Nepal has an int'l story to showcase on demining: May clear all mines by next year

KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL, PYUTHAN, Feb 19 - In what appears to be a successful story for the world to replicate, Nepal has completed 50 percent of the total demining operations, an important aspect of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). If the work goes unobstructed, the demining is likely to be completed by 2011, making Nepal the first example in the world to complete the job following International Mine Standard (IMS) within the shortest time.

As of Wednesday, Army teams assisted by UN Mine Action Team (UNMAT) have cleared 23 out of a total of 53 minefields. An UNMAT-hired team destroyed all 52,000 explosives and dangerous items stored in different Maoist cantonments some two months ago.

On Thursday, three specially trained Nepal Army platoons deployed in Pyuthan (Mid West), Rammechhap (Central Region) and Banke (Mid West) demolished some of the final explosives in the minefield in the districts.

UN experts involved in demining in Nepal say the progress that Nepal has made in demining holds international significance. “Nepal will probably stand out as one of the best examples in the world, in that the demining work is being completed in a very short time and with much less money,” says Stephen W. Robinson, Programme Manager of UNMAT.

International experience shows that demining is very expensive. For instance, Afghanistan has been spending roughly $100 million every year on demining for the last 21 years but only a portion of the job has been completed so far. “It may take another couple of decades for Afghanistan to complete the demining,” says Robinson, who worked there.

In Nepal, the cost is estimated to be around $6 million, which comes from the UN Peace Fund. However, the cost does not include the in-kind contribution by Nepal Army.

Instead of hiring international companies, the UN helped train Army teams to take up the job, which not only saved money but also helped transfer valuable technical know-how to Nepali experts.

NA’s successful involvement in demining here has not only contributed to the overall peace process but also proved that NA has gained the capacity to contribute to global peace efforts by carrying out similar works on UN call anywhere in the world,” says Col. Ramesh Pun, who heads the NA’s Mine Action Coordination Centre.

With UNMAT assistance, NA has developed three demining platoons comprising 129 soldiers, who were trained in Nepal and Kenya.

UN support to mine action will phase out over the next one and a half years in sync with the completion of final minefields. “Once the minefields are cleared, the Army supported by other sectors of the government, will address any residual threats from the remaining IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices),” Says Robinson. Statistics show that IEDs have been behind 90 percent of the casualties in Nepal.

Still, the threats remain. While NA claims to have left behind no IED of the decade-long insurgency, the Maoists concede that their fighters have left IEDs in the thousands while they were engaged in guerrilla war and frequently changed locations. There seems to be little record of the locations and the IEDs left behind.

“This is the only threat that will remain. If the concerned parties give us information, we are ready to clean them up,” says Robinson. (The Kathmandu Post, Feb 19)


Looking from the Holari vantage point

KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL, FEB, 18, Holari, Rolpa:

Welcome to Magarat Autonomous Region! A hording board erected besides a serpentine dirt road near Holeri hill greets the travellers. Leaving behind a cloud of dust, the white UN prado leads us to the hill’s peak, probably the highest in the area.


As we stop by the peak to take a few shots from the highest vantage point, the highlanders gaze us with certain level of scepticism. The distancing gaze is obvious -- given the deceptions they have faced so far and the broken dreams.


One of us asks an old woman, who is from the local Magar community, whether she has noticed a board that declares the areas an autonomous state.

She nodes as she looks at us with several curiosities.

“K garna aaunuva, babuharu?” (Why have you come here, my sons?) she cannot help questioning.

As we thought -- with certain snobbishness -- it was not necessary to explain her that we were on our way to Sworgadwari to see the final demolition of landmines by Nepal Army team, we engaged her more in answering us than letting her question us.

Budi ammai, where is your home? Who else is in your family?” we asked.

Ko huni babu, only my buda and me” she replied.   

“Where are your sons?” (we though asking whereabouts of her daughters was irrelevant)  

India ga chhan, kamauna.”

Do you think, things will be better now after this area is declared ‘Magarat Autonomous State’?

“I am told that it will be good for us.”

We walked into the yard of her house. What was inscribed over the front wall of her house was quite surprising.

Sanghiyata chhaidaina, des tukrauna paidaina. (“We don’t want federalism, no do we want to split the nation.”)

The area was later found to have been one of the pocket areas of the Rastriya Janamorcha led by Chitra Bahadur K.C., who has been leading an anti-federalism movement. The Maoists, however, had swamp all the seats of the district during the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections.

“What does this mean?” I asked the old woman.

Khoi babu, some of the local youth came last day and said the leaders have been plotting in Kathmandu to break the nation. They said the parties are doing it in the interest of India and not Nepalis. I said, if that is true, paint my wall.”

The woman, who still vividly remembers how the then Maoist rebels demolished the local police post at Holeri, fears that the history could repeat.

