KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL
At a time some Nepali Congress leaders who -- after watching the videotape --felt duped by the Maoists have demanded for re-verification of the Maoist combatants Head of the United Nations Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) Karin Landgren suggested that the "process should move ahead instead of looking back".
"[It] is for the government and the parties to decide on the most constructive way forward," she told the Post, "But it is time that the process should move ahead instead of looking back".
In the videotape that surfaced immediately his resignation, caretaker Prime Minister and Unified CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is shown explaining about how his party tricked UNMIN to believe that they had 35,000 battalion when in fact they only had around 8,000, which shot up to19,602 after verification. The video was recorded before the April 10 Constituent Assembly elections. There was quite a big uproar within and outside the country over the videotape revelation.
Landgren, who met Dahal twice immediately after her arrival and discussed about the videotape scandal, said that the registration and verification process was undertaken in consensus from all sides. "The issues of registration, setting up of the cantonment sites, the broad nature of the questions to be asked were all discussed in the regular meetings of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC)."
JMCC, which includes representatives of the Nepal Army and the Maoist army, is the sole authority to take decisions regarding army integration.
UNMIN maintains while it is ready to provide any needed support, it is up to the government and the parties to decide on the most constructive way forward. Besides JMCC, there is a Special Committee to supervise and to make recommendations for the future of the former combatants.
However, with the UNMIN mandate reaching to its end, and with Dahal's public announcement that the mandate would not be extended, there is very little chance that UNMIN would be requested for re-verification.
"It is up to the government and the parties to decide whether they are in need of support from UNMIN", the UNMIN Head said. "UNMIN does not request extensions."
However, UNMIN is apprehensive that this is not the time UNMIN should be asked to pack up. "Some governments speaking at Tuesday's Security Council meeting acknowledged that July is an unrealistic deadline for integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel," Landgren said.
Besides the videotape, UNMIN has been dragged into controversy in connection with a number of "criminal" activities allegedly committed by cantoned Maoist combatants inside and outside the cantonments. Nepali Congress had been one of the most vocal critics of the UNMIN for its "failure" to "monitor" the cantonments.
Recently, in connection with UML cadre Prachanda Thaiba, UML and Nepali Congress claimed that UNMIN-monitored cantonments had been transformed to a safe haven for criminals.
However, according to UNMIN, it has no authority to control such activities because the agreement reached between the parties does not confer the UN body to manage the cantonment sites.
"With a limited number of arms monitors, UNMIN monitors the weapon storage sites maintained in seven cantonments (and in the NA's Chhauni Barracks) with 24-hour surveillance, and conducts some patrols" said Landgren. "UNMIN had always raised the issues with the parties when there were incidents".