Nepali Times Asian Paints
Interview
"No government change until constitution written, elections held"



Nepali Times/Himal Khabarpatrika caught up with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Saturday. Translated excerpts are presented here. (Full interview after the excerpt)

PICS: ANUP PRAKASH

Nepali Times/Himal Khabarpatrika: The Maoist ultimatum will expire on 1 November, are we not moving towards further polarisation?
PM Nepal
: The Maoists are unpredictable. It is impossible to believe what they say, when they shower you with kind words or when they threaten a hurricane of agitation. Today they are the most unstable and afflicted because of their craving for state power. Whatever they say and do today is geared towards the illegitimate capture of state power. For this, they are willing to drag their cadre up the illogical and dishonourable path. But state power tends to escape the grasp of those who think only of capturing it.

This craving for state power makes people authoritarian, non-pluralist and totalitarian, and we must be wary of this tendency within the Maoists. Like anywhere else, the proper way is to form a government as and when one is able to garner a majority in the House. If one cannot thus form a government, the proper attitude is to serve the people and try to win a majority during the next elections. The Maoists seem unable to understand this simple matter of parliamentary practice.

But there must be a formula to cooperate and bring the Maoists into government.
We are ready to open the doors of government to them, we want them in. But they should accept some norms. Why do they insist on a government with their leadership? In an open democracy, state power cannot be achieved by shouts and threats. Think of this ? what if there is a counter revolt from a different direction in response to the Maoists' planned street agitation? Both would be anti-democratic. If a reactionary force prevails in capturing state power, the responsibility will lie entirely with the Maoist leaders.

There are suggestions that your government has not tried hard enough to reach an agreement.
I have tried very hard. One cannot surrender one's values in the search for a solution, but I will continue to reach out to the Maoists, including on an individual level.

The Maoists may have been angered by the government's decisions on army recruitment, the promotion of generals, and so on.

We have not yet said that we will take the recruitment forward. We would like to reach a point of consensus within past agreements. As far as a promotion of officers in the army is concerned, it is natural for the most senior to be named acting in-charge.

But you can rest assured that this government wants to end the state of impunity that is prevalent today, and it believes that those who have violated human rights must be punished. I am in consultations to push investigation on some emblematic cases of human rights abuse.

UNMIN is concerned about the call for a review of the Comprehensive Peace Accord.
What I have heard is that even the Maoist members in the State Adminstration Committee praised the statements by the minister and prime minister in the chamber. This seems to have come out differently in the press, and I have not spoken to the minister about this. Perhaps the view (of the minister) was that the peace accord was signed in the belief that the issues would be resolved quickly, and that it has taken much longer. How does one proceed against such a backdrop, is probably what was meant. But there is no need to panic. We are committed to our agreements.

The management of ex-combatants has taken too long. Are we still on track?
The ex-combatants should have been managed before the elections, even before the Maoists came into the [interim] parliament. Cantonment management must now be completed before we go into the final phase of constitution writing. The Maoists are generally positive but they must cooperate in discharging disqualified minors.

Are they presently under the Special Committee?
No, the mechanism is being prepared. Ex-combatants not wishing to join politics will be able to choose between rehabilitation and integration. We are working on the details. The Technical Committee has submitted a report, which will be discussed in the Special Committee.

The public is frustrated that development works have come to a halt despite the political change.
There is no doubt that development needs to be jump-started. I have asked for an explanation for the delay in road construction in the Gaur-Chandranigahapur sector, and the cabinet will move rapidly on the fast-track road out of the Kathmandu Valley. We have also started studying the prospects for an international airport in the Tarai. Everywhere, obstacles must be removed to projects that have been approved. This relates equally to Melamchi as to Pancheswar.

Are you getting the support of bureaucracy?

It is not moving at the speed I had expected. I am willing to listen to grievances, but all projects presently in the pipeline within Singha Darbar must be completed within three years. We can always provide funding. If domestic companies drag their feet we will turn to foreign companies. I have told the people in the construction industry, I am going all out to make public works move. But it is political friction that takes up most of my time.

So things will not move until there is political agreement with the Maoists.
I am proceeding methodically, tackling the problems as they crop up. This is how I have proceeded in my political journey of three decades.

Is the post of Nepal's prime minister a thankless one?
Not at all. All that is needed is vision and a willingness to stay the course.

There is constant talk about the durability of your government.
There is no need for worry. Under today's conditions, there is no possibility at all of a government being formed under Maoist leadership.

