conflict in the proposed ordinance on the TRC, there are apprehensions as to whether the TRC would provide justice to victims concerned in a real sense and contribute to establishing a lasting peace in the country.

While some 17,831 people were killed, some 1,517 were disappeared, and 8,191 were rendered physically handicapped. Likewise, the number of orphaned children has stood at 522; they are provided Rs 5,000 each as monthly allowance, according to the MoPR.

Kiran Pun
Tulasa Pariyar with her son

Return of the unjustly seized properties
Return of the unjustly seized properties during the conflict to their rightful owners and helping the displaced people in the conflict go back home was one of the important agreement clauses reached at in the 12-point understanding, the CPA and subsequent agreements among political parties. Victims, however, complain that little has been done so far in this regard from the government as well the former rebel party.

Though UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal himself reached Bardiya at the end of 2011 to kick-start the process, a strong resistance from the Mohan Baidya-led faction had left the plan aborted.

“Let alone the properties of ordinary public, my own property is yet to be returned despite repeated assurances from local administration and top leadership of the Maoist Party,” rues NC Central Working Committee (CWC) member K B Gurung whose properties were unjustly seized by the Maoists during the conflict. All land belonging to Gurung’s family in Danabari VDC is unjustly seized by Maoist cadres since 2002.

Former Peace Minister Chemjong said though the government provided some relief to displaced conflict victims, it’s yet to provide them with reparation and compensation. What’s worse is there’s no exact data in the first place as to how many people were actually displaced during the conflict. While one report suggested that there were 72,000 displaced persons, another report prepared by a task force showed the number to be 102,000.

Post-conflict reconstruction of destroyed infrastructures

However, there have been remarkable achievements at the front of reconstructing physical infrastructures, including government buildings destroyed during the conflict.

“We’ve already handed over 2,896 buildings after their reconstruction. Many others are currently under construction,” said Deputy Spokesperson at the MoPR Prem Prasad Sanjel.

Though government data shows that only 5,560 buildings were destroyed during the conflict, unofficial data put the number to over 7,000. Officials said the MoPR completed construction 99 destroyed police buildings through partner ministries and another 171 destroyed police outposts in different parts of the country are currently in construction phase. The Peace Trust Fund, a joint government-donor initiative, has already invested Rs 14.47 billion for 55 various such projects in four major thematic areas so far.

Sanjel said preliminary estimation put the loss of physical properties incurred during the conflict at Rs two billion. “But the estimation appears to have been so while taking into account the value of the properties at the given time. The amount of loss, if we take account at the current value, will reach far higher,” he added.

Management of ‘disqualified,’ ‘voluntary retired’ combatants
From the time the former Maoist combatants began living in seven main cantonments and 21 satellite cantonments across the country, the MoPR had taken the responsibility to oversee the management of the former combatants as part of the CPA. While 19,602 were verified by the UNMIN, 4,008 other combatants living in the cantonments were released later

by the UNMIN saying they were ‘disqualified.’ The management of the former combatants is now over with 1,444 of those verified combatants choosing to go for integration with Nepal Army, 13,822 others for voluntary retirement with cash package, and the remaining six combatants opting for rehabilitation.

According to expenditure details submitted by the MoPR to the Special Committee, altogether Rs 15.02 billion was spent for the management of former Maoist combatants who started living in various cantonments after the CPA. While Rs 9.61 billion was spent from state coffers, the remaining Rs 5.41 billion was covered by the Peace Fund consisting of amounts donated by various donor countries.

But as the disqualified combatants started staging protests, the Ministry took a decision to also provide cash incentives to them. “We are currently providing identity cards to those disqualified by the UNMIN,” said officials at MoPR. Though there was an agreement to provide Rs 200,000 each of the disqualified combatants, the process has been stopped by a verdict from the Supreme Court.

Bolstering peace through negotiation with disgruntled groups
Emergence of armed groups after the end of violent armed conflicts is considered a natural phenomenon. Taking advantage of fragile law and order situation after a political transition in the country, dozens of armed groups created havoc in various parts of the country, mainly in the southern plain areas.

