(Napalese Maoists and the British)- Ghosts of things past by Yubaraj Ghimire :
Yubaraj Ghimire : Mon Jan 07 2013, 03:52 hrs
A Nepal army colonel is arrested in the UK. What does it portend for Maoist leaders?
Nepal’s peace process that completed six years last November remains vulnerable. The constitution has not been written and Maoist transformation has suffered major hiccups, as dismantling 19,000 combatants and absorbing some into the army has not been accomplished credibly. Moreover, the commitment to probe all human rights violations committed by the state and by the Maoists has not happened yet.
The international community, mainly the EU, has raised the demand for a probe by constituting the promised Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — with no positive response so far. But the arrest of a Nepal army colonel in East Sussex on Thursday by the UK government, invoking its universal jurisdiction claim over cases of gross human rights violation, may have far-reaching consequences. Colonel Kumar Lama, currently deployed for UN peacekeeping in Sudan, was in the UK on holiday.
The arrest makes most Maoist leaders, as well as other officials of the army and the police, vulnerable to such acts. It also brings under strain relations between the Nepal and British armies. The British action has been hailed by some human rights groups, like Advocacy Forum in Nepal. But there is palpable fear and anger among top Maoist leaders and in the government. Maoists fear a similar fate should the UK change its friendly relations with them. The arrest has brought the once worst of enemies — the army and the Maoists — together. A day after the arrest, Maoist vice chairman and deputy prime minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, also in charge of the foreign ministry, lodged a protest with the British government and challenged its right to arrest a Nepali national. The army has been suspicious of certain officials of the British army — of their links with Maoists even during the insurgency. In the post-2006 phase, which brought the Maoists to
mainstream politics, the British chose not to take drastic action against Maoist leaders, including Prachanda, during their visits to the UK.
The army finds itself in an awkward position, leaving the responsibility to defend it to its former foe, the Maoists, whom it fought for five years. The Scandinavian countries, mainly Norway and Denmark, have already been lobbying, in some cases successfully, for keeping even suitable generals from senior UN positions. Interestingly, almost all human rights violation cases pending against Maoist leaders and cadres have been withdrawn by the Maoist government, leaving cases only against those representing the state during the conflict.
Nevertheless, Lama’s arrest has increased the vulnerability of the Maoist leaders, from Prachanda to PM Baburam Bhattarai, with many murder and torture cases reported during the conflict involving them. Whether the two sides — the army and the Maoists — fight the British together or not, the role of the international community will depend largely on the course of the peace process and politics in Nepal.