Nepali Times Asian Paints
Mission impossible?

Government spokesman Kamal Thapa is confident he can fulfil the cabinet's three immediate priorities: security, elections, and winning over parties. Excerpts of interview.

Nepali Times: Is it true that the government is preparing for elections?
Kamal Thapa:
Yes, the government is trying to create the basic environment of security and hold the elections to local bodies.

How can elections be held when there is an insurgency going on?
It won't take place right away. We certainly don't claim that the environment is conducive to elections. But, we believe with adequate security, free and fair polls can be held as early as possible.

How early would that be?
I can't say, we may have to wait some time. Because of the constitutional vacuum, we need to hold elections at the earliest. If everyone cooperates,
we will be able to hold it.

But everyone is not cooperating.
No democratic political party ever refuses to go to elections. We will try to convince the parties that we are trying to create conditions for polls to be held. Reinstatement of the house is not constitutionally possible, so the only alternative is elections.

But you have made the parties more defiant by making appointments to local governments.
It was the parties themselves who complained that the government should not have allowed bureaucrats to run local bodies. There was a political vacuum at the local level, so we requested political parties and previous officials to resume duties. This is only a temporary measure till we hold elections.

How can you win the support of the parties when you don't even have the backing of your own RPP?
I am also the general secretary of the RPP, I can assure you the party does support the government.

How do you assess the counter-insurgency operations of the security forces?
The army has not gone all out against the insurgents. But the security forces including the army have been significantly upgraded in terms of training, weapons, institutional strength and efficiency. The army will be more aggressive and effective in the days to come to control Maoist violence, murder and terrorism. We will not work in a half-hearted manner, we will make security more effective.

Yet increased militarisation has brought complaints of human rights violations.
The security personnel have been working within the framework of the constitution. Even if there is no state of emergency, the anti-terrorism act is in force and the security apparatus is working within that legal framework. The government is committed to respect human rights and the rights of citizens. We will also take action if violations occur deliberately. But we must understand that the country is going through an extraordinary situation, and in such conditions abnormal things happen.

The government is criticised for not being able to use the executive powers it claims it has.
There is no truth in this charge. The government has been using all the executive powers enshrined in the constitution. There is no need to drag the monarchy into controversy. The government bears full moral responsibility for both good and bad.

But the appointments to constitutional bodies has not been made by the king, and many people take this as proof that the king still calls the shots.
The appointments will take place in line with the constitution. Even if there has been any delay, it is not in defiance of the constitution. It must be due to some technical reason.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)