“When the local youth come to paint my wall, I asked them not to repeat the past. I am too old to see the violence now.”

“Whom do you believe then: the youth who painted your wall the other day or the ones who erected the board about autonomous state down there?

Khoi babu, k ho, k ho … ma ta jandina. Everyone seems to be saying something good. I don’t know which is good for me and the nation.”

Shah's murder exposes Nepal government naked

Look and Gaze: can do nothing but just pity on the helplessness of the government, especially in connection to its effort to unravel the mystery behind the gruesome murder of media entrepreneur Jamim Shah.


The fact that Shah was killed just beside Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, where it is said to have maintained several “safe houses”, tells everything. It is an open secret that with the power of money and the power that comes from having surrounded a landlocked country from all three sides, India has special leverage on Nepali politics for long. Any attempt by the government to try to find out the ‘invisible’ power behind the murder would be like a lamb trying to inquire a tiger about the killing of its mother the other night.


There are, however, possibilities that the incident could be entirely related to his personnel enmity with any one of the several underworld dons he was supposed to have links with. This is one possibility, which at least should encourage the Nepal’s home ministry to go as deep as possible to bring the culprits to book.

Shah's murder exposes Nepal government naked

Look and Gaze: can do nothing but just pity on the helplessness of the government, especially in connection to its effort to unravel the mystery behind the gruesome murder of media entrepreneur Jamim Shah.


The fact that Shah was killed just beside Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, where it is said to have maintained several “safe houses”, tells everything. It is an open secret that with the power of money and the power that comes from having surrounded a landlocked country from all three sides, India has special leverage on Nepali politics for long. Any attempt by the government to try to find out the ‘invisible’ power behind the murder would be like a lamb trying to inquire a tiger about the killing of its mother the other night.


There are, however, possibilities that the incident could be entirely related to his personnel enmity with any one of the several underworld dons he was supposed to have links with. This is one possibility, which at least should encourage the Nepal’s home ministry to go as deep as possible to bring the culprits to book.

Jamim Shah was 'alerted' a month ago


Media entrepreneur Jamim Shah was alerted nearly a month before he was killed on Sunday, if investigators are to be believed. The police on Tuesday told the Post that someone had alerted Shah to be “vigilant”.

The revelation came in the last two days as investigators talked to people close to Shah. Police, however, believe that Shah never shared this information with his family members. During the last one month, Shah seemed to be “under stress and was wary when it came to meeting people.” 

“The murder could perhaps have been averted if Shah had shared his uneasiness with the police,” said a police officer investigating the case.

Investigators said they traced “corroborative evidences” that indicated the movement of the mastermind—Babloo Singh—in
Kathmandu in the last six months. But the mastermind has remained out of contact since Saturday, a day before the murder. Police, however, believe that all the culprits are still in the Capital.

Investigators say the killers had prepared for a month. “They collected detailed information of Shah’s movement before killing him in broad daylight on Sunday,” said a police officer.

Superintendent of Police Ganesh K. C., Chief of Metropolitan Police Range, claimed the killers had been identified. “We have sufficient evidences to substantiate our claim,” said K. C.

On Monday night, police carried out a massive search operation in Lazimpat, Ranibari and Lainchaur areas—a suspected hideout—but could not make any breakthrough.

On Monday, a man who identified himself as Bharat Nepali owned up responsibility for the murder. Bharat, who is said to be a former aide of underworld don Chhota Rajan, told Avenues TV that he had executed the plan. But police have not confirmed Nepali as the main culprit.

Meanwhile, police on Tuesday morning found the motorcycle the killers had used at Futung VDC, near Balaju in
Kathmandu. The motorcycle was abandoned on a slope.

Meanwhile, four police personnel deputed at the Lazimpat police booth at the time of the killing, have been suspended for “the security lapse.” Assistant Sub-Inspector Lokendra Pandit, Head Constable Tul Bahadur Adhikari, and Constables Duryodhan Yadav and Anil Rai were all in a police post around 150 metres away from the place where the gruesome killing took place.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) staged a demonstration in the Capital on Tuesday to protest Shah’s murder and demanded that the government bring the guilty to book immediately. 

Nepal media entrepreneur Jamim Shah murder: Uncanny parallels between Beg's and Shah's deaths, India's hand likely

Uncanny parallels between Beg’s and Shah’s deaths


The gruesome murder on Sunday of media entrepreneur Jamim Shah, 47, has brought back chilling memories of
June 29, 1998. On that day, Mirza Dilshad Beg, a sitting lawmaker, was gunned down outside his home in Siphal, Kathmandu. It was a dark night and the hillside neighbourhood looked darker still due to load-shedding, when we (reporters and photographers from Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post) arrived at the scene, soon after the 9.30 hit-and-run incident. 

