by Chiranjibi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondent
August 13, 2006
GOVERNMENT, MAOIST REBELS AGREE ON ARMS AND A PEACE PLAN FOR NEPAL
LONDON, Aug. 13, 2006 -- Nepal's new government and the country's Maoist rebels have agreed on terms for the management of arms, moving the peace process forward and holding elections for its constituent assembly under the eye of United Nations observers, officials said.
The agreement between a coalition government of the nation's seven political parties and the Maoists was a major setback to forces loyal to King Gyanendra, who was stripped of his arbitrary powers following a series of bloody but successful anti-mopnarchy demonstrations around the country in April.
After the agreement, the government and the rebels sent a joint letter to the UN inviting the world body to monitor and manage the arms of both the armies of Nepal's government and the Maoists, to monitor a cease-fire code of conduct, observe the constituent assembly elections to be held by next year and keep watch on the human rights situation in the Himalayan nation.
The agreement between the two sides came at the height of concern after the collapse of peace talks following the Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's remark in favour of the ceremonial monarchy.
Rebels had threatened to opt out of the peace process and launch peaceful struggle for full fledged democracy through what it called a "republic state without the monarchy." Prime Minister Koirala had said "the monarchy should also be given a place in democracy."
Civil leaders, the general public and almost all the political parties of the coalition government and the Maoists reacted sharply to the statement, arguing that the monarchy should not have any role in democratic Nepal.
The anti-royal sentiment increased drastically after King Gyanendra sacked the elected government and ruled the country directly for 15 months, suspending civil liberties and banning freedom of the press in February 2005.
Massive demonstrations across the country forced the king to reinstate the parliament nearly four years after its dissolution in an attempt to impose direct rule in the name of containing Maoist terrorism. In fact, the dissolution led to the suspension of democratic rights achieved through a historic popular movement against the monarchy in 1990.
Division among the political forces of Nepal was the major hurdle in the restoration of democratic rights in the Himalayan nation, which was under the monarchy for 239 years.
"This is a historic agreement. All the confusion has been cleared today," the coordinator of the Maoist negotiating team, Krishna Bahadur Mahara.
Political analysts believe that the involvement of the UN in peace keeping process will ensure democratic rights and freedom of the press, and will pressure the Maoists to lay down arms after the constituent assembly elections, which are to be held under the supervision of the world body.
"From today onwards, a new process has begun and doors have opened for new agendas of the peace process. We believe the peace process will move ahead smoothly", Mahara said, reading a statement issued by the Maoists chairman, Prachand, who was underground for many years until the restoration of democracy in May this year through the joint efforts of all political forces.
Nepal's interior minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said "The peace process will now move ahead smoothly. We believe we will be successful in holding the Constituent Assembly elections in a free and fair manner."
"Further to the Eight-Point Understanding between the Seven Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) of June 16, and the commitment expressed by the Government of Nepal to the Agreement, we hereby request the United Nations to provide its assistance with a view to creating a free and fair atmosphere for the election of a Constituent Assembly and the entire peace process: continue its human rights monitoring through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR, Nepal) Assist the monitoring of the Code of Conduct during the Ceasefire," the joint letter sent to the UN signed by Prime Minister Koirala and Maoists chairman Prachand said in part.
"Involvement of the UN will certainly ensure our rights and check the Maoists from resorting to violence," a senior journalist working for a well=-known news organization told The American Reporter.
Even after a parliamentary proclamation making the king completely powerless, the majority of the political parties, civil society and the Maoists want ro see the end of monarchy here.
The king lost any role in state affairs after the parliament unanimously passed the resolution in May. The army was brought under the control of the government and away from the royal palace. The king was stripped of the title of the supreme commander of the Nepal army.
The phrase "His Majesty's government" was replaced by "Nepal government." The word "royal" has been deleted from everything including the Royal Nepal Army and has now become history in Nepal.
The king and the royal family members are barred from taking even honorary positions in Nepal's government.
No political party, organisation, or element of civil society has supported the monarchy.
Prime Minister Koirala ws the only notable figure to say that the monarchy should have a place in democracy until the constituent assembly election," and he was severely criticised for his remarks.
The differences between the government and the Maoists were a matter of satisfaction for the anti-democratic forces, but that proved short-lived with this agreement.
One after another, the anti-democratic forces, trying to plunge Nepal into mire of political crisis have drowned themselves.
"The politics of conspiracy seems to have ended in Nepal," a senior diplomat based in Kathmandu told the American Reporter. "The awareness of the people about their rights is so high that democracy cannot be a matter of the past," he said.
"Look at the hue and cry about the statement of the prime
minister," he said. "The agreement will keep intact democratic rights."
American Reporter Nepal Correspondent Chiranjibi Paudyal has
contributed to AR since 1999. He is currently based in London.