By S. Chandrasekharan
While one witnessed hectic activity prior to the deadline of May 28, it is now seen that the politicians have gone back to “business as usual” mode and no urgency is seen in either completing the integration of the PLA or the statute making for the new constitution.
Both the Special task Force for the constitution and the Special Committee for integration take decisions with the usual dead line, time line etc. only to be ignored in due course and this is happening with a sickening frequency.
On 2nd June, the Special Committee on integration took a firm decision to employ 120 surveyors to make a profile of and elicit the interests of the combatants for integration, voluntary retirement or rehabilitation. The surveyors are to be divided into groups of 30 each to visit the 7 main and 21 satellite camps of the Maoist combatants and give the combatants a detailed “orientation programme” on the benefits of each- integration, voluntary retirement package and rehabilitation.
There are still 19,602 UN registered combatants according to the registers maintained though no one is certain as to how many are there in the camps. A fresh head count is also to be done and the survey is supposed to be completed within “60 to 63 days.” Nor progress has been made in pursuance of this decision so far.
The Special Committee also decided to do away as agreed to by the Maoists with the “dual protection” of Maoists leaders by the State and the PLA. While Dahal the chairman in a well-publicised function gave an ‘emotional’ farewell to 48 of his cadres and their arms handed over to Special Committee’s charge, some of the cadres who owe allegiance to Mohan Baidya are said to have refused to hand over the arms.
While the Maoists accepted in principle the proposal of the Nepal Army to have a separate directorate for integrating the combatants with 35 percent from, 35 percent from the PLA and 15 percent each from the Armed Police Force and the Nepal Police, Prachanda in his internal meeting with over 150 commanders of the PLA is said to have told them that the decisions and the proportions are not final and that these need to be discussed.
The party commanders it is said, had openly criticised Prachanda for agreeing to the integration model of the Nepal Army. They said that a soldier cannot be without arms and making them as forest guards without arms is a humiliation. Prachanda denied having agreed to the formula or anything at all!
At the same time he has promised in his meeting with Nepali Congress President on 6th June that the arms will be handed over to the government once the categorisation of the combatants is completed. It is doubtful whether he really meant it!
The Special Task force on constitution making under the chairmanship of UCPN (M) Dahal is also not making enough progress! The committee has given itself a deadline of August 18, but so far none of the basic issues has been resolved.
It is reported that there are 22 issues yet to be resolved that relate to the ten thematic committee reports and another 26 on other related issues. Discussions are going still continuing on some of the fundamental issues and these are
1. The number of provinces. The three major parties have more or less come to the conclusion that a lesser number of not more than 8 will do. This will help in deciding the Madhesi issue of one or two provinces and the demands of each ethnic group for a province of its own.
2. The second most contentious issue is whether to have a presidential model or a Westminster system of a prime minister and a cabinet from the elected members. Most likely, the committee may settle for an elected President on the French model and a prime minister elected by the parliament. The Nepali Congress is still holding out on a Westminster system.
3. The electoral system whether ‘first past the post’ or the proportional system or a mix of both and the suitability for the three levels- the local, the province and the centre is still being discussed. A mixed proportional and direct system as was done for the interim parliament may be acceptable to all. But the UML is still holding out for MMPR ( Mixed member proportional representation) at the federal level, proportional representation for the provincial assemblies and first past the post for the local elections.
With these contentious issues, it is very unlikely that the special task force will be able to complete the first draft by August 18.
How could the process be speeded up? The only person who can do it and if he wants to is the chairman of the Maoists- Dahal.
In one of the meetings Barsha Man Pun a top leader of the Maoists said that Dahal wants to mold himself as a ‘statesman’ and would be happy to support from outside and let any other leader become the Prime minister. This should be good news. After the demise of G.P.Koirala, there is no other leader in Nepal who has the stature and the charisma of Dahal. When he took over as the Prime minister, people’s expectations were high. He has disappointed them so far.
Of late, an unusually large amount of material is coming out in the press on the internal dissensions within the Maoists. There is also a report that Baidya has listed 18 deviations of Dahal in running the party thus giving the impression that Dahal’s leadership has come under a cloud and that the Maoists may split.
It does not look that the Maoists are breaking up. Despite all the differences, the party has endorsed the five point agreement. These deliberate leaks of differences within the party will come in handy for Dahal to ensure that he does not to give in too much to the other parties, particularly the Nepali Congress.
One issue on which they will continue to be stubborn will be in handing over the weapons to the State. Another will be the disbandment of the para military structure of the YCL. A third will be the return of the properties seized during the decade long conflict.
The sincerity of the Maoists as also that of the “statesmanship” of Dahal will depend on how much they would yield on these issues. Dahal could still rise to the occasion and prove his statesmanship. He has the means and the ability.