Ranjitkar: SPA-Maoists’ Failed Deal in Nepal
SPA-Maoists’ Failed Deal in Nepal
By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar
Friday, October 27, 2006
Seven-party alliance (SPA) made a deal with the Maoists on jointly fighting against the despotic king reaching a 12-point understanding on November 22, 2005. Their common understanding was to go for elections for a Constituent Assembly which would write a new constitution for Nepal. Then, they made another deal called an eight-point agreement on June 16, 2006, if implemented would have dissolved the reinstated House of Representatives, merged the Maoists’ militia with the Nepal Army, and included Maoists in the government. Nothing has happened of those kinds. Rather SPA leaders and Maoists have traded charges and counter charges against each other leading to the failure of the four rounds of the talks between the SPA and the Maoists held in the second week of October 2006.
On June 16, 2006, under the pressure of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), the SPA and the CPN-Maoist leaders held a meeting at the official resident of the Prime Minister, and came up with an eight-point agreement if implemented would have a new interim legislature with representations of all stakeholders in politics, Maoists in the government, and Nepal Army and Maoists’ militia would have merged into a single army. That did not happen. The country has been in political confusion since then.
By design or by coincidence, some members of the House came out strongly against the eight-point agreement particularly against the article that stated the House of Representatives would be dissolved paving the way for creating a new legislature. Obviously, they did not want to lose their jobs agreeing to this article of the agreement. More than half of them would not return to the House if elections were held. Quite a few of them were tainted with corruption charge; one was convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in jail by the Central Appellate Court located in Patan.
Leaders of the SPA blamed their top leaders for delay in the peace process. Speaking at a program in Kathmandu on Friday, September 29, 2006 second-ranking leaders of the SPA said top leaders have repeatedly shown their weakness setting the date for talks in a hurry and then postponing it. Nepali Congress (NC) General Secretary Ram Chandra Poudel said the leadership of the SPA has failed to act responsibly. “Koirala (Prime Minister Girija Prasad) and Prachanda must be serious about the peace process,” he said, adding that the delay in peace process would further complicate the situation. Similarly, Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) Leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari said postponing the meeting to be held yesterday (September 28) for October 08 the SPA showed the lack of preparation for talks. “It is unlikely that there will be any serious homework within the SPA in the coming 10 days,” he said. He also said that the peace process was not moving in the right direction because of Prime Minister Koirala. Leader of Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D), Dr Narayan Khadka said, “Both sides have sat for talks with a mentality to make the other side bow down. This is what is causing delay.” A meeting between Prime Minister Koirala and Maoists’ supreme Prachanda hours before the scheduled talks on Thursday, September 28 decided to put off the talks for October 08 because of the lack of consensus within the SPA. 
Maoists’ Chairman Prachanda accused the SPA government of delaying the peace talks thereby giving chance to regressive forces and foreign powers to play into Nepal's politics. Addressing a training program at Jalbire of Sindhupalchok district, Prachanda said that the Maoists were preparing for a “new form of people's revolt strong enough to capture Kathmandu and the state power”. “The people’s revolt will be led by local Newars,” he said. He claimed, “had the April-uprising not withdrawn for next five days, Nepal has become a republican state by now.” As the SPA failed to go for a republic in April, Maoists are preparing for another revolt to achieve it, the rebel chief added. Prachanda also claimed that foreign powers have been trying to disrupt the peace process and send the Maoists back to jungle. He, however, reiterated that the Maoists would opt for a peaceful movement rather than returning to jungle for armed rebellion. 
After laying the foundation stone for the Linear Accelerator Machine for cancer treatment at the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital on Saturday, October 07, 2006, Leader of People’s Front Nepal (PFN) and Deputy Prime Minister with Health Portfolio, Amik Sherchan said the political environment "that is unable to forge a consensus is infested with cancer". "The 20 million people should become doctors to cure this cancer," said Deputy Prime Minister Sherchan while delivering a speech. "I haven't seen indications of forging consensus soon. (If there is no consensus), there will be a bloodshed." He accused the SPA of being weak, without giving specific details.  His remarks made it evident that the SPA was not heading to the peaceful negotiation with the Maoists for the political stability.
The Nepali Congress-Central Working Committee (NC-CWC) meeting held at the official residence of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Saturday morning, October 07 instructed the government-negotiating team to put five topics such as arms management, interim constitution, legislature, government, and a date for constituent assembly elections on top of the list of topics to be discussed during the meeting with the Maoists on Sunday, October 08. The NC-CWC meeting also decided to make a new interim legislature at least of 300 members keeping all current members except for the supporters of the autocratic regime intact and adding Maoists and members of civil society to it. The NC-CWC meeting came to a conclusion on the need for implementing the past agreements with the Maoists on a priority basis in a certain time-bound manner. 
