Killer trigger: Foiled $23m gun deal (the original story)

S'pore-based royal reveals what weighed on cousin's mind before he shot family members
By Clement Mesenas
March 30, 2009 
FORBIDDEN love is the oft-heard reason behind Nepal's palace massacre when Dipendra Bikram Shah, then crown prince, ran amok.

But there's more to this Shakespearean tragedy than meets the eye, said the last crown prince of the Himalayan kingdom, a cousin of the killer prince.

Opening up for the first time since the 2001 bloodbath that took place before his eyes, Prince Paras Bikram Shah, 37, said there was a web of deep-seated reasons that sparked the killing.

But the trigger was a thwarted multi-million-dollar arms deal that was to have been Prince Dipendra's golden parachute to freedom if palace politics turned nasty.

Now largely based in Singapore, Prince Paras painted a vivid picture of palace intrigues in an exclusive interview.

He has a reason for making these revelation now (see report at bottom left). He wants to tell the world how a gun deal helped destroy a long-running kingdom.

'The Nepali army was looking for a new weapon to replace the Belgian SLR. Dipendra liked the German Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle, as opposed to the battle-tested Colt M16,' said Prince Paras, who was close to the younger generation of royals.

'But his father, His Majesty, did not agree. I know that they argued over it. Dipendra was frustrated. He wasn't happy. He told me,' said Prince Paras.

According to Frontline, an Indian magazine, the crown prince was known to have a fetish for guns and would often test out the latest weaponry that the Royal Army was planning to buy.

50,000 guns

The German assault rifle had been short-listed by the army, which was in the market for 50,000 new guns.

According to Prince Paras, his cousin's advisers had been working on the deal, which could have brought the crown prince a windfall.

'That, to me, was the real trigger. The deal would have probably been for about 50,000 rifles, which at US$300 ($454) apiece, would work out to about US$15 million.'

But why would the prince need the money? Wasn't the family's net worth estimated to be more than US$200 million?

'Yes, but I think he was already making plans for the possibility that he would have to leave the country suddenly if things didn't work out for him.

'I think this was his back-up plan.'

The plan ultimately cost Prince Dipendra his life, when he shot himself after the massacre.

But what could be so bad as to lead a crown prince to plot such a bloody scheme?

The palace was a hotbed of contending interests, said Prince Paras.

'Dipendra had his reasons (to kill the king),' said Prince Paras, who left Nepal for Singapore last July after his country's Maoist government abolished the monarchy.

Breaking his long silence on one of history's bloodiest royal moments, Prince Paras told The New Paper that Prince Dipendra had not one but three reasons for wanting to kill his own father.

The first reason, according to Prince Paras, was there for everyone to see.

On 9 Nov 1990, King Birendra promulgated the new constitution and ended almost 30 years of absolute monarchy in which the palace had dominated every aspect of political life.

Said Prince Paras: 'Dipendra was never the same after his father told him in 1990 about the plans to give up the monarchy.

'He never agreed with that as he wanted to rule the country. I think he started planning his moves then.'

Prince Paras grew up with the crown prince as the two were just six months apart in age.

The second reason was his love for Devyani Rana. The royal family did not want Prince Dipendra to marry her as she was from a rival family.

Not drunk

Prince Paras dismissed the notion that his cousin had shot the family on impulse after drinking heavily that night.

'He had talked to us (the younger generation of Nepali royalty) about it a year before it happened,' revealed Prince Paras.

'I remember it clearly. It was his birthday (in 2000) and he told all of us that he would bring down the 'ivory tower'. But we didn't take him seriously. How could we?

'This was the crown prince talking. He was going to be our king. And who would believe that he would kill his own father?'

But Prince Paras said he sensed something amiss on the night of the murders when he went to Prince Dipendra's house for one of the family's regular Friday night parties.

'Another cousin and I asked to be excused from the party because we wanted to go somewhere else. Usually he agreed, but this time Dipendra said no. He wanted us to be there.'

And once he got there, Prince Paras noticed that his cousin was behaving abnormally, acting as though he was drunk when he clearly was not.

'I know him and I know when he had had too much to drink. He said he had been drinking since the afternoon but there was no smell of alcohol on him.

'How can that be? If he had been drinking all the while, he should have been reeking. But there was no smell.'

