Squatters disenchanted with UCPN (Maoist)
KATHMANDU, Sept 20:Kamala Tamang, 36, a squatter living in a slum on the bank of the Bagmati River near Thapathali, said she would not support UCPN-Maoist party in the upcoming Constituent Assembly (CA) election, like in the last election of 2008. Feeling slighted by the party, which ran bulldozers in the settlement she lives when in power, said that she and other women of the settlement are determined not to work for the party as they did in the past. “We supported them in every movement. We pelted stones for their cause, we carried their flags, burned tires and blocked roads without questioning,” she said, adding, “We also endured police baton and boots. A lot of our friends have still been facing consequences.” Tamang, who was staunch supporter of the party, used to believe that she would not have to leave the settlement, if the party won. Leaders had also assured them that they would get land ownership certificates after which they would not have to leave the place. “We erected shacks on the river bank as per their instructions,” she said.
“To bring the Maoist party to power, we worked day and night, reached door to door to seek vote for Maoist candidates.” Tamang and other people of the settlement were very excited when the party secured majority in the election. But instead of getting permanently settled, the Baburam Bhattarai-led government sent bulldozers and Armed Police Force (APF). Over 250 squatter homes were demolished some 15 months ago. Around 1,000 people living in the settlement had become homeless with nowhere to go and forced to live in open sky. Tamang said that leaders and their cadres visited the settlement frequently earlier to seek assistance, but this time no one has come to asking for their support.
“No one has visited the settlement to understand their problems since the demolition drive,” Tamang said. Bhattarai had met the squatters and promised food and shelter to them after his government came under severe criticism. He assured them not to worry and provided Rs 15,000 as immediate relief. He had told them that the government would shift them to a planned permanent resettlement. “Either we will give you land and low interest loans to build house or we ourselves will build home for you,” he had promised at the time. But he has not show any concern to fulfill his promise, nor has he again visited the settlement, the squatters complained.
“We have heard that leaders live in big bungalows and use luxury cars,” she added. Tamang was blind supporter of Maoist, who served the party in the capacity of whole timer for seven years since 2001 to 2008. She said that she was influenced by the encouraging speech of the Maoist leaders, who used to talk about the rights of poor and working class people. “I was convinced by their speech and left home to join the party,” she said, adding, “I believed that party would bring happiness in the lives of people like me.” Tamang feels that she was used by the party and now regrets her decision to join the “people´s war” risking her life. “My cousin sister sacrificed her life in the revolution. I spent seven years as a whole timer,” she added.
Likewise, Meena Khadka, 38, of the same settlement said that the trauma given by Bhattarai-led government cannot be expressed in words. “Only the people who suffered this kind of situation can understand,” she said, adding, “Security personnel fired teargas, rubber bullets at us. Scores of women and children were arrested.” Khadka said that she lost all the property in the demolition drive. Several families of the settlement could not even remove their belongings which got buried in the debris. She complained that none of the parties spoke against the government´s injustice and barbaric acts upon them. “I came to realize that we are no one to them. Their cheap slogans are meant just to catch our sentiments,” she added. Januka Pokhrel, another squatter, said that they were forced to live in the open sky during the whole monsoon.
“I think they are ashamed for their guilt and feared to face us,” she said. Pokhrel said that she would support the party that is really serious toward addressing their problems. “We have nothing to do with their political affairs. We will support the party that is committed to create permanent settlements for us,” she added. Pokhrel, however, said that not a single party has approached them yet. Niru KC, another slum dweller, worried about the future of her children. A primary school inside the settlement, with over 150 students, was also demolished. “They have been deprived of their studies since,” she complained. She wished for the squatter-friendly constitution through the new CA election. “We are being deprived of basic amenities like drinking water, toilet, health care services, electricity and others,” She said, adding, “I wish political parties come to us and listen to our problems and ensure our rights in the new constitution.”
I am absolutely certain that elections will be held on Nov 19
SEP 23 – With less than two months remaining for the scheduled Constitution Assembly (CA) election date of November 19, the Election Commission (EC), led by Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety, has been hard at work finalising logistics and technicalities. The political parties are also busy selecting candidates and preparing election manifestos. However, the date for political parties to file their candidacies has been postponed by a week and a coalition of 33 parties, led by the Mohan Baidya’s CPN-Maoist, has chosen to stay out of the political process and oppose elections. In this context, Bhadra Sharma and Darshan Karki spoke to Uprety about the remaining preparations for elections, the security situation and the certainty of elections on the scheduled date.
