Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nepal Government to withdraw the prohibition


Facing the possibility of violence and clashes with Maoist protesters in the capital Thursday due to a ban on all demonstrations around the Prime Minister’s Office and major ministries, the government of Nepal blinked first, announcing it was withdrawing the prohibition.

The decision was taken by the chief district officer’s office late Wednesday after the Maoist leader spearheading the protests asked the government to revoke the decision.

"We have appealed to the chief district officer of Kathmandu to rollback the prohibitory orders (that from Wednesday have brought larger areas around the PMO under the ban)," Maoist deputy chief Dr Baburam Bhattarai said in an interaction with the media in the capital.

"Our protests have remained peaceful, disciplined and dignified. We are ready to follow the existing prohibitory orders. However, by extending them, the government is trying to whip up an unnecessary confrontation and we condemn that."

On Thursday and Friday, the former rebels have promised to flood the capital with 300,000 supporters and encircle Singha Durbar, the complex where the PMO and major ministries are located, as the last phase in their new movement. Prior to this, they have picketed village and district administration offices and on Tuesday enforced a blockade of Kathmandu valley. However, despite the deployment of thousands of security personnel throughout the country, no untoward incidents were reported so far.

But with the government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal earlier announcing that all rallies, demonstrations and sit-ins would be prohibited in a bigger area around Singha Durbar, the Maoists Wednesday said they would not obey the fresh order. "In a democracy, governments do not prohibit peaceful demonstrations," Bhattarai said. "If any untoward incident happens tomorrow, the government will be responsible, not us."

The former finance minister said his party would gear up for yet another phase of protests if the two-day proposed encircling of Singha Durbar did not compel the government to heed their demands.

"We are first and foremost, asking for the correction of the step taken by the President," Bhattarai said. "If that is done, it will pave the way for dialogue and consensus on the other demands."

The former guerrillas say the President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, echoed deposed King Gyanendra by reinstating earlier this year the chief of the army their government had sacked. In October 2002, the king had sacked the elected government of prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to appoint a series of nominated governments. Three years later, emboldened by the rift among the parties, he staged an army-backed coup and seized absolute power.

Referring to that, Bhattarai said the presidential step, if not corrected, would pave the way for another coup eventually and the promulgation of army rule in Nepal. There have been rumblings that the ruling parties have been seeking to dissolve the newly elected constituent assembly that is mandated to write the new constitution. Instead, it is alleged, they tried to declare emergency and President’s rule so that they could write the statute with the exclusion of the Maoists.

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