Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The recent election for the President and the Vice President showed the most naked picture of immoral politics in Nepal. It has shown that everybody can cheat everybody else without the slightest sense of embarrassment. The leaders of the three major parties cheated the CA by not allowing it to start functioning. Then they cheated each other by failing to come to an understanding. They cheated the erstwhile seven party alliance (SPA) by marginalizing the smaller parties. They cheated the very purpose of consensus politics in Nepal. The NC and the UML cheated the Maoists in their attempt to have a common candidate for the president by posing their respective leaders as the indispensable candidate for the post. The Maoists cheated the UML by changing sides in favor of the Forum. They cheated the Forum by proposing their own candidate for the VP. The Forum cheated the Maoists by aligning with the NC and the UML. The TMLP and the SP cheated the Forum by aligning with the Maoists for the post of the president.
The NC leader Girija Prasad Koirala cheated the people by refusing to hand over power. His ambition to become the first president on the republic of Nepal was the root cause of the ensuing political smog in the country. If he had handed over power to the Maoists who got the largest seats in the CA, the country would already have gone ahead some steps in the direction of the constitution building process. But he stuck to his chair with one alibi after another for refusing to hand over power. The country does not still have a legal government.
It is to the credit of some part of fine elements in the political field that eventually Nepal has a President and a VP. But this was achieved at the cost of four very important features in the Nepalese politics for the past two years. The direct fallout of the collective cheating is the death of consensus politics. The consensus politics had steered Nepal into a republican state, but no sooner had the republic been declared than there was the death threat to the consensus politics. No leader seems concerned about the loss of this political culture that could have brought nothing but good results in making a new Nepal.
Another fallout of the death of the consensus politics is the apparent demise of inclusive politics which was the hue and cry for the past two years. The terai grabbed both the President and the VP in the sweep of politics of vengeance. At least one post should have gone to the indigenous or ethnic community or a woman. The President has had a good career record in democratic politics a he has already shown signs of rising above party politics by resigning from his party posts. This will definitely make him acceptable to all the power centres of Nepal. But the VP has a sour memory of bitter encounter with his fraternity at the fag end of his career. He is, therefore, advised not to take revengeful attitude towards his erstwhile fraternity and make seasoned contribution in the process of nation building. (Hearty congratulations to the President and the VP on their oath taking ceremony which progressed while I was writing this feature!)
The third fall out of the death of consensus politics is that the constitution is not allowed to even germinate. The legal pundits who drafted the interim constitution made an improbable provision that the constitution will be made with at least the support of a two/thirds majority if not by consensus. The ideal of a total consensus is a mere utopia. It may occur in insignificant provisions, but in substantive issues, a consensus is a reverie, the inert brain child of party-less politicians. With the Maoists at the head of the government, a simple majority may be possible if there is steep polarization with the entire left on one side. The tricksters in all the parties will not let the Maoists have a two/thirds majority by hook or by crook. With the Maoists not included in the government, the total strength is less than the required two thirds. So, in either case the two/thirds majority is a killing provision.
The fourth fall out is the threat to the integrity of the nation. The terai voice has been raised so loud as to show cracks in the foundation of the nation. The call for an artificial 'one Madhes one province' is so loud that, if not handled very sensitively, it will lead to the bifurcation of the nation. Some of our friends may find the feud palatable, and may be inciting it behind the curtain. It needs to have a thorough national debate during the course of the constitution making. The new leaders of the state should be very sensitive to safeguard the integrity of the nation.
A new government is yet to be formed. The largest party in the CA, the Maoists, have refused to form a government with the past memory still chilling their head. But if their stung ego is the cause of their staying away from the government, can they be rationally expected to support the government formed with their proven enemies in the presidential election? Will the other parties be able to run the government for the full term and also make the new constitution? The provision of the two/thirds will apply to them also equally. The Maoists have solid 229 votes in their fist. With this strength in their hands, they can preempt even the amendment of the interim constitution if by so doing the other parties can try to loosen the knot, because the amendment of the IC will also require two/ thirds majority.
So, what is required is not the removal of the killer provision of the two/thirds majority from the IC but the readjustment of the different school of thoughts to accept the pragmatic view and work accordingly. Pragmatically, the people have ordered the parties to work in unison rather than with partisan methods. The Maoists had asked the people to give them an outright support to run the government with an overwhelming majority (so had the other major parties!); but the people gave them just over a one third strength. However, the people did not give the combination of other parties even this much support in the hustings. The people are the sovereign authority according to the IC and the parties are not only signatories to it but they also have sworn by the same constitution. This denies the largest party, the Maoists, the choice to stay away from the responsibility. Similarly, the people have not given the other parties mandate to govern without the Maoists.
The penultimate inference is that there should be a government of consensus. The erstwhile SPA consensus is not enough; it does not engulf the newly emerging power centres, especially the terai parties who have been able to get the post of the VP with their ingenuity. So, there should be an alliance of the SPA with the new parties. The main task before the CA is the making of the new constitution for which not even the foundation has been laid. The day to day governance does not get eminence over this fundamental task.
Whoever leads the government has to accomplish the task of drafting the new constitution. Development programs can wait as they have waited for so many years of insurgency. But even the time for writing the constitution is being killed by the dirty politics of mutual mistrust. The people want the parties to end all this immoral politics and indulge in the primary task of making the constitution. Consensus government led by the Maoists is the implicit popular mandate and it must be obeyed by all means. That alone can save the integrity of the nation.