On Sunday, October 08, 2006, the SPA and the Maoists’ leaders were supposed to hold a conclusive meeting. On the way to the meeting, leaders of the SPA were full of optimism for the success of the meeting. Talking to journalists before entering the meeting venue, Jhalanath Khanal of the CPN-UML and Hridesh Tripathy of Nepal Sadhvabana Party - Anandi Devi said that they had done enough homework this time and the meeting would result in concrete conclusions. Lilamani Pokharel of PFN said that they would not be discouraged this time. "I cannot give the exact time when the meeting will conclude but the meeting will come with definite conclusions because there has been enough homework done by the SPA as well as the Maoists," he said. Arjun Narsingh KC of NC said that the meeting would also discuss on the pledges to fully implement the agreements reached between the SPA and the Maoists. 
The Sunday-meeting between the SPA leaders and the Maoists started at 9:00 A.M. and ended at about 6:00 P.M. without making any decision and conclusion but agreeing to continue the talks on Tuesday, October 10. At the end of the meeting, the leader of the government-negotiating team, Krishna Prasad Sitaula and the leader of the Maoist-negotiating team Krishna Bahadur Mahara jointly released a press statement that says, "The draft of the interim constitution was presented before the top leaders of the seven parties and the Maoists at the meeting today. At the meeting, topics such as interim constitution, election for a constituent assembly, implementation of past agreements, arms management, relief to conflict-victims, socio-economic transformation and restructuring of the state were discussed in a cordial atmosphere. The discussions have been very positive.” Emerging from the meeting General Secretary of CPN-UML, Madhav Kumar Nepal in response to the reporters’ query said that there has been better understanding of the need for holding elections for a Constituent Assembly by the mid 2007. "Secondly, various aspects of interim constitution were discussed. We discussed about the weaknesses seen in the implementation of past agreements," General Secretary Nepal said. He also said that wider discussions were held on the topics such as interim government and arms management. "We discussed about timetable when to finish which job," said General Secretary Nepal. He added that the Maoists stated the arms at issue would not be an obstacle to negotiation if political subjects at issue were dealt with. Another participant of the CPN-UML and Senior Leader Jhalanath Khanal said, “Both the NC and the Maoists have shown their flexible stand on issues such as doing away with feudalism and socio-economic aspects of it. There have been some understandings but we cannot say about them until a final conclusion is reached. We are trying to settle all issues in a package so I am not in a position to speculate about time that it would take.” Senior Leader Khanal hinted the talks might drag on for some time. 
Talking to EKantipur.com over the phone, Maoists' Second-in-Command and a member of the 10-member high-level Maoists’ team, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai said today (October 08)'s talks focused on finalizing the incomplete draft interim statute, ways and means of the constituent assembly elections, management of arms of both the state and the Maoists, and the socio-cultural restructuring of the state. "We (the Maoists) have stressed the package deal, which includes the key political agendas including the future of the monarchy, interim government and arms management, among others, with the seven parties' government," said Bhattarai, adding, "We are hopeful the next meeting will finalize all these issues and the talks will be meaningful in achieving a political way out." 
NC Central Committee Member Arjun Narsingh KC said that the SPA and the CPN-Maoist could not make any headway on the Sunday (October 08)’s talks though they were closer to a consensus on major political issues. The meeting extensively discussed the future of monarchy, ways of arms management, and strength and structure of the proposed interim legislature. KC said his party stressed the need for implementing the agreements reached earlier between the SPA and the Maoists, finding mutually acceptable ways and means of arms management, democratization of the Nepal Army, and integration of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army into national mainstream. “The NC’s position on the monarchy is: the party wants the monarchy to stay on as a powerless institution until an election for a constituent assembly is held, which will decide its future,” said KC at an interaction at the Reporters’ Club. KC also hinted that the talks would continue for at least a week, as they required more homework and brainstorming on most of the issues. CPN-UML Standing Committee Member Bharat Mohan Adhikari opined that his party was in favor of holding a referendum on the monarchy during the election for a constituent assembly. He laid emphasis on making a calendar of operation for the implementation of the agreed issues. KC and Adhikari said that all the parties in the talks were unanimous on holding elections for a constituent assembly by the second week of June next year. Vice-chairman of PFN, Lilamani Pokharel said, “All the preparations must be done on time-bound basis targeting the assembly election.” Lawmaker and General Secretary of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party, Rajendra Mahato stressed the need for resolving the citizenship certificate problem in the Terai and hill regions before the nation goes for assembly polls. . Leaders of the SPA were not unanimous in their position on various political issues. How could they come to a consensus on all issues with the Maoists?