“The Ministry held negotiations with 54 armed groups that have already come to mainstream peaceful politics after renouncing violence. Altogether, 151 various kinds of weapons were received from those groups,” Deputy Spokesperson Sanjel further said. “This has helped improve law and order situation in the country and made all places in the country equally livable in view of security situation.”

Peace and reconciliation at local level
With the objective of promoting reconciliation and peace at the local level, the MoPR initiated formation of peace committees comprising members of all major political parties at the VDC and the district levels.

“We’ve already formed such peace committees in 2,162 of the total 3,914 VDCs and 29 of the total 58 municipalities and district level peace committees in all 75 districts,” said Joint Secretary at MoPR, Laxmi Kumari Basnet who heads the Peace Mechanism Coordination Division. These committees have also helped fill the vacuum that exists in the absence of elected representatives in local bodies.

Way ahead
As there are concerns raised from opposition parties that the cash incentives were provided only to the leaders and cadres associated with then rebel party, former minister Chemjong said there must be impartiality in all the works of the MoPR, including while providing compensation and reparation to conflict victims.

“And since the Peace Ministry is formed exclusively to assist the Peace Process, the Ministry should be further strengthened as restoring sustainable peace still has a long way to go in the country,” he further said.

Though the issues of reparation and compensation to conflict victims and reconstruction of demolished infrastructure and income generating skills and opportunities for former combatants and conflict victims are important elements of the Peace Process, experts argue that sustainable peace in the country will also depend largely on whether political parties show real commitment to address serious cases of human rights violations during the conflict.

“The society could relapse to another form of conflict if the cases of serious human rights violations aren’t addressed properly,” says Bishnu Sapkota who has been working for conflict transformation and peace process in Nepal. This depends on the commitment and willpower of the political leadership.

Peace process does not end with integration:
Dharanidhar Khatiwada, Secretary, MoPR

Many people tend to question the relevance of MoPR, arguing that the Peace Process is already completed with the integration of former Maoist combatants in the Nepal Army. Any comment on this?

This is absolutely a wrong notion. The Peace Process doesn’t come to an end with just the integration of former combatants. To put in other words, peace building is more than just a post-conflict reconstruction. It emerges through a complex phenomenon involving a full array of processes, approaches and stages and signifies a range of activities and structures before, during and after formal peace agreement between signatory parties.

What plans has the MoPR implemented for relief and rehabilitation of conflict victims?
We’ve launched a relief and rehabilitation project to provide people directly or indirectly affected by the conflict. These include widows, families of the deceased, displaced persons, martyrs’ families and financial support to the conflict victims. A total of 152,445 people have been identified for claims under these heads. Of them, 80,277 have already received  Rs 48.91 million. Likewise, a separate US$50 million worth of Emerging Peace Support Project is being implemented by the MoPR under International Development Association (IDA) with an objective to provide interim cash transfers and services to eligible conflict-affected groups.

Are there any works being done to manage conflict situation in the country?
We have a separate division working for this at the Ministry. This has actively taken part in the various negotiations and talks not only in the resolution of the conflict but also to promote the overall Peace Process. Its major project of Mine Action initiated by the Peace Fund Secretariat has reached completion. Also, it held talks with various disgruntled groups, including armed groups operating in various parts of the country.

What do you think needs to be done to make the Peace Ministry effective in its works?
The MoPR has a very broad and challenging mandate involving technical and development tasks as well as peace policymaking mandates. Particularly the latter ones, including mainstreaming of peace-related policies into other ministries, form a substantial challenge. In the given environment of the ongoing Peace Process and the setup of government institutions, the MoPR has limited convening power and at the same time needs to rely on other ministries to implement its programs. This has resulted in a gap between the mandate and actual functions and activities.

It is too early working trilaterally with China: Khurshid

NEW DELHI, April 24: At a time when top leadership of the UCPN (Maoist) has been pushing the idea of ´trilateral cooperation´ model in Nepal, India has cold-shouldered the proposal, saying India and China still need more time to ´discover each other´ to make that a reality.
Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid said though India and China have been working together multilaterally and bilaterally in various areas over the past several years they have yet to reach to the level where they can work trilaterally.

"We still have not reached to the level that we can work trilaterally everywhere. In some places we have worked with China multilaterally; we have worked with China bilaterally. But it may be still too early thinking or working trilaterally [with China]," he said.

