Breakthrough unlikely in today’s talks: Leaders

Kathmandu, October 14:

There are strong indications that the final breakthrough could still be two-three talks sessions away “unless something dramatic happens,” leaders said today.

Janamorcha Nepal vice-president Lilamani Pokharel, who had a meeting with Maoist leader Prachanda in the morning, said: “Since monarchy, interim legislature and arms management are still staring at everyone, chances of a breakthrough tomorrow are very thin until and unless something dramatic happens.”

He said the NC has not yet agreed to the idea of “a suspended monarchy” for the interim phase. NSP (Anandidevi) leader Sarita Giri, who also expressed doubts over tomorrow’s talks bringing desired results, backed the idea of a referendum, saying the election to a constituent assembly “does not given any clear-cut option to voters, leave alone decide the fate of monarchy.”

However, efforts to render the exercise fruitful went on overdrive today with the Maoist outfit leadership sitting down for a crucial meeting, weighing its options and strategy for tomorrow’s talks.

The talks are expected to hit the “stumbling block” in the form of a referendum on monarchy before the election to a constituent assembly, something which the CPN UML and Maoist leadership have been insisting on.

The idea of a referendum on monarchy is not admissible to the Nepali Congress (NC) president and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who has been in favour of deciding the fate of monarchy through a constituent assembly.

A highly-placed NC source said: “Why should the CPN-UML leadership insist on a referendum on monarchy rather than going for the constituent assembly election right away.”

NC leadership is against the idea of a referendum on monarchy, and says it will give the monarchy one more chance to campaign during the CA election, “which cannot be a good idea.”

Rather, the NC leadership is in favour of going for a referendum after drawing up a new statute. The post-constituent assembly referendum would choose the head of state from among the monarch and a presidential aspirant “if the constituent assembly election fails to give the ‘final verdict’ on monarchy,” the NC source said. “Sooner or later, the Maoist leadership is expected to settle down for arms decommissioning.” A source close to Maoist leader Dinanath Sharma told this daily the informal meeting of the Maoist leaders today concluded they would not agree to arms management till there is guarantee of a political change.

Maoist leader Dev Gurung, however, said there are chances that tomorrow’s talks would settle some of the issues, if not all the issues, “since the previous three rounds of talks have created a conducive environment”. “In our meet today, we discussed the issues that we will raise during tomorrow’s talks,” he added.

The meeting also decided to ask the seven-party alliance to either dissolve the House of Representatives, declare Nepal a republic before going for a constituent assembly (CA) election or suspend the monarchy till everything is decided through a referendum or the CA election, the Maoist source said.

The meeting also decided to ask the NC to stop maintaining “double standard” on monarchy. Tomorrow’s meet is likely to discuss these issues. “Some issues, if not all the issues, may be thrashed out at tomorrow’s missing,” the source said without elaborating.

NC (D) president Sher Bahadur Deuba and party members in the talks team today held talks with NC (D) parliamentarians about tomorrow’s talks, an NC (D) leader said. The parliamentarians raised serious concern over the party leadership and the party’s talks team for “failing to strongly put the stance of the party during the talks”. They also suggested the party leadership not back the king.

Meanwhile, a report from Chitwan quoted CPN (UML) standing committee member Bam Dev Gautam as saying today that the government has woken up from a Rip Van Winkle sort of slumber after six months. Gautam, who is also chairperson of the All Nepal Farmers’ Association, was speaking at the sixth district conference of the association in Khairahani in eastern Chitwan. The current peace talks should arrive at a positive conclusion on going for a republic and the laying down of arms, said Gautam adding that the talks are stretching as the monarchy issue has not been settled.