Martin joins issue with Sushil Koirala

Kathmandu, October 16:

Chief of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) Ian Martin today availed a public forum to assuage his critics saying his organisation was playing a fair and impartial role.

Two days after Acting President of the Nepali Congress Sushil Koirala accused the UN body of keeping mum about conflict victims and becoming a loyal supporter of the Maoists, Martin urged all to judge its performance on the basis of the overall role it had played in Nepal’s peace process. He was speaking at the Reporters’ Club.

“Personally, I have always stressed the need to redress problems of conflict victims,” said he. Martin, however, said, “Addressing the victims’ problems is the government’s responsibility, not UNMIN’s.”

“The UNMIN has never been asked to monitor or assist all aspects of the peace process. But the UN as a whole remains ready to assist when it is requested to do so, while respecting the fact that this has always been and remains a Nepali owned process.”

Asked if he told NC president Girija Prasad Koirala that integration of the Maoist army into the national army will tarnish the latter’s international image, which could result in the UN’s unwillingness to accept Nepal army personnel for peacekeeping operations, Martin said, “We are neither against nor are for the integration of the Maoist army into the Nepal army.”

In a cautious remark on the vexed issue, Martin said the UN could not consider the Maoist army for peacekeeping missions if they remained outside the national army.

He said the UNMIN had not come with enforcing authority, but only as a monitoring body. Therefore, we are ready to provide all kinds of assistance, the UNMIN chief said. UNMIN could help Nepal by sharing experience on the issue of army integration, he said.

“Nepal cannot follow just one example when it comes to army integration. If I speak of one example, then it will seem that I am advocating a particular model,” he said, adding that his organisation would play a neutral role while assisting Nepal’s peace process.

Seen from the international perspective, Nepal has made progress in the pursuit of bringing the peace process to a logical end, but it is far from complete, Martin said.

He maintained that the UN could play the role of a mediator in the dialogue between the government and armed groups in the Tarai, but only after the government and the political parties sought the former’s help.

Martin said the UNMIN’s newly-extended tenure was for the management of arms and armies.

“But from the perspective of UNMIN, and the member states, which fund it, it is most urgent that the special committee responsible for the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants should be established and begin its work as soon as possible,” said Martin.The UN body had resumed discussions on rehabilitating the disqualified Maoist army, he said.

“We expect rapid progress in making responsible arrangements for their discharge and reintegration,” added Martin.

“We are neither for integration of the People’s Liberation army into the national army, nor against it.”