20-26 May 2016 #809

WAGES OF SIN

The 9-point Agreement proves just how much the Maoists, especially its leader Comrade Prachanda, are still haunted by the ghosts of their victims

ROBIN SAYAM

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Oli managed to save his coalition from an attempt by the opposition NC to woo away his Maoist partners in government. The wily Oli acted quickly to convince Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal not to abandon him, and within 24 hours staged a ‘counter-coup’ to avert an overthrow of his government. 

The two signed a 9-point Agreement the content of which makes clear the extent of the paranoia among the comrades in the former rebel movement about being hauled over the coals for war crimes. It is apparent that certain verbal points of agreement were not reduced to writing, including Oli’s pledge to step down after the wholly unaddressed budget announcement and let Dahal become prime minister for the second time.

Even so, the fact that five of the nine points address issues of transitional justice show just how worried the Maoists are about having to answer for the crimes against humanity they committed during the conflict from 1996 to 2006. One of the points obligate the UML and Maoists to amend the laws on transitional justice within 15 days, so that they ‘reflect the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord’ — an euphemism for immunity from prosecution. The two leaders also agreed to include provisions to grant amnesty and pardon, dismiss 'political' cases, and register land titles that were handed out by the Maoist government during the conflict.

The UML gave in to these Maoist demands solely to prolong its hold on power -- that much is clear. But the compromise points involving transitional justice violate the peace agreement itself, existing laws of the land as well as international human rights conventions and norms. The agreement, once more, proves just how much the Maoists -- especially its leader Comrade Prachanda -- are still haunted by the ghosts of the people they murdered. The 9-point Agreement may have extended the life of the coalition, but it slaughtered justice.

The agreement drives home the fact yet again that as far as justice is concerned, the peace process has been an unmitigated failure because war crimes by both sides have been wholly unaddressed. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances are politically-driven fig-leaf bodies that have been set up for the sole purpose of exonerating the perpetrators of atrocities.

Bal Krishna Dhungel, who killed Ujjain Shrestha in Okhaldhunga in 1998 over a family dispute, walks free today even though the Supreme Court convicted him, and he served time in prison before being freed by a Maoist-led government in 2010. Agni Sapkota, accused of the murder of Arjun Lama in 2005, is now Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation, and faced no consequences for his alleged crime. The named accused from the Panchkhal Barracks involved in the rape and murder of 14-year-old Maina Sunar in 2004 were never prosecuted. Krishna Adhikari was murdered by the Maoists in Chitwan in 2004, and the boy’s parents Nanda Prasad and Ganga Maya Adhikari went on a prolonged hunger strike until Nanda Prasad died in 2014. Ganga Maya is still in critical condition in hospital. 

Politics makes strange bedfellows, we are told, and there are no permanent friends and foes. But the UML’s whole-hearted support for the Maoist insistence on amnesty and pardon for war crimes just for momentary political survival is a cruel joke — especially when so many of the victims of murder and torture during the war were their own cadres. 

The Maoists and the UML have pardoned themselves, and the opposition NC hasn’t uttered a peep because it was itself in government for most of the war years commanding the state security that perpetrated excesses. Neither side won the war, the former enemies are now the state, and they have colluded to wash the blood from each other’s hands. 

One can understand the Maoists trying to absolve their guilty consciences and not wanting to pay the wages of sin. But we certainly did not expect this of the so-called democratic parties like the UML who ostensibly have, among their guiding principles, democracy, rule of law and social justice. As for the NC, we can only remind it of the Hungarian proverb: “If you are among crooks and remain silent, then you too are also a crook.”

Read also:

The lords of impunity, Kanak Mani Dixit

Just justifying war crimes, Damakanta Jayshi

The sad saga of the Adhikari family, Damakanta Jayshi

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