Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interview with CP Gajurel in Katmandu Post - October 23rd 2008

C.P. Gajurel, 59, is a politburo member and chief of the foreign affairs bureau of the CPN (Maoist) party. In August 2003, while he was attempting to go to London from Chennai airport with forged travel documents, he was arrested and spent three years in jail in Chennai.

Following the second People's Movement of 2006, and the entry of the Maoists into mainstream politics, he was released from jail in December 2007. Since his release, he has traveled internationally, raising awareness about and seeking support for his party.

Gajurel spoke with Aditya Adhikari and Kosh Raj Koirala of The Kathmandu Post on Oct. 23 about the new government, the ideological tussle in his party, and its relations with other parties and neighboring countries.


Q: How do you assess the performance of the Maoist-led government so far?

C.P. Gajurel: We feel that the performance of the government has not lived up to the party's hopes. Because it is a coalition government, it hasn't been able to work according to the policies of our party. We entered government with the understanding that we have to undertake visible change two weeks after entering government. Even if we couldn't immediately undertake major changes, we felt we could do smaller things, like controlling traffic and providing adequate supply of oil. But unfortunately we haven't even been able to do that.

Q: Your party has said that it doesn't believe in parliamentary democracy, but it believes in multi-party competition and doesn't want to impose a traditional communist system. Could you explain what the state structure would look like under your model?

Gajurel: There is a mistaken belief that multi-party means parliament, the parliamentary system means democracy, and that no other form of democracy exists in the world. But there are many political systems in the world that are not parliamentary but have multiparty competition
Q: So what is the alternative that you propose?

Gajurel: In our multi-party system, there will be competition between parties that are nationalist, that have fought for the country and republicanism, who want to make a new Nepal . It could be that many parties could come together to form government. It's not necessary that, like in parliament, there has to be an opposition party and a ruling party. In the interim period we didn't have an opposition but the system was democratic. In fact, there is no provision for an opposition in the interim constitution. Only after the Nepali Congress decided to stay in opposition did we decide to allow for it.

Q: Who will select which parties are nationalist and will be allowed to compete? What are the parameters for selection?

Gajurel: The parameter is the party's history among the people. The contribution it has made. The commitment it has towards the constitution we will draft. The commitment it has towards the country and its people.

Q: We hear that the Maoists say the state should be responsible for selecting parties that will be allowed to compete. That what the Maoists mean by multi-party democracy is one where they control the state and select which parties can compete and which cannot.

Gajurel: No. The system will have courts that will have final authority. There will be an Election Commission. These bodies will make decisions. The state can't just stop some parties from competing just because it wants to.

Q: The policies of your party in government are very different from what your party used to state a few years ago. Don't you feel that the party has deviated from its core ideology?

Gajurel: We haven't deviated from our core ideology. We didn't come to where we are through falling into some kind of misconception or illusion. We have our own strategy and our own tactics, and we've come here implementing them. The Constituent Assembly (CA) was a demand we put forth five or six years ago. We participated in the CA according to our own policies. Our central committee took a decision to enter government. But it is true that this is a new exercise. Such an exercise hadn't occurred in the world communist movement.

Q: Recently there has been much talk in the media about the differences between the “hard-line” faction of your party, and the “moderates”. That one faction wants to go back to war to continue the revolution, while the other wants to continue the current peace process.

Gajurel: Various opinions and differences arise within the party, and it is important that they do. As communists, we define our party as one of unity in opposites. It is not monolithic. The different opinions in the party struggle against one another, and the party gains direction through this struggle.

But no-one in the party thinks that we should go back to armed struggle. Even the so-called hardliners don't think this. Through armed struggle we have reached a phase where we can pursue our agenda through other means. Why should we then go back to it?

Q: We have heard a lot about the term 'Federal Democratic Republic' over the past two years. But what is this 'People's Republic' that we've been hearing about more recently?

