Nepal’s Saarc attendance under cloud

July 27th, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 27 (IANS) Nepal’s participation at the 15th Saarc summit scheduled to be held in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo Aug 2-3 has become doubtful with the former Maoist guerrillas Sunday raising strong objections to the caretaker government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala representing the Himalayan republic at the regional forum. Maoist lawmaker and deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai told Nepal’s newly-elected constituent assembly, which is also serving as the caretaker parliament, that only a new government formed with the mandate of the people as per the April election should represent the country at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meet.

Koirala, whose Nepali Congress party suffered a humiliating defeat in the election, had formally resigned last week to pave the way for a new government.

However, President Ram Baran Yadav asked him to continue with his duties till a new government was formed.

Though the election was held three months ago, the formation of a new government has been lying in limbo due to mounting squabbling among the major parties.

The Maoists, who emerged as the largest party in the election and had announced their intention to lead the new government, however, changed their mind this month when they lost the presidential election to a coalition of three parties.

Maoist chief Prachanda said his party would sit in opposition following the defeat. However, the former rebels changed their stand within 24 hours, saying they would reconsider their decision if the anti-Maoist coalition disbanded and gave an assurance that they would not try to topple a Maoist government for at least two years.

Following the delay in the formation of a new government, Nepal’s acting foreign secretary Gyan Chandra Acharya indicated this week that acting premier Koirala would attend the Saarc Summit.

However, the Maoists, who prevented Koirala from becoming Nepal’s first president, are now both opposing his bid to become prime minister yet again and to represent Nepal at the Saarc Summit.

Another Maoist lawmaker and deputy commander of the party’s guerrilla army, Barsha Man Pun “Ananta”, has warned of a new agitation if Koirala tries to attend the Colombo meet.

If a new government is not formed by this month, Nepal’s Saarc participation will be in jeopardy.

As it is, the republic does not have a foreign minister to attend the conference of foreign ministers ahead of the summit.

Foreign Minister Shahana Pradhan resigned almost two months ago along with other colleagues of her Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, following the party’s debacle at the April election.

All eyes are on President Yadav, who is likely to break the deadlock Sunday evening when he makes his first address to the nation.

In his address, Yadav is expected to invite either the Maoists or the other major parties to form the new government or put the issue before the assembly, which can hold a vote to make the decision.

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