Nepal | December 13, 2019

Government rules out referendum affecting territorial integrity

A phrase in the pact with Raut ‘misinterpreted’

Rewati Sapkota

Kathmandu, March 10

Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa, who signed the 11-point agreement with CK Raut to put an end to the separatist movement, today clarified that the country would never hold a referendum on issues related to territorial integrity, sovereignty and Nepal’s independence.

The minister was forced to issue the clarification in the Parliament after the government and Raut interpreted a sentence in the agreement in their own terms. The sentence reads: “Dissatisfaction in the Tarai-Madhes and other parts of the country would be resolved through democratic process based on people’s opinion.”

The phrase “democratic process based on people’s opinion” has been “misinterpreted” by Raut as “referendum”, according to Thapa. “People’s opinion in a democratic system means periodic elections,” the minister clarified.

Earlier, Raut had tweeted associating “people’s opinion” with “referendum”. Ruling and opposition lawmakers today wondered whether the interpretation made by Raut was true. Thapa said no. “If CK has been spreading this message, then it is against the spirit of the agreement signed with the government,” he said.

The constitution allows the government to hold referendum. But it must be approved by two-thirds of lawmakers. “However, a referendum cannot be held for the purpose of dividing a country,” Thapa said, adding, “The deal does not mention that.”

The deal signed between the government and CK Raut on Friday came as a surprise to many, including senior leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party. This prompted questions from NCP lawmakers Bhim Rawal and Janardan Sharma today — whether the government had surrendered to the outfit led by Raut, whether the agreement was in the interest of the nation and whether a “foreign power” had brokered the deal. Other lawmakers who expressed similar concerns were Nepali Congress Chief Whip Balkrishna Khand and independent lawmakers Prem Suwal and Rajendra Lingden. “We didn’t sign the deal succumbing to foreign pressure. Moreover, neither the government nor CK has surrendered to each other. We have reached a consensus,” said Thapa. “The deal is not against national interest.”

The deal, according to Thapa, has brought CK’s outfit to mainstream politics, which will “guarantee peace and security in the country”. “Lawmakers should be happy with what we have achieved,” said Thapa, calling the deal “historic”.

While the minister asked lawmakers to give credit to the government for bringing a person who was leading a separatist movement to mainstream politics, the government has not been able to do anything about Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal, which is trying to destabilise peace in the country through violence.

Minister Thapa did not name the party led by Chand, but said, “The government is committed to maintaining peace and security in the country.”


A version of this article appears in print on March 11, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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