‘Positive Attitude is Developing in the Community’

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission supposed to be formed has not been materialized yet. Politically balancing Local Peace Committees (LPCs) are formed at the community Level but there lack meaningful efforts of the Government for the community level peace and reconciliation. Grievances are there that the LPCs have not been effective in their objectives. In this context INFORMAL had collected views from the District Coordinators of the LPCs on efforts, achievment and constraints of the LPCs. Edited Version:

 

1318914358Shiva Narayan Mehata

Coordinator, District Peace Committee, Sunsari

I dont think a conducive environment can be created easily at the local level in the absence of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Seemingly, environment for the reconciliation at the local community level is congenial but it is not so in the practical sense. However, reconciling environment in the Sunsari district, compared to the environment in other district, is good.

 

As it takes time to heal the pain and problems of the conflict era, socio-economic life of the victims is not notably satisfactory. However, efforts are there from the Peace Committees to make the socio-economic life of the victims convenient. There still exists a situation that the conflict victims and perpetrators live in a malicious relationship. However, such a relationship has improved gradually.

 

We, the responsible people of the Peace Committee, are attempting our best to reconcile the victims and perpetrators by creating trust between them. Victims have been registering applications at our office and we have been seriously carrying out investigation based on their application before making recommendations to the concerned authorities. So, the victims are in close contact with the Peace Committee. However, problem lies with fact that the decisions made by Peace Committee have to reach to the Ministry for Peace and Reconstruction through the Chief District Officer. This has been a lengthy process in the matter of providing help to the victims. Not to sit together for the discussion, reluctance to listen to others and also the mentality of the perpetrators that despite their crimes and mistakes they are living scot-free are some of the problems at the grassroots level for reconciliation.

 

Reconciliation and security are interconnected when it comes to the matter of post-conflict situation of the warring groups. So, promises of the government have to be translated into reality. Given the failure or reluctance of the government to keep their promise, situation might go even worse as the conflict-victims are still with the feelings of retaliation.

 

Ever since I assumed my office as the Coordinator of the Peace Committee, I have been working wholeheartedly for the conflict victims and reconciliation. I have been able to form 18 VDC level local Peace Committees so far and details of the people subjected to enforced disappearances, killed, injured and abducted during conflict are being collected. However, peace committees are not formed in 31 VDCs and 3 Municipalities. Provided that no hindrances are there towards our mission, such committees will be formed in six months time now.

 

1318914411Rajesh Shah

Coordinator, District Peace Committee, Rautahat

 

Its wrong to assume that local communities will be reconciled in the absence of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its primarily because conflict victims are requesting more for justice than relief. Outwardly, it seems the conflicting parties of the past are ready to reconcile, however, reality speaks slightly otherwise. Since their perpetrators have not been penalized yet, the conflict victims are unhappy. This has added to the pain of the victims. Demands are there that the perpetrators should be punished through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

 

The victims and perpetrators were not ready to sit together in the past but this is not the situation now. They discuss and share their issues in different platforms provided by different institutions and organizations. They have tended to forget the bitter past over time and advocated for peace and reconciliation. Their priorities now have concentrated on how to ascertain their and childrens secure future. Socialization has increased. We have felt that their involvement in different discussion forums provide them with a sense of relief and an environment for forging trust at the same time. When it comes to the matter of access of the victims to the Peace Committees, the former were not in better contact with the latter but situation has changed now.

 

So far as better environment for the reconciliation is concerned, government should launch programs for economic growth and sustenance. Locally promoted programs of victim assistance and reparations are necessary. Above all, formation of Truth and Reconciliation commission is indispensable. Reluctance of the perpetrators to apologize publically for the crimes and the mistakes they committed in the past, deprivation of government-provided relief amounts, in some cases, and immunity enjoyed by the perpetrators have created problems for the reconciliation.

 

Our learning while working in close proximity to the conflict victims has it that security of the future is more important than immediate needs for them. This might be so due to the fact that supports are there now from different organizations but education of their children, sustenance and economic problems are more important for them. Victims are not with a sense of vengeance but have been demanding their perpetrators be punished.

 

Once I assumed office as the coordinator of the committee, many pending applications of the victims were recommended and forwarded to the ministry. VDC level Peace Committees are formed and different skill and income generating programs are implemented for the victims. Various campaigns, in coordination with different organizations are launched for the victims and reconciliation in the local community.

 

1318914461Subash Chandra Giri

Coordinator, Local Peace Committee, Nawalparasi

Despite the fact that Truth and Reconciliation Commission has not been formed yet, we have been working at the local level for reconciliation. Having said this, it does not mean that we have been able to achieve fully. Government has to come up with a special economic package for the support of the conflict victims and their families. The level of trust and understanding among the conflict victims, their perpetrators and other stakeholders in this district is good. The conflict victims here are in a close contact and easy access to the Local Peace Committees. Such committees are formed in majority of the VDCs in the district.

