KATHMANDU, June 24: With the commencement of local level elections, differences have emerged between two government agencies over the continuing relevance of the local peace committees, leaving such committees dysfunctional. The committees were established in all 75 districts but with no further budget allocations they are now on the verge of dissolution.
The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction is lobbying for giving continuity to the local peace committees until the final conclusion of the peace process, but the Ministry of Finance has not allocated any budget for the peace committees in the new budget.
Amid confusion between the two ministries, the local peace committees have turned inactive.
Spokesperson at the Ministry of Peace Ram Prasad Bhattarai said that the Finance Ministry didn't allocate any budget for the peace committees although the Peace Ministry had put in a demand for Rs 21.5 million for the purpose. The government had allocated Rs 18 million for the operating costs of the committees in last year's budget.
“The committees should be continued until the conclusion of the remaining tasks of the peace process. The peace committees were operating on a voluntary system and were effective in minimizing conflicts at the local level,” Bhattarai told Republica.
He also said that managing the 225 staffers for the peace committees would become problematical if the Finance Ministry doesn't caugh up the budget.
Questions about the continuity of the committees arose after the political leaderships in the districts started giving less priority to them and stopped attending their meetings.
Local peace committees were established to recommend relief measures and other kinds of help for conflict victims, run reconciliation programs, and organise skill-oriented trainings and other activities in coordination with the Ministry of Peace.
Presenting the budget in parliament for the fiscal year 2017/18, then finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara had said the government has given budget priority to the conclusion of the ongoing peace process.
But according to a senior ministry official, the budget for the peace committees has been curtailed in consultation with the Peace Ministry as such committees have no relevance following the commencement of the local elections. “With the election of local level representatives such committees have become irrelevent. So the ministry has decided to curtail the budget from this fiscal year in consultation with the Peace Ministry,” the official said, requesting not to be named.
The new constitution has granted quasi-judicial powers to the newly elected local level representatives and a judicial committee will be headed by the deputy mayor or vice chairman of the local units.
But Peace Ministry spokesperson Bhattarai claimed that the local representatives cannot substitute for the peace committees. “The responsibilities and functions of local peace committees and local units are totally different,” he said