Maoists claim Nepal PM ready to abandon GMR

June 24th, 2011 - 5:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 24 (IANS) Nepal’s Maoists, the largest party in the ruling coalition, Friday claimed that Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal was ready to withdraw army security for beleaguered Indian company GMR if they guaranteed that his government would not fall.

Seventeen Maoist organisations met Khanal Thursday and submitted a memorandum, condemning as “anti-national” the decision taken by the council of ministers to deploy the army in remote western Dailekh district to protect the office of the GMR Energy-led consortium.

The consortium, given the survey licence for the 900 MW Upper Karnali hydropower project in western Nepal, had its office and camp site burnt down last month with police still unable to arrest a single attacker.

All work has remained suspended since then with the project engineers fearful to return without safety assurances.

Eight days ago, the cabinet decided to deploy the army at the camp site, a decision that is now being opposed by the Maoists though their own ministers are part of the cabinet.

Dharmendra Bastola, chief of the Seti-Mahakali bureau of the Maoists, the region where the hydropower project is located, Friday said the deployment of the army was illegal and would violate the peace pact signed by his party five years ago, ending a decade of insurgency.

“The interim constitution says the army can be deployed only if there is a rule of emergency,” the Maoist leader said in a press meet in the capital.

“It has to be approved by the Security Council (whose members include the PM, defence minister, army chief and opposition leader) and then endorsed by parliament within 15 days.

“None of these steps have been taken.”

Bastola also pointed out that when the peace accord was signed, both the Maoists and the ruling parties agreed that the army as well as Maoists’ guerrilla army would not be deployed without mutual consent.

Providing army security to protect an Indian company would be tantamount to deploying the Indian Army in Nepal and would create bad blood between the two neighbouring countries, he warned.

The Maoists have threatened to start a three-pronged movement to prevent the use of army to secure GMR’s site office — from the streets, parliament - where they are the largest party, and the government, where too they dominate.

They are also asking the government to scrap the licence given to GMR and other Indian companies that plan to export the hydropower they generate, like Indian public sector undertaking Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, which is developing the Arun III project with its capacity to be doubled from the initial 400MW.

Bastola says that locals in Dailekh are readying to start building the Upper Karnali project on their own.

“In the renegotiated licence, we are not averse to GMR or other foreign companies taking part,” he said. “However, the power generated has to be utilised in Nepal and the majority shares - minimum 51 percent - will be in the hands of Nepalis.”

Bastola said Khanal was under “tremendous pressure” from unnamed quarters to deploy the army for GMR’s project but was ready to jettison the decision if the Maoists decided to continue supporting his government.

Last month, the Nepali PM was forced to sign a new pact agreeing to step down and pave the way for an all-party government.

However, once bailed out of a crisis, he is now refusing to quit.

Heavily dependent on the Maoists for staying in power, Khanal has been a puppet in the hands of the former guerrillas. He recently allowed them to grab the coveted home ministry despite objections by the UN and rights organisations.

He has also refused to take action against Maoist leaders suspected of murder during the 10-year “People’s War”, including Information and Communications Minister Agni Prasad Sapkota.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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