Ex-combatants cry foul as age controversy flares up
Make no mountain out of a molehill, it’s humiliating, they say
KATHMANDU, JUL 09 -
Fresh controversy over the age of former Maoist combatants aspiring to join Nepal Army is likely to complicate matters and delay the PLA integration process further.
Officials involved in the selection process said the age of around 25 percent of the 3,123 verified combatants remains doubtful and that it is likely that many of these were actually minors when the cut off date (2006) was agreed upon.
The former combatants and the Maoist party, however, say that there should not be any controversy over “minor issues that could humiliate the aspirants.”
The integration process has been stalled for the past three days with the government failing to resolve the row.
The Army is reluctant to integrate the former combatants, citing a clause in the arms monitoring deal signed by the then Seven Party Alliance-led government and the CPN-Maoists. Clause 4.1.3 of the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of the Arms and the Armies (AMMAA) says that combatants born after May 25, 1988 would be subject to automatic discharge.
The former combatants claim that there is a shortfall of only a few days or months from the cut-off date mentioned in AMMAA and their birth records maintained by UNMIN. Some former combatants, the Maoists argue, had supplied fake personal details to conceal their identities as they were not sure the war was over and this should not be considered a point to disqualify them.
Maoist leaders expressed hope that Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai will be able to take the Army leadership into confidence and resume the selection process.
“The number of combatants willing to go for integration has already gone down. The process should not be delayed just because of technical issues like dates of birth,” said Maoist Politburo leader Janardan Sharma. “Those who were minors in the past have already reached the right age now. So, there should not be any problem in recruiting them.”
PLA commanders caution that the level of frustration in cantonements is growing as the integration process is being executed like a recruitment. “Parties have failed to internalise the spirit of the peace process. The process is very humiliating and no one is ready to give space to the People’s Liberation Army and its contribution,” said Second Division Commander Suk Bahadur Rokka.
Coordinator of the Special Committee Secretariat Balananda Sharma said the process would have been smoother had combatants with “controversial” ages opted for voluntary retirement. “There requires a new political decision to make corrections in the age. It would be better if they go for retirement,” said Sharma.
According to information collected by UNMIN, platoon commander Kali Bahadur Aidi is born on August 18, 1986. The former combatant of the sixth division in Dasrathpur has August 18, 1992 as the birth date in his citizenship. Aidi would be a child soldier if his date of birth in the citizenship is to be taken into account. The seven-point deal signed on November 1 commits to execute the integration process on the basis of information verified by UNMIN.
A source in the selection panel claimed that the Maoist party’s nomination of candidates going for integration is the main reason for the current deadlock. “Dissatisfied combatants have shouted slogans in the camps, claiming that there was favouritism and nepotism during the selection process,” he said.
Posted on: 2012-07-09 08:24