The newsroom had received a tip-off from a local who had heard what he suspected were gun-shots. It was an innocent world in many ways. Nepalis were still unfamiliar with sounds of bombs and gun-shots, the Maoist-waged “people’s war” was still in its infancy, violent deaths still shook everybody, and political assassination was unheard of. But what shocked the Nepalis most was how ugly games from powerful external forces could play out in
Nepal, as it watched haplessly. The incident also gave many of us in the newsroom a first-hand lesson on forces which operate from behind the scene. Two of the theories that made the rounds then clearly pointed at the cross-border nature of the operation; the third one was that Beg’s death had to do with “family problems,” which turned out to be false.

Of the first two, one was that Beg had a fallout with the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim (who is reportedly based in
Karachi now) and the second was that Beg had been “eliminated” in a covert operation by an Indian agency for his allegedly shady links with the rival Pakistani intelligence. In a 2005 interview with Tehelka magazine, Chhota Rajan, Dawood’s once-lynchpin in India (the two later had a serious fallout) claimed to have killed Beg “in India’s interests.”Twelve years after Beg’s death, both the theories once again look eerily familiar. Many aren’t ruling out Shah’s alleged fallout with his present and past underworld bosses and colleagues. Media reports, including in Nepal, have claimed in the past that

Shah had links with Dawood and that he could also have been involved in a turf war with a new fake currency racket. “But he did maintain a very low profile lately,” said a source.  Many others, like with Beg’s death in 1998, point at the possible involvement of an Indian agency. A frustrated
New Delhi, according to this theory, has at various bilateral forums with Nepali officials repeatedly raised its concerns about the perils of the porous border and that Nepali officials have failed to address its national security concerns. Nepal has become a major conduit

for the flow of fake Indian notes which come from
Pakistan, according to Indian officials. The timing of Shah’s death on Sunday—not least the nature of his killing—is noteworthy. On Oct. 2, Majid Manihar was shot dead in Nepalgunj; his death still remains a mystery. On Dec. 25, Saukhat Beg was killed in Butwal by an Indian national, according to Nepal police. On Jan. 1, Yunus Ansari was arrested in Kathmandu for his alleged involvement in a fake currency racket. 

Like Beg 12 years ago, all three have a few things in common. All are believed by the Indian establishment to have cultivated close links with the Pakistani intelligence and all are said to have worked against Indian national interests.

As much as the timing, it’s the nature of the killing that’s noteworthy: In broad daylight in Lazimpat, which is considered one of the safest neighbourhoods in the Capital — just outside the French Embassy, three other embassies are only at a stone’s throw (Indian, British and Japanese) and a five-star hotel is just round the corner. “It is no secret that the Indian establishment has been a little frustrated with our perceived inaction to take quick and decisive measures against individuals it has put on its scanner for a while,” said a senior police official with both operational and investigative experience on cross-border issues. “It is a statement from
New Delhi that it will not let off anyone it perceives as

hostile to its national interests.” That is, if
New Delhi’s hand is established.

Sri Lanka government television misused against opposition common candidate, retired general Sarath Fonseka

A Statement from the Sri Lanka Guardian forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SRI LANKA: The Diary of Terror - 31st January 2010

Sri Lanka Human Rights Watch

 (February 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The government television and radio continues to be used provocatively. They broadcast about an alleged plot to kill the president and his family, hatched by the opposition common candidate, retired general Sarath Fonseka. Nowhere do these broadcasts mention that the retired general has categorically denied these charges and stated that they are ridiculous and baseless. One-sided broadcasts try to create the background to provoke people into violence against the opposition. During the broadcast, several persons were interviewed who condemned the plot and called for vengeance against all those involved. Such selective interviews with well selected individuals create an impression of popular anger against the opposition.

No one who questions the validity of the charges was quoted in these interviews. Such interviews are broadcast during the primetime evening news and they are not news at all. In fact, news time has been manipulated for very direct political propaganda. The government media is abandoning any kind of professionalism in their broadcasts and directly engages in propaganda to prepare the background for repression by the government. The news has in fact turned out to be a well-staged series of political attacks against the opposition through use of state media. This clearly amounts to extreme abuse of state resources for party-political aims.

Joint opposition rejects election results as a computer fraud

Meanwhile, the joint opposition candidate has categorically stated that the election results have been manipulated and that he is the winner of the elections. He also stated that the story of the alleged plot by him and several of his security personnel has been created for the purpose of creating misimpressions and to take political revenge. He stated that several members of his security team, who are retired members of the military, have been arrested. He stated that all these are persons who have served the military with distinction.

'Conspiracy’ investigations

He further stated that Brigadier Kapitivalana, who was part of his team, has been arrested and the government is trying to fabricate charges against him for the assassination of Lasantha Wickematunge. He stated that the government is trying to pin the assassination on others and that the actual assassins of Lasantha Wickrematunge will be revealed in due course.

