Maoist Centre agrees to MCC ratification with ‘interpretative declaration’ attachedDecision comes amid party’s desperate bid to remain in the coalition, as continued opposition to US grant could have led to its ouster from the alliance.
In a turnabout, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) has agreed to ratification of the Millennium Challenge Corporation-Nepal Compact.
An extended meeting of the party on Sunday morning decided to vote for the $500 million American grant agreement by attaching an “interpretative declaration” document.
“We have decided to ratify the MCC compact with the interpretative declaration,” said Shakti Basnet, a senior leader of the party who was present at the meeting.
According to Ramesh Malla, chief personal secretary of chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leaders have taken the decision to endorse the MCC exchanging a letter with its board and making the ‘interpretative declaration’ part of the agreement.
A late night meeting of some leaders of the Nepal Congress, Maoist Centre and CPN (Unified Socialist) on Saturday had worked on a draft of the “interpretative declaration”, which would mean the parties would attach their concerns regarding the compact.
The Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist, two key partners in the current Sher Bahadur Deuba coalition government, were opposed to ratification of the compact without amendments to some of the provisions. Deuba then had started exploring options including seeking the main opposition CPN-UML’s support to ratify the compact. This, however, would have led to breakdown of the coalition, something the Maoist Centre and Unified Socialist desperately wanted to avoid.
Signed in September 2015, the MCC compact which is meant for building electricity transmission lines and improving roads in Nepal, was registered in Parliament in July 2019. However, the grant agreement had run into controversy with some political parties saying its implementation undermined Nepal’s sovereignty.
Under pressure from the United States following continued delays, the government on February 20 tabled the compact in Parliament even as the communist coalition partners opposed it.
Deliberations on the compact are scheduled to begin Parliament at Sunday’s meeting.
Washington has set a February 28 deadline, saying the time frame was sought by the Nepali leadership.
To discuss and finalise the interpretative declaration, a meeting of the coalition partners has started at Baluwatar.
At the Maoist meeting, some leaders including Lila Mani Pokhrel and Dev Gurung objected to the party decision saying the MCC compact should not be endorsed at any cost.
Both are known as fierce opposers to the American grant.
“It wasn’t a formal decision because the discussion was held among former Standing Committee members. The party hasn’t formed a Standing Committee yet,” Pokhrel told the Post. “Let’s see how things unfold.”