Why is that so?
Because everyone is traumatised by the Maoists today, there is a feeling that they will foist an authoritarian regime on the polity, that they will finish off democracy. The other simple matter is that the Maoists do not have a majority. And how can a Maoist-led government be formed if others are not willing to trust them? Why should the UML, Congress and Madhesi parties hurt themselves by submitting to a government led by unreformed Maoists?
This government is inclusive of everyone's aspirations, is supported by the international community, and besides, we have asked the Maoists to join. I see no possibility of a government change until the constitution is written and elections held.

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Full interview:

Nepali Times/Himal Khabarpatrika: The Maoist ultimatum will expire on 1 November, are we not moving towards further polarisation?
PM Nepal
: The Maoists are unpredictable. It is impossible to believe what they say, when they shower you with kind words or when they threaten a hurricane of agitation. Today they are the most unstable and afflicted because of their craving for state power. Whatever they say and do today is geared towards the illegitimate capture of state power. For this, they are willing to drag their cadre up the illogical and dishonourable path. But state power tends to escape the grasp of those who think only of capturing it. If the Maoist goal had been to work for the good of the people and country rather than themselves, we could have cooperated for the greater good.

This craving for state power makes people authoritarian, non-pluralist and totalitarian. And of course this is dangerous for our hard-earned democracy. One must be wary of the totalitarian tendency within the Maoists, for noone can be agreeable with their willingness to disregard the other parties, ignore the rules of the game, reject the notion of parliamentary majority, use the language of force, and demand the surrender of everyone else to their agenda. This is not possible in a democracy such as Nepal is. Like anywhere else, the proper way is to form a government as and when one is able to garner a majority in the House. If one cannot thus form a government, the proper attitude is to serve the people and try to win a majority during the next elections. The Maoists seem unable to understand this simple matter of parliamentary practice.

But there must be a formula to cooperate and bring the Maoists into government.
We are ready to open the doors of government to them, we want them in. But they should accept some norms. Why do they insist on a government with their leadership? In an open democracy, state power cannot be achieved by shouts and threats. Think of this - what if there is a counter revolt from a different direction in response to the Maoists' planned street agitation? As they seek to force their way into government, another force may rise to use military might to capture power. Both alternatives would be anti-democratic. Over time, the reactionary force may succeed in establishing itself. In that eventuality, the responsibility will lie entirely with the Maoist leaders.

How does Mr. Dahal respond when you suggest this?
To us, he denies everything.

Have the Maoists understood the forces that may be unleashed with their obstruction of Parliament and not allowing passage of the budget?
If the flow of politics is obstructed, it will tragically be forced onto an unnatural path. One cannot deny this possibility. This is something the Maoists understand well, and so the responsibility for such an unfortunate development would also lie with them.

There are suggestions that your government has not tried hard enough to reach an agreement.
I have tried very hard, continuously. One cannot surrender one's values in the search for a solution, and one cannot abandon self-respect. I have and will continue to make an effort, up to a point. Of course I have reached out to the Maoist leaders, including individually. The meetings were good, and we even made some progress but less than required. The efforts continue, but there are times when it does not do to make haste before it is time. The situation has to mature. Perhaps we need the other side to come to the realisation that there is no alternative to a settlement.

The Maoists may have been angered by the government's decisions on army recruitment, the promotion of generals, and so on.
We have not yet said that we will take the recruitment forward, for we are studying the matter. There might be a need for recruitment, and we are also looking at the past agreements. We would like to reach a point of consensus within those agreements and also secure the support of the international community. As far promotion of officers in the army is concerned, it is natural for the most senior to be named acting in-charge.

In the meantime, we are also looking at the substance of the charges that have been brought against certain individuals. You can rest assured that this government wants to end the state of impunity that is prevalent today, and it believes that those who have violated human rights must be punished. I am also in consultations to push investigation on some emblematic cases of human rights abuse. For example, investigations will be started on the cases of Maina Sunar, Ramhari Shrestha, Birendra Shah, Chitwan's Madi blast, the killing of Tharu women in Chisapani, the murder of teacher Muktinath Adhikari in Lamjung, and others. I am also aware of the overwhelming international concern regarding the state of impunity in our society.

UNMIN is concerned about the call for a review of the Comprehensive Peace Accord.
I have not spoken to the minister about this. What I have heard is that even the Maoist members in the State Adminstration Committee praised the statements by the minister and prime minister in the chamber. This seems to have come out differently in the press. Perhaps the view (of the minister) was that the peace accord was signed in the belief that issues would be resolved quickly, and that it has taken much longer. How does one proceed against such a backdrop, is probably what was meant. Besides, there is no need to panic just because someone raises a point. We are committed to our agreements and are not about to break them unilaterally.

So was UNMIN's reaction exaggerated?
This was also how I responded to UNMIN. Go into the facts, not what someone says, is what I said.