When the crown prince's father came into view and was about to make his entrance, the prince 'collapsed' on the floor, forcing Prince Paras and Prince Dipendra's brother, Prince Niranjan, to help him up and take him back to his room.

But that was not the last they saw of Prince Dipendra.

In an act of extreme brutality, Prince Dipendra soon returned to slaughter his entire family.

  • Veteran journalist Clement Mesenas is now a public relations adviser with Bang PR.

    S Murali is The New Paper's associate editor.

    Why he's opening up now

    'THE Nepali people need to know the truth,' said Prince Paras, eight years after seeing 10 members of his royal family gunned down ruthlessly.

    The persistent, painful nightmares stopped after four years.

    What haven't stopped, however, are the ugly rumours of his involvement in the incident on 1Jun2001.

    But enough is enough, says Crown Prince Paras.

    He now wants to clear his name.

    Reacting to recent reports that the current Nepali government might reopen the investigation into the massacre, he decided to speak to senior Singapore media men. (The New Paper, Singapore)

  • Paras 'spills' massacre beans

    Keshav Koirala, KATHMANDU, March 29 - Ex-crown prince Dipendra had not one but three reasons for killing his father, King Birendra: a thwarted multi-million dollar arms deal, forbidden love and end to absolute monarchy in 1990, according to ex-crown prince Paras.

    "Nepal Army was looking for a new weapon to replace the Belgian SLR. Dipendra liked the German Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle, as opposed to the battle-tested Colt M16," said Paras, in his first interview given to The New Paper on Sunday published from Singapore. The ex-prince has been living in Singapore since July 2008 after  monarchy was abolished in May.

    "But His Majesty, did not agree. I know that they argued over it. Dipendra was frustrated. He wasn't happy. He told me." Sunday's edition quoted Paras as saying .

    "The German assault rifle had been short-listed by the army, which was in the market for 50,000 new guns. According to Paras, his cousin's advisers had been working on the deal, which could have brought the crown prince a windfall."

    "That, to me, was the real trigger. The deal would have probably been for about 50,000 rifles, which at US$300 a piece, would work out to about US$15 million," Paras told the English language tabloid.

    Paras's interview, according to the daily, was a reaction to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's recent statement that the government would reopen the investigation into the Royal Palace Massacre on the night of June 1, 2001.

    Paras said Dipendra needed the money since he was already making plans for the possibility that he would have to leave the country suddenly if things didn't work out for him. "I think this was his back-up plan. "The palace was a hotbed of contending interests," said Paras.

    In 1990, King Birendra promulgated the new constitution and ended almost 30 years of absolute monarchy.

    Said Paras: "Dipendra was never the same after his father told him in 1990 about plans to give up monarchy. "He never agreed with that as he wanted to rule the country. I think he started planning his moves then."

    The second reason was his love for Devyani Rana. The royal family did not want Dipendra to marry her as she was from a rival family.

    Paras dismissed the notion that his cousin had shot the family on impulse after drinking heavily that night."He had talked to us (the younger generation of Nepali royalty) about it a year before it happened," revealed Paras.

    "I remember it clearly. It was his birthday in 2000 and he told all of us that he would bring down the 'ivory tower'. But we didn't take him seriously. How could we?

    "This was the crown prince talking. He was going to be our king. And who would believe that he would kill his own father?"And once he got there, Paras noticed that his cousin was behaving abnormally, acting as though he was drunk when he clearly was not.

    "I know him and I know when he has had too much to drink. He said he had been drinking since afternoon, but there was no smell of alcohol on him.

    Posted on: 2009-03-29 19:49:56 (The Kathmandu Post)

    Holes galore on ordinance on disappearances, BY KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL

