Peace and Justice Update - May 3, 2013 - Volume 33, Number VI
The Peace and Justice Update is published by interns at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. The views expressed in the Update are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of USD. To subscribe, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Subscribe" in the subject line. Click here for source information.
Government Council Says No Reinstatement for Deserters
After numerous protests by Nepali civil service deserters demanding to be reinstated in their former jobs, the government announced October 18, 2012 that a panel would respond to the deserters’ grievances. The panel was formed by Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, after a string of protests, which began in 2009.
One protest involved ex-army and policemen demanding to be reinstated in their jobs, claiming that they were forced to quit due to fear, threats and torture during the war. The protest was led by the Morang chapter of the Conflict-hit Army and Policemen’s Struggle Committee, which demanded that its members not only be reinstated, but also receive promotion and salary for the period in which they were not working.
Another protest occurred in December 2011 when the “struggle committee” of deserters began to demand reinstatement in Kathmandu. They were met with police batons and teargas. The protesters claimed that they were forced to leave their positions due to threats against their families.
The protests led the Nepali government to recognize that the issue needed to be addressed, so in October 2012 the panel was formed. Their goal was to study the demands of the deserters and determine whether or not it was possible to reinstate the deserters to their previous positions.
The panel released a report in February in which they expressed that reinstating deserters would set a bad precedent and erode the morale of those who decided to stay during the insurgency. The panel also found that existing law does not allow for deserters to be reinstated.
According to the report released by the panel, 19,484 army personnel, 11,280 Nepal police, 8,543 Armed Police Force personnel and 7,227 civil servants all gave up their posts during the Maoist insurgency.
In spite of the panel’s decision, former army and police personnel have continued to advocate for reinstatement. In response, assistant spokesperson Prem Sanjel said, “We are fed up with phone calls from people regarding the issue at a time when the study committee has already made it clear that their reinstatement is impossible under the existing laws.”
There are also ongoing discussions to reduce the size of the army over the long term. According to the peace agreement that was signed in 2006, Maoists would be given the opportunity to integrate into the Nepali armed forces. Following the signing, it was proposed that former Maoists would constitute roughly 35% of the army force, with a total population of 6,500 serving. In reality, only a little over 1000 were integrated, while others accepted “retirement” email@example.com.
Buddhist Nationalists in Sri Lanka launch Anti- Muslim Campaign
An anti-Muslim campaign led by nationalist Buddhist groups has been growing in recent months in Sri Lanka. A crowd of about 500 people in a suburb of Colombo attacked the Muslim-owned fashion chain, Fashion Bug March 28, 2013. The attackers, led by Buddhist monks, threw stones at the storage center and yelled at the owners while rounding up journalists to cover the event. Eyewitnesses said the police initially stood and watched before stepping in to bring the mob under control.
The attack on the Fashion Bug chain was the most public outburst in a growing anti-Muslim campaign in the country. Leaders of the campaign complain that Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists, 75% of the population, are under threat by the 9% Muslim minority. They accuse Muslims of fundamentalism and a plot to demographically take over the country by secretly sterilizing the Buddhist Sinhalese population while increasing their own birthrate.
Muslims in Sri Lanka are descendents of Arab tradesmen who came to the island over a millennium ago and have historically enjoyed peaceful relations with the Buddhist Sinhalese. Tamil separatists attacked many Muslims for siding with the government during the Tamil separatist movement that ended in 2009.
A counter-rally was held April 27 protesting the recent wave of ethnic conflict. The anti-hate rally was part of an awareness campaign that was organized by youth not associated with any political party. The demonstrators who marched in the capital were from all religions and ethnic groups.
The protestors expressed concern over the government’s lack of action and even association with organizations leading the anti-Muslim campaign. Secretary of Defense Gotabhaya Rajapaska, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaska, was recently the key guest at a Boda Bala Sena event, one the most prominent nationalist Buddhist groups. There is also evidence from the Minister of Justice that the Muslim owners of the Fashion Bug were forced by threats to withdraw their charges against perpetrators.
The protesters are hoping the rally will be a catalyst for similar events and initiatives to empower the silent majority of moderate Sri Lankans to stand up for a more inclusive society.
By Jennifer Pampolina. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.