 

If the conflict victims can be provided with income generating opportunities or the jobs, this will enhance a better reconciling environment in the district. Conflict affected people are with the grievances that they lost their beloved people and are in trouble due to the activities of the opponents. Immediate needs as well as security of the future are equally important in the case of conflict victims. For this, government has to provide with jobs to them as this will solve their present problems as well as of the future. Conflict victims have shown tendency to reconcile, however, economic betterment of the victims has to be guaranteed.

 

1318914490Tulasa KC

Coordinator, Local Peace Committee, Dang

 

Despite the fact that Truth and Reconciliation Commission is yet to be formed, achievements are there towards reconciling local communities. Comparatively, we have more congenial environment for the reconciliation and attempts are there at the locality to reconcile. However, it has been difficult to work as per the objective of the peace committees. If the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed by now, it would be easier.

 

Conflict victims are able to live better socio-economic life these days. Positive attitude is developing in the community. Economic support, which the victims have received, although it is nominal, has helped the victims. Provided that the state provides opportunities to the conflict victims in all its bodies with high priorities, life of the victims could be better.

 

It has been possible through the efforts of the peace committees that the victims and perpetrators have been able to sit together for the discussion seeking understanding whereas they would fear against each other and would deny outright to meet in the past. They are also better trusted now. The victims as well as the perpetrators are in better relation with the Peace Committees at least through trainings, interaction and similar other programs. We have been putting efforts for the formation of peace committees at the local level. Having said this, it does not mean that we are free from challenges and complexities. Our obstacles and complexities regarding reconciling environment in the society are the result of the fact that the stakeholders have failed to act as per the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. For the better reconciling environment in the communities, stakeholders have to stick to the norms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Truth Commission has to be set up and the role of civil society should be visible towards this end.

 

Necessity of the present is more important for the reconciliation because present always gives birth to the good or bad future. If present needs of the victims are better addressed, future certainly will be free of risks. Its wrong to assume that the victims are guided only by the sense of revenge. But, it is natural hurt minds sometimes tend to opt for this means. Such tendencies can be managed by addressing the problems of the victims. Generally, the victims are trying to forget the past, get justice now and live a friendly life in the future.

 

1318914522Gobinda Raj Joshi

Coordinator, Local Peace Committee, Kailali

 

Its true that it has been difficult, in the absence of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to expose truth about the victimization that took place during the conflict in the past. Issues and concerns of many of the victims and their families are still suppressed. As a result, many victims are not ready to put forth their problems. This has debarred many victims and their families from receiving relief and has also hampered to create a conducive environment for the reconciliation. Conflict victims are waiting for the creation of an enabling environment whereby they could resume their normal socio-economic life, but to no avail.

 

Not all the conflict victims have access to the Peace Committees. Of the 42 VDCs and two municipalities in this district, Peace Committees are formed in both the Municipalities but in only 26 VDCs. Reliefs provided by the government have not reached to the access of many victims. Captured houses, land and properties are not restituted yet. How can we think of normal socio-economic life of the victims in such a context? However, some positive changes are felt following the formation of Peace Committee in the district.

 

Provided that the Peace Committee, local political parties, civil society and the other stakeholders converge on the issues of post conflict problems, there can be an environment for forging trust between victims and the perpetrators. It is necessary now that stakeholders have to analyze the bitter and antagonistic incidents of the past appropriately and seriously. We have carried out such jobs in some of the VDCs of the district, Dugauli and Pahalmanpur to name some.

 

So far as the access of the conflict-victims to the Peace Committee is concerned, we have been recording their details and updating as well. Not all the victims have opened up themselves. We are in need of support from the political leaders and cadres in the matter of forging better relationship between the victims side and the perpetrators. We have been putting our efforts towards this end. Once we are able to form Peace Committees in the rural areas of the district, access of the victims to the Peace Committee will be easy.

 

Better reconciling environment can be created if reconciliation is understood more as a psychological problem. All the stakeholders have to take the issue accordingly. National scenario also affects this process. So, constitution has to be written with in the extended time, political parties have to create enabling environment. We have been doing our best at the local level but it seems that our efforts are limited.

 

To reconcile a post-conflict society, people have to have faith on the political parties. Victims have to be assured that horrific and bitter past wont repeat. Perpetrators have to be punished; they have to publicly apologize for what they did or should be given amnesty. However, only the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can take such decisions. Structure and mandate of the Peace Committee does not allow deciding such issues.

 

It has been found out while dealing with the conflict victims that security of the future is more important for them than immediate need fulfillment. They want to be assured of their future; however, it does not mean that they are free from immediate needs and problems. In some of the cases, victims have expressed anger stating that they would resort to vengeance but such tendency has to be managed prudently.

 

Things have been underachieved, contrary to our aim. Also, structure of the peace committee has been a hindrance in this regard. It has been only a common platform for the discussion but lacks its independence. As the tenure of a coordinator is for only six months, it is impossible to accomplish works as intended. Concerned bodies have to think of addressing such problems faced at the local level. The Peace Committee has not been efficacious also because different political interests are there in the committee. Moving ahead amidst such different interests and ideologies is really challenging and peace committees also suffer due to lack of resources.

 

Views expressed here were collected by Sukdev Chaudhary, Bipin Gautam, Narayan Parajuli, Shalikram Musaphir and Sur Bahadur Pariyar.