Nepali Times Asian Paints
Interview
"We don’t think the Maoists are willing to stop when people think they will."



The point of view of the CPN (UML) becomes critical in the days ahead, as the government and the Maoists do a shadow dance before the promised talks begin. The party's general secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal spoke to us on this and other issues. Excerpts:

Nepali Times: What will the opposition role be in the dialogue with Maoists?
Madhav Kumar Nepal
: We will support all serious, forward looking reforms in politics, economic and the social issues facing the country. Our party is willing to address all the social and political contradictions that have resulted from the past 11 years of democracy, we will support any government measures to clean things up. If the Maoist problem will be solved through talks, and if efforts are made to address to their reasonable demands, our party will support the government. The government's initiative is fine, but we have to wait and see how it goes about resolving the problem, and also the matter of governance.

There is a false sense of security after the ceasefire now, is this the right way to tackle the problem?
After the ceasfire the Maoists have murdered the father of one of our party members in Salyan. They are also continuing to threaten people in other parts of the country, across party lines. We deplore their activities and ask them to stop them otherwise there is no way our country's problems can be solved. If the Maoist methods and thinking don't change, and if the government does not do its homework and move on the basis of correct information, then this chapter of talks will end.

What should the government and Maoists do to actually make the talks meaningful?
The government has to explain its overall thinking about ways to resolve this problem. On demands put forth by Maoists, it has to tell us what the bottom line is and how flexible it can be. The Maoists must do the same, tell us what their bottom line is. As long as this remains unclear, it is not right to continue teasing each other. Right now we cannot fully trust the Maoists or the government. We will wait and see. As for the new beginning, we've been saying that both should first clarify their positions and at least the main opposition should be told what is it exactly that both sides want. If we have to try to guess what the Maoist and government positions are, then we cannot form an opinion.

There has been talk that you have met Maoist leaders. What is your assessment of what they want?
We have not had formal talks-that is the responsibility of the government-but we have been communicating through contacts. We can analyse trends based on their actions, their behaviour towards our party. Right now we don't think the Maoists are willing to stop where people think they will. Listening to their speeches, reading the editorials in their newspapers, seeing their behaviour towards opponents, we cannot trust them wholly. We cannot say exactly what they want or where they will stop right now.

The police lost the battle a long time ago and in Rolpa, the army didn't fight. How do you think the state can protect its citizens from renewed violence should talks fail?
If those running the state are corrupt and incapable, nothing can protect us. The army has to be under the government, there should be no doubts about that in a constitutional monarchy. It the army does not listen to government, the government should tell parliament what is happening. If it is about interpreting the Constitution, that too can be handled by parliament which even has the power to change it. There must be trust between the parties in parliament, the prime minister and the main opposition should be able to discuss the problems frankly and iron out problems. We need a dynamic government, one with vision and capable of providing sound leadership. Without that, no unit can function.

You met Deuba last week. Is he capable of providing such leadership?
We spoke for two to three hours. He is new, so it is unfair to assess him right away. He needs to do his homework well, seriously. He may listen to many people's suggestions, but he has to make decisions based on his own judgement. He should be clear about how much and who he should trust among the parliamentary parties. He has made a good beginning, but has it been well thought out?

Do you see the UML supporting the ordinance on building the paramilitary?
The law is defective, it by-passed parliament. The possible use of the paramilitary during elections is suspicious, and we cannot support the ordinance as it is.

If the process is corrected, is it possible there will be an intermediate security force, between the army and police?
We can sit down and discuss the issue.

The Maoists have three demands-an interim government, a new constitution and the institutional development of a republic. How do you see them?
All three demands are focused on ending the monarchy. Once you accept a constitutional monarch, you can make any changes within the existing constitution. You don't need a new constitution unless you want a republic. I think the idea of an interim government comes in the context of the new constitution to establish a republic. If it was only to make amendments in the Constitution or to hold elections, it could have been called differently, a joint government, an election government, or a national government, etc. But an interim government implies is that a new constitution is needed and that the basis of that constitution should be a republic. What is the government's position on this issue? If everyone wants that, if the king is also agreeable to it because he wants to go along with the Maoists, then we have nothing to say. We have three major concerns. Nation: we won't tolerate any external interference or influences in the country. Secondly, we don't want people's rights to be curtailed. Let no one be able to make slaves of people by impinging on their beliefs-a democratic, multiparty system is what we support. Thirdly, we stand for social justice. Taking into account the present power-equation and the king's commitment to constitutional monarchy, we support the system we have. But if everyone wants something else, then why not? We are essentially communists and republicans, and if everyone wants a republic, including the king, and if everyone says let us have the Maoists take over, then we would not have any problems with that. What we will not accept is any attempt to take back the rights of the people, any form of authoritarianism.

There has been talk that you have met Maoist leaders. What is your assessment of what they want?
We have not had formal talks-that is the responsibility of the government-but we have been communicating through contacts. We can analyse trends based on their actions, their behaviour towards our party. Right now we don't think the Maoists are willing to stop where people think they will. Listening to their speeches, reading the editorials in their newspapers, seeing their behaviour towards opponents, we cannot trust them wholly. We cannot say exactly what they want or where they will stop right now.

The police lost the battle a long time ago and in Rolpa, the army didn't fight. How do you think the state can protect its citizens from renewed violence should talks fail?
If those running the state are corrupt and incapable, nothing can protect us. The army has to be under the government, there should be no doubts about that in a constitutional monarchy. It the army does not listen to government, the government should tell parliament what is happening. If it is about interpreting the Constitution, that too can be handled by parliament which even has the power to change it. There must be trust between the parties in parliament, the prime minister and the main opposition should be able to discuss the problems frankly and iron out problems. We need a dynamic government, one with vision and capable of providing sound leadership. Without that, no unit can function.

You met Deuba last week. Is he capable of providing such leadership?
We spoke for two to three hours. He is new, so it is unfair to assess him right away. He needs to do his homework well, seriously. He may listen to many people's suggestions, but he has to make decisions based on his own judgement. He should be clear about how much and who he should trust among the parliamentary parties. He has made a good beginning, but has it been well thought out?

Do you see the UML supporting the ordinance on building the paramilitary?
The law is defective, it by-passed parliament. The possible use of the paramilitary during elections is suspicious, and we cannot support the ordinance as it is.

If the process is corrected, is it possible there will be an intermediate security force, between the army and police?
We can sit down and discuss the issue.

The Maoists have three demands-an interim government, a new constitution and the institutional development of a republic. How do you see them?
All three demands are focused on ending the monarchy. Once you accept a constitutional monarch, you can make any changes within the existing constitution. You don't need a new constitution unless you want a republic.

I think the idea of an interim government comes in the context of the new constitution to establish a republic. If it was only to make amendments in the Constitution or to hold elections, it could have been called differently, a joint government, an election government, or a national government, etc. But an interim government implies is that a new constitution is needed and that the basis of that constitution should be a republic. What is the government's position on this issue? If everyone wants that, if the king is also agreeable to it because he wants to go along with the Maoists, then we have nothing to say. We have three major concerns. Nation: we won't tolerate any external interference or influences in the country. Secondly, we don't want people's rights to be curtailed. Let no one be able to make slaves of people by impinging on their beliefs-a democratic, multiparty system is what we support. Thirdly, we stand for social justice. Taking into account the present power-equation and the king's commitment to constitutional monarchy, we support the system we have. But if everyone wants something else, then why not? We are essentially communists and republicans, and if everyone wants a republic, including the king, and if everyone says let us have the Maoists take over, then we would not have any problems with that. What we will not accept is any attempt to take back the rights of the people, any form of authoritarianism.


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


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