Several injured as Nepal Maoists lay siege to secretariat

Last Updated: Sunday, May 9, 2010 - 23:00

Kathmandu: Nepalese riot police clashed
with thousands of Maoists who laid siege to the main
secretariat today, injuring at least 18 protesters and
policemen in a political standoff with the government to force
the prime minister to quit.

Unified CPN-Maoist activists surrounded the
Singhdurbar secretariat, the main administrative building of
the government in the heart of the capital and District
Administration Office (DAOs) across the country, two days
after calling off their 6-day-old indefinite anti-government
general strike.

"The prime minister must quit and a national
government come in place," the Maoists shouted as they
surrounded the secretariat that houses the Prime Minister?s
Office and most ministries. "Our protests will continue till
there is consensus and a new constitution."

Thousands of police had been deployed to guard the
complex. The police fired tear gas to disperse the
demonstrators who laid siege to the complex.

Over twenty people, including Deputy Superintendent of
Police Bhola Rawal, were injured. Some Maoist cadres were also
wounded in the scuffle with riot police.

Protesters also attacked mediapersons, who have been
accused by the former rebels of portraying a negative image of
the Maoists cadres and the strike.

Three journalists, including two cameramen, were
attacked by the Maoists cadres near Singhdurbar today.

Thousands of Maoists cadres remain in the capital to
build pressure on the embattled Prime Minister Madhav Kumar
Nepal to quit ahead of a deadline for a new constitution at
the end of this month.

Nepalese political leaders are struggling to meet a
May 28 deadline to finish the drafting of a new constitution
as stipulated by the 2006 peace process.

The Maoists, who have around 35 per cent of the seats
in parliament, want the government disbanded, followed by
the formation of a new coalition government led by them to
rescue the peace process and draft a new constitution.

The Prime Minister today underlined his government`s
determination to find a peaceful solution to the deadlock, but
refused to resign under pressure from the Maoists.
The Prime Minister asked the Maoists to resolve all
political issues through the Parliament.

Major political parties have asked the Maoists to
disband their para-military groups and turn their organisation
into a civilian party and return properties seized before they
could consider supporting a government led by the Maoists.

Prime Minister Nepal asked the Maoists to dissolve its
paramilitary organisations to forge a consensus and create an
atmosphere of trust.

"So long as a political party keeps its private army
and weapons, a trustworthy atmosphere cannot be created," he
told a business delegation today. He said the government does
not want to use force and has always avoided confrontation
with the opposition party, he said.

The delegation led by Kush Kumar Joshi, the president
of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and
Industries (FNCCI), asked him to take initiative to end the
current political impasse.

Nepal said he will invite the Maoist chairman
Prachanda for dialogue today.

Meanwhile, the attack on the journalists have been
widely flayed. Dharmendra Jha, president of Federation of
Nepalese Journalists, condemned the attack on three
journalists and asked the government to punish those involved
in the incident.

Prabin Maharjan, a photojournalist of Associated News
Agency, was hit with an iron rod while Navindra Shrestha, a
journalist associated with Avenues TV was also beaten up.

"They hit me on back of my head with a lathi," Shrestha said.

Maoist chairman Prachanda had blamed journalists and
intellectuals for portraying a negative image of his cadres
and the indefinite anti-government strike.

These neat and clean intellectuals will now have to
decide whether they want peace or war," an angry Prachanda had
said while addressing thousands of his supporters yesterday.

"Nepali people have maintained a diary on who wrote
what," he warned.

The Maoist supremo said the six-day strike "was a
historic rehearsal," as the "real drama will start before May
28 if the government fails to address the demand for peace and
constitution through a national government."

The Maoists on Friday called off their crippling
strike that began on May 2 amid public fury and diplomatic
pressure, but vowed to continue their protests to force the
22-party coalition government to step down.

UCPN-Maoist formed Nepal`s first post-royal government
in August 2008 after the former rebels emerged as the largest
party in the April constituent assembly polls.

The government collapsed amid a dispute with President
Ram Baran Yadav over the reinstatement of former army chief
Rukmangad Katawal, who was dismissed by the Prachanda-led
government last May.

The standoff has put new stresses on Nepal`s
reconciliation efforts amid fears that the stalled peace
process may be derailed if the Maoists agitation is not ended.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, May 9, 2010 - 23:00

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