Govt, UDMF talks inconclusive

Kathmandu, October 29

Government negotiators today held talks with the talks team of United Democratic Madhesi Front, but their talks remained inconclusive.

Member of UDMF talks team Ram Naresh Ray, also a senior leader of Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party Nepal, said government negotiators told them they had completed some ground work on issues of provincial boundaries, but they were not enough and hence needed a day more to finalise the issue.

Both sides agreed to hold the talks on Sunday.

According to Ray, government negotiators proposed to hold decisive talks on Saturday, but UDMF negotiators proposed to hold it on Sunday as government leaders would be busy on account of the election for vice-president on Saturday.

Ray said government negotiators told them that they could not prepare enough on the boundary question due to presidential election and needed a day or two more to complete the ground work. He said government negotiators expressed commitment to amend the constitution to address the issues of provincial boundaries.

He said UDMF negotiators told the government side that there was no reason why the conditions set by the front for talks could not be fulfilled. “We told the government negotiators that they should themselves meet those conditions and we were just reminding them,” he said.

Among the conditions are the demand of martyrdom status for those killed during protests; free treatment for injured protesters and withdrawal of cases and release of arrested cadres.

As far as political demands are concerned, the major demand of the UDMF is that the Madhes be carved into only two provinces without any Tarai district being added to any hill province.

Co-Chair of Sadbhawana Party Laxman Lal Karna said the government was not serious about talks. “We have held rounds of discussion with the government and yet government negotiators are still asking us what our agendas are,” said Karna.

He said UDMF negotiators told the government talks team that their demands had been put forth several times and if they had to present their demands again, it would start with the question of provincial boundaries.

Karna said the UDMF talks team might quit the negotiating table   if negotiations failed on Sunday.

Minister without portfolio Ram Janam Chaudhari, who is also a member of the government talks team said the ruling coalition was preparing to present its views on the boundary question in the next talks to be held on Sunday. He said the top leaders of the ruling coalition discussed the issues today. They will also consult with the Nepali Congress on the question of provincial boundaries, before holding negotiations with Madhesi forces on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today hosted a lunch for political leaders where he said the government was open for discussion on all issues, including the number and boundaries of provinces, said the PM’s Press Adviser Pramod Dahal.

The PM also called on the agitating forces to seek negotiated settlement of the issues. Meanwhile the High Level Political Mechanism today reviewed the ongoing Madhes movement. According to CPN-United Chair Ganesh Shah, no decision was taken today by the mechanism but the leaders were mulling how to address the concerns of the agitating forces through government action and constitutional amendments. Shah said leaders discussed forging consensus with the NC to address the agitating forces’ concerns about provincial boundaries. The leaders also discussed normalising ties with India, Shah added.