Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Night of the Generals?

Eight (or nine, by some reports) Brigadier Generals of the Nepal Army (NA) have been retired by the Government, despite the recommendation of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS to extend them. They were all eligible for 3-year extensions upon completion of their 5 year term.

That a few Brigadier Generals, from a pool of 50+, retire is not an earth-shaking event. The Government has always reserved the prerogative to retire or extend senior army staff, quite apparent also during the days when Kings were the Supreme Commander of their Royal Nepal Army. So there is also no lack of precedence.

But the political complexities of present Nepal cast a different meaning on these recent retirements. The decision has been taken by the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, both Maoist leaders who have their own private army - the "People's Liberation Army" (PLA) - behind them. Maoist rhetoric has even gone so far as to propose that the Nepal Army be replaced by the PLA as the national army. It is in the interest of the Maoist party to weaken the Nepal Army in any way possible. The growing rift between the Defense Minister and the Chief of Army Staff is apparent to all. This morning's paper states that the President, who is now supposed to be the Supreme Commander of the NA, has advised the COAS to "knock on the doors" of the government to press his request to extend the generals, since the President's own powers are "limited". This from a President from the Nepali Congress party which is supposed to be the main opposition to the current government!

Let's call a spade a spade. The continuing existence of the PLA is a sore festering on the peace process of Nepal. The NA is now the only institution between some sort of order and complete anarchy in the country. Let us hope that COAS Katwal has the strength of conviction and love for this country to do what needs to be done.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Horatio,
While disagreeing with the Defense Ministers decision regarding the retirement and cognizant of the political ramifications, we should remind ourselves that he has the right to take the decision. As per official rules there is no need for the Defence Ministry to agree to all recommendations from the army. This is an expression of civil control over the military. Other wise why have a ministry. And in this case why have the 4+3 rule if everyone is to be extended.

Subodh said...

It is more like the night of the long knives. Slowly the battle is being lost. Ke Garne? I don't need to remain anonymous.

Anonymous said...

There should be the Board to recommend the General's appointment, term extension and the promotion. The Board should consist of Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Defense Minister, Opposition leader and CoAS. The CoAS should be given every right to table the names of the qualified persons and the Board will examine the qualifications of the recommended names. In this way, Civilian control over the Army and the rights of the Army would be established.
Dragging National Army into the political scene time and often won't benefit the nation.
Defense Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa should resign from his position as Defense Minister for his attempt to degrade the morale of the National Army. It is not the PLA. And, by the way, the idea of integration of Nepal Army and PLA should be scrapped. There is no need to have politicians' committee to oversee the integration. Give those PLA youngsters a chance to have education. They should be given opportunity to work for the livelihood.

bishalshah@yahoo.com

HORATIO said...

Anon 10:47, you disagree with the government's decision and then argue for civilian control of the army. Can't have your cake and eat it too! The principle of civilian control over the army does not apply to Nepal. The principal leaders of the government have their private army, the PLA. They cannot be considered "civilians" by any stretch of the imagination.

Subodh said...

Read yesterday that the retired generals still attended office. Attaboy! Now we are going places!

Anonymous said...

I think the post is very balanced. Personally, I think the Maoists are using this to test the waters: if it goes through without much trouble, then they would apply the
"salami" principle to gradually eliminate the Army officer corps, keeping perhaps only the flunkys. Perhaps, too, they believe that with Indians now in a election mode, they need not fear any action from that end, at least in the next couple of months.
A lot will depend on whether the army can even defend its own interest - leave alone that of the nation!

Anonymous said...

Good to see differing viewpoints. Hard for someone like me to make a comment without having seen the real Today's Nepal Up, Close and Personal. At the point of being hypocritical, I would like to state the following:
1). There has to be a systematic and lawful decision-making not adhocism by whoever is in power.
2). Such irrational intervention results in a demoralized military which is what we do not want. Since the Maoist have succeded in uprooting even the monarchy, they have self-elevated themselves to a status that they can do anything they want. Did you forget Hisila Yami's proposal to teach Maoism in high schools?
3). Nepal needs a well supported civil law and order and a democratic institution that is insulated against whims of the power hungry and vested interests.
4). This is not a time to demoralize the Military who has been a source of employment of our brothers and sisters from far and near and who have no other clout and power or status to make the elites or get a paying job primarily due to their socioeconomic status.
5). If these self-proclaimed Maoists are true to their ideals, they should live it and walk the talk. Adaptation to a luxurious lifestyle and amassing wealth is not one of the doctrines of Maoism. Neither is disruption of existing institutions.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Do our Generals have the balls to do anything ? Who are we defending ? Do they want us to defend them now ?