OCHA Nepal Situation Overview Issue No. 48, 16 - 31 May 2009

Situation Report
Originally published
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- Winter drought renders 707,000 in need of immediate food assistance

- Mid Year Review Consultations of Consolidated Appeal Concluded

- New Prime Minister Elected, Formation of government underway

- Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist launches protest programmes to press for demands

- Deadline for finalisation of Constitutional Concept papers extended


Political Developments

On 23 May, senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist -CPN-UML) Madhav Kumar Nepal was elected Prime Minister of Nepal by Legislature-Parliament. He was elected without opposition. However, Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) boycotted the election, stating that they would neither join any new government nor support any party in forming the next government unless President Ram Baran Yadav rescinded his reinstatement of the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Katawal and the president recognised "civilian supremacy" in matters pertaining to the army. The new Prime Minister was sworn in on 25 May by the President of Nepal. Along with the Prime Minister, two ministers to represent CPN-UML in the cabinet, Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Surendra Pandey also took oath of office during the ceremony as ministers in his cabinet.

In his in inaugural speech, the Prime Minister Nepal, outlined the priorities of the new government, pledging that the coalition would ensure that the peace process was successfully completed and the new constitution drafted by May 2010. He further stated that his government would be guided by political consensus.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) stated that they would neither join any new government nor support any party in forming the next government unless President Ram Baran Yadav rescinded his reinstatement of the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Katawal and the president recognised "civilian supremacy" in matters pertaining to the army. To this end, UCPN-M registered a resolution in the Legislature-Parliament (L-P) stating that President Ram Baran Yadav's over-ruling of the government's decision to dismiss Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Rookmangud Katawal, was unconstitutional. On 30 May, the speaker of L-P ruled that the resolution by the UCPN-M would not be tabled before the house because there was no consensus amongst the parties on tabling it. On 31 May, the UCPN-M secretariat meeting termed the speaker's decision as unconstitutional and said that the party would continue boycotting L-P. The UCPN-M subsequently announced a protest programme across the country (see below on security).

The ten Constituent Assembly (CA) thematic committees and the Constitutional Committee failed to meet the 22 May deadline to finalize their concept papers. Only the National Interest Preservation Committee and the Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights for Minority and

Marginalized Communities finalized their concept papers, which were discussed in the CA on 25 May. NC CA members objected to a proposal in the preliminary concept paper produced by the Committee on the Protection of the National Interest which proposed military training for all citizens above 18 years of age. 15 July is the new deadline for completing discussions on the concept papers

On 27 May, following discussions between 18 of the 22 political parties comprising the ruling coalition, the parties requested the Prime Minister to direct the new Cabinet to reverse the former Cabinet's dismissal of CoAS and appointment of General Kul Bahadur Khadka as Acting Chief of Staff. On 31 May, the Defence Minister extended the terms of the eight Nepal Army brigadier-generals, and forwarded the proposal for cabinet approval

Safety and security

During this period, UCPN-M supporters and allied groups continued holding demonstrations in many districts across the country protesting against the President's decision to reinstate the CoAS. On 17 May, the UCPN-M organized rallies and mass meetings in several different parts of the country including Biratnagar, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, the rally was well attended by UCPN-M affiliated organisations including members of Young Communist League (YCL) and disrupted traffic for the better part of the day. The demonstrators called for the President to rescind his decision to reinstate the CoAS.

On 18 and 19 May, protest rallies were organised by the Tharuhat Autonomous Council (TAC) to protest against the 28 Feb 2008 eight-point agreement between the Government and the United Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF). The TAC President then issued a press statement, requesting the new CPN-UML led government not to implement the agreement. The Tharuhat Joint Struggle Committee (TJSC) began peaceful protests in Kailali district on 18 May, urging political parties to address their demands. On 20 May the coordinator of TJSC expressed concern about the exclusion of Tharus from the Local Peace Committee which had reportedly been formed by the district administration, political parties and other civil society groups. During this period, Teacher's Union of Nepal (TUN) declared protests program against the Government starting from 28 May demanding increment in salaries and adequate compensation to the families of the teachers who were killed or went missing during the insurgency period

On 17 May, after a CPN-UML programme in Ramechhap district, a convoy of central Committee and party members was attacked in Tilpung Village Development Committee (VDC) while returning to Kathmandu. Several unidentified individuals, suspected to be UCPN-M cadres, pelted stones at the vehicles of the CPN-UML leaders and at CPN-UML cadres on motorcycles preceding the convoy. The police intervened and the attackers fled. No one was injured in the incident and no one has claimed responsibility.

On 22 May, the NC District Secretary in Jumla district was killed by an unidentified group. The victim was reportedly

abducted from his house at night by six to seven unknown persons, taken to a nearby jungle and killed. Following the incident, the NC released a press statement condemning the killing. On 24 May, in Jumla, NC joined a protest rally organised by CPN-UML as part of CPN-UML's nation-wide protest rallies. The Police and NHRC are conducting investigations.

Incidents of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) continued to be reported. On 21 May, an IED exploded near the Raghupati Jute Mill, Biratnagar Municipality at about 2300hr. An on-duty security guard at the mill was injured in the incident

On 23 May, three people were killed and 14 injured when an IED exploded during a religious service at a Catholic church in Dhobighat, Lalitpur district in the Kathmandu Valley. The IED was reportedly planted by a woman who left the Church shortly before the blast. Pamphlets of Nepal Defence Army, a Hindu fundamentalist group allegedly responsible for the killing of a priest in Morang district and exploding an IED at a mosque in Biratnagar last year, were found at the scene. Senior officials from the Nepal Police (NP) as well as the Prime Minister visited the site.

On 17 May, 29 people were injured when a gas cylinder exploded on Janakpur-bound train during a stop at Deuriparwaha VDC in Dhanusha district. Although the media reported that the Terai National Liberation Army claimed responsibility, initial investigations indicated that the cylinder explosion may have been accidental.

Reach of the State

Extortion in the name of 'donations' and setting up of parallel governance and tax structures by different groups continued to be reported during the period as the DAO stepped up efforts to stop these activities. On 21 May, the Federal Limbuwan State Council-Revolutionary (FLSC-R) supporters closed the Phidim bazaar in Panchthar District to press for their demand for the release of its cadres who were held for vandalism and robbery. A transportation strike was also called along the Ilam-Panchthar road section on the Mechi Highway by FLSC-R. On 18 May, police had arrested two persons from Pauwabhanjyang, Panchthar District, while collecting/ extorting money from the public.

VDC Secretaries continued facing difficulties from different groups. On 18 May, VDC Secretaries in Ilam District started a strike by obstructing the work of the District Development Committee (DDC) demanding investigations into the disappearance of their colleague from Sakphara VDC who disappeared on 18 April. The VDC Secretary was reportedly later traced in Jhapa District.

Operational Space

During this period, strikes and blockades by different groups continued to impact on the delivery of services by humanitarian and development partners. On 1 June, Newa Autonomous State called the Kathmandu Valley Bandh demanding to ensure the rights of Newa Autonomous State and to draw the attention of the CA and the MPs for the withdrawal of the Kathmandu Valley Urban Development Bill. This strike paralysed activities in the valley and the eight adjoining districts. Similarly the UCPN-M announced nationwide protests programs that started on 2 June 09, after CA Chairman made it clear that the resolution registered by the Maoists against President's decision to reinstate Army Chief would not be discussed in the House continues to disrupt activities of all actors.

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