On October 08, a big crowd comprising journalists, political activists, people injured during the people's movement in April 2006, and people representing various organizations and ethnic groups holding placards gathered at the entrance to the official residence of the Prime Minister and stayed on the whole day to put pressure on the SPA and the Maoists to reach a "meaningful and result-oriented agreement." The placards read "Finalize the date for constituent assembly elections," and "Form interim government soon." About 50 policemen and the same number of the Maoists’ militia provided security at the area. Some political activists stopped NC leader Shailaja Acharya from entering the Prime Minister’s residence charging her of opposing the popular April-movement launched by the SPA and the Maoists, and of attempting to "disrupt the ongoing peace process." The SPA and the Maoist leaders managed to avoid the media after the talks taking different exit routes. Policemen and Maoist-security guards distributed the joint press release after the SPA-Maoists’ meeting ended. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Maoist-Chairman Prachanda, UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, and NC-D President Sher Bahadur Deuba were among 32 leaders including civil society leaders attending the meeting. 
On Monday, October 09, in a press release, Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) said, “that kind of behavior toward the journalists, who were present there as a means to inform the people about such a landmark event closely watched by the nation and the international community, was in fact the demonstration of the total disregard for the people in general.” The national umbrella organization of journalists, FNJ held the political leaders accountable for the incident and demanded an apology and warned of not repeating the misbehavior henceforth. Maoist cadres escorting their leaders to Baluwatar and the government’s security officials treated the journalists roughly while trying to keep them away from the leaders on the first day of the meeting between the SPA and the Maoists at the official residence of the Prime Minister.  The SPA and the Maoists’ leaders have not appreciated the media’s contribution to the success of the people’s movement, and do not respect the media people, and disregarded the people’s rights to the public information. Nepalis fought against the despotic king for rights to information and placed the SPA in power but it stepped on the shoes of the king going back to regression.
Unarmed Maoist militia misbehaved with journalists on Sunday, October 15, temporarily obstructing reporters from entering the official residence of the Prime Minister in Baluwatar and from covering the fourth-round talks between the SPA and the Maoists. Eyewitnesses said the Maoists’ militias were there as a part of the pressure groups urging both the negotiating parties on the success of the talks, also blocked other people from entering the talks-venue, and shouted slogans. President of FNJ, Bishnu Nisthuri happened to be in the area, condemned the act of militiamen blocking reporters from entering the talks-venue. "FNJ takes this incident very seriously; both the Maoists and the ruling SPA should be held accountable for the rough behavior with media persons," he said. 
Maoists apologized for their cadres' misbehavior with civil society members and journalists at the Prime Minister's residence on Sunday, October 15, 2006. Issuing a statement, Hisila Yami and Maoist third division commander Sagar said Maoists will be careful not to allow such incidents in future. They said after the Maoists received information on possible sabotage of the talks or attacks on leaders, they tightened security. The statement says a palace agent, Babar Kharel, provoked rebel cadres while posing as a journalist. The statement expresses Maoists’ respect for the press and people's right to information. 
On October 09, three major parties of the SPA coalition government separately sat for a meeting to do homework for the fresh round of talks between the SPA and the Maoists to be resumed on Tuesday, October 10. The NC, the CPN-UML and the NC-D leaders held a separate meeting and discussed several subject matters of their interest. The NC held its meeting at the Prime Minister's official residence at Baluwatar in the morning and continued to afternoon. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala apprised the meeting of the talks with the Maoists held on October 08. Then, the meeting mainly focused on the major points such as the need for implementing the agreements reached with the Maoists, arms management and an interim constitution. The meeting also centered its discussion on the possible ways of weapons management. Vice-president Sushil Koirala, senior leaders Ram Chandra Poudel, Ram Baran Yadav, Chakra Prasad Banstola, Amod P Upadhyaya and Arjun Narsingh KC attended the meeting. The CPN-UML also held its meeting at its headquarters at Balkhu at noon. The party leaders insisted on continuing the party's stance on deciding the fate of the monarchy through a plebiscite. They were also of the opinions of the need for consistently maintaining the party’s position on some important and fundamental issues. Similarly, the NC-D also held its meeting at the residence of its President Sher Bahadur Deuba. President Deuba informed the central members of the NC-D about the meeting with the Maoists held on October 08 and the subject matters on which the SPA and the Maoists have almost reached an agreement. And then, they discussed several subject matters to be discussed in the next talks with the Maoists. 
The SPA and the Maoists made little progress in the peace talks held on Tuesday, October 10, but decided to form a committee to resolve differences. The committee with members of both the SPA’s and Maoists’ talks teams and representatives of all seven parties got two days to come up with an interim constitution and suggest ways to resolve the issue of arms held by the Maoists. Minister for Supplies and Commerce, Hridesh Tripathy said the committee would try to work out the differences and present a draft of an interim constitution acceptable to both parties by Thursday afternoon, October 12, just before the planned meeting between the SPA and the Maoists’ leaders. “We hope to resolve all the political issues based on suggestions by this committee,'' said Minister Tripathy. “If the two sides are able to make headway on the issue of the rebels' weapons, most of the political differences can easily be resolved,'' said Ramesh Lekhak, Minister for Labor and a member of the government peace-talks team. “We want the Maoists to transform themselves into a democratic and legitimate force by giving up their arms-based politics. We can reach an understanding on every question if they assure us that weapons are not used for political purposes,'' said Mahesh Acharya of the NC. “We suspect the government is backing away from its previous flexibility and appears more rigid on the arms management. They are trying to force us to surrender arms on the pretext of separating them from our fighters, which is unacceptable to us,'' said Dev Gurung, a member of the Maoists’ negotiating team. “We want the ruling alliance and the rebel leaders to take decisions on crucial political issues immediately,'' said Devendra Raj Panday, a peace activist, and an independent observer at the talks. Hundreds of protesters outside the peace-talks venue carried banners demanding an end to the monarchy, an immediate announcement of a date for election for a constituent assembly for making a new constitution, and promulgation of an interim statute to govern the country until the elected assembly makes the constitution. “We will continue our protests until the leaders resolve the issues,'' said Sundarmani Dixit, an activist among the protesters. 
