UWB endorses the following editorial in today’s edition of daily Kathmandu Post
[Inside: the plights of internally displaced people]
The formation of interim government is a leap forward in our peace process. This day will be marked in the annals of history also for another reason: We have a date for the Constituent Assembly election. Come June 20 and the Nepali people will give their historic verdict on many issues, including the monarchy. Despite a lot of criticism—not to mention the cynicism—political parties have shown maturity and sagacity to come this far—and to come united. Coalitions are precarious by nature, so bickering and bargaining is part of it. But we should commend our political parties for not losing sight of one thing: holding the constituent assembly elections on time. Congratulations for the achievement and good luck for the difficult task ahead!
The nation now has a clear goal—to hold the constituent assembly election on June 20 in a peaceful environment and in a free and fair manner. Let’s all stand united in this goal and show unity of purpose. Once the nation gets the mandate of the constituent assembly, we will enter into a new phase of democratic consolidation and social and economic progress. The period from now to June 20 will be a phase of critical transition. It needs caution and as Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said, “cooperation from all sides”. The eight-parties have already warned the royal palace not to conspire against the election. They have decided to amend the interim constitution to add a provision to give the interim legislature the power to abolish monarchy by two-third majority. A slight indication of conspiracy against the election from the royal palace means the immediate demise of monarchy. The most graceful thing for the king to do would be to wait for the people’s verdict.
U.S. Embassy Backs Peace Process, CA Elections As Soon As Possible
Upon formation of the Interim Government, the U.S. Embassy reaffirms its full support for the peace process in Nepal. The next step in this process should be the holding of Constituent Assembly elections as quickly as possible.
The government must create an atmosphere for free and fair elections by vigorously enforcing law and order throughout the country.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which to date has refused to abandon violence, must finally do so. As a partner in the Interim Government, the Maoists must now be held fully accountable for their actions. They must meet their commitments and at last join the mainstream as a non-violent political party.
The United States also urges the new government to initiate a comprehensive national dialogue with all ethnic groups to hear their grievances and to promote unity. If the peace process is to succeed, unity must be forged, law and order enforced, and security maintained. The Nepali people deserve nothing less from their servants – the new Interim Government.
Parties, too, have a share of their responsibility now. They should also change their behavior to create conducive atmosphere for the poll. Nepalis don’t deserve to be coerced or rigged when they go to the poll on June 20. The freedom to express their choice on that day will decide the quality of future freedom. The Maoists are now a part of the government. This means it’s also their responsibility to give people freedom from all types of fear. We want to tell the Maoists in unambiguous terms that a party in government can’t intimidate people; can’t carry guns; can’t extort from businesses or commoners; can’t seize or hold someone else’s private property. We have supported the entry of Maoists in the governments all the way since the April Movement in the hope that they will behave responsibly. Don’t let us down and, more importantly, don’t let the people down.
Many Displaced Still in a Lurch
By Kosh Raj Koirala
With the induction of Maoists in the interim government, and their agreement in the Common Minimum Program to return seized property, many have begun to hope once again that they might finally get their property back and return to their home villages. Thus far, it is only a hope though, like the hope that had kindled in their hearts when Maoists made similar commitments in the comprehensive peace agreement last November.
But for the likes of Sharan Bahadur Bhandari, 73, who was forced by Maoists to desert his ancestral home at Chattiwan VDC-7, Makwanpur, four years ago, agreements alone mean nothing. For him, living a miserable life with family members in the capital is too harsh a reality to forget even for a moment. Bhandari left his ancestral home after repeated threats and physical abuse by Maoists, who had asked Rs 100,000 ‘donation’ from his family. “After we failed to pay the amount, they first abducted and tortured my eldest son and then me, alleging that we had leaked information about their activities to the army. It was only good fortune that our lives were spared,” said Bhandari, recounting the horrors of March 2003.
A perpetual sense of insecurity forced Bhandari and his son Ganesh to desert the village. But things got worse. Local Maoist cadres threatened to kill Bhandari’s family members if the latter failed to call the two back to the village. “They would arrive at our house mostly at night and ask the whereabouts of my husband and father-in-law,” said Gyanu, Bhandari’s daughter-in-law. “Once, they came in the afternoon and took me and my three daughters to the courtyard. Then they poured kerosene on us, threatening to burn us alive. Luckily, one of the cadres was kind-hearted and we were left unharmed.”
In April the same year, Maoists hoisted their party flag atop the house and declared that the house along with the 7 bigha farm of the Bhandari family had been seized. They also took away cattle, poultry and a large amount of food grains. “We then had no option but to flee the house at the earliest,” said Gyanu. “Maoist cadres still continue to threaten us. They have also refused to return our seized property.”
The Bhandari family is just a case in point. According to Maoists’ Victims Association (MVA), as many as 15,000 of the total 27,000 Maoist-displaced families are still languishing in the capital city or district headquarters, out of fear of Maoists. However, the government estimates a much lesser number. Talking to ekanitpur, Prakash Kharel, under-secretary at the Home Ministry, said some 7,500 families have registered themselves with the government as displaced families. “We have formed a verification team in each district headquarters to identify genuine victims and help rehabilitate them to their former homes with some assistance. Displaced families have been returning to their homes these days,” he said.
Dharma Raj Neupane, president of MVA, said Maoists have not fully abided by the peace agreement of last November in that they have refused to return seized property. “The important thing is to build a sense of security among people,” he said. With the new agreement signed Sunday (1 April), it is to be seen how the former rebels fare this time in terms of remaining true to their promise.