KATHMANDU: The process to integrate UCPN-Maoist’s former fighters into Nepali Army was halted “temporarily” today at all the seven cantonments, mainly due to dispute regarding the age of combatants.
Army Spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri told The Himalayan Times that the process would resume after the issue was resolved.
The combatants have been demanding to recognise the age verified by the UNMIN in 2007. But the Nepali Army— whose representatives at the cantonments conducting the process, however, chose to recognise the age mentioned in the combatants' citizenship cards.
Chhetri said 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.
The integration of 3,123 ex-combatants began in three of the seven cantonments on Wednesday. But it came to a halt following the combatants’ protest over the selection criteria that the Nepali Army followed as per the seven-point agreement and the decision taken by the Special Committee (for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants).
As per the SC decision, all criteria, with some flexibility on age, education and marital status of the combatants, should be followed while conducting the integration. Former PLAs were, however, against undergoing height and weight measurement and physical fitness tests. Besides, they were demanding that their recent academic qualification and the age verified by UNMIN be recognised.
“We can't waive of these tests, as we were clearly told to follow the Special Committee decision,” said a Nepali Army officer deputed to carry out the integration process. For many combatants, the tests made the integration nothing but regular Nepali Army recruitment, which they say is against the spirit of integration. Former Maoist battalion commander Ramhari Parajuli demanded that the integration should be made respectable, the age verified by UNMIN and the education they acquired after UNMIN verification should be given due recognition and those opting for voluntary retirement should be given their dues in a lump sum, and not in installments.
She said the combatants had already undergone physical fitness and other tests while they were being recruited in the People's Liberation Army.
Balananda Sharma, Coordinator of the Secretariat under Special Committee, said the SC should take a new decision on the matter of age. “Otherwise the process cannot resume,” he added.