Chief Government Negotiator, Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Maoists’ Negotiating-team Leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara jointly issued a press statement at the end of the Tuesday’s talks stating both the negotiating teams will prepare the points of mutual agreement on the arms management and major political subject matters at issue, including the ones to be incorporated in the interim constitution, and present in the talks to be held on Thursday, October 12. Addressing a press conference at Hotel Radisson, Sitaula said the SPA and the Maoists were committed to “working according to the mandate of the people” and all the leaders involved in the talks expressed “important views”. “We need to work as per the people’s mandate. We are fully committed to restoring peace and holding a constituent assembly election in a free and fair manner,” Sitaula quoted Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala as saying during the today (October 10)’s talks. Sitaula said the leaders expressed views on implementing the already-agreed understandings, interim constitution, functioning of the local bodies and judiciary, process of holding a constituent-assembly election, socio-economic transformation and arms management. “We have now ideologically come closer to each other on many topics at issue,” Sitaula said. Mahara said the leaders were “serious” during the second round of summit talks. “But we are not taking right decisions on the right time,” said Mahara, indicating that the decision to hold a constituent-assembly election by June next year was a premature one, as most of the subject matters related to it remained to be sorted out. “We want to see the Nepali people becoming sovereign and independent in the real sense. We cannot make Nepal really an independent country maintaining the status quo,” Mahara said. He added that a lasting peace was impossible without restructuring the state and undergoing socio-economic transformation. He hoped that they would be able to reach a “historic decision” on Thursday, October 12. “Let us hope that we will reach a final decision on all the political matters at issue by Thursday,” Mahara said, adding that they sat for talks keeping in mind the “power balance” brought about by 10 years of insurgency and 19 days of peaceful agitation. “We have risen above the partisan views and given the national interest a top priority,” Mahara said. 
The Armed Police Force (APF) has started filling up vacant posts inviting applications from youths from all over the country, prompting quick reaction from the Maoists to it. District-based Maoist leaders expressed concern over the recruitment drive. Maoists' Sunsari District Secretary, Rojina, said the recruitment was against the ceasefire code of conduct signed between the SPA government and the Maoists. "The recruitment drive shows that the government is not sincere toward the peace talks," Rojina said, adding that such an activity could affect elections for a constituent assembly. The AFP has a plan for recruiting 500 men in the country this year, a police official said, “the Maoists have been displaying their weapons in different public places, but armed police personnel have not done so anywhere in the country. Aren't Maoists violating the ceasefire code by setting up check posts along highways, exhibiting weapons and seizing schools?," Coordinator of Human Rights and Civil Monitoring Committee (Sunsari), Ram Koirala, said he saw no reason why someone should object to the APF filling up the vacant posts.  How could the peace process be successful if both parties engaged in preparation for a conflict? Was the Coordinator of Human Rights and Civil Monitoring Committee unbiased and doing a good job supporting the enhanced APF?
On Wednesday, October 11, Speaker of the House, Subash Nemwang issued a ruling to the government asking it to inform the parliament about the ongoing talks between the SPA and the Maoists as early as possible. In his ruling, Speaker Nemwang said it is mandatory for the government to inform the House in session about the crucial talks going on between the SPA and the CPN-Maoist. The ruling came after House members demanded during the special hour that the government apprise the House members of the progress made in the talks held on Sunday, October 08, and Tuesday, October 10, at the official residence of the Prime Minister at Baluwatar.  The SPA did not bother to inform the House even though it was accountable to the House until the House Speaker reminded it to do so. However, the Maoists did not care about the House because they did not recognize it.
On Friday, October 13, apprising the House members of the ongoing talks with the Maoists, Home Minister and Chief Negotiator of the government-talks team, Krishna Prasad Sitaula said that the SPA and the Maoists were close to an agreement on the future of the monarchy, interim legislature and the formation of a new government. Minister Sitaula said the discussions were held on the appointments to vacant positions of the constitutional bodies, creation of local bodies, arms management, and citizenship problems. Minister Sitaula also informed the House members that both teams raised issues such as rehabilitation of the conflict-affected people, returning of Maoist-seized lands and publicizing of those "disappeared" by both parties sincerely. 
