Bhattarai reiterates threat to quit

KATHMANDU: Senior leader of the ruling Unified CPN-Maoist and Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai said on Saturday that his party might quit the government and pave the way for opposition if the government was not allowed to take action against Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal.

Addressing a programme organised here on Saturday by the Civic Movement for Democracy and Peace, Dr Bhattarai said the government decided to take action against the army chief to uphold civilian supremacy over the army. “If the government is prevented from taking disciplinary action against the CoAS through unconstitutional means and foreign interferences, it will set a wrong precedent,” he added. He also said the UCPN-Maoist would keep watching whether the people or the army generals will protect the democratic rule. Dr Bhattarai also cited the examples of some countries which had fallen into the hands of military dictators due to the absence of civilian control over the army.

Dr Bhattarai also said the UCPN-M would not take a U-turn on its decision. He also appealed the civic bodies not to doubt his party’s motive behind taking action against the CoAS, who he said, has been speaking against the peace and democratic process. “We do not have any hidden agenda other than upholding people’s supremacy over the national force,” he added. He also said some political hiccups during the transformation of a feudal society to a democratic polity were normal.

Shankar Pokharel, secretary of the ruling coalition partner CPN-UML, called for a general consensus, at least among major political parties, on the CoAS issue. “We need to study whether the UCPN-Maoist want to establish civilian supremacy over the army through the rule of law or by imposing personal supremacy,” he said, adding, “Nobody should be allowed to enforce personal supremacy over a sensitive institution like the army by violating the rule of law.” He also wondered why the PM did not call the meeting of National Security Council before seeking clarification from the army chief. Pokharel also said his party had strong reservation on the three issues raised by the government while seeking explanation from the army chief.

Nepal Sadbhavana Party’s (Anandadevi) leader Sarita Giri said the CoAS row had seriously affected the statute-drafting process. She also argued that the President did not have discretionary power on constitutional matters. “It is the parliament that protects and defends the constitution and it is the Supreme Court that defines its principles,” she added.

Civil society members Dr Devendra Raj Pandey and Krishna Pahadi urged the parties to focus their attention towards adopting a new constitution within the given time frame. They also appealed the parties to forge a consensus on the issue and narrow down their differences.