    SIGDEL, K. R. 
    KATHMANDU, Feb 29 - With the winter session beginning on Sunday, the country awaits curiously the fate of some key ordinances. Ordinance on disappearances that came into effect from Jan. 1 is one of them.
    Rights activists claim that if the Parliament approves the ordinance without radical amendment, it would give birth to a Commission full of serious faults; and if it is rejected, it would also be a disaster in that Nepal's first appreciable effort towards ending the culture of impunity would be sabotaged. In either case, the victims stand to lose.
    "The ordinance is silent on the process governing commissioners' selection. This indicates that the commission will retain political colour," says constitutional lawyer Govinda Sharma Bandi.
    The government's team comprises Maoist leader Padam Lal BK, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, a facilitator trusted by the Maoists during the talks prior to the peace agreement, and Raman Shrestha, an advocate who is said to be a vocal supporter of the Maoists.
    "One can imagine what type of commissioners these people will select," says Parsuram Koirala, a family member of those disappeared during the armed conflict. But the government sources say the ordinance has incorporated rights bodies' inputs.
    Interestingly, the ordinance states in its Article 26 that "a complaint shall have to be lodged within six months of the promulgation of this ordinance."
    This means the victims have missed three months uninformed of the deadline as there has been no public announcement whatsoever.
    Article 6 has a provision for "imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and with a fine not exceeding Rs 300,000," which, experts say, is too little and the word "not exceeding" indicates that the punishment could be as minimum as one year jail-term or one rupee fine. (Published

    on: The Kathmandu Post, 2009-03-29 02:44:48, Server Time)

    Nepal under Maoism

    War without bloodshed
    -The Economist
    NEPAL'S Maoist prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, or "Prachanda" (fierce), recently said that running a country was harder than running a guerrilla war. He should not have been surprised. The Maoist-led coalition government was formed after the ex-guerrillas pulled off a stunning election victory last April, just two years after they tramped in from the jungle. It faced three giant tasks: to bring better government to one of South Asia's poorest countries; to help sustain a peace process that followed a bitter, decade-long struggle; and to preside over the writing of a new constitution. Achieving all this, within the 30-month term allotted to a government, was bound to be difficult. Yet there is now a growing fear that failure—in a country that has seen civil war, a royal coup, the abolition of the monarchy, huge protests and an ethnically based rebellion in recent years—may spark a fresh crisis before long.
    On its first task, the government has done passably well. With a few able ministers, it has made a better fist of administration than its shambolic predecessor, headed by the main opposition, the Nepali Congress party. The Maoist finance minister, Baburam Bhattarai, promised lots of handouts for the poor. But by making it easier for people to pay income tax, and threatening retribution to those who will not, he has also, he says, boosted the government's revenues by 38%. If this has not endeared the Maoists to Kathmandu's well-heeled tax-dodgers, the ex-guerrillas do not care. "Resolutely unclubable", in the phrase of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, the Maoists rose on the back of popular resentment against Kathmandu's grip on the nation's power and wealth.
    On the second task, encouraging peace, the news is less good. In Kathmandu on March 22nd, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, declared that without justice for the victims of Nepal's war, in which 13,000 died, the country's fragile peace might be doomed. There is as yet no prospect of such justice. The war's murders and rapes were carried out by two forces that remain at loggerheads: the Maoists' 24,000-strong People's Liberation Army, currently corralled under UN supervision, and the national army.
    Under the terms of a 2006 peace accord between the Maoists and the main political parties, the Maoist fighters were to be taken into the army, or found other jobs. The army, which backed Nepal's deposed king, Gyanendra, in a 2005 power-grab, was also to be reformed. None of this has been done. In private, politicians and some army officers agree that a few thousand Maoist foot-soldiers will have to be recruited into the army, and some Maoist commanders given accelerated officer training. Yet the army chief, General Rookmangud Katwal, who hates Maoists, is reluctant to concur. And the Maoists seem unwilling to disband their forces.
    This is unsustainable. On March 15th the Maoist defence minister refused to extend the service of eight brigadier-generals, as General Katwal had asked him to. The Maoists were retaliating against General Katwal's earlier refusal to abandon an army recruitment drive, as the government and UN had said he should. Might the army take over? "Let's hope that situation doesn't arise," says a senior officer. It may not, at least without tacit support from India, and that seems unlikely.
    Alas, the Maoists' third task, presiding over the writing of a new constitution by Nepal's elected assembly, promises to be the most difficult. Little progress has been made, because of incompetence, political jockeying and fundamental disagreements. Most contentious is the issue of federalism. All the main parties have vowed to support a new federal Nepal, but few, if any, consider this practical or desirable. The root of the problem is, again, widespread resentment of rich Kathmandu and its pampered elite. Yet few regions outside the Kathmandu valley generate much wealth and, even if politically possible, the sort of provincial structures that many Nepalis now expect may be unaffordable.
    The issue is already explosive. After a 2006 insurrection in the southern Terai region by the Madhesi ethnic group, all the main parties have pandered to regional sentiments. This has encouraged more uprisings. This month members of another ethnic group, the Tharu, in the western part of the Terai, launched a ruinous two-week blockade of roads across the country. They objected to their classification by the Maoists as Madhesi, whom the Tharu consider interlopers from India. Nepal's troubles are far from over.
    (The Economist)

