Nepal Maoists in fresh arms row

September 26th, 2008 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 26 (IANS) While Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ sought the international community’s support in New York, the country’s interim parliament saw protests Friday as MPs cutting across party lines denounced the Maoists for bearing arms in public places including in the house.Friday’s protests, started by the main opposition Nepali Congress of former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, were also taken up by the partners in the ruling coalition, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and People’s Front, debutant ethnic party Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal.

The shouting lawmakers stormed the rostrum and forced chairman Subhash Nembang to adjourn the session for some time, assenting to calm down only after Nembang directed Minister for Home Affairs Bamdev Gautam, who is also the acting prime minister, to furnish an explanation.

The furore is over an incident that may prove to be a major embarrassment for the Maoists, who claim to have returned to mainstream politics and are trying to woo their former arch enemies, the police and army.

Earlier this month, the bodyguard of Maoist MP Barshaman Pun ‘Ananta’, who was also one of the deputy commanders of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the 10-year ‘People’s War’ launched by them and commanded some of the major guerrilla operations against the then Royal Nepal Army, was caught entering parliament with sophisticated weapons.

Though they won the election this year and became the biggest party in the constituent assembly, which also serves as Nepal’s parliament, the Maoists however have continued to retain their own PLA combatants as bodyguards despite the police and army guards provided by the state.

Prachanda himself was caught in a major debate soon after being elected prime minister last month when his party first announced his security would still be entrusted to the PLA.

However, in face of growing public criticism, including the army itself, which resented the slur on its integrity, the Maoist leadership sought to sweep the subject under the carpet.

But the fact remains that many of their senior leaders and ministers are still accompanied by PLA guards who have arms in their possession.

A similar furore had erupted in the previous parliament after another Maoist MP, who is now minister for labour and transport management, defended his bodyguard who was detained by security forces while trying to enter parliament with arms.

Though they signed a peace pact two years ago and pledged to lay down arms, the Maoists have still not kept their promise.

One of their senior leaders, Matrika Prasad Yadav, resigned as land reforms minister this month after he was criticised by his own party for leading a group of squatters who occupied land belonging to deposed king Gyanendra’s sister.

Also, in a sign of future dissent, both the Nepali Congress and a third ally of the Maoists, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Thursday said PLA combatants could not be inducted en masse into the Nepal Army.

The Maoists, however, say that while signing the peace pact, the parties on their part had pledged to merge the PLA with the Nepal Army and have threatened to start a new revolt if the promise is not kept.

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