KATHMANDU, Nov 20: Despite objection from political parties and UNMIN, the UCPN (Maoist) is going to let its combatants above the rank of battalion commander participate in its plenum slated to start from Sunday.
Spokesperson of the People´s Liberation Army (PLA) Chandra Prakash Khanal told Republica that a meeting of the party late Friday evening decided to let the combatants attend the much-awaited, largest-ever gathering of the party.
"We informed the parties and UNMIN on Friday that some 400-450 combatants above the rank of battalion commander are participating in the plenum," said Khanal, known as Baldev within the party, "We have informed them why their participation in the plenum is necessary."
According to Khanal, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Friday told Nepali Congress and CPN-UML leaders that the combatants will attend the plenum. The parties have protested the combatants´ participation in a political program like the plenum because such a move will complicate their proposed integration and rehabilitation.
Similarly UNMIN, in a letter to Maoist Chairman Dahal on Thursday, objected to the combatants´ participation in the plenum, saying such a move would breach the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies.
But the Maoists have argued that the participation will enable the combatants to better understand their integration and rehabilitation and facilitate their management.
Earlier in the afternoon, a standing committee meeting of the UCPN (Maoist) had taken up the PLA participation issue and decided to talk to UNMIN and to the parties about it. "They will be participating in the plenum in such a way that their participation will not breach the spirit of the constitution and understanding among the parties," Maoist Spokesperson Dinanath Sharma told journalists after the standing committee meeting.
Amidst political controversy over the PLA´s participation, Republica talked to PLA Spokesperson Khanal about the issue.
What do you say to the parties´ and UNMIN´s objection to PLA participation in the plenum?
UNMIN has not categorically said that we cannot take the combatants to the plenum. The participation of the PLA won´t violate the CPA and AMMAA. There is no new logic in it. It has been clearly mentioned in the AMMAA that combatants would be released after fulfilling certain criteria. And those criteria have not been fulfilled yet.
Just a part of that process has been accomplished so far. The constitution, army integration and government formation should go together. The integration process cannot move ahead alone. Only if there is a package agreement on all these three issues will integration move smoothly.
A Special Committee meeting held on September 17 had decided that the Maoist combatants had been brought under the Special Committee. Since the process has already begun, is it good for Maoist combatants to participate in the plenum?
Not as many members of the PLA as reported will take part in the plenum. In fact, they are not going there to obstruct the current process but to facilitate it. This will help bring great benefit. We have our own complexities. This will help to balance things within our party. We have our own calculations. We have to integrate them. We have to separate them from the party. If the peace process moves in a right direction, this will be the last time for the PLA to participate in a formal function of the party. The PLA will also give its suggestions to the party. This is why we think that PLA should take part in the plenum. Since the PLA men have not come fully under the Special Committee we feel that it is good for them to participate in the plenum.
You said you have your own compulsions for taking the PLA to the extended plenum. What are the compulsions?
There are no compulsions as such. There will be big discussions on army integration during the extended plenum. There will be discussions on modality of integration, number of combatants to be integrated and whether to demand formation of a separate force for the PLA. These things cannot be settled without PLA participation. We will prepare the modality and our position on army integration.