    Three Afghanistan Tests for Obama

    By Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post 
    Three time bombs are buried within the new and ambitious strategy for Afghanistan that President Obama unveiled Friday. Their detonation — which would cripple the international mission to stabilize the country and perhaps cripple Obama's presidency — is not inevitable. But defusing them will take an exceptional performance by U.S. military commanders and diplomats, some skillful politicking by the president — and maybe a little of the unexpected good fortune that blessed the U.S. surge in Iraq.
    The first fuse is burning down toward Aug. 20, less than five months from now. On that day, Afghanistan is due to hold a presidential election whose outcome and perceived fairness may determine whether most Afghans continue to view U.S. and NATO forces as friendly. By then, too, the 17,000 additional Marines and Army troops authorized by Obama last month should be deployed in the two southern Afghan provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, where the Taliban is strongest, along with scores of new American civilian advisers.
    This first test is twofold: Can the new U.S. forces clear the enemy from the large areas near the border with Pakistan where they now rule with near impunity — something that inevitably will mean a spike in violence — without appearing to use disproportionate force? And will Afghans be secure enough to cast ballots in an election in which they will be offered alternatives to incumbent President Hamid Karzai, with the assurance that their votes will be fairly counted?
    U.S. commanders are pretty confident they can pass the military test, in part because for the first time in the seven-year war they can mass enough forces to overwhelm the Taliban without heavy reliance on air power, which causes 60 percent of civilian casualties. The election will be trickier. Karzai's government is perceived as feckless and corrupt by much of the Afghan population, and his relations with the United States have deteriorated sharply in the past year. Yet, in part because of a lack of strong challengers, he appears likely to win reelection. If the vote seems rigged, or if Karzai wins a new mandate without offering a credible promise of improvement, Afghans may irrevocably sour both on the central government and its foreign sponsors.
    "This election has to be viewed as free and fair," said one U.S. military officer in Kabul. "And there has to be some discussion of corruption by Karzai so that in the first 100 days after the election there can be some visible action taken."
    The second time bomb is set for the summer of 2010, when a war that is now regarded in Washington as jointly owned by the Bush and Obama administrations will have become Obama's alone — for better or worse. The estimation in Kabul is that Americans and Afghans will tolerate relatively heavy fighting and casualties during this year's warm-weather "fighting season" in the hope that the fresh troops and new strategy will reverse the war's momentum. "But if we get to the next campaign season and we are getting the same results," worries one senior U.S. official, "we are going to lose public support."
    The timeline is daunting because the immense and complex effort that will be needed to pacify Afghanistan's most troubled areas — comprising military operations, new aid programs, governmental reform and a major new attempt to reduce Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan — will take at least three to five years to pay off, by U.S. and NATO estimates.
    That means Obama will have to stand up to the inevitable dissenters from both parties who will want to pull the plug on the counterinsurgency campaign before it has had a chance to work. These may include powerful officials in his own administration: Vice President Joe Biden is among those who have been doubtful about making a major commitment to Afghan nation-building.
    That brings up the third and longest-fused bomb. So far the international coalition is succeeding in reconstructing only one Afghan institution: the national army. Since 2007, it has been growing at a formidable pace: 7,000 new soldiers at a time are being drilled at the principal training base in Kabul. The best of Afghanistan's high school graduates are being siphoned off for officer training and a new four-year military academy modeled on West Point. Polls show the army is the most popular institution in the country. "The army," says proud Defense Minister Rahim Wardak, "is the physical manifestation of a new Afghanistan."
    That's good — only there has been no corresponding effort to build the capacity of the Afghan government and judiciary. An attempt to rebuild the police is just gaining speed after several false starts. The new strategy envisions a doubling of the U.S. Embassy staff and a major effort to strengthen civilian institutions. But, for the moment, Afghanistan is emerging as a country with a U.S.-trained army that will tower over all other institutions — with potential consequences that can easily be seen in the history of American-trained armies in Latin America.
    "People here know how to solve every problem in the world except the problem of governance — but that is the one that matters most," says a Kabul-based diplomat. "Security we can do. Development we can do. It's that last piece — the knitting of the country together — that is going to be the hardest." Yet if it's not done, no success in Afghanistan will be sustainable. (The Washington Post)

