KATHMANDU, March 16: Maoist PLA commanders have told the party leadership on Monday that they would opt out of integration if their basic demands were not met.
They put across such views at a meeting with the Maoist leadership including Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who is also the prime minister, at the latter´s official residence at Baluwatar.
"We will rather tender our collective resignation if our concerns are not addressed. You should push for integration, and not for humiliating surrender," a participant quoted PLA commander Jivan Buda as saying during the meeting that saw participation of those up to brigade commanders.
The PLA commanders had demanded their representation in the leadership of the proposed Nepal Army (NA) directorate into which the combatants are to be integrated.
"We collectively raised our voice for our representation in the core team of three to run the NA directorate," Brigade commander Jivan told Republica, adding, "If we don´t have our say at the policymaking level, it will not be integration."
Similarly, the commanders had asked the party leadership to clarify about the confusion over the educational qualifications of those to be integrated into the directorate.
While the [November 1, 2011] seven-point agreement states that the education level of the combatants at the time of their entry into the PLA will be taken into account to determine their rank in the NA directorate, the PLA commanders have long been demanding that their current level of education be considered.
The PLA also demanded that disabled combatants should also be integrated into the directorate, something which is strongly opposed by the opposition parties. The Nepali Congress (NC) and the UML have taken the stance that the combatants should meet the standard criteria of the NA individually for joining the NA.
"But, aren´t there physically disabled officers in the NA? Why should we punish those who contributed to the institution [PLA]?" asked a commander.
Likewise, the commanders also argued in favor of bulk integration, not each and every combatant meeting all the criteria for integration.
In reply, Dahal had told the commanders that he would take them into confidence while taking the integration process ahead. "We must move ahead with the integration process and cannot afford to leave it incomplete. We will try our best to meet all your demands," a commander quote Dahal as saying.
Similarly, the commanders had asked Bhattarai about the integration proposal he presented in the last meeting of the Special Committee. "It is not exactly the same proposal. Anyway, we must immediately take the integration process ahead," a participant quoted Bhattarai as saying.
According to him, some had suggested to the leadership to take the integration process forward swiftly in a ´dignified manner.´
Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya who represents the hard-line camp did not attend the meeting. It is not yet clear why he was absent, but sources say he was not invited. "The meeting is of those who are for integration," said a Maoist leader requesting anonymity.
The party hardliners had directed their supporters in the PLA to opt for voluntary retirement, not integration.
The relationship between the hardliners and the establishment has soured recently with Dahal ´failing´ to implement the decisions of the last central committee that said Bhattarai should resign from the government and the party should go for mass mobilization for ensuring a "pro-people constitution."
During the meeting, some commanders had requested Dahal and Bhattarai to resolve the differences between the factions and keep party unity intact.
The meeting will continue Friday.
Ex-combatants accuse Dahal of betrayal
Maoist ex-combatants accused party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal of betraying them and neglecting their plight after the party joined the peace process.
Speaking at a press meet at Nepalgunj on Thursday after a national gathering of the former combatants in Dang the previous day, they said that they have become victims due to Dahal shifting positions vis-à-vis the "revolution".
"The party organization has been thrown into disarray due to the shifting ideological stances of the chairman," said former PLA commander Nep Bahadur Kunwar who was appointed as the coordinator of the organization of ex-combatants loyal to the party hard-line faction led by Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya.
He said that the ex-combatants will continue to fight for their demands. Some 400 ex-combatants had participated in the gathering in Dang. They claimed that many Maoist leaders including Dahal are undergoing "moral erosion" and accused them of being involved in financial embezzlement.
Party General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa and leader Netra Bikram Chand had addressed the gathering, but they did not attend the press meet in Nepalgunj.
Party leader Hari Bhakta Kandel who was present at the press meet that the internal contradiction in the Maoist party has reached its peak after the chairman failed to implement the decisions of the last central committee.