KATHMANDU, April 20: Lawmakers from the CPN-UML and the dissident faction of the ruling UCPN (Maoist) have strongly objected to a proposal to form a Commission on Truth and Reconciliation and Disappearances in the spirit of a total reconciliation model, but top leaders from the three major political parties -- UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML -- have already reached an understanding to that effect.
The lawmakers have strongly objected to the proposal, saying that it renders the proposed commission all-powerful whereas earlier the leaders had agreed to form the TRC under a concept of giving top priority to victim consent for purposes of reconciliation, pardon or punitive action.
A three-party meeting led by UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, NC President Sushil Koirala and CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal decided in a new spirit to form a single commission instead of two separate commissions on truth and reconciliation and forced disappearances.
The lawmakers said that formation of the commission as per the latest proposal agreed at the top leadership level is tantamount to a general amnesty for all perpetrators involved in serious human rights violation during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
"As per the earlier proposal, the consent of victims was a must both for reconciliation and for granting pardon but the latest proposal has given the commission sweeping authority in this regard," UML lawmaker Sapana Pradhan Malla, who was present at the three-party meeting, told Republica. "As per the new proposal, the commission can decide whether or not to pardon any perpetrator and whether or not to take any action against those involved in human rights violations."
According to her, the proposal states that the commission may or may not seek the consent of the victims while granting pardon to perpetrators.
CPN-UML lawmaker Pradeep Gyawali, who was also present at the three-party meeting, said they objected to the latest concept brought in by the top leaders as it envisions making the commission all-powerful, thereby giving short shrift to the consent of the victims.
He said that the new concept not only makes the commission all-powerful but also does away with the list of grave human rights violations for which no pardon was possible. "The bills committee had said there could be no pardon for those involved in crimes against humanity and had prepared a list of such crimes including rape, murder under captivity, enforced disappearances and arson. But the latest proposal has removed this," said Gyawali.
At the bills committee, members of all three major political parties had agreed to prepare the list of crimes for which pardon is not possible. There was dispute only over the definition of crimes against humanity.
Lawmaker Ekraj Bhandari of the Maoist dissident faction said the proposed concept is unacceptable, pointing out that formation of the commission as per the latest proposal will clearly lead to total amnesty and impunity.
"Those involved in forced disappearances and rape must be punished," Bhandari, who also heads the Society of Kin of the Disappeared, told Republica. "How can the new proposal be acceptable when it hasn´t even envisioned punishment for those involved in serious human rights violations?"
NC´s Pushpa Bhusal, who likewise attended the meeting, said the new concept will definitely raise various questions and the party leaders should be ready to face those questions. "We at the bills committee had envisioned punishment and end of impunity, and granting pardon and reconciliation were only a part, but the new proposal is based entirely on reconciliation alone," she said.
Though members from the bills committee were invited at the three-party meeting on Thursday, the leaders proposed a new concept entirely different from the bills that are under discussion at the committee.
CPN-UML Chairman Khanal, while emerging from the meeting, said they decided to form a single commission instead of two separate ones as the nature of work to be done by both bodies was similar.
"We decided to prepare a single bill by merging the two bills and table the integrated bill in parliament. The government will withdraw the bills that are now under discussion at parliament´s bills committee and table the new one," said Ram Sharan Mahat of NC.