The remark by Indian Foreign Minister Khurshid comes in the wake UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Dahal, who is scheduled to visit India on April 27-28, proposing during his recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing for trilateral cooperation for the development of Nepal. Dahal had even proposed developing Lumbini and Chisapani hydropower projects jointly by India, Nepal and China in his meeting with President Xi in the Great Hall of the People.

Talking to a group of visiting Nepali journalists at his office in South Block on Tuesday, Minister Khurshid said India and China are currently in the process of discovering each other and studying whether they can work trilaterally after the bitter war they fought in 1962. "We are still in the process of discovering China. China is in the process of discovering India. As we discover each other and we learn to work together in a relationship, we still have to see whether this can now be taken to a level of working multilaterally and trilaterally or bilaterally," he said.

While responding a query from journalists as to what does India think about Dahal´s proposal, Khurshid indicated that India is not keen on the trilateral cooperation model mainly due to China´s relations with Pakistan. "China has its friend Pakistan also. We have some problems with Pakistan. We are not saying China should not be friends with Pakistan. But we are saying to China please don´t give Pakistan any encouragement to be hostile toward India," he further said.

Khurshid said that India is more than happy to work bilaterally with both Nepal and China, but not on trilateral basis yet. "You [Nepal] be friend and tell them [China] to be good to India also. And if you like to tell us to be good to them, let us all be good to each other. But please do not give them anything that will hurt India," he said. "This is the conversation we have with China. This is I said discovery process between us and the process of evolving relationship."

However, Khurshid cautiously added that such a cooperation model may be possible in future should the relations between India and China go straight and China stopped giving any encouragement to Pakistan to be hostile against India. "But I am not saying no. I am saying that this is a process we must discover. We want this to reach the level where this can become reality," he added. "Whereas right now it is only a vision, something some people want done."

On the occasion, Minister Khurshid said that India has given high priority to the relations with Nepal and that India is closely watching and supporting Nepal to help it come out from the political transition. While adding that India wishes to see Nepal holding fresh Constituent Assembly election at the earliest and promulgating a new constitution, he said that federalism as a means of decentralization could help Nepal to its endeavor for prosperity and progress.

When asked if India had ´cornered´ its traditional allies Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, Khurshid said India does not have policy to do anything such to the political parties in Nepal and it is for the people of Nepal by means of election to decide to the strength and recognition to individual political party. He said that issues of mutual interests concerning the two countries and political development taking place in Nepal will be discussed during the visit of Maoist Chairman Dahal in India.

India has no stance on federal model: Indian foreign secy

NEW DELHI, April 23: Brushing aside the allegations that India is putting ‘undue pressure’ on the Nepali political leadership to have only one or two provinces in Tarai-Madhes region, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on Monday said India is ready to accept any decision Nepal takes on federalism.

Talking to a group of Nepali journalists at his office in South Block, Secretary Mathai said India has a policy of supporting whatever decision Nepali people take on future federal setup in Nepal. “…whatever decision is taken it has to be sustainable decision. That decision can be sustainable only if political parties have consensus on it. What India thinks or other countries think is not going to be lasting,” he said.

Secretary Mathai also clarified that India does not have any federal model that Nepalis have to follow. “It is up to the Nepali people to decide through their related representatives what model they would like and whatever model they accept we will be happy to work with Nepal,” he further said.

The remarks of Secretary Mathai come amid allegations from a section of political parties in Nepal that India has been putting undue pressure on Nepali political leadership not to have more than two provinces across the southern plains bordering India.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai (File Photo: Google)

There had been widespread protests in Kathmandu after an Indian consular based in Birgunj reportedly asked local level political leaders to launch a movement against the decisions of major parties to go for several provinces in Tarai-Madhes weeks before the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA) in early April 2012.

“In fact, whatever is the consensus that emerges through the Constituent Assembly elected by people directly and whatever compromise is worked out among the major parties and they finally come to some conclusion, that has to be the basis for going forward,” he said.

Secretary Mathai also took note of the ‘anti-India’ protests that a section of Nepali political parties are engaged in with reference to federalism. “On our bilateral relations, there is no issue. And I don’t think there should be any basis for anti-India feeling on this [federalism] issue. We have repeatedly said whatever is the wish of Nepali people we will respect it,” he further said.

