With less than two months remaining for the expiry of the tenure of members of two transitional justice mechanisms, victims of the decade-long Maoist conflict have said the government and political parties should immediately begin the process of appointing new members to avoid any possible vacuum in the commissions.
Through an amendment to the Transitional Justice Act, the government has extended the tenure of members of the two commissions till April 13, and tenure of the commissions by one year, with provisions for another one-year extension.
As per the act, a five-member recommendation committee headed by former Supreme Court chief justice will recommend members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons. The recommendation will then be approved by the Cabinet. Even if the government wants to continue the existing members, which is against the victims’ demand for restructuring the commissions, the act needs to be amended again.
Against this backdrop, the victims said it was already late for the formation of the recommendation committee, and any further delay would raise the chances of the commissions existing without members after April 13. TRC Chairman Surya Kiran Gurung and member Lila Udasi Khanal have already tendered their resignation. Moreover, the victims have demanded their meaningful participation in the process of selecting new TRC, CIEDP commissioners. The international community has also been pressing the government to appoint competent members in the two mechanisms in a transparent manner.
“The government and political parties have not consulted us on the matter so far. There’s a trend of doing everything at the eleventh hour without meaningful consultation. We are not going to accept any decision imposed on us by the government and political parties,” said Suman Adhikari, former chairman of the Conflict Victims Common Platform.
The government and political parties, on the other hand, have yet to reach a consensus on the matter. They are currently weighing two options — first amending the TJ Act in line with the Supreme Court’s verdicts and restructuring the commissions later, or first restructuring the commissions and amending the act later.
But with the winter session of the Parliament expected to run for just over a month and the next House session going to be the budget session, the government must act fast if they go with the option of amending the act first, according to victims.
Even if they go with the second option of restructuring the commissions first, they do not have the luxury of delaying or fast-tracking the process because victims have been seeking broad-based consultations and transparent commissioner selection process, they said.
“So the government and parties should begin consultations immediately to avoid any situation of vacuum in the TRC and CIEDP,” said Ram Bhandari, adviser to the Conflict Victims National Alliance. “Competent commissioners should be appointed through a transparent appointment process on the basis of broad-based consultations with all stakeholders, especially the victims.”
Secretary at the PM’s Office Ramesh Dhakal, who is actively involved in the act amendment process, said the government was holding consultations with stakeholders.