First Phase of PLA Discharges from Cantonments Completed
Posted by Ka Frank on November 22, 2009
My Republica, November 19, 2009
Disqualified Maoist Combatants: Phase 1 of discharge & rehab ends, next phase uncertain
Kathmandu: The first phase of the discharge and rehabilitation of disqualified Maoist combatants was completed on Wednesday, but uncertainty persists over commencement of the second phase.
“Our teams deployed for the first phase finished their work at all seven cantonments today,” said Bishnu Prasad Nepal, spokesperson at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction on Wednesday.
Marking an important step in the ongoing peace process, the discharge and rehabilitation of the disqualified – minors and late recruits — began on October 11 from the second division Maoist cantonment at Dudhauli, Sindhuli. Discharge and rehabilitation of the disqualified is part of the ongoing peace process which enters its fourth year on Sunday.
Under the first phase, different teams comprising representatives from the Peace Ministry, the UCPN-M and the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) spent two days on average at each cantonment interacting with the disqualified over the discharge process. The teams also imparted information about why the disqualified have to leave their respective cantonments, about their future and their rehabilitation.
Despite this step in the discharge and rehabilitation of the 4,008 combatants disqualified by UNMIN, the second phase of the process scheduled to commence November 22 has remained uncertain due to Maoist reservations over the questionnaire needed to begin that phase. Among the disqualified, 2,973 are minors.
“As the questionnaires are not ready as of today, we cannot begin the second phase. It is uncertain when the questionnaire will be finalized,” Nepal, who also heads a technical committee formed to oversee the process, told myrepublica.com.
The questionnaire is supposed to be filled up for profiling during the second phase. The Maoists have declined to agree to a close-ended questionnaire on what the combatants will do within one year of their discharge. They have maintained at meetings with government and UNMIN representatives that the question should be either open-ended or should have an “other” choice in answer to the question. Their point, officials said, is that if the question is left open-ended as demanded by them, there is a high possibility that the disqualified will seek a cash incentive as a rehabilitation offer and will not choose the vocational training the Peace Ministry and UNMIN are ready to offer.
But the Peace Ministry, UNMIN and other UN agencies based in Kathmandu are reluctant to change the questionnaire. Also, they are opposed of giving any cash incentive to the disqualified because they fear that the money may ultimately go to the UCPN-M, according to a source involved in the process.
As per the discharge plan, as many as 30 enumerators recruited by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) were supposed to be deployed under the second phase – also known as profiling – to get the questionnaires filled up by all disqualified combatants. UNDP had planned to train the enumerators this week before their deployment for profiling, according to the Peace Ministry spokesperson.
The second phase is crucial as it will lead to the ultimate discharge of the disqualified combatants, besides providing the information required to design a rehabilitation package. The Peace Ministry and the UN agencies will develop the rehabilitation scheme based on information collected through the questionnaires.
Despite uncertainty over the second phase, Peace Minister Rakam Chemjong says he is optimistic about the commencement of that phase. “The second phase should move ahead at any cost,” he said talking to myrepublica.com on Wednesday.
Deadlock at Special Committee
The meeting of the Special Committee on Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants on Wednesday ended without discussing its agenda. The meeting was supposed to finalize a code of conduct for the combatants and bring them under the command of the Special Committee.
At the very outset of the meeting, Maoist representative on the committee Janardan Sharma asked Prime Minister and chairman of the committee Madhav Kumar Nepal to hold talks with Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal before taking any decision in this regard. Accordingly, the meeting ended after deciding that the prime minister would hold talks with Dahal over the issues.
“The prime minister is going to call Dahal before the next regular meeting scheduled for Sunday,” the source told myrepublica.com on condition of anonymity.
Sharma, emerging from the meeting, also said that the issues of army integration would be settled at the leadership level.
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