    Want to Fight Terrorists? Try Mocking Them

    By Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post

    With the Taliban regaining strength and Osama bin Laden still on the loose, President Obama announced a new strategy Friday to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition to new funding for Pakistan's democratic institutions and more U.S. troops to train the Afghan security forces, here's another anti-terrorism tactic the president might consider: Make al-Qaida boring.

    In an essay in the April issue of the British magazine Prospect, Jamie Bartlett of the think tank Demos and McGill University psychologist Michael King contend that violent extremism often appeals to young Muslims because it seems to offer "adventure, excitement and notoriety." Puncturing this swashbuckling image is critical in the fight against terrorism, they say.

    "Al-Qaida allows a young nobody to become a heroic warrior; an Islamic James Bond," the authors write. They cite research showing that members of terrorist cells tend to be young men with little religious training beyond "a few cut-and-paste lines" of jihadi literature. The answer is to strip away the mystique and show that the life of an Islamic extremist "more like that of a petty criminal than a secret agent."

    Bartlett and King offer an unorthodox solution: If you mock the extremists, their appeal will diminish. For example, the authors note approvingly that British satirist Chris Morris is planning a film on Islamic extremism.

    American pranksters are on the case, too: U.S. Central Command has invited Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert to entertain U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf. The location, however, remains undisclosed. As Colbert put it on his show, "All I will say is that there will be sand, and people who wish we would leave." (The Washington Post)

    US 'keen to strengthen Asia ties'

    News Analysis

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the US is keen to broaden and deepen its ties with Asia.

    Speaking to the BBC ahead of an Asian tour, Mrs Clinton said North Korea's nuclear plans, the economic crisis and climate change would top the agenda.

    She warned North Korea against "provocative action" but stressed the wide range of incentives for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programme.

    Her week-long tour will take in Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia.

    The stops reflect the diversity of ties the US has in the region, BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas in Washington says.

    "Going to Asia signals that the US is not just a transatlantic power but also a transpacific power," Mrs Clinton told the BBC.

    "We are looking to create partnerships and opportunities for co-operation that we believe are in our national security interests and in keeping with our values."

    She also stressed that the US was keen to work more collaboratively with China.

    While some saw China as an adversary, Mrs Clinton said, there were real opportunities to develop a good relationship with Beijing on issues such as climate change and clean energy.

    Mrs Clinton went on: "There is a pent-up desire on the part of the United States government under the Obama administration, as well as partners around the world, that we begin to work together to solve a lot of our common problems...

    "On climate change, pandemic prevention, nuclear proliferation, on all of these serious threats and challenges that we face, we are going to assume a leading role again."

    Stalled talks

    Ties between the two countries have in the past focused on the economy, our correspondent says, but Mrs Clinton and the state department now seem to be taking the lead in managing that relationship.

    It is the first time since the 1960s that a secretary of state has made Asia the destination of a first trip in office, our correspondent adds.

    " If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons programme, the Obama administration will be willing to normalise bilateral relations "
    Hillary Clinton US secretary of state

    Earlier, giving her first big foreign policy speech at New York's Asia Society, Mrs Clinton urged North Korea not to take any "provocative action" that would undermine talks on the issue.

    Her trip to Asia comes amid speculation in regional media outlets that North Korea may be preparing for a long-range missile test.

    Mrs Clinton described the country's nuclear programme as "the most acute challenge to stability in north-east Asia" and said the nations involved in six-party talks on the issue would need to work together to make progress.

    She made clear that the US would hold Pyongyang to its commitment to give up its nuclear programme in return for diplomatic concessions and economic aid.

    "If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons programme, the Obama administration will be willing to normalise bilateral relations", she said.

    Mrs Clinton added that the US would also be prepared "to replace the peninsula's long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people".

    The six-party talks, involving the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea, have been stalled for months.