When asked about Indian embassy’s field office in Biratnagar, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Kathmandu claimed was opened without due process, Joint Secretary (North) at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Akhilesh Mishra said they will do the needful. “We are also aware of some requests Nepal government has made. We will take up the issue,” said Mishra, who accompanied Secretary Mathai in the meeting with Nepali journalists.

The Indian embassy had opened a ‘field office’ near the Koshi Barrage to provide ‘permits’ to Nepali vehicles in the aftermath of a breach in the Koshi embankment at Kushaha, Sunsari district on August 18, 2008. The office was relocated to Biratnagar without consent from the government after the broken road section was repaired a few months later.

The newly-formed Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist, which is leading an alliance of various 33 parties that are taking to the streets against the proposed elections by the chief justice-led poll government, has made closure of the ‘illegally’ operating field office of Indian embassy in Biratnagar as one of its several demands.

Secretary Mathai said the issue can be discussed in the foreign ministry and resolved amicably. “We have got a long-long experience of other countries opening embassy in our country. We have always done in accordance with the wishes of the host country. These are matters which can be discussed in detail in the foreign ministry,” Mathai said.

Mathai said India is eagerly waiting to see Nepal government announce date for fresh election. He said they can start holding consultation with the political leadership to hold the long-pending meeting of Nepal India Joint Commission at the earliest possible date once the poll date is announced. The joint commission is the highest-level bilateral mechanism, which is mandated to discuss and take decisions on whole gamut of issues between Nepal and India such as economic cooperation, trade, transit and water resources.

Conflict victims cry foul over TRC provisions

Justice delayed is justice denied. Yet, the family members of the slain Lamjung-based school teacher Mukti Nath Adhikari never lost their hope that they would eventually get justice. The desperate hope for justice was only boosted when the top leadership of various political parties assured them that proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as agreed upon among parties as part of the broader peace agreements in 2006 would address their concerns.

Slain Adhikari, the headmaster of local Panini Sanskrit Secondary School in Duradanda, Lamjung, was abducted by a group of Maoist cadres from the classroom he was teaching in and brutally murdered him after walking him for about 20 minutes from the school on January 16, 2002. Both his hands tied behind the back, the kidnappers first tied him against an alder tree with his muffler and shot him several times before making indiscriminate attacks with knife on his chest to leave him to die.

Almost seven years after the historic peace process began in the country, an ordinance relating to the formation of TRC was passed on March 14 and the much-awaited TRC is in the process of formation now. But this development has hardly brought any cheers to the Adhikari family. Instead, this has only faded their hopes for justice. "We had pinned great hope in the TRC. But as the ordinance has been introduced with provisions to grant general amnesty even to those involved in serious cases of human rights violations, this has only aggravated our pain," said Suman Adhikari, the eldest son of the slain Mukti Nath.

Adhikari also expressed strong disenchantment over the attempt by the government to give false impression that conclusion of the army integration process had marked the end of the peace process. "The most important element of the peace process is to provide justice to the civilian victims of the conflict. Political parties appear to have ignored this critical aspect of the peace process," complained Adhikari, who is also the chairman of Conflict Victims Orphans Society-Nepal (CVOS-N).

Adhikari family is just a case in point. Thousands of civilian victims and their family members, who were subjected to torture and killings either at the hands of state security personnel or at the hands of the rebel Maoists are disappointed with the proposed TRC. Various controversial provisions that seek to grant amnesty even to those involved in serious crimes during the conflict have not only disappointed the conflict victims.

Though there is no exact data, it is estimated that nearly 10,000 civilians were killed, over 1,400 people disappeared and nearly 5,000 were subjected to inhumane treatment. Likewise, properties of over 6,000 families were unjustly seized and some 80,000 people were displaced from their villages in the course of the decade-long conflict. Failure on the part of the political parties and the government to do anything specific to address these scars of the violent conflict has made the conflict victims greatly disappointed.

