Nepal government, ethnic parties reach deal to end strike

February 28th, 2008 - 11:21 pm ICT by admin  

Kathmandu, Feb 28 (DPA) Nepal’s government and the agitating ethnic group in the southern part of the country Thursday reached a deal to address ethnic demands and end more than two weeks of crippling strikes. The deal came after days of talks between the government and the ethnic United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) in the capital.

The UDMF announced the withdrawal of a crippling indefinite general strike it imposed across the region for the last 16 days following the agreement.

“This agitation was not aimed at weakening Nepal but at gaining the rights for people of Madhes,” Chairman of the UDMF Mahanta Thakur said. “With the signing of the agreement, our groups have withdrawn all the protest programmes including general strike.”

Under the eight-point agreement, the government will provide a million rupees (about $15,900) to family members of those killed during the course of protests in southern Nepalese plains.

The government also agreed to increase the reserved seats for southern Nepal in the constituent assembly from 20 percent to 30 percent and create mechanism to include all ethnic and marginalized groups in government services, including the army.

However, the key demand for autonomous Terai state with the right of self-determination will have to wait until after the elections.

“The government of Nepal recognises the demand for autonomous regions and federal states including that of Terai,” Home Minister Krishna Prasad Situala said.

“But the way such states will be divided will be done by the constituent assembly,” he said.

The agreement paves the way for the government to hold the elections to choose the constituent assembly 10 April.

The assembly is tasked with rewriting Nepal’s constitution and ratify parliament’s decision to abolish monarchy as well decide on the structure of government.

The agreement was signed by Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the three leaders of UDMF, representing the three parties that make up the group.

“I hope this agreement will be fully implemented so that Madhesis do not have to launch another agitation,” another UMDF leader Upendra Yadav said. “If we are compelled to launch another agitation it will be much intense.”

Prime Minister Koirala reassured the government’s commitment to implementing the accord saying it will now pave the way to hold elections fairly and an in a fear free environment.

“I give you my word as the prime minister that this accord will be implemented,” Koirala said.

“This accord will enable us to hold the elections fairly and peacefully to choose the assembly which will be the means to end other outstanding problems,” he said.

Local media reports said the agreement was greed across Terai with rallies and victory celebrations.

Some shops and local public transport also started to operate after 16 days of shutdown. The general strike in southern Nepal had paralysed normal life across the region and sparked fuel and food shortages across much of the Himalayan nation.

At least six people, including a police officer were killed and more than 400 people injured during 16 days of protests.

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