The management of ex-combatants has not yet happened. Are we still on track?
The ex-combatants should have been managed before the elections. It should have happened even before the Maoists came into the interim parliament and government. That was the original weakness. Cantonment management must be completed before we go into the final phase of constitution writing. The Maoists are generally positive, but they must cooperate in removing the disqualified minors from the cantonments. Those ex-combatants who want to join politics must evacuate the camps. The rest must all come under the oversight of the Special Committee.

Are they presently under the Special Committee?
No, they are not. We are preparing the mechanism to bring them under the Special Committee. We will then provide choices to the ex-combatants who choose not to join politics: rehabilitation or integration. Meanwhile, the government is doing its homework regarding those who seek integration ? what is to be the criteria for entry, in what number, into which force, and how the rest are to be rehabilitated. The Technical Committee has submitted a report to the Special Committee.

The public is frustrated that development works have come to a halt despite the political change. Your government seems entangled in Kathmandu-centric wrangling and does not appear to have developmental vision.
I invited some intellectuals and economists for an informal discussion recently, and we talked concretely about giving momentum to the administration and to the social and economic sector. I brought the head of the Planning Commission into the discussion. I am also working with individual ministries and the Ministry of Finance, and plan to divide projects into three categories, high priority projects, medium size projects and micro-level projects. I will personally oversee the first two categories, ensuring oversight according to a tight timetable.

There is no doubt that development needs to be jumpstarted. Just look at the highways, so full of potholes. If the roads of Kathmandu Valley are in such a sorry condition, what about elsewhere? After seeing the Janakpur road work proceeding smoothly, I have asked for an explanation for the delay in the Gaur Chandranigahapur sector. In Dhanusha, banditry on the highway has increased because of the lack of a bridge. On the way from the Bardia jungle to Karnali the causeway is in such a condition that whole buses could be swept away. Meanwhile, the cabinet has decided to move rapidly on the fast-track road out of Kathmandu Valley.

This is just about roads and highways. In the short time we have had, we have started study of an international airport in the Tarai. Everywhere, obstacles must be removed on projects that have been approved. This relates equally to Melamchi as to Pancheswar.

Are you getting the support of the bureaucracy?
It is not moving at the speed I had expected. I am willing to listen to their complaints if there are any, but insist that all projects presently in the pipeline within Singh Darbar must be completed within three years. If it is a matter of a scarcity of funds, we can always access loans. If domestic companies are dragging their feet, we will turn to foreign companies. I have told the people in the construction industry, I am going all out to make public works move. However, it is true that numerous problems invariably crop up. It is the political friction that is taxing me the most and taking up my time.

So things will not move until there is political agreement with the Maoists.
I am proceeding methodically, tackling the problems as they crop up. This is how I have conducted my political journey of three decades.

Where are things stuck at this point?
There are times we think that the problem is about to be resolved. They go as far as to say that we do not wish to press charges against the president, and that they want to move ahead rather than rake up old issues. But then they try to trap us in all the old issues. It is difficult to understand what they want. One day, there is bright sunshine and you expect things will improve. But the next day it is all cloud and thunder.

Has your China visit been confirmed?
Yes, though the date is yet to be set. The Chinese ambassador says the preparations are on, to ensure that the president, prime minister and others are all available. I said there is no hurry, for I am busy throughout November, and in December there is the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

What about the Maoist claims to a special relationship with the Chinese authorities?
The Chinese ambassador had come by, and he suggested that the news surrounding Prachanda's visit to Beijing was incorrect. He said that Beijing gave priority to the relationship with the standing government as well as the various parties. While relationships between the parties of the two countries were natural, he said no particular relationships were privileged. That is how the ambassador clarified the Chinese position.

So then the Chinese do not want a single communist party in Nepal?
No, that is not the case.

Why do there have to be tremors every time a Nepali leader visits a neighbour?
Frankly, these visits generate more attention than they should.

Is this because our state is weakened?
We lack confidence and are constantly in need of a crutch. We must solve our own problems, but the trend is to seek support elsewhere.

How would a chilly relationship with India affect our economic growth?
We must ensure a smooth and confident relationship with both India and China. It is not required to be overly attached to anyone, nor do we need to play one against the other. We need to reassure both Beijing and Delhi that Nepali soil shall never be used against them. Of course we should take maximum advantage of our placement, with two of the world's fastest growing powerhouses as our neighbours. If faraway countries are benefiting from their economic growth, why not the next-door country? We can take advantage through trade, tourism, information technology, and knowledge-based industries. China looks at its comparative advantage when it comes to India, and vice versa. Nepal can benefit at the interface where these two economies meet.

But we are also in danger of being squeezed when the two Asian giants clash.
Let their bilateral relationship flourish rather than weaken. That is what Nepal wishes.

