|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY special representative on nepal
Nepal was experiencing a very important moment in its peace process, particularly with the release of the first quarterly report on the activities of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Mr. Martin said he had just briefed the Security Council on that report and UNMIN had again received the Council’s very strong and supportive interest. Nepal had just observed the first anniversary of the start of the people’s movement that had resulted in King Gyanendra’s relinquishing of executive authority and of the peace process getting under way, with the ceasefire having become a comprehensive peace agreement. Nobody could have imagined that the country would have come as far as it had.
Since the beginning of UNMIN’s mandate on 23 January, the Interim Government had been formed with the inclusion of five Maoist ministers among a Cabinet of 22 members, he said. The condition for the formation of that Government had been the storing of Maoist weapons under United Nations monitoring, a process that had been completed between mid-January and mid-February, thanks to the advance deployment of arms monitors, to which the Security Council had agreed on 1 December 2006, so that the political process could move forward.
He said that, while a great deal had been achieved, the timetable to which the parties had originally committed themselves was to have culminated in the election of the constituent assembly by mid-June, which was the last date before the arrival of the monsoon season, during which elections would not be feasible for some months. The necessary legislation had not been passed in time and Nepal’s election commission had informed the Government that the election was no longer possible by mid-June. The postponement had been a disappointment to many parties, but it allowed time for measures to create a climate conducive to the holding of a later election. The Interim Government had not yet agreed to a new date, but there was an expectation in many quarters that it might be November, after the passing of the monsoon and the major holidays. That date would also allow time to improve the security climate.
Crucially, the election required that issues of inclusion be addressed, particularly those pressed by traditionally marginalized groups that were now insisting on adequate representation in the constituent assembly, he said. UNMIN continued to work through its electoral advisers in support of preparations for the elections. In terms of other major tasks, such as the management of arms and armed personnel, the Mission had been ready for some weeks to begin the second stage of registration of those at the Maoist cantonment sites.
He noted that there had not been much progress on that front, because the Maoist leadership insisted that registration should proceed simultaneously with significant improvement of conditions at the sites, which were of great concern to UNMIN, though not a matter of direct United Nations responsibility. Another task was the formation by the Interim Government of a committee to consider the future of Maoist combatants. Hopefully, UNMIN would soon be able to begin the second stage of registration, which was important in relation to the discharge of minors –- a clear commitment in the peace agreements -– and of any persons recruited after the ceasefire, in accordance with the ceasefire code of conduct agreed in May 2006.
Asked about criticism of the Special Representative by a Maoist leader for allegedly attempting to set preconditions for the second stage of registration, Mr. Martin said those remarks had been “a little blown up” as they had been made in response to questions asked at the end of a public appearance.
He said that, shortly before leaving Nepal, he had been in discussions with the Maoist leadership and representatives of the Interim Government in trying to reach early agreement on simultaneous movement by both sides. The Maoists’ linking of the registration to other issues was a matter of public record and nothing new.
Asked about the presence of 700 snakes in the cantonment sites and whose job it was to deal with them, he said UNMIN did not take the matter of snakes lightly, but there were “very real concerns” at the sites, including weather conditions that had resulted in tents being blown away. Former combatants were seeking shelter in nearby villages, and there were plans to build semi-permanent shelters for the monsoon season.
Another correspondent asked what the postponement of the election meant for the duration and life of UNMIN. Would the Security Council acknowledge the postponement with a statement?
Mr. Martin said there had been no discussion of a Council statement. Regarding the life of UNMIN, the Mission had been mandated for 12 months and, if the election were to take place in November, that would still fall within the mandate period. The duration of the presence of electoral advisers already in place would be extended, as necessary. The most significant operational consequence for the Mission was its plan to deploy election officers to the 75 electoral districts. That was the only element of UNMIN’s deployment that would actually be delayed by the change in the election timetable.
Asked about the main problems facing Nepal and the main actors, the Special Representative explained that the peace process marked the ending of a 10-year armed conflict between a Maoist insurgency and the State. However, the present conflicts were not the direct outcome of that conflict, but related to the problems of traditionally marginalized groups who insisted on being included and on the creation of a “new Nepal”.
He said those groups included the Madeshi, inhabitants of the southern plains bordering India who made up a much more substantial proportion of the population that was not reflected in their representation within the civil service and other bodies. They had pressed their claims through a movement attended by a great deal of unrest and violence between January and March. The Jamjati were the indigenous people of the hills, who were also traditionally underrepresented. At the bottom of the caste system were the Dalits, who were grossly underrepresented, as were women.
* *** *