The retired General further said that the government is trying to arrest and assassinate him because the government is aware of what he knows about the wrongdoings of the president and his brother. He said that he has already signed an affidavit in which all he knows on these matters have been recorded and that he has already submitted this in a sealed envelope to all those who need to receive such information. Obviously, the General has taken precautions that in the event of his assassination, the vital information that is known to him would not be lost.

The protest of a soldier’s father

Meanwhile, the father of one of the security officers, JAD Raveendra Arangalle, given by the government to the retired General, who has now been arrested, gave a press conference and stated that his son is being kept under detention on fabricated charges and pleaded for his immediate release. He stated that his son had loyally served the military at risk to his own life. His son was one of the soldiers who was in the security team of the general when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked him. On such missions, these soldiers have fought valiantly for the nation. Now they are detained on false and fabricated charges, purely for political purposes. The father said that he has himself voted for Mahinda Rajapakse in the elections and that he is shocked and saddened by the manner in which such political fabrications are being made. He called for the release of his son and others who are held on fabricated charges.

None of these matters are reported in the government television and radio broadcasts.

Personality cult

The government television and radio is carrying on a heavy personality cult around President Mahinda Rajapakse. Songs are sung constantly portraying him as the greatest son of the soil living in present times and comparing him to the heroes of the Sinhalese in the past. One song calling for a victory for him is sung with dancers and folk music constantly over the television. Many voice cuts from various persons are also produced constantly portraying him as the savior of the nation. In all this the opposition is portrayed as those who are treacherous to the nation.

Twelve top brass army officers asked to retire

The Daily Mirror reported today that 12 top brass army officers have been asked to retire with immediate effect allegedly over a ‘political conspiracy’. These include three Major Generals. The Daily Mirror quoting a high placed military official who said, “These officers have been asked to retire as their services are no longer required to the army.” According to this report this group also includes two Brigadiers and Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and Captains. The report states that these officers were close to the former army commander, Sarath Fonseka. The Criminal Investigation Department, the CID has commenced inquiries into an alleged political conspiracy that is supposed to have taken place during last week’s presidential election. As stated above, the retired army general, Sarath Fonseka, has categorically denied any such conspiracy and has stated that this was an attempt to create persecution against him and others for their participation in opposing the government in the elections.

There are reports of large numbers of officers in the army being called to head quarters and told to go home as their services are not required. Under the Army Act, an officer cannot be sent home like that without a summary trial or court martial. This is seen as an attempt to eliminate those who have been loyal to the former commander of the army and to build direct loyalties to the Secretary of Defense Gotabaya Rajapakse, who is virtually running the military. The politicization of the armed forces on the basis of direct political loyalties would create in the armed forces the similar problems of inefficiency and corruption, as in other public services.

Suppression of the JVP and others

The premises of the Pradeeshiya Sabaha at Tissamaharama, which was governed by the JVP, has been sealed and the keys have been given to the police. This is part of a political attack on the JVP. The JVP newspaper has been closed down and the editor has been arrested. (See yesterday’s report for more details about the closure of the press and the arrest of the editor – and Lanka Guardian at: The attack directed towards the JVP is part of an attempt to suppress the opposition in the protest against the election results as well as the opposition participation for the forthcoming parliamentary elections which are due before April.

The legitimate security provided to Karu Jayasuriya, the deputy leader of the UNP has been removed. There is a move to cancel the same security for Rauf Hakeem, the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and also the removal of security to other opposition members of parliament either to force them to leave the country or to become vulnerable targets.

One of the staff members of the Rupavahini Production Team was summarily sacked and five others are under interdiction. The Rupavahini chairman has threatened several officers.

Evidence is pouring in on post election victimisation. Hundreds of opposition supporters are likely to be locked out today (Monday), which is virtually the first effective working day after the elections.

There is a common suggestion that the purpose of the suppression of the media is to ensure a 2/3rd victory for the government at the forthcoming parliamentary elections. There is a huge self censorship in both print and electronic private media and at least two major articles were dropped in popular private newspapers.

There are reports that a foreign IT company has been hired to monitor the Face Book and social networking sites. The experience of other countries which has used such technology shows that it has been used for monitoring social and human rights activists who convey messages to the human rights networks. Such technology can also be used to monitor Skype.

The overall impact of all these actions is that the people are stunned, said a well known civil society activists on the condition of anonymity. There is fear everywhere of possible attacks, arrests and other forms of persecution against all who have a dissenting voice either in the media or in political life.

An appeal to the UN

Many persons are appealing to the United Nations and the international community to take appropriate action before it is too late. The retired general, Sarath Fonseka said that several governments have already intervened to ask for protection but the government is ignoring these calls.

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