    The US has concerns about how to verify Pyongyang's past nuclear activities and wants North Korea to disclose its full nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang, meanwhile, says it is not receiving the aid promised in the 2007 aid-for-disarmament deal. (BBC)

    Sri Lanka: "A Slaughter Waiting to Happen"

    By Lakhdar Brahimi

    20 March 2009

    The already severe humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka is on the brink of catastrophe. It will take the quick arrival of humanitarian relief and high-level international political muscle to bring the nightmarish situation to an end and prevent a slaughter.

    An estimated 150,000 civilians are now trapped in a tiny pocket of land between Sri Lankan military forces, whose artillery shells regularly fall among them, and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who shoot at them if they try to escape. Food, clean water and medical assistance are all increasingly scarce.

    According to U.N. figures, 2,300 civilians have already died and at least 6,500 have been injured since January. Some 500 children have been killed and over 1,400 injured. What happens to the rest of those caught in the middle of the government's onslaught and the Tigers' fight to the death depends not only on the two parties but on the international response as well.

    The crisis is born of acts by both sides that most probably amount to serious violations of humanitarian law and perhaps to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

    As it has withdrawn before the government forces, the LTTE has sought refuge in the civilian population. It has been holding men, women and children as hostages, forcibly recruiting them and using them as human shields.

    The government has responded with attacks that independent observers describe as indiscriminate. Distinguishing combatants from noncombatants has become impossible with fighters and civilians packed so closely together. Alarming reports are coming in that government forces are shelling even those areas they themselves have declared "no-fire zones."

    If both groups do not end the fighting immediately, the lives of tens of thousands of civilians are at risk. Both parties must understand that the continuation of their current actions is not acceptable.

    The situation is even more tragic because it represents an unnecessarily devastating coda to a war that is already over.

    Totally overwhelmed by government forces, the LTTE has lost. Holding civilian hostages and showing complete disregard for the Tamil population that it claims to want to liberate will not resurrect its ability to fight this war.

    Nor will the annihilation of thousands of civilians secure the government's long-cherished victory over terrorism. On the contrary, the indiscriminate killing of its own citizens will make it harder for Colombo to seal its military victory with post-conflict reconciliation and development of the Tamil-majority north.

    Opinion among the millions of Tamils around the world, especially those in southern India, is being dangerously radicalized by images and stories of intense civilian suffering.

    The international community should not let the already desperate situation end up an all-out humanitarian catastrophe. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should insist on immediate access for U.N. staff to no-fire zones in order to assess the needs of the population. He should appoint a special representative to work with the government of Sri Lanka and all the relevant parties to guarantee the rights and protection of the endangered civilians.

    On the political side, other international leaders - in particular, President Barack Obama, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders from Asia, the nonaligned movement and the Commonwealth - must urgently use their leverage to convince the Sri Lankan government to stop its offensive.

    They should help shift the government from a strategy of total annihilation to one of containment by addressing government fears that LTTE leaders will use a pause in the fighting to flee and regroup.

    In addition to assisting the U.N. in the evacuation of civilians, all these friends of Sri Lanka should commit themselves to supervise the surrender of the LTTE, with guarantees of the physical security of those who surrender, backed up by the presence of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees wherever the military receives civilians or surrendered fighters.

    The United States and India could also offer to increase naval surveillance in order to prevent remaining Tiger fighters from escaping by sea.

    None of these measures will be easy to achieve. The government and the LTTE are locked in a war to the last man and seem oblivious to the civilian death toll around them.

    The international community has the means to act; it must not, it cannot fail to act. Being a spectator when 150,000 thousand people are trapped in a death zone is not an option.

    Lakhdar Brahimi, former special adviser to the U.N. secretary general, is a board member of the International Crisis Group.

    [ ]International Herald Tribune

    Minister calls for Bagmati clean-up

    Minister for Environment, Science and Technology of the Government of Nepal Ganesh Shah calls for Bagmati clean-up, while he is already in the stinking river Bagmati. The government and the local organizatios are trying to "conserve the holy river Bagmati" by pouring in more water through deep boaring and sewerage management.

    Why did the Tharus gave up at last?

    Tharus were taken aback when Madhesis objected keeping the word 'Tarai' before Madhes

    LOOK and GAZE
    The six-point deal that the agitating groups and the government singed on Saturday was a document of compromise, said leaders of Tharu community.

