Today I had the opportunity to see the UCPN(Maoist) engage in diplomatic relations with the “international community”, as I was able to sit in on a ‘interaction program’ that had been organized by the Maoists at the Annapurna Hotel, a 5-star hotel, right down the street from the former Royal Palace. In attendence were Chinese, American, Indian, Japanese and European Union delagations amongst many others. Also, were in attendence was the president of the Nepali business association and someone from a strategic analysis organization.
Comrade Prachanda opened the meeting with a statement that clearly placed the onus of difficulties relating to the constitution talks on the Nepali Congress and CPN(UML). He reiterated the fact that the Maoists had become a civilian party and did not need the NC, who have been calling on them to become so, to give them advice on how to engage in democratic politics considering the fact that the Maoists had won the majority of seats in the CA and had the mass support of all eligible voters. Furthermore, he made it clear that the constitution that the Maoists were currently in the process of hammering out was intended to benefit the poor people of Nepali, especially those effected by gender, ethnicity, caste etc, through a balanced economic policy. He also made it clear that despite the recent provocations of Maoist cadre by NC and UML youth associations, the party remains committed to a democratic and peaceful political process, and that the actions of the NC and UML were attempts to cause a major confrontation. He also emphasized the fact that Maoists had withdrawn the bandh unilaterally, hoping to see some reciprocity but that none was forthcoming, however, he would not tolerate his party being humiliated or pushed into a corner by a government that lost the last elections. He then opened the meeting for questions.
I will not relate to you of all of the questions, however, will briefly outline some of the main ones. Prachanda when asked why, since the Maoists have been the most keen about the drafting of a new constitution would not agree to an extension, said that his party is not opposed to an extension but wanted several key issues resolved such as the change to the constitution that all CA decisions needed to be simply passed by a majority vote. The Maoists want the constitution to be amended to restore the consensus clause that had originally been in the interim constitution, but had been subsequentely changed when the UML and NC realized that the Maoists were the majority party. Furthermore, he reiterated that a National Unity government was a must. He also recommitted the party to the peace process, CPA and to further dialogue about outstanding issues. He also responded to concerns from delegates about recent comments supposedly made by Comrade Baburam Bhattarai that the Maoists would take up arms and that he “was not making idle threats”. Prachanda made it clear that these were not the official positions of the party and that his commitment to the peace process was the official line of the Party and that there were many shortcomings to the media including their tendency to exaggerate. On the question of integration of the army, Prachanda said that he would be willing to disband the PLA and give the cadre at least three options: 1) to be integrated into the army; 2) to enter civilian life and 3) to be employed in Party work. Prachanda made it clear that they would be willing to hand over the cantonments immediately to the special committee if a package deal regarding the PLA could be agreed upon by the parties. Prachanda was then asked to comment on the possible declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ by the government. Prachanda responded that the interim constitution does have a provision if a state of emergency were to be called it would result in an immediate extension of the CA and interim constitution for 6 months, and thus postpone the date of any constitutional crisis. Prachanda however, made it clear that the current situation was not one in which a state of emergency could be called, indeed Prachanda clarified that the provision was to be only excercised in the context of a natural disaster, foreign intervention or rebellion, and that the current dispute between the three parties was not sufficient grounds for such a declaration. He also made it clear that he felt that the UML were trying to create an environment, through provocations of Maoist cadre (who have not responded due to their discipline and ideological training), of a confrontation. The meeting was then called to an end, Prachanda thanked the delegations for their questions and engagement, and the media subsequently flooded the room.
It is clear that the Maoists are taking seriously the international situation in their calculations on how to bring the revolutionary movement in Nepal forward, and that without such considerations they would be playing with revolution, which could result in failure or even worse. Comrades around the world must step up their international solidarity efforts to create an atmosphere conducive for the revolutionary movement in Nepal to proceed (also please read the recent article that has been published by Comrade Gaurav on the international dimension).