…because of Pushpa Dahal’s failure- and his party’s failure- to renounce violence.
Speech by U.S. Ambassador James F. Moriarty To Friends and Supporters of the Community Information Center, Pokhara on June 12, 2007Shangri-La Hotel, Pokhara
Thank you all very much for coming today. It is a pleasure to be back in Pokhara again. Soon I will depart Nepal, after completing my three-year assignment as Ambassador here. I love Nepal and its people. My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of living among you, enjoying your culture, and making many new friends.
Concerns for the future
It is because of my own personal admiration for Nepal, and my country’s interest in your successful democratic transition, that I came to speak with you today. I am concerned about the future of Nepal.
This year can be a turning point for Nepal. A successful Constituent Assembly election, carried out in a free and fair manner, should prove a giant step forward in the establishment of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Nepal. That is the hope of the Nepali people. That is the goal of American foreign policy in Nepal. Indeed, my Embassy has been working hard over the past year to support your election. We will continue to do this, especially now that the Government of Nepal has decided to hold the election in Mangsir [mid-November to mid-December]. Nepal has many friends and admirers in the United States, all of whom want to see Nepalis decide their own future through a free and unfettered democratic election. Former President Jimmy Carter is one of these friends, and, as some of you know, he is visiting Nepal for three days beginning tomorrow.
The promise of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Nepal is, however, in danger. These threats are growing; we read about them every day in the newspapers. Maoist Young Communist League cadre kidnap businessmen and attack political leaders from other parties during their meetings. JTMM cadres confiscate private property in the Terai and kill locals. The list of these crimes is long and growing.
I have been told repeatedly over the last year that the most important thing in Nepal is the peace process. I have been accused of derailing this process by speaking out against atrocities by Maoists and other groups. I think many would agree, however, that these atrocities, not my words, are threatening the peace process. Peace is not just the absence of war. Maoist violence and intimidation are derailing the peace process, and the consequences threaten the future of all Nepalis.
Obstacle One: Maoist Conduct
Like you, I share the hope that Nepal may soon have a true, lasting peace, and that it will establish prosperity and democracy for the long-term. There are two main obstacles to this end goal at the moment. The first is the Maoists’ failure to bring their conduct in line with the standards of mainstream political parties in multiparty democracies.
Over the past year, we had all hoped that Maoist behavior would improve in line with their various commitments. That has not happened. We had all hoped that the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord would mean that all People’s Liberation Army combatants would be placed in UN-managed cantonments. Instead, this resulted in a massive, cynical recruitment drive by the Maoists and those cantonments were filled with fresh recruits, many of whom are children. Those recruits have now received over five months of military training and political indoctrination in the camps.
Meanwhile, many seasoned PLA combatants remained outside the camps and were placed by the Maoist leadership in a new organization: the Young Communist League. Most of the leadership of the YCL consists of senior PLA officers, including one who bragged in a recent interview that he had assassinated a senior police official in Kathmandu. Why are these PLA leaders still active in the countryside when they were supposed to be in the cantonments?
We all wished that inclusion of the Maoists in the Interim Parliament would lead to an improvement in their behavior. Instead, we find Maoist parliamentarians bringing pistols into the Assembly, threatening their fellow MP’s, and repeatedly gherao’ing the Speaker.
Finally, we had all hoped that the entry of the Maoists into the government on April 1 would prompt them to behave like a mainstream political party. Instead, the Maoists have forcefully reminded the people of Nepal that April 1 is also called April Fool’s Day. Since that date, the YCL has run amok, the Maoist ministers of Forests and of Local Development have called for bandhas against the government they work for, and the Maoist Minister of Information and Communications has publicly stated that the Prime Minister, his boss, has a criminal mind. Once again, the Maoist leader, Mr. Pushpa Dahal, has stated in a public interview that the Maoists have no intention of joining the political mainstream. His party’s actions over the past year suggest that all Nepalis should take these words of Mr. Dahal very seriously.
No mainstream political party anywhere in a multi-party democratic system is allowed to maintain its own armed groups. Yet this is exactly what the Maoists have done. Nor should a political party be permitted to carry out, with impunity, crimes of extortion, abduction, and intimidation Again, however, this is exactly what the Maoists continue to do, particularly through their YCL.
In the two months that Maoists have been in the Interim Government, they have certainly made clear that when their leaders talk about creating their own “political mainstream,” it is one with no place for the civil give and take, the transparent debate and decision-making, or the critical commitment to nonviolence that characterize normal political parties in a democracy.
As our Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor said recently in Kathmandu, the message of the United States is clear: Nepal cannot have ballots and bullets in a democratic process. Intimidation and violence have no roles whatsoever in the democratic development of any country. Nothing justifies the use of violence as a political tool. Yet hardly a day goes by without the press reporting on Maoist atrocities. And let me be clear – there is no difference between the YCL and the Maoist leadership. They are two parts of one whole and the actions of the one are a direct result of the decisions and intentions of the other.
