The Gokarna code

Though the long-awaited first round of dialogue between the government and the Maoists on Friday was able to hammer out a 25-point Ceasefire Code of Conduct to pave the way for holding the elections to the constituent assembly, utmost care should now be taken to implement the valuable document in right earnest. Home Minister Krishna Sitaula and Krishna Bahadur Mahara, heading the three-member Maoist team, signed the code in accordance with the spirit of the 12-point agreement signed in November last year. Now that a base for moving unhindered the peace process forward has been established, both the parties should focus on working tenaciously within the parameters dictated by the code, so that the second and the more productive round — which is expected to be held within two to three days — would be additionally meaningful.

This is no time to strive for brownie points or embarass each other over non-issues. Let’s consider one of the points in the code of conduct that debars Maoist militia in uniform from participating in any political gathering. Disappointingly, the very next day of the signing of the code, Maoist leader Mahara’s address to a mass meeting in Janakpur saw the presence of a significant number of khukuri-wielding rebel cadres in battle fatigues. Wasn’t this, then, a violation of the ceasefire code of conduct? Mahara has also called for a national convention to draft an interim constitution along with the dissolution of the House (which has been ruled out until an elected body is formed), and the formation of an interim government so that the Maoists too could be inducted in the government. Forging ahead through consensus alone will help in concentrating on the modalities of holding the elections to the constituent assembly and amicably sinking the differences because the party leaders themselves and the public are not cock-sure about the actual level and quality of trust between them and the Maoists.

Now that a code has been agreed upon though violated in somewhat equal measure, the question of its monitoring by a reliable international agency has become imperative. Both the parties have to keep their words. Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, who is also a member of the government’s talk team, has already indicated that the next round of talks would see a request going to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Nepal to monitor the implementation of the code of conduct. This, along with the inking of a Human Rights pact that is being discussed, are indeed positive signals as they can serve as a deterrent to violations of their own commitments. Hopefully, a host of subversive activities such as extortions, lootings, kidnappings and, above all, killings will become a thing of the past. The leaders who refuse to respect the people’s wish cannot claim to be democratic in the true sense of the term. They can lose the people’s trust as quickly as they have regained it.