One of the members of the Maoist-talks team, Dev Gurung said that the success of the ongoing talks between the SPA and the Maoists depended on the position of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on making the country a democratic republic. Speaking at an interaction held at the Reporters’ Club on Wednesday, October 11, Maoists’ Leader Gurung said if the NC and Prime Minister Koirala agreed on the establishment of a democratic republican setup in the country, all outstanding topics at issue would be resolved within a hour. Gurung also said, “The meeting was postponed after Prime Minister Koirala said that he would bring a new proposal on the fate of monarchy in the next meeting and asked to adjourn the meeting until Thursday (October 12).” He further said that Maoists were ready to lock up their arms if the SPA displayed a clear stance on the contentious topic such as monarchy, national referendum and constituent assembly. Speaking at the same event, General Secretary of NC, Ram Chandra Poudel made it clear that NC would not stand in favor of the monarchy during the election for a constituent assembly or a referendum. Leader Poudel said that people’s verdict on the monarchy would be acceptable to NC. He urged the Maoists to be flexible in the coming Thursday’s talks to make the ongoing peace process a success. Stating the Maoists’ actions were not conducive to holding the elections for a constituent assembly, Poudel warned of delay in the proposed elections for a constituent assembly if Maoists continued such actions. Similarly, General Secretary of NC–D, Bimalendra Nidhi also urged Maoists to be accommodating on the arms management for the success of the talks and for holding an election for a constituent assembly in a free and fair manner. He further said management of Maoists’ armies and weapons before the election for a constituent assembly was a must to make it a free and fair election. Speaking at the same interaction, leader of United Leftist Front, one of the constituents of the SPA, Sita Ram Tamang said that the Thursday’s talks would be decisive if Maoists agreed to the five-point letter sent to the UN for arms management and NC agreed to go for a democratic republic. 
Rejecting the arms management as the major issue, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai talking to an FM radio said, "The main issue is the restructuring of the royal army. Therefore, let us not go into propaganda about the management of our arms." He added that during the Tuesday's meeting, all parties agreed to go for a simultaneous management of both armies. Second-in-Command of the Maoists, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai stated that the main topic at issue was the 'monarchy' during the Tuesday's meeting. "There are basically two alternatives being discussed about the monarchy. First option is to outright declare republic. If some parties have reservations to declare republic right away, then let’s decide its fate through a referendum to be held alongside Constituent Assembly elections," Dr. Bhattarai said. He said two Congress parties were major stumbling blocks to deciding this issue. 
Senior Leader of the CPN-Maoist, Dr Baburam Bhattarai said that there was no agreement on any political issues reached with the SPA during the Tuesday's meeting except on setting the date for the constituent assembly elections. Talking to Kantipur FM's program called 'The Headliners' this morning (October 11), Dr Bhattarai said, "The major discrepancy that surfaced during the entire talks was the issue of monarchy, especially the NC did not seem to be able to take any concrete decision on it. Similarly, there are some disagreements on the interim legislature as well." "The SPA leaders are of the opinion that the interim legislature should be formed with the current members of the parliament with an addition of some new faces to it but we have proposed not to do so," added Dr Bhattarai. Dr Bhattarai further said, "We have proposed to form an interim legislature, maybe a smaller one, but with a representation of those who played major role in the pro-democracy movement. The interim legislature should bear the spirit of the April movement with proportional representation from the parties." 
On Thursday, October 12, after the talks with the SPA leaders, Chairman Prachanda talking to the Kantipur Television in the evening said the NC hasn't yet agreed to a referendum on the monarchy. "We are ready to lock up our arms under the UN supervision if the seven parties unanimously agree to go for a republic," he said. He also said the meeting to be held on October 15 would settle all the subject matters at issue including monarchy, republic, arms management, interim constitution and interim parliament. "Today's talks were very much positive and we are much hopeful to see all the issues settled by October 15," he said. "The issues must be settled within mid-November and constituent assembly elections should be held within six months from now." Talking to media persons at the Peace Secretariat at Singha Durbar after the meeting, Home Minister and coordinator of the government-negotiating team Krishna Prasad Sitaula said, “Today’s meeting was highly positive, and the SPA and the Maoists decided to reach a permanent solution to the problem by October 15." Similarly, coordinator of the Maoist-negotiating team Krishna Bahadur Mahara said, "We are very happy to sense the spirit of the SPA." "We want to make huge political strides, considering the expectations of the people's movement." Shyam Shrestha, a senior journalist and civil society member and one of those staging the sit-in outside the meeting venue, said, "The government should be ready to abandon monarchy and the Maoists should give up weapons." "If both the parties agree on this, there won't be any problem."  Monarchy and weapons have been two-main evils to Nepalis for more than two centuries.
