HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has asked former UCPN-Maoist fighters to remain calm, assuring them that integration will take place in a respectable manner.
On Friday, disgruntled combatants, who had opted for a future in the Nepali Army, staged protests against the norms and methods, particularly the issue of age while integrating them.
Their protests brought integration work to a halt in all Maoist cantonments.“There is no doubt that the integration process will advance in a respectable way, so I urge
all of you to maintain calm,” Bhattarai said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office today.
Bhattarai, who is also Vice-chair of UCPN-Maoist, advised restraint while responding to queries and concerns voiced by a host of party loyalists and activists at his official resident regarding the combatants' dissatisfaction over the ongoing integration procedure.
Saying some problems had arisen in the integration process, he said he was consulting others how to resolve them. “Technical problems seen in the integration front will be addressed through discussions,” the PM said adding that the discussion was moving in a positive direction. He even cautioned against the activities of reactionary forces in the context of the period of transition and urged progressive forces to move ahead conscientiously.
The controversy of age surfaced after the army recruitment committees disqualified a significant number of “overage and underage” ex-Maoist combatants. The combatants have been demanding that the age verified by UNMIN in 2007 be recognised. But the Nepali Army — whose representatives at the cantonments conducting the process — chose to recognise the age mentioned in the combatants' citizenship
cards. The problem arose after many combatants were found to be underage — below 18 years — at the time of joining PLA if they recognised the UNMIN verified age.
Meanwhile, opposition parties said they had no objection if the process moved ahead as per the spirit of the seven-point agreement endorsed through the Special Committee (for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants). However, if any amendment or revision was needed, the precondition would be the Prime Minister's resignation.
“The government started the work unilaterally without informing the Special Committee and its Secretariat,” said Bhim Rawal, a member of the SC. “Now problems have surfaced. We still have nothing to say if the process continues as per the past agreement.” But he said if any further decision was needed from the Special Committee, a cross-party panel headed by PM Bhattarai, the PM’s would have to step down as he had already lost “moral, legal and practical grounds” to cling to power. “Then only would all the parties decide on a logical conclusion to the integration process” he added. NC leader and SC member Ram Sharan Mahat said the government does not want to include an inter-party panel in this process. He stated that the process should be followed by as per past pacts and agreements.