Saturday, September 17, 2005

The King, The Army, The Ceasefire

The king says he is for peace and democracy, and he has said peace first then democracy. A ceasefire is a precondition to a lasting peace. It is a great first step, a necessary prelude to permanent peace.

When was the last time an armed group anywhere in the world declared a unilateral ceasefire?

So are these Maoists using the ceasefire as a tactical move to regroup so as to launch a larger offensive a few months down the line? After all, is that not what they did the previous times they declared ceasefires? Not quite.

It is the king, the army, and the political parties who need to be blamed for each of the earlier breakdowns. It is not the Maoists. The non-Maoists refused to come around to the just demand of an interim government and a constituent assembly. That is why the previous attempts at peace failed.

Just like the Constituent Assembly idea is my meeting ground for the Maoists, peace is my meeting ground for the Monarchists. I have never asked the Maoists to militarily surrender, but it has been my consistent stand the Maoists will have to disarm before elections to an Assembly can take place. That can be in the form of a partial integration into the state army: there are several respectful options. Those details you work out in peace talks, possibly with UN involvement.

As for peace and the Monarchists. This ceasefire period is the time to test them on their peace rhetoric. They have already been failing for the past few weeks. They have the option to redeem themselves or go into permanent oblivion. If the king can make a few honest moves towards peace, he still has a little window left.

The king's stand that there is a military solution to the insurgency has failed miserably. This is how. I am for an interim government and a constituent assembly with or without the Maoists. The UML is for a democratic republic with or without the Maoists. The Koirala Congress is no longer committed to a constitutional monarchy, with or without the Maoists. The king's political blindness has prevented him from seeing these fundamental developments for what they are.

The king's best option since day one had been to go for a constituent assembly and saying and doing things to court majority vote for a constitutional monarchy. But instead he has worked consistently to make the monarchy unpopular.

I am not a monarchist. In a republican setup, a Madhesi could be president. The only reason I have talked of a legroom for the monarchy is so as to hasten peace. But looks like the republican agenda might be the faster way to peace and democracy. The republican slogan is clearer and forward looking and so more likely to gather popular support.

The king's response to the ceasefire is his last opportunity to preserve the monarchy in some form. So far he has failed.

These Maoists get compared to those in Cambodia and Peru, even the Bolsheviks in Russia. It is better to look at them independently. That might be the only way. The latest fad among the monarchists is to say the Maoists intend to use a constituent assembly the way Lenin did, as a transitional step to a communist republic. That is off the mark. If the Maoists are Lenin, King G is Mahendra, or worse.

The real story of the king's direct rule of the past few years has been militarization. A king bent on a military "solution" leads to militarization and a gross record on human rights by the state security forces. It leads to an army and a palace that loot the state treasury, and awkward army generals making poor attempts at sounding like politicians. The cat is out of the bag, the army is out of the barracks. Regardless of foot soldier deaths, the top dogs in the army like it that they are out of the barracks. To them the insurgency has meant expanded budgets, and a vastly expanded political base. They have acquired a taste for it all.

The army has to be tamed, the palace has to be tamed. There are several possible permutations. The obvious one on the table right now is to wipe the palace off the table. The king is obviously not paying attention. He is hellbent on losing everything. This is self-destructive behavior.

What could he do to improve things for himself?
  1. Make up your mind for an interim government and a constituent assembly even before you go into peace talks. That can be the only success story to any peace talks. On the other hand, within those parameters, you could strike bargains. You could bargain for an interim government that does have a few royal representatives. And it is possible to go for a constituent assembly that guarantees a ceremonial monarchy, the guarantee protected by the Supreme Court. Whether or not the parties will go for that is another matter, but you are better off trying. And the parties might go for it as the price to pay for a full democracy, and a tamed army.
  2. Stop blaming the Maoists for the previous failed peace talks. The blame goes primarily to you, the army, and the parties for not coming around to the idea of an Assembly.
  3. You have been begging for foreign military aid. Seeking foreign peace aid, especially from the UN, can not possibly be beneath you. That might be the best way to disarm the Maoists. The UN folks are best trained for such an undertaking. That's their bread and butter. Pass on the job to the professionals. It is delicate work, like heart surgery. Not everyone can do it.
  4. Then seize the peace initiative from the Maoists. Declare a ceasefire of your own. Do not yet pull the army back into the barracks. Instead lay down the condition that you will only do so after there has been a total Maoist disarmament. And that you need the Maoists to prove their ceasefire is not a prelude to a bigger offensive down the line. You do that by laying down as a precondition to a bilateral ceasefire that the Maoists allow international human rights workers into all their military installations. The monitors will make sure the Maoist army gets kept in a frozen status.
  5. You offer to do the same. You make your mind to allow monitors also into all RNA installations.
  6. So as to make sure this ceasefire is kind of indefinite. And gives plenty of room for peace talks.
  7. Watch out for monarchists and generals who need a low intensity insurgency to thrive. Fire a few of them if you have to. Misery loves company. Push them away from you.
Instead if the king, the monarchists and the army generals keep giving the wrong response to the ceasefire, they will not be fooling anyone, foreign or domestic. Down that path is a revolution. A revolution is different from a movement. A revolution boils over like a pot of milk.

