THREE PARTY SUMMIT BEGINS
Kathmandu, 31 Oct.: A summit of the Big Three—Maoists, NC and UML, started at a resort in Budhanilkantha Monday morning.
BIPPA CHALLENGED AT SUPREME COURT
Kathmandu, 31 Oct.: A writ was filed at supreme court Sunday challenging the validity of a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPPA) signed between Nepal and India during the just concluded India visit of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.
Advocate Balkrishna Neupane filled the writ seeking immediate annulment of the agreement.
The Kathmandu Post adds:
A writ has moved the Supreme Court seeking immediate annulment of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) signed between Nepal and India on October 21.
The writ filed by advocate Balkrishna Neupane on Sunday argues that the agreement should be scrapped as is not in the larger interests of Nepal. The petitioner argues that the deal gives undue privileges to the Indian side, particularly on the use of "air space", and breaches existing laws on labour.
While the agreement mentions the "air space" of India, it does not mention that of Nepal, which, Neupane argues, is incorrect as Nepal seems not to have taken into account its own air space while signing the agreement. The deal, the writ contends, has given India the right of uninterrupted use of Nepali air space while Nepal clearly does not have such rights.
Similarly, the petitioner mentions that the term "republic" has been obliterated from the accord unlike in the case of India. This, Neupane affirms, might have happened either because India has not been able to take note of the changes--republican set up in Nepal--or the Nepali side could not clarify it to India.
Neupane has taken serious exception to the provision in the BIPPA that would allow Indian companies to bring in their own workers and staff. This will not create additional job opportunities, as envisaged, for the Nepalis but will have an opposite effect.
The deal is against Labour Act, which doesn't permit non-Nepalis to work, the writ argues. The petitioner has also challenged the compensatory provision in the agreement in case the Indian companies incur non-commercial losses.
Drawing parallel between the BIPPA and the Unified Mahakali Agreement (1996), the petitioner argues that the deal would not be in Nepal's interests and reminds the Maoist party of its past commitments to scrapping "unequal" treaties with India. Neupane also argues that the main reason for Indian companies not coming to Nepali is the Maoist party as it has been shutting down industries--including the Nepali ones--on various pretexts. The double taxation system prevalent between two countries, the writ points out, is another reason that hinders Indian investment in Nepal.
The defendants in the petition include Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, Office of the Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UCPN (Maoist) Parliamentary Party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Minister for Industries Anil Jha, Ministry of Law and Justice, and Secretariat of the Legislature-Parliament.
UML, MAOIST MEET INCONCLUSIVE BEFORE MONDAY’S BIG THREE SUMMIT
Kathmandu, 31 Oct.; Major political parties Sunday intensified their talks in a bid to conclude the stalled peace process but could not arrive at a concrete decision, The Rising Nepal reports.
The meeting between ruling UCPN-Maoist and opposition CPN-UML, held late this evening, agreed to settle the thorny issues of peace process at a three-party meeting scheduled on Monday morning while the UML and NC decided to form a common standpoint on it during the meeting.
The meeting between the UML and the Maoists ended without a fruitful outcome.
"We decided to thrash out the contentious issues relating to the peace process at a meeting of three major parties tomorrow morning," said UML leader Bhim Rawal.
Rawal said that the meeting slated at 8 am was expected to take important decisions.
In today’s meeting, the UML asked the Maoists about their official views on the peace process, especially on the integration and rehabilition of their combatants.
"In their response, the Maoist side said that they are still discussing the matter and asked us to take it to the three-party meeting tomorrow," said Rawal.
In the beginning of the meeting, UML chair Jhala Nath Khanal enquired with the PM about the BIPPA agreement.
"During the all-party meeting, PM Dr Baburam Bhattarai told us that his India visit would be a goodwill visit but he signed a controversial deal," Rawal quoted Khanal as saying.
PM Bhattarai had defended the agreement at the meeting attended by the top leader of two parties.
Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, vice chairman and PM Dr Bhattarai another vice-chairman Mohan Baidhay Kiran and general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, and UML chair Khanal,
vice-chairman Ashok Rai and leaders Rawal and Surendra Pandey attended the meeting.
The two parties decided that the peace process should be concluded in a package.
The meeting between the second and third largest parties in the parliament, held at CPN-UML Parliamentary Party office in Singha Durbar, also agreed that they would bring common concept for peace process.
According to NC general secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula, two parties agreed on putting forward common stance on integration, rehabilitation and management of the Maoist combatants.
Sitaula said that the meeting decided to conclude the peace process on the basis of consensus among the major three parties.
He said, "The NC and UML will stress on implementing the earlier agreements related to the peace process."
Sitaula informed that the parties were trying to fix the number of combatants to be integrated and rehabilitation package.
He informed that the meeting of the major three parties meeting and fringe parties would be held soon to decide for the early conclusion of the peace process.
"Without rolling the peace process ahead, other issues will not be discussed in the three-party meeting," he said.
NC leader said that NC wanted to conclude the peace process within a few days.