    The deal that came after 13 days of continuous agitation, does not address the very first demand of the Tharus that the word “Madhes” be stricken off the Interim Constitution, which was the bone of contention.

    According to sources, earlier the government had come up with a draft agreement that agreed to replace “Madhes” with “Tarai Madhes”. But when the Madhesi and Tharus leaders read it, things turned nasty: the Tharus threatened to walk away from the negotiation if the government does not agree to wipe out the word Madhes from the Interim Constitution, while the Madhesi leaders’ warned that if the government agreed to keep “Tarai” ahead of Madhes in the name of ‘appeasing’ the Tharus, they would trigger another movement.

    “When the things started getting messy, both the parties agreed not to mention both of the words in the agreement while agreeing that the problems would be solved through amendment,” explained Chairman of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Pasang Sherpa. “This is what we call negotiation, either of the parties must compromise,” added Pasang.

    While the mediator of the Tharus, Satya Man Joshi, who is also an advocate, said that the Tharu leaders failed to stand firm on their demand while negotiating with the government. “I don’t think they should have compromised on the very first demand the way they did” he added.

    However, Gopal Dahit of Tharuhat Joint Struggle Committee, one of the members in the Tharu talks team, said that they signed the agreement only after the prime minister assured them of addressing their concern through the amendment. “We have agreed that the next amendment would do away with the disagreements regarding the use of words,” he said. “We have trusted the prime minister’s words in that regard,” he added.

    The first point of the six-point deal states that “all sorts of constitutional and legal provisions that conflict with or overshadow” the identities of Tarai Aadivasi Tharus, Madhesi, Aadibasi Janajati, Dalit, Muslim and minority communities would be amended “following necessary procedures”.

    According to Tharu leaders, the phrase “all sorts of constitutional and legal provisions that conflict with or overshadow with identities of Tarai Aadivasi Tharus” incorporates their perceived problem with words.

    Tharu Movement was not only an identity politics

    Kamal Raj Sigdel


    With the Tharu movement shaking the country’s entire political fabric, intellectuals of indigenous and Madheshi community have started assessing that the fight for true inclusive democracy has not ended.

    Analysts claim that the Madhes movement of 2007 failed to materialize the expectation of diverse communities in the Tarai -- Tharus, Muslims and others -- that were actually suppressed and excluded over years of monolithic government.

    Tharu intellectuals maintain that the ongoing Tharu agitation is the result of several mistakes on the part of political parties and the state that failed to be inclusive and democratic.

    According to Satya Mohan Joshi, an advocate and political analysts from Tharu community, the Interim Constitution itself curtailed the rights of indigenous groups when the parties amended it for the first time declaring 20 districts as Madhes last year. “That was the first mistake that disappointed Tharus because that was made under pressure of the Madhesi movement and without any discussion with other Tarai communities,” says Joshi. “The Tharus, therefore, are demanding that the word ‘Madhesh’ be replaced by ‘Tarai’ in the Interim Constitution”.

    Joshi argues that while Article 21 of interim constitution has guaranteed proportional representation of separate categories -- Madhesi, Aadibasi-Janajati, Dalit, women and backward communities -- it has been violated by subsequent laws, including the Law on Constituent Assembly elections and Public Services Act formulated last year.

    In order to correct that the indigenous groups have demanded for scrapping of the two laws – Election Law and Public Services Law -- and the reservation ordinance, including a new mechanism to ensure their proportional representation at all state organs.

    The non-Madhesi groups based in the Tarai have a stronger objection that while the Madhesi leaders speak of entire Tarai to secure 45 percent representation quota and other facilities from the government, they never incorporate communities like Tharus, Muslims, Bote, Danuwar and other indigenous groups, on whose name they fetch a bigger pie.

    One of the Madhesi intellectuals, Dr S.B. Thakur assesses that MJF and other Madhesi parties failed to be inclusive. “While the Madhes Movement raised consciousness of ethnic minorities in Tarai, it failed to live up to their newer expectations -- their representation in party structures and government,” explains Thakur.

    Commenting on the Madhesi leaders’ recent disagreements regarding scrapping of ordinance on reservation, another Tharu leader Sailendra Chaudhary said that the Madhesi parties would be at loss if the word “Madhes” is properly defined.