Not only has this ordinance left conflict victims unhappy, civil society, human rights community both within and outside Nepal and the international community that has been extending support to Nepal are equally skeptic whether the proposed TRC ordinance would be able to deliver justice to the conflict victims. "While respecting genuine concerns of the conflict victims, we have decided not to support this perpetrator-friendly TRC," said Chairman of Accountability Watch Committee (AWC) Sushil Pyakurel.

Formed with an objective to make collective initiatives to ensure accountability, the AWC consists of prominent civil society leaders, human rights activists, lawyers and conflict victims. Organizing a press conference last month, the AWC has expressed strong reservation for failing to ensure participation of conflict victims and concerned stakeholders while making agreement on the TRC ordinances.

While concluding that the proposed TRC not only flouts the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord and the Interim Constitution but also the various verdicts made by the Supreme Court, the AWC has demanded that the provisions in the TRC be amended in line with the international standards and selection process of the commissioners in the TRC be made transparent. The body has also expressed reservations over the controversial provision in the TRC to make forceful reconciliation and that TRC is mandated to give general amnesty even to those involved in cases of serious human rights violations.

Likewise, the failure of the TRC to clearly spell out the issues concerning reparation as well as restitution and 35-day statute of limitation have equally become the matters of contention. What has made the rights group and victims additionally worried, is whether the proposed TRC would be able to function independently since all the commissioners are supposed to be appointed through ´unanimous´ decisions of the political parties that are represented in the High Level Political Committee (HLPC). "We have serious doubt if the commissioners appointed thus can work independently and provide justice to the victims," says transitional justice lawyer Gobinda Bandi.

Though the ordinance provides a list of nine kinds of serious human rights violations, there is no section in the ordinance that makes the perpetrators of crimes listed under Section 2 of the ordinance culpable. Likewise, the TRC has been asked to work under the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, instead of making it directly answerable to the government or the president -- something which makes it difficult for the conflict victims to get justice. The provisions set in the Section 22 to 29, according to rights workers and victims, clearly expose the mala-fide intention to eventually grant general amnesty to even those involved in serious cases of human rights violations during the conflict.

The enraged victims and human rights lawyers even went on to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court against the TRC ordinance. While the apex court has already issued interim order against the ordinance and the next hearing is scheduled for May 2, diplomatic community, especially the European Union, has expressed strong reservations over the controversial provisions in the TRC. The EU envoys in their meeting with newly-appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs Madhav Ghimire last month clearly put across their concerns.

And echoing the concerns similar to the EU envoys, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay has also expressed similar concerns through a press statement. While cautioning that the provision of general amnesty in the TRC will not only deny justice to the conflict victims, but also vitiate the environment for moving toward peace, she said, "Such amnesties would not only violate core principles under international law but would also weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace in Nepal."

But political leaders, who were directly involved in the process of formulating TRC ordinance, dismiss all the allegations made by the rights workers and conflict victims. They argue that there had been wide-ranging consultations with different stakeholders before making agreement on the TRC provisions. "We are forming TRC as the existing justice system in the country failed to provide justice for the victims. The TRC should not be compared with regular justice system," said UCPN (Maoist) leader and advocate Khim Lal Devkota, who was closely involved in the negotiations on TRC ordinance. "This is fully in line with the international standards."

As parties quietly plan to make preparations to form the TRC and Disappearance Commission while convincing the disgruntled conflict victims, civil society members and the international community, the coming days will be crucial to watch for as to what verdict the Supreme Court will issue and how the parties will then move ahead with the formation of these Commissions as per the 11-point political agreement reached last month. But what everyone including the political leaderships must acknowledge is these Commissions would bear no meaning if they failed to address the genuine concerns of civilian victims, who bore the brunt of the conflict even as they apparently had nothing to do with it.


“I pity those who think TRC is a punishment mechanism”
Khim Lal Devkota
Advocate Khim Lal Devkota, who was UCPN (Maoist) lawmaker in the erstwhile CA, was involved the inter-party negotiations in the drafting process of TRC ordinance.

There are allegations that the proposed TRC grants general amnesty even to those involved in serious human rights violations. What do you say on this?

This is a baseless allegation. There is nothing such in the TRC draft. Those who have been making this kind of allegations have either not gone through the TRC ordinance or they harbor some kind of prejudices against this. And if they are really putting such allegation, they have not understood the very spirit of transitional justice. Transitional justice is not regular justice system. It is wrong to compare transitional justice with the regular justice system. It would have been fair enough had they said that TRC fails to address the root cause of the conflict. So the allegations made against TRC are superficial and prejudiced.