President of NC-D, Sher Bahadur Deuba met with Ambassador of India to Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee at his residence at Budhanilkantha, in the morning of October 12. They discussed contemporary political issues and matters relating to mutual understanding and cooperation between two countries. Similarly Deuba met with Personal Representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Ian Martin and Political Advisor Tamrat Samual at his residence. They talked about the peace process and progress made in the meeting between the SPA and the Maoists.  Such meetings must have strengthened the rigid position taken by the SPA on keeping the disgusting monarchy.
The Central Committee meeting of the CPN-Maoist decided to put forward five-point options to the SPA, particularly the NC and NC-D on the status of the monarchy that has been a stumbling block to the peace talks. On the eve of the crucial meeting between the SPA and the Maoists to be held on Sunday, October 15, the Central Committee meeting proposed that the SPA and the Maoists should right away declare Nepal a republic; or suspend the monarchy until its fate is determined by Constituent Assembly (CA) elections or referendum. Other alternatives are to build a broader consensus on democratic republic through CA elections; or nationalize the properties of the King. If the SPA does not accept any of these options, then the Maoists would stay away from the interim government but demand immediate announcement of the date for CA elections through which people would give their decision on the monarchy. 
In a press statement issued on Friday, October 13, at the end of his five-day visit to Nepal, Deputy Director General of the South Asia Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Sultan Hafeez Rahman said, “The mood in the country is upbeat about the possibility of a peace accord." During his stay in Nepal, Rahman met with Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, Minister for Physical Planning and Works, Gopal Man Shrestha, Vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission and other senior government officials, development partners, representatives of the civil society and the private sector people. In these meetings, he discussed Nepal's current situation, its impact on development and the government's proposal to the Bank for continuing the ADB’s assistance in short, medium and long term development activities. 
In a politically significant move, King Gyanendra sent an emissary to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala just as the SPA was preparing to resume the peace negotiations with the Maoists on Sunday, October 15. King Gyanendra's Principal Secretary and trusted aide Pashupati Bhakta Maharjan went to the Prime Minister's residence and held an hour-long meeting on Saturday, October 14. Though there was no official statement on the meeting, it is regarded as a significant event on the eve of peace negotiations to seal the king's fate. Prime Minister Koirala and his NC party leaders have been the defenders of monarchy. The king's contact with Prime Minister Koirala might affect the peace talks that would decide the fate of the monarch, a new interim constitution drafted weeks ago, and the management of arms and armies of both sides under the supervision of the United Nations. 
King Gyanendra’s Principal Secretary, Pashupati Bhakta Maharjan called on Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala at his official residence at Baluwatar, on Saturday, October 14, after the High Level Probe Commission (HLPC) sent the King questionnaires asking him to clarify his role as the then-head of the government in suppressing the people's movement in April 2006. The meeting was considered a significant event, as it took place at a time when the Maoists’ and the SPA leaders were holding the crucial round of meetings to decide the fate of monarchy. The HLPC had already grilled Principal Secretary Maharjan for his role as the Principal Secretary of the King in suppressing the people's movement. 
The crucial peace-talks between the SPA and the Maoists were put on hold for an indefinite period after top leaders of both parties failed to reach any agreement on key topics such as the arms management and the position of the King at issue on Sunday, October 15, 2006. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Maoist Supreme Prachanda and senior leaders of the SPA tried to sort out differences on major issues but failed to make a breakthrough, NC General Secretary Ramchandra Poudel said. “Agreement could not reach on the arms management and other important matters." The arms management at issue was the "main bottleneck in taking the peace process forward," he said and asserted that without settling the matter at issue, a free and fair election for a Constituent Assembly would not be possible. 
The fourth round of meetings in a week between the SPA and the Maoists again stalled on the issue of the Maoists’ disarmament and the monarchy's future. Both sides said that they would meet again but no date was set for fresh talks. The Maoists warned of launching massive street protests if the talks failed. Sunday (October 15)'s meeting between Prime Minister Koirala and the rebel's leader Prachanda, lasted about half an hour. "It was agreed that there needs to be done more homework, and there will be a meeting in the near future," Arjun Narsingh KC of the NC Party said. Before Sunday's talks, the two sides had said they were close to a breakthrough. 
Speaking at an interaction event at the Reporters’ Club on Monday, October 16, one day after the fourth round of talks between the SPA and the Maoists ended inconclusively, and further talks were placed on hold indefinitely, some leaders gave conflicting views on the failure of the talks. One of the participants in the meeting with the Maoists and NC leader Arjun Narsingh KC said they were holding another round of talks for finalizing the interim constitution and forming interim legislature and government before the end of the five-day long Nepalese festival called Tihar on October 24; the talks might be completed by November 16. KC rejected the allegations that the talks were delayed by the NC’s inflexible position on various issues, and added that the NC was flexible for the success of the peace talks. Speaking at the same interaction, CPN-UML leader Jhalanath Khanal said that the talks would have succeeded if NC agreed to decide the fate of monarchy through referendum or present another model acceptable to other political parties. Dr. Minendra Rijal of NC-D said that the Maoists’ arms should be managed before the elections for a constituent assembly for a free and fair election. Leader of People’s Front Nepal (PFN), Pari Thapa and Chairman of Leftist Front CP Mainali underscored the need for signing a greater human rights accord and an extensive ceasefire accord to make the talks successful. They added that keeping Maoist armies in cantonments along with their weapons would not be a problem once an extensive peace accord was signed and the United Nations asked to monitor it. PFN leader Thapa alleged that though the Maoist leaders are ready to join the peaceful political mainstream and have been showing flexibility in the talks, the mindset of their cadres and armies was yet to be changed, which was the obstacle to the peace talks. The four rounds of peace talks ended inconclusively after the SPA and Maoists failed to reach consensus on the issues of monarchy and arms management. 
Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General-to-assist-Nepal-in-its-peace-efforts, Ian Martin, met with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoists’ Chairman Prachanda separately on Monday, October 16, and discussed the UN’s role in the peace process. Koirala-Martin meeting at Baluwatar was mainly focused on the ways and the means of the management of the arms and armies and the UN’s role in this process. Mr. Martin reiterated that his team would start its work immediately after the government and the Maoists reached consensus on the arms management. Similarly, he met with Maoists’ Chairman Prachanda at an undisclosed location in Kathmandu in the afternoon of October 16. Prachanda apprised Martin of the ongoing talks with the SPA and of his party’s position on the arms management. Maoists’ Second-in-Command, Dr Baburam Bhattarai and the members of Martin’s team were also present at the meeting. Martin also held separate meetings with the talks-teams of the government and the Maoists. These meetings came a day after the SPA-Maoist talks ended in a deadlock over the issue of the arms management and the position of monarchy. Mr. Martin met with Prime Minister Koirala and Prachanda last week also. 
"The King is down but not out. He has all the privileges; he has all the money, billions of dollars. The Army is still loyal to him," Dr. Baburam Bhattarai said in an interview on October 17. "There is tremendous pressure from the masses of the people not to lay down the arms until and unless the feudal system and the monarchy are abolished." Massive restructuring of the former Royal Nepal Army, a 90,000-strong force traditionally loyal to the monarch, is essential, Dr. Bhattarai said. "The main institution buttressing and supporting the monarchy is the Royal Army. It is still feudalistic, and it is still loyal to the monarchy and against democracy," said the former civil engineer turned revolutionary. "If you don't nationalize his property and if you don't restructure the army, he won't be finished. Money and guns are the main means of his power," Dr. Bhattarai said. 
In an interview Dr. Bhattarai also said, “The Prime Minister has been under pressure after the king’s Principal Secretary Pashupati Bhakta Maharjan talked with Chief of Army Staff Rukmangad Katuwal. Apparently the palace, and international powers, royalists have put pressure on him and his NC party. The parliamentary powers also do not have a strong stance on the monarchy and the transformation of military. We agreed on the UN monitoring both the armies, and were close to an overall agreement, but then Koirala came under pressure from an invisible source to disagree with us on the monarchy and the arms management.” 
Inaugurating the fifth national conference of the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Peasants’ Association-Revolutionary, spokesman for the CPN-Maoist and leader of the Maoists’ negotiating team, Krishna Bahadur Mahara advised the SPA not to go after the US and the palace to make the talks successful. Claiming the People’s movement in April 2006 was the end result of the 12-point understanding reached between the Maoists and the SPA, Mahara said the Maoists were ready to go for multi-party politics if the SPA agreed to a republican set-up. 
On October 19, addressing the fifth national conference of All Nepal Peasants' Association – Revolutionary in Bharatpur, spokesman for the CPN-Maoist and leader of the Maoists’ negotiating team, Krishna Bahadur Mahara said the talks got stuck as the parties and the government did not show their willingness to move the talks farther. “Both the current government and the seven political parties have not been able to rise above their narrow mindset and inclination to status quo”, said Mahara, and put a question, “are political parties still sycophants of king?” As the country is currently witnessing a battle between the elements opting for monarchy and for a republican democratic set-up, he claimed that both the parties would not reach understanding with each other until they rose above their current narrow mindset. He also accused the parties and the government of dancing to the tune of American government and said they were trying hard to foil the Maoists' success. Expressing his commitment to make the talks a success, Maoists' Spokesperson Mahara said no stone would be left unturned to make the talks a success as people were pining hopes on the Maoists. 
General Secretary of the CPN-UML, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and CPN-UML Standing Committee Member, Jhalanath Khanal met with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala at the official residence of the Prime Minister at Baluwatar on Thursday evening, October 19, to discuss the arms management, political issues and possibility of holding next round of talks between the SPA and the Maoists before the second important Nepalese festival called Tihar. After the meeting, Khanal said that they proposed the Prime Minister for managing the Maoists’ army and their weapons in three phases: to send the Maoists’ army to cantonment areas in the first phase; separate weapons from them in the second phase and integrate the fighters into national army and other security wings in the third phase. Khanal said they reiterated the future of the monarchy should be left to a referendum during an election for a constituent assembly to be held by the second week of June next year, and the election for a constituent assembly should be held on a proportional representation to reflect the opinions of all ethnic and minority groups. 
