If the general people are confused about conflicting statements by government leaders concerning dialogue and peace, what degree of credibility they may carry with the rebels is anybody’s guess. On Friday, two senior members of the Council of Ministers commented on serious issues of national importance. Vice chairman Kirtinidhi Bista told officials of the Civil Peace Commission that the government was keen to hold talks with both the Maoists and the political parties to restore peace and that it was doing the homework to initiate the process. Finance Minister Madhukar Shumsher Rana said the nation could go for a referendum to test which is more popular (the monarchy or the republic).

But within two days, Minister for Information and Communication Tanka Dhakal, at a press conference held at the Department of Information, contradicted Rana by saying that the government “has not reached any decision” on the question of referendum.” He also ruled out the possibility of talks with the Maoists unless they laid down arms and expressed

“commitment to constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy.” Dhakal, who is also the spokesman for the government, also implied that if the political parties were serious about ending instability in the country, they should come forward for dialogue and forge a consensus on restoring permanent peace.

The main stumbling block to peace is the question of on whose terms the conflict should be resolved. This apart, the discordant voices coming from responsible members of the government have put the people at a loss. On the latest case, who should the people believe—Bista and Rana or Dhakal? None of these three can now deny what they said. But if Dhakal is right, why have Bista and Rana told lies? The high frequency of irresponsible remarks even on the most serious of national issues from those in power is one of the major reasons why real public opinion has not been formed in the country on a number of vital issues. This has also reduced public confidence in the holders of power and in their ability to resolve the Maoist conflict and end the confrontation with the political parties, let alone the practicality of their insistence on the surrender of arms by the Maoists even before the start of any talks.