Some people are even saying that the TRC does not meet international standards?
Nearly three dozen countries in the world have adopted TRC in the post conflict situation. They were formed in different names such as Truth Commission, Fact Finding Commission and similar other names. Each of these countries had different forms of Commissions to address transitional justice. Since it is related to the root causes of conflict, TRC as such cannot be similar in all countries. The root cause of conflict is different in each country and so is the type of TRC.

Civilian victims of conflicts have complained that TRC ignores their concerns.

I don’t buy this allegation either. The TRC has absolutely taken care of the concerns of civilian victims. We have done our best to address their concerns. The TRC we are working to form is probably one of the best in the world. The TRC ordinance is probably the most widely consulted ordinance in Nepal. The bills relating to the TRC and Disappearance Commission were initially presented at the parliament following wide-ranging consultations. The content of the TRC ordinance is the same in the newly-introduced TRC ordinance.

But there are concerns that TRC gives amnesty even to those involved in serious crimes?

There are certain core elements of transitional justice. I pity those who think TRC is a punishment mechanism. They have either not understood the essence of transitional justice or are pretending to have known about it. I have nothing to say to those who have willingly chosen to not understand the core values of transitional justice.

Of course, some rights workers have made baseless allegations that the TRC has a provision to grant blanket amnesty. The ordinance aims at reconciliation and includes reparation, prosecution and amnesty. If they think that there should not be the provision of amnesty at all, I think they have not understood the spirit of transitional justice.


“This is rather an Amnesty Ordinance”
Advocate Govinda Bandi is working on issues related to impunity and transitional justice in Nepal.

Human rights community was very much optimistic that TRC would address past human rights violations. But you all seem to have been miffed at it now?

We were heavily involved in the preparations of the bills relating to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Disappearance Commission. Human rights community and victims across the country were consulted in the course of preparing the bills in the erstwhile parliament. The TRC and Disappearance Commission formed on the basis of those bills would have guaranteed non-occurrence of these types of crimes and prepared record of the conflict-era crimes. Now both the bills have been put into a single ordinance with so much modification so the essence is missing. Next important thing is that this ordinance does not criminalize torture, disappearances and crimes against humanity. Even if competent persons with good moral integrity are sent to the TRC, victims won’t be able to get justice due to lack of necessary legislations to deal with such crimes. This ordinance is not in line with the verdicts made by the Supreme Court on various occasions in the past, let alone conforming to different human rights instruments.

What do you think are the weaknesses of this TRC ordinance?

The TRC ordinance introduced as a part of the opaque political deal has several shortcomings. Firstly, this ordinance gives TRC amnesty powers --something TRC should not be given. Secondly, this ordinance gives mandate to grant amnesty even to the individuals involved in serious cases human rights violations. As per international practice in the TRC there cannot be amnesty for serious crimes. Another serious thing it has is it sets only 35 days for statute of limitation. This is virtually impossible for victims, who live in far flung areas of the country, to file cases against their perpetrators within the given time period. Moreover, the TRC does not mention specifically about reparation and restitution. It has a concept of forced reconciliations. Above all, we have a serious doubt whether the TRC formed through a ´political consensus´ in the High Level Political Committee would function independently and provide justice to the victims concerned. It would be good to rename the ordinance as Amnesty Ordinance rather than TRC ordinance.

Since you are also an active member of Accountability Watch Committee that has been protesting against the proposed TRC, what do you plan to stop this?

We cannot support the TRC to be formed under this controversial ordinance. We cannot cooperate to this either. This process cannot move ahead without the cooperation of victims, human rights community and civil society members. The success of TRC depends on the cooperation from all stakeholders concerned. This cannot be regarded as a credible process until TRC receives support from the human rights community, victims and other concerned parties. And such a TRC won´t get recognition from the international community as well. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR) has already said it cannot accept the proposed TRC. Since international support is a must to implement the decisions of the TRC, the proposed TRC will fail. We have already moved the Supreme Court against the ordinance and it has already issued stay order against it.