    “In my calculation, if we are to actually calculate the percentage of Madhesi casts in Tarai, they would account for not more than 9 percent,” he said.

    Apprehensive of the Madhesi leaders warning, Raj Kumar Lekhi, XXXX, says, “We do accept that there are Madhesis in Tarai but not the geograpshical area called Madhes.” “If they warn to fight for something which does not exist, that will not make sense,” he says. He demands that the seven political parties that “introduced Madhes out of nowhere” should realize and correct their mistake.

    Capitalizing on the Madhesi parties’ failure, Tharus claim that this movement would benefit all excluded communities in Tarai. Not surprisingly, the Muslims and several other indigenous groups have come forward extending solidarity with the Tharus.

    Meanwhile, Madhesi experts discern a very bleak future of the Madhesi parties given their approach on Tharu agitation.

    Referring to J.P. Gupta’s warning that his party would kick off a “fresh movement” if the government withdrew the ordinance on reservation, Dr Thakur says that any move against Tharus would be suicidal as that would invite confrontation. However, he said that the Madhesi leaders have already lost support from many communities in Tarai.

    The discontent among Thrus was visible when the MJF held its general assembly in Birgunj where a third group was about to break away. “That unfortunately failed to teach them a lesson,” says Dr Thakur.

    One Madhesi expert demanding anonymity says that the “new polarization” is positive, because, without which, the underrepresented castes could not achieve their rights. He suggests that the Madhesi parties, who have been power blinded, would be nowhere if their fail to be inclusive. (---- comments are welcome ---)

    Rival armies put Nepal peace process in trouble, 'recruit thousands'

    KATHMANDU (AFP) — The peace process in the Himalayan nation of Nepal has hit a rocky patch due to a worsening spat between former Maoist rebels now in charge of the government and their old foes in the national army.

    The dispute centres around Maoist demands that their former rebel army, which is currently confined to United Nations-supervised camps, be fully integrated into the regular army according to the terms of a 2006 peace deal.

    The army, however, is refusing to take on board hardened fighters it views as indoctrinated by the teachings of Chairman Mao and Che Guevara -- and therefore as untrustworthy.

    The Maoists see the army as the bastion of the now abolished royal family and the impoverished country's feudal elite.

    Tensions have been brewing for months, but reached a head this week after the Nepal army recruited 2,800 new soldiers.

    The Maoists say this is a violation of the peace deal, and have responded by saying they will recruit thousands of fighters themselves -- effectively reviving their People's Liberation Army as a parallel institution.

    "We have called applications from Nepalese youth to fill vacant posts in our army," Nanda Kishore Pun, the chief of the Maoists' PLA, told reporters on Tuesday.

    He said the ultra-leftists, who signed up for peace after a 10-year insurgency, will recruit "over 11,000 soldiers to fill vacant positions."

    "The government must stop recruitment in the Nepal Army if it wants us to do the same," said Pun. "The Nepal Army is not following the government directives and has violated the peace accord, so there is no question of sticking to the accord just by ourselves."

    The Maoists already have over 19,000 fighters verified as such by the UN, and awaiting a new job.

    Observers have long warned that the peace process remains incomplete unless the PLA is dissolved, either by being fully incorporated into the national army or else given a satisfactory demobilisation package.

    Under the peace agreement, both the Maoist army and Nepal army are barred from undertaking additional recruitment.

    "It will be a great setback for the peace process if the Nepal army and the Maoist army get into a confrontation over the recruitment issue," Indrajit Rai, a conflict expert who teaches military science at Nepal's army college, said.

    "The government must take a swift decision before it is too late. It's not a good sign for a country like Nepal which has just started emerging from civil war," he told AFP

    "There's a danger of another conflict in the country if the two forces try to lock horns," he said.

    The Nepal Army, however, says its latest hirings were merely aimed at filling "vacant posts, and do not amount to new recruitment."

    The issue now has been referred to Nepal's Supreme Court, and the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) -- tasked with monitoring the arms and armies of the two sides -- has warned that both could be heading into deep water.

    "UNMIN stands by its earlier position that the new recruitment by either side -- the Nepal army or the Maoist Army -- is against the comprehensive peace agreement," said UNMIN spokesman Kosmos Biswokarma

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