National reconciliation - Political actors should show sincerity

In the last couple of weeks, the nation has witnessed some dramatic turns of events that could have strong influence on the resolution of the 10-year-old conflict. First, the state bulldozed through the municipality polls even while securing a low 20 per cent voter turnout in comparison to 60 per cent participation in past elections. If the parties, which boycotted the polls, and the Maoists, who effectively disrupted them through violence and intimidation, have taken credit for the success of their anti-poll agenda, the state, which conducted them in spite of a hostile environment, has also claimed success and feels emboldened to also hold the general elections as per its road map. The parties and the international community have, however, not recognised the validity of the municipal polls.

Furthermore, we also witnessed hectic activities in the Maoist camp, whose supremo, Prachanda, in the presence of party ideologue Baburam, gave a series of interviews to the national and international media on the Maoist insurgency and its mission, goals and terms for peace. While the interview with Kantipur daily seemed relevant and balanced in the interest of a negotiated settlement, the one with the BBC contained some objectionable and outlandish utterances. Prachanda’s pronouncement that in five years the king would either be executed or exiled has stunned the nation and undermined the sincerity of the Maoists for a peaceful settlement of the insurgency. What Prachanda and his cohorts should clearly understand is that the people have only demanded the end of authoritarian monarchy and the restoration of democracy but not the abolition of constitutional monarchy per se. Thus Prachanda’s inflammatory statement regarding the monarchy in Nepal is fallacious, untimely and regrettable and it has deeply hurt the sentiments of the Nepalis, who still respect the crown as a symbol of national unity and strength.

This was followed by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision declaring the RCCC as unconstitutional and annulment of all the decisions it had made. This immediately freed Sher Bahadur Deuba and Prakash Man Singh, both of whom had been unjustifiably detained on corruption charges for the awarding of a contract for the Melamchi project. The Court’s verdict not only defended the rule of law and established the independence of the judiciary but also made a clear interpretation of the use of Article 127. Further, it has clarified that all royal decisions involving serious constitutional questions could be challenged in the Court. Let us hope that in keeping with the spirit of the ruling, the regime will urgently seek ways and means to return to constitutional rule.

We also witnessed the intervention of the international community and specifically that of the US ambassador, James Moriarty. Through a written statement outlining the policies of the US government, he criticised the Maoists and seven-party accord stating it would not only strengthen the hand of the Maoists in their endeavour to overthrow the present state order, but also bring about the demise of democracy as they will use the victory to establish a communist dictatorship. He advocated that Nepal’s future would be safer if the king and parties would join hands to isolate the Maoists to weaken them and strengthen democracy. Interestingly, even a high-ranking British official quickly toed the ambassador’s line even though the British and other European countries had been consistently calling for a negotiated settlement of the insurgency.

Nepal’s ground realities and past lessons have taught us that the solution will not lie in the clubbing together of any two principal actors to isolate the third. Indeed, the king and parties have worked together in the past to isolate the Maoists and now the parties and the Maoists together are attempting to isolate the king, but both these efforts have only resulted in prolonging the conflict.

A workable strategy would be to bring together all the warring factions to a common meeting point which may be arrived at by: the king accepting the role of a 21st century constitutional monarch; the parties atoning for their past mistakes and making a commitment to work in the national interest and to practise internal democracy; and the Maoists laying down their arms and embracing multiparty democracy. Towards this end, the Maoists should exhibit sincerity about their abandoning violence and entering mainstream politics by honestly fulfilling the terms of the agreement with the parties. The international community too could play an effective role in conflict resolution by adopting a strong and consistent stand designed on the basis of Nepal’s own peculiarities and realities. Finally, the king should not only exhort but also immediately take the initiative to talk to the parties, the Maoists, the civic society and the international community in order to find a peaceful settlement.

Thapa is Mahasamiti member, NC (D)