Store all Maoist weapons at Shaktikhor, hand over key to Special Committee before May 28: UML
KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, May 27: A meeting of top leaders of the three major political parties – UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML – held at the prime minister’s official residence at Baluwatar on Thursday also ended inconclusively as the parties continued to disagree on the handover of Maoist weapons.
The leaders have, however, agreed to meet yet again on Friday to try to explore common ground on weapons handover and extension of the CA term that expires on May 28, Saturday.
At today’s six-hour-long meeting, UML leaders floated a proposal to amass all the Maoist arms, put them in containers at the Shaktikhor cantonment and hand over the keys to the Special Committee.
UML leaders argued that there should not be any grounds for suspicions by the NC if the containers are guarded by a joint monitoring team comprising government security personnel and Maoist combatants.
Both the Maoists and the NC rejected the proposal.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal said the proposal was tantamount to surrender and the caging of the Maoist combatants. “This won’t be accepted by the PLA.”
The NC, on the other hand, demanded that all the Maoist weapons should be amassed and stored at the International Convention Centre at New Baneshwar, Kathmandu, and the keys of the containers containing the weapons should be handed over to the government.
Maoist Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai, who was also present at the meeting, argued that the NC and UML’s demand was not integration but disarmament and demobilization of the Maoist army. Maoist Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya, who didn’t speak much during the meeting even when the NC and UML leaders pressed him to share his views, seconded Bhattarai’s views.
As disagreement continued during the meeting, NC President Sushil Koirala took a tough stance and reminded the Maoists that the NC would not agree to anything less than complete handover of weapons to the government.
He pointedly told Dahal: “You should understand that you have no option but to hand over the weapons.”
They called it a day after Maoist Chairman proposed that each of the three parties hold consultations within their own parties and resume negotiations on Friday.
Talking to media persons after the meeting, Maoist Senior Vice-chairman Baidya said the meeting dwelled on all issues of the peace process and constitution drafting. “We have several differences with the Nepali Congress,” said Baidya, who represents the hard-line camp within the Maoist party.
NC leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said that though they held detailed discussions on all the issues they are yet to arrive at a consensus. “We have not reached any conclusion. We also need to hold internal discussions within the party,” he said.
UML leader Bhim Rawal said that the meeting held discussions on various alternatives to address the demands put forth by the NC. “We held discussions as to how we can move ahead by forging consensus,” he further said.
Nepal, Oli boycott Baluwatar meeting
Senior UML leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and K P Sharma Oli boycotted the three-party meeting held at the prime minister’s official residence at Baluwatar Thursday.
UML sources said former prime minister Nepal chose not to attend the meeting as the decision to hold it was taken without consulting him [Nepal is coordinator of the UML talks team] and also because he had reservations about the meeting venue. Though the leaders made several requests to Nepal to join the meeting he did not agree, citing prior commitments.
Likewise, Oli, who had earlier announced that he would never enter Baluwatar so long as Jhalanath Khanal was prime minister after he was once denied entry into the prime minister’s residence, also chose not to attend.
Sources close to Baluwatar said that Friday’s meeting has been relocated to Gokarna Forest Resort so that both Khanal and Oli would attend.
NC reminds Maoists of their commitments
During the meeting, NC leaders had reminded the Maoist leadership that seven out of the 10 demands they put forth recently were not new at all and that Maoist Chairman Dahal himself had in the past repeatedly signed agreements to implement them.
Dr Minendra Rijal pointedly asked Dahal whether or not the Maoists had agreed to fulfill the demands, and Dahal said yes.
While expressing their frustration over the failure of the Maoists to implement their commitments, the NC leaders also reminded them that it was the Dahal-led cabinet that endorsed the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Special Committee, pledging to accomplish both integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants within six months.
NC leaders also asked if the Maoists were ready to accept the proposal of the Nepal Army (NA) on integration in its entirety. The army’s proposal on integration clearly states that a major-general of the NA would head the separate directorate and a brigadier-general at the directorate would be from either the Armed Police Force or the Nepal Police. It also proposes that the directorate would comprise a force of only non-combatants.
The NA proposal, among other things, also says that all combatants choosing integration should meet standard NA norms and the integration should be strictly on individual basis.
Maoist leaders had said that they agreed only to the concept of a separate directorate within the NA as proposed by the army but needed to settle issues of rank harmonization, standard norms and numbers through negotiations.