Speaking at an interaction at Reporter's Club on Friday, October 20, CPN-UML Leader Bamdev Gautam said, "Instead of following the spirit of Jana Andolan-II (People's Movement-II), the government was moving in the direction of anarchy, if it doesn’t correct itself there is no point in staying on in the alliance government, so CPN-UML will leave the government after the Tihar." He further said that Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s position on arms management was the major hurdle to a consensus on political issues. “If Prime Minister Koirala takes a bold decision keeping in mind the spirit of the Jana Andolan-II, all the political issues including the future of the monarchy can be settled easily,” Gautam added. He also said the Maoists were ready to lay down their weapons if the NC took a concrete decision on bringing the monarchy to an end; the forces wanted to give continuity to the monarchy raised the issue of arms management unnecessarily; and the state army was still loyal to the palace though its name had been changed. "On October 12, the SPA and the Maoists have almost reached a consensus on political issues and the issue of arms management after the NC assured of coming up with its official stance on the future of monarchy," Gautam said. “But the parties in the conflict could not reach a consensus on October 15, after the Prime Minister, instead of coming up with a proposal on the monarchy, demanded that the Maoists disarm,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister remained indecisive because of the "pressure from internal and external forces." There is a problem in the peace process as Prime Minister Koirala wants to save the King," Gautam said. 
On October 19, addressing a “welcome Function” held in honor of senior Maoist members by the Agriculture and Animal Science Studies Institute in Chitwan, Chairman of the CPN-Maoist, Prachanda alleged that the SPA failed to make conclusive-peace talks as they were under the pressure of external power centers. Chairman Prachanda however, expressed his confidence in finding political outlet despite the attempt of any power center to foil the talks. “Maoists will not return to jungle now. Instead, hundreds of thousands of its cadres will be brought to the city center to take up revolution in order to give necessary political outlet to the country,” said Chairman Prachanda. 
Talking to journalists in Bhaktapur, Chairman of the Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (NWPP), one of the members of the SPA said that the real key for successful peace talks lies in New Delhi. "The key is stuck in Delhi," said Narayan Man Bijukchhe, Chairman of NWPP, "Big parties as well as the Maoists are dependant on New Delhi. So, presently there is a rush among the leaders towards Delhi." Bijukchhe was apparently hinting the political resolution in Nepal would not be successful without the support of New Delhi. Contrary to the optimism of the SPA and Maoists’ leaders for the success of the next round of the talks, Bijukchhe said he was not sure how the next meeting could resolve all the outstanding issues. "Differences still remain on the issue of monarchy and arms management," he said. 
Maoists’ and SPA leaders including Prime Minister Koirala have traded charges and counter charges of not honoring the ceasefire code of conduct and other provisions made in their agreements with each other. On the one hand Prime Minister Koirala says Maoists would be included in the government only after they laid down their arms on the other hand Maoists say they would lay down the arms only after achieving the goal of making Nepal a republic. Prime Minister Koirala was not for a republic. He wants to keep the monarchy against the spirit most of the Nepalis showed in the April-movement. The monarchy has been the cause of so many miseries to the people.  Against this background the SPA leaders and the Maoists had been holding talks to sort out the problems of working together for a lasting peace in the country since the second week of October.
Leaving their communist ideology behind, the Maoists have been holding talks with the SPA for joining the multi-party democratic system; and it is a good chance for the SPA to bring the Maoists to its fold. However, the SPA has been dragging its feet on the peace negotiation not resolving the current political confusion but certainly helping the regressive forces to raise their heads as time passed. The SPA has already squandered six months after the April Movement in 2006; much could have been done for a lasting peace by bringing the Maoists to their fold in this period but the SPA has been regressive instead of progressive.
As a result, the struggle between the SPA and the Maoists has been continuing even intensifying. It might end up into the urban-uprising of the Maoists, or even to an armed conflict taking Nepal back to chaos leading to political instability. In this political climate, Nepalis will certainly blame the SPA for either the Maoists taking power by force or by peaceful means and introducing their one-party system or the king taking power and introducing his despotic system making “Nepal’s democracy in crisis” again.
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 He just ignored the king’s dynastic rulers had denied the opportunity of serving in the army to the ethnic groups such as Newar, Tamang, and Madhesis and permitted other ethnic groups to serve as foot soldiers only keeping most of the high-ranking army and other government positions for the king’s kith and kin. Majority of Nepalis had to make a living on agriculture. However, most of the land belonged to the king’s extended families and they exploited the farmers until 1951. Even today, most of the money making businesses and industries are of the king and his family members.
Write to Siddhi B. Ranjitkar at srilaxmi @
wlnk.com.np, and visit his website www.SiddhiRanjitkar.com