UML leader Bhim Rawal informed that two parties decided to settle all issues relating to the peace process in the package.
He informed that the NC and UML were positive about the report prepared by a taskforce comprising the representatives of three parties.
The report suggests the ideas for the combatants’ integration, rehabilitation and management.
He said that the two parties were not ready to extend the Constituent Assembly’s tenure.
NC president Sushil Koirala, vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel, general secretaries Prakashman Singh and Sitaula were present in the meeting. Similarly, UML chairman Jhalanath Khanal, senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, vice-chairman Ashok Rai, leaders Bhim Rawal and Surendra Pandey participated in the meeting.
Meanwhile, NC general secretary Sitaula said that the three-party meeting was expected to be a landmark for the conclusion of peace and constitution writing processes.
Talking to The Rising Nepal, he said that the meeting would be very important to end the stalemate.
PM, PRESIDENT CONDOLE TUKEY QUAKE DEATHS
Kathmandu, 31 Oct.: President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav Sunday sent a condolence message to Abdullah Gul, President of the Republic of Turkey, expressing his deep sorrow over the demise of a large number of people in the recent devastating earthquake in Turkey, The Rising Nepal reports.
"I have been deeply saddened by the news of huge death toll numbering in hundreds and widespread devastation caused by the earthquake," Dr Yadav wrote in his message to President Gul.
"At this hour of grief, on behalf of the Government and people of Nepal, and on my own, I would like to extend sincere condolence to you and through you to the people and government of Turkey and heartfelt condolence to all the victims and members of bereaved families," Dr. Yadav wrote.
He also wished eternal peace of the departed soul.
Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai also sent a similar condolence message to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey.
CHHATH CELEBRATIONS START
Kathmandu 31 Oct.:, Chhath, the important festival of the Maithali speaking people of eastern Terai, began from Sunday by observing the ‘Arawa-Arawain’ ritual, The Rising Nepal reports.
Arawa-Arawain ritual is observed on the first day of Chhath. People on this day take a holy dip in the nearby ponds and rivers and purify their bodies.
Chhath is observed for four days from Kartik Shukala Chaturthi to Kartik Shukala Saptami.
This festival is celebrated enthusiastically in ancient Mithila’s capital, Janakpurdham and other towns in eastern and central Terai.
It has also been celebrated with great joy and excitement in Kathmandu valley for the last few years.
Preparation for Chhat has begun at the Bagmati River banks in Guweshowri and Thapathali and in Rani Pokhari in Ratnapark.
During this festival, the sun is worshiped as the source of power of nature, considering it as the god of energy and lord of the life-force.
On the evening of the second day, women prepare ‘pure’ food and sweets and eat it with their family. After that they start thirty-six hours fasting.
On the third day, women gather by the ponds and rivers to take a ritual bathing, sing and worship the setting sun’s last rays and keep awake by the banks of the ponds till the morning. In the morning of the fourth day, they greet the Sun’s first rays with prayers, offerings and ritual baths and conclude the festival.
Various ponds and rivers banks across the country are being cleaned up and decorated to mark the Chhath festival with fanfare.
However, in Saptari, the people were angry as the municipality authorities did not clean up the ponds and river banks where the worships would take place even by the time the festival began.
Local Bhagawati and Kaltu ponds see the largest crowds of the devotees in the municipality areas. When both sites were not cleaned, the people themselves started cleaning the sites.
"The banks of the ponds where the pigs graze were throwing stench even this morning and we decided to clean them ourselves," said Arjun Sah, a local.
Social activist Jagannath Mundhada said that it was unfortunate that even during the Chhath festival the municipality did not clean the ponds.
Shankar Sharada, another social activist, demanded that the municipality should clean the ponds keeping in mind the health of the devotees who visit the ponds to offer worships.
Meanwhile, in Jhapa, crowds in the markets have swollen up with the beginning of Chhath festival.
The mobility in markets has increased to make necessary preparation for the celebration of the Chhath festival that begins immediately after Tihar.
The people could be seen purchasing various goods in the local markets. Most of them have given importance to the task of the arrangement of bamboo-made products for Chhath celebration, informed the festival celebrators.
With the festival coming closer, the price of the bamboo products has also increased, said entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, RSS adds that various food items such as banana, coconut and sugarcane are being purchased at a high scale for the festival celebration in the district. The purchase and sale of such goods have been intensified in the markets like Bhadrapur, Chandragadhi, Kakarbhitta and Damak.
Groceries, sweet shops and fruits centres have been overcrowded.
NC HOPES FOR A DEAL MONDAY IN TRIPARTITE TALKS
After rounds of negotiations between the three major parties, it seems a deal on integration is finally imminent, but a few outstanding issues remain to be resolved. The Kathmandu Post’s Bidushi Dhungel and Gyanu Adhikari spoke to Nepali Congress leaders Minendra Rijal— member of the Special Committee for the Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants and former Minister for Culture— about the intricacies of the outstanding issues, the Maoist’s internal rifts, power-sharing and recently signed BIPPA agreement. Excerpts:
Last week when we spoke to Congress leader Krishna Sitaula, he said a deal on integration would be signed within a week to 10 days. What’s happening with that process?
