As Nepal is close to completing the Peace Process, DHARANIDHAR KHATIWADA, secretary of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction spoke about the present state of peace process and the work done by his ministry in the last six years. Having completed several appointments during more than three decades of his career in civil service, Khatiwada possesses diverse experiences. He handled the press during the crucial visit of Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan's president Parvej Mushhraf's during the SAARC summit at the hype of the tension in 2001 in terms of their bilateral relations. Similarly, Khatiwada was the director general of the Department of Information when US secretary of State Colin Powell visited Nepal. As he now is heading the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Khatiwada spoke to New Spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:
How do you see the role of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction?
The ministry’s function is very challenging in the political context as the peace process remains the work in progress, and involves a large number of stakeholders. It is also under the international scrutiny as the window for government support and actions related to the peace process.
How do you view its mandate?
A narrow interpretation of its mandate and role extends to aid project coordination and funding for infrastructure reconstruction and disbursement of relief funds to conflict affected persons as well as management of the cantonments and rehabilitation of combatants. A wider aspiration and interpretation expects the ministry to provide active and technical support to the on-going peace process and negotiations as well as being an agent for peace building and conflict transformation.
As the integration of Maoist combatants to Nepal Army has already completed and other issues are also nearing completion, how do you look at the new role of Ministry of Peace and Reconstructions at present?
Integration is not the only part of peace process as it involves many other elements, including rehabilitation and reconstruction of various elements of the decade long conflict. Of course, the integration process is near complete; but the Ministry has still many things to do. As you know the ministry has already completed the rehabilitation and reintegration of Maoist combatants as 13,822 combatants chose the rehabilitation and 1,444 choose reintegration in Nepal Army.
What is the state of the rehabilitation process?
One of the mandates of the Ministry is to make peace negotiations and agreements with political parties, insurgency groups and social organizations. Under the program of development, rehabilitation and reconstruction for peace, we have already completed negotiations with 54 different armed groups involved in the violent conflict and they have already handed over 151 weapons. Due to this, there is a relative peace in the country. During the period, we have deactivated 53 landmines and we have been launching mine risk education to reduce the causality from Improvised Explosives, IEDs.
What is the status of reconstruction?
We have already completed the reconstruction of 594 infrastructures, spending 1.14 billion rupees. There are 1,598 infrastructures under construction and the government has already allocated over 1.3 billion rupees. Under the Peace Fund, 99 infrastructures of Nepal Police have been completed and 171 infrastructures under Nepal Police are under construction. After this, there is a realization of the presence of the government at the local level.
What do you say of the role of Nepal Peace Trust Fund?
NPTF is a fully government owned funding mechanism under the Ministry. Its major fund is provided by the government of Nepal along with technical and financial support by eight donors, namely Denmark, European Union, Finland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. It provides strategic directions, approves projects, funds and regularly reviews the performance of the NPTF. Approval of projects goes through a rigorous process of appraisal and approval. For the coming elections, the Peace Fund has allocated 2.48 billion rupees budget. NPTF has 55 projects in total. A total budget of Rs.14 billion has been approved so far.
There are reports of massive irregularities in distributing funds. How do you look at this?
I don’t want to comment on fabricated and misleading news. As a secretary of this ministry, I can tell you that nothing as such has happened. Our system is open and transparent. There are procedures and criteria to distribute funds.
Do you have criteria for development?
We have already set criteria, working plan and policies to provide relief to the conflict affected people in a transparent and impartial manner. We have already distributed 2.18 billion rupees to the conflict affected people during the last five years. Our aim is to give social justice to the victims of the conflict.
What legal remedies are you providing?
In the process of legal remedies to the victims of conflict and in respect of the human rights, the ministry is making efforts to draft the Disappearance Act and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act in consultation with various stakeholders. The government has already submitted two ordinances to President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav. Once the ordinances are approved, the process of reconciliation and punishment of rights abusers will begin.
What about the UN Resolution?
We are also implementing the national plan of action on UN Resolution of 1325 and 1820 and National Plan for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Children affected by Armed Conflict. We hope that it will enhance the predication of the women in all level and provide security to women.
We are also implementing a working plan to rehabilitate the women and children affected by the conflict. There are Peace Committees in 75 districts, 29 Municipalities and 2,162 Village Development Committees. We have been making all out efforts to make the local Peace Committees to enhance their participation effectively in all the projects implemented by the Ministry.