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Re: [justpeaceinasia] Sustaining the paths of peace

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  • Yam Bahadur Kisan
    Dear Chan Thank very much to dessimination the peace situation of Nepal and status of Nepalsese women. Yam Kisan Kathmandu Nepal CHAN Beng Seng
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 11, 2006

      Dear Chan
      Thank very much to dessimination the peace situation of Nepal and status of Nepalsese women.
      Yam Kisan

      CHAN Beng Seng <bengseng@...> wrote:
      Sustaining the paths of peace
      Different countries have tried different ways to deal with a violent past. Forgiveness is necessary, but for most people truth and justice must come first, writes SUPARA JANCHITFAH

      Ramkoli Raskoti, like many other women in Nepal, has been left destitute since her husband was killed. She and her children need long-term healing and social assistance. — Photos by SUPARA JANCHITFAHTwo thirds of the Nepalese population live in poverty and marginalisation, left to fend for themselves while the communists and the upper echelon fight for power.
      In the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell asserted that "whoever controls the past controls the future." This is well worth considering, as the ability to interpret and manipulate the past allows for the justification of political and social agendas in the present.
      Many thought that the apology from interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to those who have been most affected by the deep-rooted troubles in the South would have a greater effect on stemming the violence. The apology from the PM was a brave action, and it was significant that the head of the government was showing accountability for actions taken under previous governmnents. It was a good beginning, but apparently a more thorough examination is needed to set the record of the past straight and begin a resolution of the unabated conflict.
      One of the root causes of the violence in the deep South is the bitter past experiences of many Malay-Muslims in the southernmost provinces, such as the forced assimilation which began more than 100 years ago, in 1902, when Pattani was incorporated into Thailand. This history has been used by many different groups. For example, the trouble-makers who stir up the bitterness to justify their cause or to mobilise people to their side. Peace advocates also point to this history to explain why there is resistance in the deep South today.
      There are also a number of more recent incidents that are being used by some groups in particular to stir up violent resistance to the Thai authorities. The forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and other measures outside the law which are widely believed to be used by state officials with impunity - as well as the larger-scale Krue Se Mosque and Tak Bai incidents - are being used to instigate violence against the powers-that- be. The violence may be an ongoing phenomenon, unless these injustices are addressed and no longer ignored.
      The example of the post-apartheid government of South Africa to lead the transitional justice process has been a model and an inspiration to many other countries which have also seen the exercise of abusive and unjust power. South Africa's Truth Commission probed the fresh wounds left by the brutal apartheid system so that the healing could begin. Amnesty was granted to those who fully disclosed their crimes if they were politically motivated.
      In his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu pointed out that even perpetrators, "despite the awfulness of their deeds, remain children of God with the capacity to repent, to be able to change."
      For Tutu, the future is a theological reality that manifests as communities narrate and fully confess the past. This is because "the act of telling one's story has a cathartic, healing effect."
      The idea has its strengths and also its weaknesses. There are many who argue that a Truth Commission may have worked well in South Africa, but wouldn't somewhere else, and that often it is best to "let sleeping dogs lie" - i.e., some episodes of the past should not be investigated or revealed to the public as they will only stir up fresh sorrow and violence.
      Others argue that ignoring the past ultimately causes more psychological pain, which some day may be manifested as violence, than leaving it undisturbed.
      Thailand has thus far not elected to follow the example of South Africa's Truth Commission to address the situation in the South. The closest thing has been the National Reconciliation Commission, appointed by former prime minister Thaksin Shinnawatra to study the problems and give advice and recommendations on how to solve them.
      Among its recommendations, released in June 2006, are the introduction of Islamic law, making ethnic Pattani-Malay (Yawi) an additional working language in the region (a working language is different from an official language; English could be considered a working language in Thailand), establishment of an unarmed peacekeeping force and a Peaceful Strategic Administrative Centre for the Southern Border Provinces. The present government is reviewing the recommendations and has set up the Administrative Centre for Southern Border Provinces.
      What can we learn from the measures implemented in other countries to come to a reconciliation with our painful past? Their experiences might be useful for understanding, adoption and prevention, perhaps allowing Thailand to avoid a web of even deeper tragedy. Several such measures may be useful here.
      A regional conference on "Sustaining Peace in Nepal," organised by Fredskorpset (FK), Norway and a Nepalese human rights group, Informal Sector Service Centre, was held recently in Kathmandu.
      Ichsan Malik, from the Peace Building Institute, Indonesia, pointed out that those who want to use a Truth and Reconciliation Commission such as the one initiated in South Africa must have "strong political will and strong leadership, such as that provided by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu." He believes that such a commission would be too difficult to implement in Maluku, Indonesia, because there is no comparably strong leader.
      As well, in his opinion, truth and justice imposed by the Western world cannot be implemented in Maluku because the justice system has collapsed.