On Sunday, Mr. Pushpa Dahal reportedly assured the Prime Minister that the people who threw stones at the UN car I was traveling in in Damak were not YCL cadre. That is simply not true; the individuals who threw the stones were local Maoists who carried YCL placards. Mr. Dahal should acknowledge that fact, and should ensure that in the future neither diplomats nor Nepali citizens are treated with such contempt by the YCL.
Obstacle 2: Ethnic division
The second obstacle to peace, prosperity, and democracy in Nepal is ethnic division. There is an urgent need to address this issue of inclusiveness — all groups in Nepal must be given a voice in the political, economic, and civic affairs of the nation. How this happens is a matter for the people and political leaders of Nepal to determine. No group has the right to turn to violence to push its agenda. But if the grievances of marginalized groups are not addressed soon, the level of violence will almost certainly increase, especially in the Terai. And the growth of violence among ethnic groups, would raise the specter of chaos and even disintegration in parts of Nepal.
While striving to include all groups and address their concerns, Nepal must simultaneously focus on law and order. It is extremely important that the rule of law be reasserted in society. Nepal has solid criminal laws, and crimes are crimes. JTMM cadre members guilty of murder and kidnapping must be held accountable for their actions. Similarly, cleaning garbage from a park should not absolve anyone of the crimes of abduction, extortion or physical abuse. All perpetrators of crimes, no matter what their political affiliation, should be arrested, tried and, if found guilty, punished.
Ten days ago, the Maoists abducted Mr. Prasai, held him overnight, publicly humiliated him, and then handed him over to the police. Mr. Prasai had serious accusations of financial malfeasance against him. The police should have arrested him before, and the Government should have ensured it happened. People should have publicly been demanding his arrest. But before they seized him, the Maoists had not called for his arrest. Nor did they use their position in the government to press for his arrest. So, let’s call the Maoist action what it was: politically-motivated vigilantism. If the Maoists can practice vigilantism, why can’t other groups? Why can’t other groups arrest YCL members who are kidnapping and intimidating people throughout the country? I’ll tell you why not: because that would lead to the law of the jungle and to the total collapse of law and order. Vigilantism was wrong when it was perpetrated by pro-royalist groups in Kapilvastu under the King’s regime and it’s wrong when practiced by the Maoists.
Freedom from Fear
The Nepali people deserve to live their lives without fear. Removing this fear will be absolutely crucial to the success of your Constituent Assembly election. Freedom from fear is everyone’s basic human right. After a decade of armed conflict, and a year of continued Maoist impunity, it is time the people of Nepal enjoyed this right. Fear must be drained from Nepal so optimism and confidence take its place. In order to do this, democracy must triumph over totalitarian, one-party rule.
Democracy means rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. It includes transparency in government institutions; politicians accountable to their constituents; and consultation and consensus building. It is a process, not a one-time, end result, and it is a system tolerating many parties and opinions, not one party backed by paramilitary thugs which forces its views on all others.
The United States is pleased to support the Nepal Government’s efforts to fulfill its mandate to provide peace and democracy to the people. This year the US Government will provide more than $50 million in foreign assistance to Nepal. Of this, we are planning to allocate $8 million for democracy programs that support the elections process, the justice sector, and human rights organizations. We will provide nearly $18 million for health program activities, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, and $6 million for vocational education and agriculture programs. The US Government has provided $8.3 million for food aid and humanitarian assistance programs this year as well. We will also give more than $10 million to support national and local peace-building initiatives and efforts to improve public understanding of the requirements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the code of conduct, and a Constituent Assembly process.
In this context, I want to talk about a recent development that is particularly worrying to me. According to Human Rights Watch, there are an estimated 6,000-9,000 children now living in the cantonments with the Maoist People’s Liberation Army. This is in direct violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. No country should tolerate having children living in such conditions. These children belong in schools, not in cantonments. This is an egregious violation of the human rights of these children. By addressing this issue quickly and removing the children from the camps, the Maoists could demonstrate a real, concrete commitment to the peace agreement.
It has been more than a year since their insurgency ended, yet the Maoists’ addiction to violence, extortion, and intimidation continues unabated. Last February, I expressed my desire to welcome the Maoist leader to the democratic mainstream by shaking his hand. I have had the honor to shake many Nepalis’ hands during my time here, yet it looks like I will depart Nepal without shaking Mr. Dahal’s. Given his failure — and his party’s failure — to renounce violence, I could not do this in good conscience.
An Historic Opportunity
Pushpa Dahal and the rest of the Maoist leadership have an historic opportunity before the Constituent Assembly election to prove to the Nepali people and the world that their party really is committed to democracy and peace. I hope the Maoists seize this opportunity and genuinely renounce violence. Maoist assurances that they are peace loving democrats have been proven hollow daily by the violent actions of their cadre. If the Maoists want the people’s trust and support, they must win it through democratic competition and free elections – and not through violence.
In April 2006, the Nepali people rose up and demanded peace and democracy. They demanded transparency and accountability from all sides. The process of building a democratic government and democratic culture is a long one, but it is absolutely essential. I urge all of you to continue to have the strength of will to attain, and then sustain, democracy. The United States, like other friends of Nepal, will help you where we can. But in the end, as you well know, Nepal’s future is the hands of the Nepalis themselves. Make the best of it.