Where do preparations for elections stand?
All election related materials like printing papers for ballots and ballot boxes have arrived and we have already ordered the indelible ink. Parties have been registered and the voter roll has been prepared, printed and sent to all 240 election offices.
The EC has deferred the candidacy nomination date by a week to ensure the participation of all parties. Will it be possible to defer more election-related dates if there are requests?
If election activities need to be postponed further, then the November election date will have to be pushed back accordingly. We do not have any room to accommodate more requests. The date for candidacy nominations was deferred after going through all the options available. If we tamper with the schedule any more, it will be difficult to hold elections on November 19.
The CPN-Maoist’s recent activities have been quite violent. In this context, what is your assessment of the security situation?
The EC was presented with a complete security plan yesterday and we are confident that we will be able to deal with all security challenges. But the security situation of a country is not static; it is dynamic. Security concerns depend on the place, the circumstance and the people, groups and work involved. So we are not in a position to say the situation today will remain unchanged tomorrow. There are challenges, but we have the state and its mechanisms to address those challenges. Everyone needs to believe this and convince voters and everyone else involved in the electoral process of the same.
The EC seems to have compromised on many issues—from the debate on threshold to the recruitment of temporary police. How certain can we be of the quality of elections?
The EC suggested a threshold based on its technical and professional knowledge of international election standards. However, the political parties did not want to adopt any measures that were not present in the last CA elections. The decision was theirs to make. We offered many other suggestions to improve this election but they did not agree. It would have been better if our suggestions had been implemented. Nevertheless, we have not compromised on vital issues of procedure and security.
What led you to change your stance on hiring temporary police for elections?
In previous elections, temporary police were very ineffective. This isn’t just the assessment of the EC but one of other sources too. So we suggested to the government that they not be used this time around. But there is something called competing demands. Elections need to be held on a given date but the existing number of police personnel is insufficient. In any case, we ascertained the causes of the temporary police’s ineffectiveness in previous elections by going through the selection and recruitment process, the age of recruits, their qualifications and the duration they had been trained. We sought to make the recruitment more transparent and rigorous by taking in more qualified and experienced people. We will only be recruiting a minimum number of temporary police to perform specific tasks.
What will election observation look like this time around?
The EC’s deadline for monitoring applications was September 10. Around 54 organisations submitted applications to mobilise around 74,000 election observers. Of them, two international and 49 local institutions have already been accredited. In the past, there was a need to monitor the election observers themselves. In order to avoid that situation, we have tried to change the selection and training process by including educational qualifications and a changed code of conduct. When it comes to international observers, apart from those that were involved in election monitoring the last time, there will not be many new ones.
We should desire to hold elections in such a way that there will be no need for observers. We need to be able to hold elections without the presence of security forces either. In developed and established democracies, election observers are not mobilised; they only have election visitors. When it comes to local observers, there have been many complaints about the mobilisation of people with political affiliations, so we are seeking to take in more impartial observers. We want to take in people who have some knowledge about what they are doing. One very important task—the printing of ballot papers—has yet to be completed.
Since it is almost the final hour, is there any possibility of printing it elsewhere?
There are no hindrances to printing the ballot paper. All the required materials—paper, machines, employees, spare parts and security personnel—are ready. The EC has no desire to print ballot papers abroad. Otherwise, we would not have invested around Rs 200 million rupees to develop the required infrastructure. The ballot papers for elections have always been printed in Nepal. All necessary provisions to do so are in place. The printing place is also insured. However, in case we are unable to print the papers due to unforeseen events, we have a Plan B. There are other institutions within Nepal itself with the capacity to print the papers.
On a slightly different note, what has the role of the international community been like?
We have not only received financial support from the international community but also support in creating an atmosphere for elections, increasing voter confidence and managing political conflicts. They all want elections to be held as it is the only way to institutionalise democracy. Elections alone can protect the rights of the people.
Given that there are less than two months remaining for the scheduled date, what remains to be done?