In The News
  • Gyanendra say no military solution to Maoist problem Press Trust of India, India Stating that there is no military solution to the Maoist problem, Nepal's King Gyanedra has favoured talks with the rebels if they "can lead to durable peace" and stressed that there is "room for all constitutional forces" in the process...... Peace should be durable and sustainable and we welcome any effort towards this end .... On the ongoing agitation by the seven-party alliance demanding restoration of democracy, Gyanendra said, "We allow these things to happen because in democracy these things take place." "What is going on in Kathmandu does not reflect what is going on in the rest of Nepal," he claimed but admitted that it was important because "there were opinion makers." Meanwhile, the Royal Nepalese Army has expressed doubt over the sincerety of the Maoists' announcement of truce, alleging that it was their ploy to build their forces for fresh offensive.
  • Options narrowing for Nepal's king as protests rage on eTaiwan News, Taiwan Stubborn monarch refuses to release grip on power, despite no international backing ..... there is no sign yet of the monarch relenting despite his increasing isolation ..... "He has two choices," said Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of Nepali magazine, Samay. "One, come to an understanding with political parties accepting the role of a constitutional monarch. "Two, go totally repressive as a dictator and risk the monarchy's future in the long run." ....... "The monarchy is losing its support among the people," said Krishna Pahadi ....... even though the army appear to be backing him for the time being....... the king risked losing everything if he took the path of confrontation and unleashed a more brutal crackdown on protesters and critics. It would be better to step back and hand power back to politicians while there is still time....... "If the conflict is not resolved quickly there will be more violence, more repression by the government, and more bloodshed," said Padma Ratna Tuladhar, who helped facilitate failed peace talks between the government and rebels in 2001 and 2003........ "We have seen little movement toward the government's own stated goal of multiparty democracy," U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty ....... "By cancelling his U.N. trip the king has given a clear message that he cannot justify his move in any international forum," said Ghimire........
  • Peace at any cost is not the solution: King Kantipur Online, Nepal “We don't believe the solution only lies in force. Talks are necessary. But peace at any cost is not the solution." ....added that he was working towards ensuring an environment where citizens can have two square meals a day and sleep in peace....... Gyanendra interacted with people who had gathered in the streets in Hetauda to welcome him. The king walked along the streets of Hetauda for over two hours......
  • Ceasefire a drama: Army Kathmandu Post, Nepal ..... the Maoists' ceasefire was just a drama and it would continue operation against the rebels...... there would be no change in the army's policy against "terrorists". "Government has already made our position clear" .... Dipak Gurung said the Maoists' continuous "terrorist acts" was the reason behind army's decision to continue its operation. "Ceasefire is part of their strategy to prepare for another attack," Gurung said. "We should be prepared as they can launch attacks any moment."..... the army had enough evidence that the Maoists were providing military training to their cadres. "They have expedited forced recruitment and abductions. So, they will intensify violence if and when our troops stop operation" ...... the army would add two battalions comprising disadvantaged ethnic groups. One would comprise the members of Rai, Limbu and Sherpa communities of the eastern hills and another group would comprise people from the terai - Chaudhary, Danuwar, Rajbanshi, Yadavs and others.
  • ‘Electric shock, beating with rifle butts in detention’ Kathmandu Post, Nepal ..... security forces systematically practise torture on those in detention. ...... "We received repeated and disturbingly frank admissions by senior police and military officials that torture was acceptable in some instances, and was indeed systematically practised" ...... evidences of torture and mutilation by Maoists in order to extort money, punish non-cooperation and intimidate others. "Methods included beating with sticks on the legs, piercing of legs with metal rods, beatings with rifle butts on the ankles, and even mutilation, to the extent of amputation of toes" ...... methods of torture carried out at detention centers by security forces, as beatings with bamboo poles and plastic pipes, kicking with boots, electric shock on the ears, rolling of rods over the thighs, jumping on the thighs and legs, maintenance of stress positions, tying to a pole upside down and beating, especially on the soles of the feet, and blindfolding and handcuffing for prolonged periods..... "departmental action" against perpetrators such as demotion, suspensions, fines, delayed promotions were grossly inadequate. "In only one case to date since the 1996 Torture Compensation Act became effective, has compensation actually been paid out," he said. "In practice, according