KATHMANDU: A meeting of the Special Committee (for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist fighters) today decided to resume the integration process that had been stalled for months.
The meeting has decided to begin the process to select the fighters for their integration into the Nepali Army from September 6.
The selection process of 3,123 Maoist combatants willing to join the army was halted on July 6 after dispute surfaced over their ages and academic qualifications.
More than a quarter of them were found either under- or over-aged when their citizen certificates were matched with the data provided by the UN mission after it conducted the verification in May 2007.
The fighters had then stood in protest and demanded that their UN-verified age be recognised and that the latest academic degrees they had acquired be taken into consideration for the selection process.
Today’s meeting unanimously reached a decision that the birth date mentioned in the fighters’ citizen certificates would be applicable in case their ages mismatched with the UN-verified data.
The meeting also decided to address the issue of ‘under-aged fighters’ by assuming that they were 18 years of age when they joined the erstwhile People’s Liberation Army. To address the issue of ‘over-aged fighters’, the seven-point agreement reached on November 1, 2001 will be taken into consideration. The deal calls for giving three-year flexibility if they are found over-aged.
Today’s meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in his capacity of ex-officio chair of the cross-party panel, however, refused to recognise the educational degrees that the fighters acquired after they were cantoned in 2007. Earlier decisions will be applicable in this regard.
The meeting also decided that the selection committee, which was formed under acting chief of Public Service Commission, in association with the SC Secretariat
would jointly carry out the integration process, in a turnaround from earlier decision in which the SC and its Secretariat were not made part of the selection process.
As per today’s Special Committee decision, the Maoist weapons, which are at the NA-monitored camps, will be handed over to the army. “The weapons will come under army’s full control as soon as the integration process begins,” said Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudel.
Today’s meeting also directed the Secretariat to provide either rehabilitation or voluntary retirement packages to the fighters deemed unfit for joining the army during the selection process.
“The development is a way forward. The trust is building up; it has created a favourable environment for dialogue as far as political issues are concerned,” said Congress leader Ram Sharan Mahat, a member in the Special Committee.
Today’s meeting, held after a hiatus of more than four months, comes hot on the heels of a meeting among top leaders of three major parties yesterday.
The last time the Special Committee sat for talks was
on April 14.