Gajurel: The national convention of our party, which is going to begin on November 9 or 10, will deal with this issue of the kind of republic we need. The 'Federal Democratic Republic' line was definitely useful in bringing an end to the monarchy and establishing a republic. But do we now move forward or consolidate this form of republic? To move forward we now need a 'People's Republic'. The maximum form the Federal Democratic Republic can take exists in India . But has the Indian republic been able to solve its problems? We don't have to go further than Bihar to see how it functions. We have to do better than that.

Now it is said that a 'People's Republic' is a communist republic. But it is not communist. Neither is it socialist. It is basically a bourgeois republic, but it has many elements of socialism. For example, there will be progressive land reform. There will be decentralization of many rights. There will be local self-governance for many castes and ethnicities. We want to move forward so that we don't return to a feudal-type, capitalist-type of republic.

Q: What will be the economic system in the 'People's Republic?' Will there be a nationalization of banks, of property…?

Gajurel: People make a big deal of this issue of nationalization of banks. I just returned from Venezuela and had an opportunity to meet Hugo Chavez at a discussion programme. He joked, 'When I nationalized banks George Bush was really against it. But now he has become my comrade, he too has nationalized banks in his country.' And it is not only communists who nationalize banks. Indira Gandhi herself did so. Does that make her a communist?

Q: What about other economic institutions. Do you plan to nationalize industries…?

Gajurel: No. In that system not everything will be nationalized. Some elements will of course be nationalized, but private property and industry will exist. The national bourgeoisie will be protected. The objective is to develop national capitalism.

Q: There is a perception that the Maoists are getting closer to China and trying to distance itself from India .

Gajurel: We believe that it is in the national interest to have good and equal relations with both countries. Historically our relations have been one-sided in all aspects. For example, 80% of our trade is with India , and only 8% with China .

There is enormous potential to increase relations with China . I'll give you an example. Many tourists come through India to Nepal . This is a good thing. But more needs to be done to increase flow of tourists from the Chinese side. After the train link to Lhasa (from Beijing ) was constructed, three million tourists started coming to Lhasa per year. Most of these tourists are Buddhist. The most important place for Buddhists is our Lumbini. If we could construct a rail line or a highway connecting Lumbini to Lhasa, even if a third of the tourists to Lhasa come to Nepal, that makes a million tourists per year.

Q: Some leaders of the Nepali Congress have been asking if the Maoists are so serious about integration of their army, then why have they raised the allowances for People's Liberation Army (PLA) combatants by Rs. 2000? This indicates that they are bent on making the PLA stronger and fit for returning to war…

Gajurel: That's not our intention. How can we integrate the PLA if we don't even give them enough to eat? We need to give them basic facilities, develop their professionalism and then integrate them. It doesn't make sense that those who agree that the PLA needs to be professionalized are against giving them even enough food.
What the Nepali Congress is saying is ridiculous.

And, even though we had reached agreement in the past with the United Nations and other parties that integration would take place according to the Security Sector Reform (SSR) model, the Nepali Congress is bent on promoting the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation (DDR) model. The Home Minister said yesterday that there is no agreement that states that the Maoist combatants will be integrated into the Nepal Army. So what had we been negotiating this whole time? It is very strange that responsible leaders of the Nepali Congress are speaking like this.

Q: So you believe that all verified Maoist combatants, over 19,000 in number, should be integrated into the Nepal Army (NA).

Gajurel: Yes, that's what we hold. The whole agreement is about the integration of armies. Not of police or the YCL.

Q: And after integration, you want people from your army to receive the same rank in the NA as they did in the PLA?

Gajurel: Well, we have to discuss that. How qualified are our commanders? After all, they did win battles against the NA. If they weren't professional at all, would they have been able to win? We think that in many ways the skills of our PLA fighters are superior to those of the NA. We fought many battles with a few weapons. We don't feel that it is any exaggeration to say that our combatants deserve to retain their same rank after they are integrated


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