Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
"Why should the Maoists surrender arms before talking?"

The government says it has imposed the emergency to control the Maoist terrorists. But has the emergency been directed to that end? The Maoists say they don't abide by this constitution. They say they want to reject the present parliamentary system and existing laws and have even announced a parallel government. The existing laws and constitution don't affect them, and because they don't accept the state, the emergency will not affect them either. The emergency is instead affecting those who accept the constitution, such as political parties, civil society, social organisations and people at large. The civil liberties given by the constitution have been curtailed only for those who believe in and work under the present statute, not the Maoists. So if the desired effects don't reach the targeted group, why should we allow our rights to be curtailed?

Nowhere has an armed conflict such as this been resolved by other than political means. After 18 years of an ethnic liberation movement Sri Lanka now has a ceasefire. Ours is also a class struggle, so it is unlikely the problem can be resolved by only mobilising the army.

The constitution allows an emergency to be imposed for a maximum of one year. What are we going to do if the problem is not resolved even in this time frame? There is no provision to extend the emergency thereafter. The army says it could take time to come to a resolution and that political efforts should also be underway. So how can [government] shut the doors to a political solution and say that the emergency and the involvement of the army will solve the problem. We need to re-open the political doors and go to talks with an alternative proposal. There is no reason to endorse something that has no justification and will only restrict the rights of the people. Likewise, the country's revenue has also been hit by the emergency, and we'll see those effects next year.

The government was unable to present an alternative proposal during talks with the Maoists. It only said let's work under this constitution and also form an interim government. Where is the provision to form an interim government under this constitution? The Maoists are a force outside this constitution and they would not have revolted if they wanted to remain under it. Before the talks we had advised the government to come up with an alternative proposal and also asked the Maoists to be realistic. They made a mistake in walking away from the talks, which is why they are now cornered. .In the third round of talks, the Maoists came with only the demand for a constituent assembly, and they were wrong to simply make a proposal and walk away from talks. They have not been able to justify their actions until now. They should have consulted other political parties. The government should also have been flexible. .A constituent assembly is the ultimate form the power of the people can take in a multiparty system.even King Tribhuvan had announced one, though it was not implemented.

There are two lines of thought in the country concerning how the Maoist problem should be resolved. One wants to maintain the status quo and more stringent laws. This is the old way of thinking. It's been proven that an army cannot protect democracy. The other group wants to make improvements to the system that exists. .We say the constitution should be amended. It says that sovereignty rests with the people, but it also says that constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy cannot be changed. Why can't the sovereign people change that? Likewise, you say four castes and 36 ethnicities, and then impose a Hindu state. We are not against constitutional amendments, but they can't be a means to solve the Maoist problem. Which clause in the Constitution can provide that?. There is talk of an election government, but will the Maoists be part of that? This is why we ask whether amendments can help resolve the problem.

.Many times negotiations have failed in the world, but the process has not stopped there. If we want peaceful resolution [government] has to find alternatives and go back to talks. The Maoists have been asked to come to talks after giving up their arms. This is what someone who doesn't understand politics says. Why should the Maoists give up their bargaining power before coming to the table? Even a snake does not remain a snake if you defang it and remove its poison.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)