KIRAN PUN/ KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, Mar 6: A serious rift has surfaced between UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai, who is also the prime minister, over providing compensation to the victims of Bandarmude incident.
Dahal, who was very unhappy at the government´s “reluctance” to release Rs 6 million in compensation to the kin of those killed or injured in the Bandarmude incident during the Maoist insurgency, had himself taken initiatives to release the amount from the party´s treasury Tuesday morning.
Sources close to Dahal said he was miffed with Bhattarai for not releasing the amount even as he had received assurances from both the prime minister and peace minister before he made the announcement Thursday. What made him feel additionally bad, according the sources, was that the same cabinet had decided to release Rs 30 million for the proposed Dharma Ratna Yami Foundation. Late Yami is the prime minister´s father-in-law.
However, the prime minister´s aide Bishwadeep Pandey, denying the allegations has tweeted, “Please don´t go by baseless slander. Seek truth from facts. This is 100 per cent fabrication.”
Dahal had immediately called up the prime minister and Peace Minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi following news reports that labeled him a “liar”. But as there was no positive response from them, Dahal while feeling an urgency to provide the victims the pledged amount, had called up the party´s office secretary Hit Raj Pandey and Amik Sherchan, who is the chief of the party disciplinary commission.
Dahal had then directed them to immediately release the fund from the party´s treasury. “We will immediately go to Bandarmude to provide the relief package after the general strikes [scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday],” said Sherchan. He informed that the party will provide the package from the surplus money collected during the party´s seventh general convention held in Hetauda.
However, the prime minister´s office has denied the allegation that the government had shown “unwillingness” to release the compensation amount. “The government has already decided to provide Rs 6 million to the victims through the peace ministry. Peace minister [Top Bahadur Rayamajhi] told me yesterday [Monday] that a process is under way to release the amount. So, the accusation that government does not intend to provide the relief package is baseless,” said the prime minister´s political advisor Devendra Paudel. “It takes time. It is not as simple as issuing a bank check.”
But Sherchan countered Paudel´s statement. "If the government was serious about providing the relief package why has it not released the amount yet?” he asked, adding, “Something told by the party chairman is the voice of party.”
Sherchan also said that the peace ministry has said that it had not received any such requests from the prime minister´s office.
Altogether 38 people were killed in a bus in the ambush set up by Maoist cadres in Bandarmude, Chitwan on June 6, 2005. The families of victims had criticized Dahal after the government took no initiative to provide them the pledged amount.
Nepali Congress and CPN-UML leaders participating in the four-party meeting held later in the afternoon at Special Committee secretariat said the “souring” relations between Chairman Dahal and Prime Minister Bhattarai was manifest in the talks. While Dahal appeared “flexible” on many of the contentious issues on the table, Bhattarai had strongly opposed them.
“We could notice serious differences between Dahal and Bhattarai on many issues. As Bhattarai appears to be against any kind of compromise, we are convinced that he does not want to step down any time soon,” said an NC interlocutor.
Though there was no substantial development in four-party negotiations on Tuesday, leaders while emerging from the meeting had claimed that discussions were moving in a positive direction and that they would “soon” reach consensus. “The taskforce has almost finalized its report. They have left the top leaders to settle the remaining contentious issues,” said NC Senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba.
The major parties continue to be at odds on issues relating to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, citizenship, voter´s registration and rank determination of the Maoist combatants to be integrated in the Nepal Army. The cross-party taskforce had submitted its report to the meeting on Tuesday, while leaving these contentious issues to be resolved by the top leaders.