Nepali Times
"A date has been set"

James T Walsh has been a US Congressman representing New York for the past 18 years. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal in 1970-72, speaks fluent Nepali and maintains his links with this country. Walsh was instrumental in drawing Congressional attention to the pro-democracy movement in April 2006 and was also closely involved with the Northern Ireland peace process. He is member of the House Appropriations Committee John Narayan Parajuli spoke to Walsh this week.


Nepali Times: What's your take on the latest hiccups in Nepal's peace process?
James Walsh:
The government of Nepal needs to adhere to its commitment to hold constituent assembly elections on 22 November. It is vital that the people of Nepal have a specific date to work toward. I worry that if the government pushes back the date even more, the elections will not happen. You can only delay something as significant as this for so long.

Success takes time, but it also helps if everyone involved is working toward the same goal. It isn't fair to the people of Nepal to continue to push back the elections. A date has been set and it needs to stay that way.

Is there a difference between your views and that of the Bush administration?
I support the views of this administration, I agree with the view of our government to support the elections on 22 November, and I also agree with our pledge of complete cooperation in making the elections happen.

Is there a shift in US policy towards Nepal with the departure of Ambassador James Moriarty?
At the moment, I don't see any such shift. However, I do know that Ambassador Nancy Powell is a very thoughtful person and is taking the necessary time to come to her own decisions about the role of the United States in Nepal. I know we both agree that these elections need to happen as scheduled and that the intimidation needs to stop.

Do you think there should be some moderation, particularly on the US stance on the Maoists?
I think the US needs to continue to encourage the full participation of all eight political parties, which include the Maoists. All of Nepal needs to put their weapons down and commit to having an election on 22 November. Given the recent withdrawal from the government by the Maoists it's apparent that they think of themselves differently than the other parties. They should be held accountable for wrecking the agreement and threatening strikes.

I understand that you are interested in coming to Nepal to observe elections.
If the opportunity arose to go back to Nepal and observe the elections, I would be very interested.

Will you be meeting Maoist leaders?
It's hard to say. If I had the chance to visit Nepal, I would cross that bridge when I got there. However, I would only consider a meeting with Maoist leaders if they stopped de-railing the upcoming elections. They need to play an active and positive role in making sure the elections are fair and without interference.

Do you see the elections happening in November?
The people of Nepal have overcome so much and they deserve to be represented in a government they trust. Nepalis have put up with a civil war, a dysfunctional monarchy and heinous forms of violence and intimidation. It's time for Nepal to have a constitution worthy of its people. For Nepal's future, these elections have to happen on 22 November.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)