Recently, did it look like the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal was warming towards Beijing?
My belief is that one should never use a 'card' that will hurt the sentiment of either neighbour. Such an attempt is bound to generate deep suspicions, and will harm our foreign policy in the long run. Whereas if we work to better our relationship with both countries, the friendships will grow deeper, interactions will increase, and everyone benefits. If the relationship with either neighbour sours, then suspicions will arise and we will fall into the trap of having to decide whom to trust, and whom to keep at a distance. This will hardly be of any help.

Is the post of Nepal's prime minister a thankless one?
Not at all. I have seen what can be done from here. All that is needed is vision and a willingness to stay the course. If a minister does not perform, he should be replaced. The same applies to secretaries of ministries, heads of departments. Laws that are obstacles must be replaced, if the constitution presents a blockage, the political parties can get together and push through an amendment. It is true that we have lost a lot of time when we should have speeded up our activities. People should have been pained by the delays, but that apparently did not happen. We needed determination, but that seems to have been at a premium.

There is constant talk about the durability of your government.
There is no need for worry. Under today's conditions, there is no possibility at all of a government being formed under Maoist leadership.

Why is that so?
Because everyone is traumatised by the Maoists today, there is a feeling that they will foist an authoritarian regime on the polity, that they will finish off democracy. The fact is they are not yet rid of the psychology of revolt. They can never think of leading the government until they abandon this way of thinking. The other simple matter is that the Maoists do not have a majority. How can a Maoist-led government be formed if others are not willing to trust them? Today there is a UML-led government, so obviously we are not thinking of handing over leadership, unless the idea is to pull the UML party asunder. I do not think that a democratic party such as the Nepali Congress would make the mistake of supporting the Maoists in government. Why should the UML and Congress hurt themselves by submitting to a Maoist-led government when the Maoists have not reformed, when the pain inflicted by the Maoists is still raw, when those linked to the Congress still have their property under seizure? The Madhesi parties also do not see the Maoists as having reformed.

In contrast to the one-sided demands of the Maoists, most of the other parties are to be found in today's government. This government is inclusive of everyone's aspirations, and we have also asked the Maoists to join. This is a government with a comfortable majority through the support of 22 political parties in parliament. Meanwhile, the international community too is taken aback by the attitude, thinking and actions of the Maoist party. Studying the national and international conditions, I believe to search for an alternative to this government would be to invite disaster. I see no possibility of a government change until the constitution is written and elections held.


The Prime Minister on climate change and the environment

How are the preparations for the Copenhagen climate change conference?
We are active. I have felt that the mountain countries must present a united voice at Copenhagen. Whether it is Iceland, some South American country or those of us in the Himalaya, all are affected excessively by climate change. So are low-lying island countries like the Maldives.

There is a difference between the mountains and oceans, can you have the same agenda?
Indeed we can. On the way back from the United Nations, President Nasheed of the Maldives said he was organising a meeting of the vulnerable countries. I would like to go to Male, but even if that does not happen we can still have a common voice at Copenhagen. We must also see whether a common Himalayan platform is possible, and an organisation such as ICIMOD can be helpful in this.

So what will be your position in Copenhagen?
Our goal is to become a low carbon emission country, and our natural resources can make this possible. We have hydropower, but also wind and solar. Unfortunately, in order to reduce load-shedding we are forced to bring in diesel power plants for the short run. But our plans to produce 25 thousand megawatts within 20 years will help cut carbon emissions, not only here but in India as well through our energy exports. Additionally, we are planning an afforestation campaign, as the spread of greenery will help counteract the buildup of greenhouse gases. Nepal's contribution will be part of the global effort, but this alone will not be enough to stop the melting of the glaciers. We believe in the special responsibility for emissions reductions of the developed countries as well as those engaged in accelerated industrialisation. Those countries have to have establish a set of time-bound goals for emissions reduction rather than give generalised assurances. Technology must be transferred where required to fight global warming, and less energy-intensive modes of production must be introduced all over.

You have spoken of mitigation efforts, what about adaptation?
Since climate change is a reality, we must act to offset the negative impact on our society and economy. The government and the non-governmental sector are working on ways to address the changes in our cropping patterns, the spread of diseases and epidemics, the impact on tourism, and so on.

Meanwhile, there are certain things we must do regardless of climate change, for example the ongoing destruction of our Siwalik or Chure range, soil erosion, deforestation, over-exploitation of the aquifers, the pollution of our rivers. We must stop the plunder of our riverine ecology that is happening through the extraction of sand, stones and boulders. There is a huge industry that has developed to export boulders to India, with thousands of trucks involved daily. While some district development committees may make short-term profit, this extraction holds the seeds of environmental crisis for both the Nepal Tarai as well as the downstream regions of India.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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