      "People involved in the justice system have fled Maluku, and even police forces are torn between the Muslim and Christian viewpoints."
      In spite of the enormous obstacles, the Peace Building Institute has persevered in its search for answers to the troubles in Maluku, which started on January 19, 1999, a day remembered as the bloody Idul Fitri. The conflict began between a local driver and an immigrant from Bugis in the Batu Merah area, and quickly spread throughout the province of Ambon, resulting in a large-scale exodus of Muslims to areas outside of Ambon.
      Every aspect of life in Maluku became clouded with religious issues. "The whole of Maluku collapsed, everything was divided into Christian and Muslim, each group willing to fight to defend their own faith," said Malik.
      He noted that everyone is involved in the conflict, and that its source was exploitation by the elite and the politicisation of religion.
      Now, whole communities are conditioned to experience prolonged trauma, and people proceed with their lives in an environment of discrimination and resentment.
      Malik observed that when a conflict is triggered by religious sentiments, energy lying dormant will spill over to cause a great disaster. He doubts that a permanent solution can be achieved by interfaith values in Maluku. Yet he is determined to find a way to stop the violence.
      Malik started his work by actively researching who the actors in the conflicts in different places were, analysing the situation and mapping out a plan of action. He then started to implement the plan.
      A crucial step in his peace-building effort was to establish Community-Based Groups, so that people could take part in finding their own solutions. He said his peace-building institute understands the necessity of having strong networks in society to promote actions which support peace.
      Thus, along with South Africa's Truth Commission, the approach taken by the the Peace Building Institute - to investigate causes and work with the people of a society coming out of violence - is one which may be of interest for Thailand.
      In June, Nepal's government agreed to dissolve parliament and form a temporary coalition with the Maoist (Communist Party of Nepal) rebels who had been waging an insurgency in the Himalayan kingdom for the past decade. The Maoists pledged to also dissolve a rival "people's government" operating in the areas they control.
      Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister K.P Sharma Oli said at the regional conference that Nepal is undergoing a transition to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, following the restoration of democracy through the People's Movement in April of this year, after widespread street protests. Nepal's new government is comprised of the Seven Party Alliance.
      The decade-long armed conflict forced the Nepalese people to face a reality of day-to-day violence and human rights violations (see related story), and also brought about complex challenges for their traditionally sustainable lifestyle.
      More than 14,000 people were killed, and many people became internally displaced. The deputy PM said the key challenges in building peace in Nepal are arms management and related issues, as well as drafting a new constitution.
      "The government is committed to establishing a permanent peace in the country by bringing the Maoists into the competitive political process," he added, but he admitted that challenges still abound.
      Sharma said the building of a sustained peace cannot be done without providing adequate justice to the people affected by the violence.
      "Any peace accord which does not redress the sufferings of victims and provide for truth and reconciliation initiatives is liable to unravel," he said. Therefore, sustainable peace calls for "reconciliation initiatives that sufficiently address the concerns of the victims of the conflict," he added. He also stated that the plight of the internally displaced persons should receive priority attention. (see related story)
      Sushil Pyakurel, former commissioner of the Nepal Human Rights Commission (NHRC), also addressed the conference. He said there is a need to seek justice for the disappearances, extra-judicial and other merciless killings and rapes, and uphold the rights of victims. In order for this to happen the rule of law and the independence of national institutions such as the NHRC must be established. As well, the "arbitrary actions of the non-state actors and the absolute muteness of the state" must be addressed.
      He stressed that many victims are not easily able to forgive those who violated their rights unless they face the consequences of their actions through a transparent and fair legal process.
      He believes that to achieve sustainable peace and end the cycle of violence is impossible without guaranteeing the rights of all in the process.
      "Besides those killed, tens of thousands of Nepalese were forced to flee their homes during the 10 years of fighting, after attacks or threats from the Maoists or state security forces," he said. Some internally displaced persons want to return to their villages, but hundreds remain missing and their fate is a point of argument, he added.
      Locals in the remote village of Nepalganj believe discussions of a sustainable peace should address the problems and the grief of the locals before any schemes for sharing power.
      Norita Chand, 43, whose husband was allegedly killed by Maoists four years ago, said, "I can forgive those who killed my husband when they reveal why they killed my husband."
      She said that he had never done anything wrong, and was never associated with any vices. "Why did they kill him?" she asked.
      Her sentiments are shared by Angkhana Neelapaijit, the wife of a missing Thai human rights lawyer.
      Forgiveness is something she wants to do when the truth about her husband's case, as well as other similar cases, has been revealed and the perpetrators are taken to task.
      "Sustainable peace won't last long without justice," she said.

      Mr. Yam Bahadur Kisan
      M.A., B.L. (Tribhuwan University, Nepal)
      Advocate, Supreme Court of Nepal
      Author / Researcher / Human Rights Activist and Christian Leader
      P.O.Box No : 21066
      Kathmandu, Nepal
      Phone : 0097712021175
      Email : ybkisan@...

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