Let the people decide

The third round of the second summit talks between the SPA and the CPN-Maoist ended inconclusively in less than ten minutes, leaving the job of fixing the date for the next meeting to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. The sticking points were arms management and the interim status of the monarchy. On several other contentious issues, they are reported to have reached some sort of understanding. The Maoists are insisting on the suspension of the monarchy during the interim period, while Koirala is insisting on according it a “ceremonial” role. On arms management, which is of central importance, Koirala is learnt to have asked the Maoists to “disarm” even before the constituent assembly (CA) polls, whereas the Maoists are keen on restructuring the Nepali Army, an idea in which, evidently, Koirala does not seem interested.

If indeed these two things are holding back progress, they are neither adequate nor satisfactory reasons. In the first place, the sovereign people themselves are going to decide the future shape of the country’s polity, including whether to retain the present structures of the army, the judiciary, the legislature and the executive, or to keep the monarchy or not. Therefore, any stalemate for these reasons raises doubts about the bona fides of one or both the sides. The row boils down to this: What position should the monarchy have during the interim period? If the people themselves are to decide on the fate of the monarchy, nobody should insist on fully suspending it, or on making it ceremonial or whatever. Perhaps a middle course could be adopted by keeping it in a state of suspended animation, away from state roles or functions. The wording in the interim statute could suitably be phrased likewise.

On arms management, it is strange that disagreement persists despite the three agreements (of 12, 8, and 5 points in that order) between the SPA and the Maoists, and despite the fact a UN team is already stationed in the capital waiting to assume its role in accordance with the request the world body had received from both the sides.

The five-point accord stipulates that during the transition period the Maoist army along with its arms will be stationed in designated temporary cantonments and the Nepali Army in the barracks and both will be monitored by the UN. So if the deadlock continues because either of the sides has taken a stance outside the scope of this pact, the side concerned should naturally be held responsible. Sunday’s failure might just lead the governing alliance and the Maoists to take recourse to actions that might eventuate in complications not congenial to the peace and accommodation that the people so desperately desire. But things have not reached a dead end. Given the good intentions and a respect for their commitments, both the sides should be able to overcome the two “thorny” issues. The rest the people’s verdict will take care of.