to the Special Rapporteur, if the Act does anything, it actually prevents and discourages victims from seeking and receiving justice for torture and ill-treatment" .... basic requirements are not respected after detaining a person; such as timely access to a lawyer, being brought to a judge within 24 hours of arrest, or medical examinations upon arrest or transfer," he said. "Detainee registers are poorly kept, if at all, at police offices or army barracks." ....... condition at detention centers were generally poor, especially in terms of overcrowding and sanitation. "The condition in Hanumandhoka Police Office could only be described as inhuman. The cells were filthy, overcrowded--sometimes 12 persons were kept in a cell approximately 3m by 4m--poorly ventilated and had no provision for any leisure activities," he said. He also said detention of several 14 year-old boys among adults was seriously disturbing. "The places of detention of suspects at army barracks were unacceptable" ....... RNA spokesperson Deepak Gurung strongly objected to the remarks made by Nowak. "It is an objectionable remark," Gurung said at a press conference at RNA headquarters today. "We will take action against the guilty if they give us proof of systematic torture in detention"
  • Talks necessary: HM Kathmandu Post, Nepal
  • Double standard of rebels exposed Gorkhapatra, Nepal The Maoists have been showing double standard as they have not stopped recruitment, extortion and killing even after the so-called cease-fire declared by them, said Colonial Umesh Kumar Bhattarai at a programme organised by Directorate of Public Relations of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) Friday....... RNA has been continuing its operations as usual to maintain law and order, as the situation after the so-called cease-fire could be more violent and critical if the terrorists were allowed to carry out their activities unhindered...... The terrorists have been forming their so-called village committees ...... Prem Bahadur Shahi, a so-called platoon commander, who surrendered to the district administration office in Surkhet, disclosed the ill-motive behind the cease-fire. Shahi said that the cease-fire declared by the terrorists was a ploy to strengthen their organisation........ Royal Nepalese Army has decided to add two more battalions (Gulma) to give priority to the ethnic people residing in the Terai and those in the hilly region, especially the Kirats.
  • Options narrow for an isolated monarch Bangkok Post, Thailand
  • Torture is systematic in Nepal - UN rights envoy Reuters India, India "Torture and ill-treatment is systematically practised in Nepal by the police ... and the RNA (Royal Nepal Army) in order to extract confessions and to obtain intelligence" ...... complaints were just the "tip of the iceberg." ....... the country of 26 million people one of the world's worst places for disappearances.......
  • Nepal's lonely monarch seeks company in villagers and townsmen Global Politician, NY Nepal’s sprawling royal palace is one of the loneliest places on earth these days, despite a 10,000-strong security presence. In just over six months after King Gyanendra assumed absolute power, he has lost the confidence of Kathmandu, Nepal’s mainstream political parties, Nepal’s neighbors, and the international community......... No one, except his sycophants, a handful of corruption-tainted and formerly convicted ministers and his generals call on him...... Diplomats, especially from the United States and the United Kingdom, who frequented the palace after the royal coup of February 1, 2005, to remind the King that this is the twenty-first century, seem to have given up now. They have stopped seeking an audience with him....... Gyanendra is a lonely man these days. His loneliness has become King-size with the realization that the people who advised him to stage the coup and venture into active politics in his late fifties were themselves ill-informed about the demand of the times........ the King's last hope was the ongoing United Nations General Assembly ....... The unilateral declaration of ceasefire by the Maoists for three months on September 3, only weeks before the UN General Assembly, was a big blow to the King. After the ceasefire was declared, the King faced the risk of being pressured at the assembly to utilize the truce to achieve lasting peace, by giving the Maoists what they wanted: interim government, constituent assembly elections, and the drafting of a new constitution. After all, that was too little a price to pay to stop a violent war that has already claimed close to 13,000 lives. The King knows that given his widespread unpopularity, drafting of a new constitution means the end of even ceremonial monarchy in Nepal. Therefore, the King dumped the trip and sent a nobody- his biggest sycophant, foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey- to the UN. Pandey was close to tears at the airport before leaving for the assembly. He knew that he would have to face there what the King had chosen to escape........ Gyanendra's government has still not reciprocated the truce declared by the Maoists. Three of his senior ministers, Badri Mandal, Dan Bahadur Shahi and Madhukar Shumshere Rana, have been implicated in a urea fertilizer smuggling racket........ The King has nowhere to turn to......... For the third time since his assumption of absolute power, the monarch is on a tour to towns outside Kathmandu. The main purpose of such heavy-security trips is to prove to the world his popularity among the people by televising and broadcasting the largely state-sponsored gatherings in his welcome........ the king heard over the complaints of the masses on issues ranging from water supply to electricity to transportation to education to health to security. With each assurance from the king that "I will see to it" ...... the King, in his desire to endear himself to the people, is making too many promises to them - promises that he cannot keep. The predominantly illiterate and unsuspecting population outside Kathmandu is bound to question in a not too distant future the honesty of the promises he is making. The King of one of the poorest and now one of the most politically chaotic countries in the world has neither the system in place nor the funds to fulfill his promises to the people. And Nepalese people, known for their simplicity and gullibility, are equally known for their ability to discredit deceivers........ King laid the foundation stones of a path to loneliness. And in over six months, his army and police have built it for him and even put a red carpet over it....... When even the innocent villagers and townsmen in Nepal begin to distrust the King, his isolation will be complete. On that day, there will not be a single town or village in Nepal for him to go to for consolation.
  • Nearly 400 pro-democracy activists arrested in Nepal Malayala Manorama, India
  • Maoist ceasefire is a ploy: Army, Nepal nothing but a ploy to re-strengthen their military force...... “Our intelligence reports show that these activities are going to intensify during this [ceasefire] period.” ....... they are forming self-styled ‘village people’s governments’ ....... He brushed aside the allegations that the RNA has secret detention camps and asserted that human rights groups like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were free to visit the barracks.........
  • Report: Monarchy in Nepal on its way out Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran
  • Nepal's first private mobile service launched, India Nepal's first private mobile telephone service, in which the king's son-in-law has a stake, was launched Saturday...... allegations by two telecom trade unions that the government deliberately restricted the mobile services of the state-owned operator, Nepal Telecom, to boost his business....... Khetan sold the company to the Raj Group, which since then has brought in sizeable investment from VISOR, an investment company in Kazakhstan. ..... In an earlier interview to Reuters, SNPL said it was planning to get over one million customers in a year.
  • Separate writs filed for release of Deuba, Singh, Nepal The petitioners claimed that the formation of the RCCC was illegal as the King did not have authority to form such a body under Article 127 of the constitution........ The hearing of the case will start from Sunday........ The writ petition also demanded to declare all the decisions of the commission void as the anti-corruption body has been working against ‘natural justice’ by investigating, prosecuting, and making decisions on cases all by itself....... the royal commission spends money without getting it sanctioned by the parliament ......
  • Democracy models vary with country: FM Pandey Kantipur Online, Nepal Ramesh Nath Pandey defended the "Nepal-model" of democracy in front of the world leaders ...... the 'one-size-fits-all' model doesn't apply for peoples with different historical, socio-cultural and economic backgrounds ...... "all sovereign and independent countries and peoples are free to choose the form of governance that suits their conditions and requirements" ..... However, Pandey asserted that terrorism is the same all over the world. Equating the June 6 Maoist attack on a passenger bus in Madi, Chitwan (that killed almost 40 civilians) with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Madrid, Bali, Beslan, London and Cairo, Pandey said it operates without borders... knows no logic, no language or religion, no country, and no person..... igned a document, acceding to the Kyoto Protocal on climate change..... participated in an international committee of 16 countries, formed to preserve Lumbini - the birthplace of Lord Buddha..... Nepalis from Nepal and all across the United States of America, demonstrating against Nepal's regime in front of the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, just a stone's-throw away from the Assembly hall..... the King says one thing and does just the opposite....... the monarch has made Nepal a police state at home and a pariah state abroad..... Nepalese Democratic Youth Council and Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights in Nepal
  • Their Majesties visit Hetauda Jubilant local people offer ... Gorkhapatra, Nepal Their Majesties travelled on foot for around three hours.
  • Talks are necessary but they should lead towards durable peace ..., Nepal “Let me insist that if there is going to be any talks, it is something which has to have sustainability as well as durability. We welcome any initiative towards this end” .....

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