The deadline for political parties to file candidacies for the proportional list has been deferred to September 30 and October 3 for first-past-the-post. The political parties will do their work within this time. We have already designed the ballot paper and need around 35 days to print it. Some work regarding sequencing is left. Party signs for the 130 parties taking part in the elections will be known by September 30. Once this is done, we will send the ballot papers for printing the very next day. It will take around seven to eight days to process everything for direct elections. The preparation of the final list of the candidates and the distribution of electoral signs will be completed after Dashain. Until then, we will have printed more than half of the ballot papers for proportional elections. Then, we will print 240 different sets of ballot papers. Everything will be done according to the election work plan. Another plan regarding the packing and dispatching of these materials is under way. For that, we are using vehicles from the government.The Armed Police Force and the Nepal Army will take these materials to each District Election Office and the returning offices.
Finally, how confident are you that that elections will be held on November 19?
I am 101 percent certain that elections will be held on November 19. Though percentage points cannot go beyond a hundred, we have been so engrossed in making elections happen by November 19 that we haven’t even thought of anything beyond it. We extended the election activity schedule by seven days, but even that was done to hold credible elections with the participation of all parties.
Training for CPN-M cadres
HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE PARASI: CPN-Maoist, has started imparting semi-military training to its cadres in three districts of Lumbini zone. Youth from National Volunteers’ Association were trained in the name of political training in fighting with sticks, martial art and retaliation skills. Youths of the party will be mobilised during the CA election following the one booth-one group, one group- one action strategy aiming at disrupting polls.
It is said that there will be at least a total of 15 youths in a group, 45 in a platoon and 135 in a battalion. The party is preparing to provide training from at least two places of the three Abadh State which comprises Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts. Two former combatants of the party had conducted the three-day training in each place, which concluded today.
Arsonist’s custody extended
HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE KAVRE: Kavre District Court today remanded CPN-Maoist activist Raman Pariyar to five more days of judicial custody for further investigation. Last Tuesday, Pariyar was remanded to five days of custody. Police had arrested Pariyar on September 16 on the charge of setting a bus on fire for defying the bandh in Kavre a day earlier. Pariyar is a district member of CPN-M affiliated National Youth People’s Volunteers. Inspector Basant Magar assured that others involved in the incident too would be brought to book and made public. CPN-M Kavre warned of stringent agitation if its other cadres were arrested.
HLPC nods to invoke Article 158 for army mobilisation
KATHMANDU: A day after the President pointed out the need for removing the constitutional hurdles to mobilise the Nepal Army in the Constituent Assembly election, the High Level Political Committee (HLPC) has given its consent to the interim government to invoke the Article 158 of Interim Consitution to make necessary amendment in the statute for army mobilisation. A meeting of the cross-party mechanism of major parties, which guides the Khil Raj Regmi-led electoral government, on Monday made decision to this effect.
The meeting has decided to ask the government to proceed with the invocation of Article 158 of the constitution to legitimise the army mobilsation during the polls, CPN-UML leader Raghujee Panta told THT Online. According to Panta, the meeting also decided to request the CPN-Maoist-led 33-party alliance to forge consensus with other parties and participate in the November 19 elections. It has been learnt that the government is preparing to table a proposal today to invoke the Article 158 to the President–seeking removal of constitutional restriction apropos to the army mobilisation in absence of the Parliament, and endorsement of the Cabinet’s decision to mobilise army for the election security.
A Cabinet meeting has been scheduled this afternoon to make the matter and make formal decision regarding the new ordinance. The decree of army mobilisation has to be endorsed by the Parliament within one month as per the existing constitutional provision. Since there is no Parliament, the President needs to remove the anomaly. Last week, the government had recommended President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav to endorse its decision to mobilise the army in the CA election. The head of the state, however, called the government’s attention towards the existing consitutional provisions, and pointed out that he could not do so unless new ordinance is tabled to invoke the Article 158 of Interim Constitution.
33 party alliance set to organise protest assembly today
KATHMANDU, SEP 23 – Poll opposing 33- party alliance led by CPN- Maoist is all set to organise protest assembly in various parts of the country on Monday. CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya, among other leaders, are scheduled to address the assembly at Khulla Manch in the Capital this afternoon. Likewise, party Vice Chairman CP Gajurel, among others, will be addressing the assembly in Kaski, Pokhara. The protest assembly will kick off at around 1 this afternoon. Meanwhile, party cadres have been taking out protest rallies from Hanumansthan, Babarmahal, Lainchour, Chabahil, Kalimati, Sorhakhutte, Kupondole, among other parts of the valley. The rally will then turn into corner assembly at Khulla Manch.