We have a meeting tomorrow morning [October 31] at 8am between the three major parties. We’re hoping that a deal comes out of it. The day before PM Baburam Bhattarai left for India, we almost had the deal sealed. There were only two disagreements: on the economic package to be given for those who take voluntary exit and to those who will go for rehabilitation. Our offer was Rs 200,000-400,000 depending on experience for those who take voluntary exit and additional money to fund those who take the rehabilitation route. Maoists were saying Rs 600,000-900,000. We made a final offer of Rs 300,000-600,000 for ones who take the voluntary exit and additional money for those who opt for rehabilitation. And on numbers too, we had a disagreement. We had said 4,000 to be integrated and the Maoists had all along said 7,000 based on the agreement between the Maoists and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha. They said they really wanted a deal before the PM left for India so we said 5,000 to be integrated as a final offer. We were hoping to chuck out the differences in the morning before the PM left, but it didn’t happen because some Maoist leaders said they weren’t done with internal consultations. We met once after the PM returned, and the differences on the two issues still exist. But we are hoping we can get a deal.
What is driving this optimism?
For three reasons: one, because the Maoists have all along insisted that once they get to lead government, they could take the peace process further. Second, they have said they would like to complete the 12-point agreement. If they can’t sign a deal today, then people will doubt their commitment to the 12 point agreement. And third, we need to show something to the people of Nepal, so that we can win their confidence back and get an extension of the CA. For these reasons, I am hopeful there will be an agreement tomorrow.
As far as NC is concerned, is there any more room for compromise on numbers?
If we have agreement on everything else, reaching a deal on numbers isn’t that difficult. When the Maoists signed the deal with the Morcha for 7,000 to be integrated, they knew they would have to take that to the negotiating table with us. I’m sure they will be pragmatic enough to accept what we have offered.
Are the protests by the Maoist hardliner faction delaying the the deal?
I wouldn’t blame one faction of a party or another. In our party as well, there are colleagues who think the CA isn’t the right path. But we are not using that pretext not to get a deal on the peace process and constitution. When we meet with other parties, we present ourselves as a single unified party. So does the UML. My earnest request to the Maoists is for them to present themselves as a single unified party.
So you think that the Maoists are using their internal rifts to stall the peace process?
I do not have enough evidence to think otherwise.
What’s your take on the hardliner faction’s dissent?
I don’t want to dwell on the differences in a party. But, as a party are they not achieving their objectives? Of course they are. They have gotten a chance to lead government. They are the largest party. If they complete the peace process, it will be beneficial to the party and the country. They stand to benefit by completing the process. But Prachanda has gained because of the differences in the party because he comes across as the peacemaker in the party, nationally and internationally—he looks pretty good. Mohan Baidya and his group are also gaining because their support base within the party has widened. The party is benefiting, the PM is benefitting, Prachanda is benefitting, Kiran is benefitting.
How does the NC see the deal benefitting the party?
Of course, it would have been great if the NC could take all the credit for the peace process. But let’s accept the reality—credit will be shared. For 60 years, the Congress has said that the Nepali people should get to write the constitution and if the peace process is completed, there stands a good chance of that happening.
If the peace process is completed, would NC join the government?
We have always said that we will accept Maoist leadership only when the peace process is completed. If the peace process is completed, we have no qualms joining a Moaist-led government. But now is not the time to talk about that—we should focus on the peace process. Then the Maoists can make an offer and we will see.
Within the peace process, is there going to be an expert panel to decide on the ranks of the combatants?
No, no. Let’s understand what’s involved here: a person with the same qualification, whether from the Maoist side or the concerned security forces needs to be the same rank. The concerned security forces are the experts. The Maoists should have faith in the security forces as the combatants are going to become a part of the force and will no longer be associated with the Maoist party.
What of the roles for the integrated combatants?
For now, they have allocated roles which have been discussed time and again. But the hope is that in the future, democratic practise will take its course, we will have a new constitution and who knows what will happen.
But there is a school of thought that says that it’s discriminatory policy to allow only certain roles for the combatants.
It’s not discriminatory. They need to be integrated and for the time-being it’s the best solution. Once they receive trainings and have gone through proper measures and are fully part of the NA, democracy will take its course and there will be no clause in constitution on combatants—we will be a normal functioning democracy. And the Maoists have understood this better than our colleagues in the media (laughs).
What are the differences that NC has with the UML right now?
There are no differences, not even nuanced differences. And we hope the Maoists come on board as well.
Finally, what are your thoughts on the BIPPA agreement?
This is something every nation should sign with others. The implications of the Maoist PM signing the agreement are that his party will not revert to armed insurgency or violence as like in the past. When he signed it, he did so with the understanding that international capitalists will be given equal treatment to Nepali capitalists. But the PM is a smart man; he knows that simply signing paper is not enough. By signing the agreement, he has made it clear that there won’t be a climate of violence in the country. We can only see this as a positive step.