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Explanations Sought From CoAS

Issue 17, April 26, 2009

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Opinions of political parties about the explanations sought by the Government of Nepal from the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) have polarized. Charges and counter charges of usurping power have been made. Again the opposition has found the reason for boycotting the parliamentary session. It indicates that the power struggle has been intensified despite the people’s aspiration for all political parties working together.

On Monday, April 20, 2009, giving the deadline of 24 hours, the coalition Government of Nepal led by the Maoists asked the CoAS for the explanations for violating the order of the government in three accounts such as (1) continuing the new recruits for the Nepal Army ignoring the government’s written order not to do so, as it breaches the ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement ‘ the government has reached with the Maoist, (2) reinstating the eight brigadier generals even though the government has not extend their terms, (2) boycotting the games the members of People’s Liberation Army have participated in the Fifth National Games.

On Tuesday, April 21, 2009, during the early office hours, the CoAS sent his assistants to register his explanations of the allegations the coalition government has sought from him at the Secretariat of the Prime Minister and at the Office of the Ministry of Defense. In view of the nature of the issue, the cabinet meeting decided to distribute the copies of the explanations to the members of the cabinet for studying it seriously before taking any decisions on it.

The opposition members of the parliament particularly the members of the Nepali Congress (NC) has been boycotting the parliamentary sessions since April 20, 2009, as they have found another issue for boycotting the parliamentary sessions and disrupting the parliament. In view of the NC members continuously boycotting the parliamentary sessions, speaking to the reporters Spokesperson for the government and Minister of Information and Communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that the NC members boycotting the parliamentary sessions have made room for doubts whether NC members have been really obstructing the peace process and the crafting of a new constitution.

On April 23, 2009, talking to the anchor of the state-run Radio Nepal in the morning program called ‘Antar Sambad’, leader of NC Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat said that the sixteen political parties including the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) have opposed the government seeking the explanations from the CoAS. He also said that the explanations given by the CoAS are appropriate; the CoAS has honored the suzerainty of the people and has followed the rule of law. He said the Maoists have been treating their combatants as a national army whereas the Nepal Army as the rebel army; he told the anchor that the government seeking the explanations from the CoAS on the matter such as the eight brigadier generals pending at the Supreme Court of Nepal has attacked the Court, too. He also charged the Maoists of attempting to have influence over the army.

Speaking to the same anchor in the same program of the Radio Nepal as did Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, Spokesperson for the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist) Dinanath Sharma has said that it is not the question of an individual general but of the suzerainty of the people; the opposition has been attempting to bring the constitutional president to the active politics, to create unhealthy political contests, to come to power riding on the shoulders of the army not finding any other alternatives as they have lost the people’s trust. He also said that the political parties interfering in the businesses of the government has been obstructing the peace process and the crafting of a new constitution.

The state-run newspaper called ‘Gorkhapatra’ in Nepali of April 23, 2009 stated that after the all-party meeting held at the parliamentary office of the UCPN-Maoist at Singhdurbar, speaking to the reporters Prime Minister Prachanda said that the actions on the explanations submitted by the CoAS would be taken based on the consensus politics; the government has to take the explanations from the CoAS as the CoAS has not cooperated on the peace process, and army integration and has repeatedly acted in the manner that has threatened the suzerainty of the people; the Prime Minister also said in the meeting that to harm the reputation of the Maoists, some political parties have been falsely propagating ‘the Maoists attempting to capture the state power’. Almost all the members of the political parties present in the meeting have said that even though the government could ask the CoAS for explanations following the Interim Constitution but it is not the appropriate time to do so.

‘Gorkhapatra’ in Nepali of April 23, 2009 ran the news of the sister organizations of the Maoists have staged rallies all over the country demanding the immediate dismissal of the CoAS, as he was indicted by the ‘Rayamajhi Commission’; the government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala did not take actions against him; so, none needed to oppose it when the Maoists wanted to take actions against him.

On April 22, 2009, talking to the anchor of the program called ‘Antar Sambad’ of the state-run Radio Nepal, Maoist Leader CP Gajurel said that writing a letter to the Prime Minister, and asking the government not to take actions against the CoAS, President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav has dishonored the ceremonial position of the President. He has also said that the NC leaders do not believe in the suzerainty of the people but in the need for someone above the government; so, they want to keep the CoAS above the government.

Deputy Prime Minister holding the portfolio of Home Bamdev Gautam told the reporters that his party CPN-UML has agreed on taking actions against the CoAS; concerning the question about other leaders of his party have been deadly against the actions taken by the government, he told the reporters that they have their own personal opinions and they could speak as they liked in the democracy. Senior leader of CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal and some others have been publicly speaking against the government’s actions on the CoAS.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, leaders of the Madhehsi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) have said that it is not the right to indulge in politicizing the army in the transitional period, the time is to bring the peace process to conclusion, to write a new constitution and restructure the state; the structure, nature and character of the Nepal Army are conventional, so, it is necessary to democratize the Nepali Army and include in it all the previously excluded Nepalis including Madheshis.

On April 22, 2009, speaking at a program held in Pokhara on the occasion of the ‘Earth Day’ American Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell said the political debate about the government taking actions against the CoAS is the internal business of the Nepalis so she did not comment on it; in addition, she said that she did not know anything about it as she was out of Kathmandu according to the ‘Gorkhapatra’ of April 23, 2009.

On April 23, 2009, Prime Minister Prachanda has had a joint meeting with the ambassadors of eight countries such as United States, United Kingdom, India, China, Japan, Norway, Germany and Finland and informed them about the hot topic of seeking explanations from the CoAS and then the political controversy caused by it. The Prime Minister has said that he would take any actions on this issue only by the consensus politics. The Prime Minister also has said that the peace process has been in limbo because of the non-cooperation of the CoAS on army integration and so on, and the CoAS put the suzerainty of the people in question not abiding by the orders of the democratically elected government; that is why he needed to seek explanations from the CoAS. In the meeting, the ambassadors agreed on the suzerainty of the people.

The Nepalese intelligentsia has been divided on the issue of taking actions against CoAS. Some intelligentsias believe that the democratically elected government has the prerogative to take actions against the military chief and so on; so, the political parties have been unnecessarily interfering in the business of the government whereas others believe that the government has been attempting to influence the Nepal Army to consolidate the power in its hands. Some intelligentsia even sees the possibility of coup while others do not believe in it at all.

The Maoists have been accusing the country's elite such as the military, judiciary, civil staffs and other appointed officials of undermining the democratically elected coalition government led by the Maoists and ultimately attempting to make democracy a failure and take the country back to the previous status. The NC leaders have been counter-claiming that the Maoists have been attempting to increase their influences over the military, judiciary, and civil staffs then grab the power.

April 24, 2009

Note: Rukumangad Katuwal is the current CoAS. He is retiring soon; some NC leaders said that let him have the natural retirement rather than sacking him untimely.

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