Immoral Depletion of Scarce Resources
The Great President Hunt
Endless Possibilities in the Republic of Nepal
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Finally, by nominating Ram Raja Prasad Singh for the post of president, the Maoists have officially ended an era of consensus politics. An eternal journey with the Maoists, which the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist Leninist (UML) told us was necessary to build a "New Nepal," is in lurch, after the Maoists have shut the door on the NC and the UML and have decided to build a "New Nepal" on their own.
Things are shaping up to be pretty odd. With the Maoists' latest act of betrayal, Nepali politics is, slowly but surely, getting confrontational. With the Maoists resorting to, my-way-or-the highway attitude, the settling of political vendetta will take the center-stage. Constitution making is the last thing in the minds of politicians. For the Maoists, it is all about how to consolidate the power, and for others, how to contain the Maoists and maximize political bargains.
The mainstream political parties of yesteryears are back to the square one. In 2005, an autocratic monarch had shut the door on them, and now, after three years, it is the very party that they helped spread base in the urban center repeating the act. Is it fate's cruel prank or inability on the part of UML and NC politicians to understand and tackle authoritarian tendencies?
Was it expected? Oh, yes, except a few greedy power-mongers within the NC and the UML, who thought that protracted ideological decay was worth it, everyone else were well aware of the Maoists' intent, and saw betrayal coming. Short term power mongering over long term political survival was almost certain to yield the consolidation of state power, but with the Maoists at the helm.
The NC and UML were bound to get betrayed. It was just a matter of time. It is not only because the Maoists' modus operandi is based on betrayal and lies, but also because the Maoists' strategic end goal: the establishment of a one-party communist republic directly conflicts with the end goal of the NC and UML. Anyone following the Maoist insurgency can easily tell that, at no point throughout the entire period of insurgency or the peace process has its leadership or the surrogates expressed anything but a full-fledged commitment to the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariats. Any misrepresentation of the Maoists' strategic intent has come from outside the party -- mainly from the power-mongers within the NC, UML or the left-leaning civil society.
Had Girija Prasad Koirala not allowed the peace process to be reduced to an "appease process" by fulfilling each and every demand raised by the Maoists, the situation would have been quite different now. Had he taken time to dispassionately evaluate the Maoist machine, he would have understood long ago that the Maoists are in this to win -- not to compromise, or become mainstreamed or to play by anyone else's rules but their own.
The Maoists were successful in clouding his judgments by dangling "Presidential Lollypop" in front of him. Once the Maoists started doing that, their anti-social and undemocratic means were simply shrugged off as negativities associated with the transitional phase.
The NC and UML should learn a lesson from how the Maoists have done "business" to date. Their failure to put oneself inside the Maoist mind and see things as they see them, to understand their beliefs, strategy, and supporting tactics have put ordinary cadres in far flung villages in a very difficult position.
In the last two years, the fat cats within the NC and UML might have profited financially, but when it comes to grassroots cadres, they are worse off than they were three years ago.
In the tarai, they have to face the wrath of the secessionists like Nagendra Paswan and Jay Krishna Goit, and in the hills, newly mushroomed ethnic militant groups have made their life miserable. It is not only the NC and UML cadres that are having a hard time in the changed political context, but there is another group called Internally Displaced People (IDPs) that did not benefit a bit from the grand coalition of the last three years.
They are the forgotten heroes, whose woes both the NC and the UML chose to ignore.
What next? The Maoists will use different combinations of muscle power and ballots to eliminate all marginal threats to their expanding power base. Whether this process of elimination occurs figuratively or literally, whether through perversions of democratic process or through decrees will get clearer in the days ahead.
There is, however, a very little evidence to support that the Maoists will play by the democratic rule book. They, however, will pretend to act democratic as long as it benefits them to do so, but that does not mean that the Maoists have embraced multi-party democracy. They have already started to interpret their victory in the CA election as unconditional support for the full execution of the 'Prachanda path." The chances for a radical party to continue carrying out radical policies in the changed political context should not be negated. It would be a mistake of Himalayan proportion to rely on liberal interpretations of what the Maoist leaders say.
Puspa Kamal Dahal is not that foolish to adopt North Korean-styled one party rule in the current geopolitical situation, but he will do everything to ensure that there is no threat to the Maoist regime from the political opponents that believe in Western-styled multi-party parliamentary democracy. With the brigade of brigands (YCL) at his disposal and the state's security forces under his control, it will not be very difficult for him to find other ways to subvert political competition and administer social control.
The future of the mainstream political parties of yesteryears such as the NC and the UML and the new entrants like MJF and TMLP will largely depend upon how quickly they can reinvent themselves and provide credible alternatives to the Maoist writ. They have a very difficult role to play: checkmate the Maoists and appear constructive to the general populace at the same time. Or else, they will be painted as obstructionists. With security apparatus under the Maoists' control and YCL in villages, the Maoists have more than they need to win elections. The last thing you want to do is give them a chance to vilify your personality.
The Great President Hunt
Girija as Nepal's First President? Just say NO!
The Nepali Congress should Focus on the Party's Reinvention, not on Koirala's Legacy
Monday, July 21, 2008
A Brief History of Integration
The Mukti Sena was created in 1951 to wage an armed revolt against the Rana oligarchy and to liberate the Nepalese people. The militant wing was composed of Nepalese citizens and people of Nepalese origin from India and Burma.
The bulk of the military wing consisted of soldiers of the British Indian Army who were initially trained conventionally to fight the Second World War but remained unemployed after demobilization. There were some individuals who had absconded from the British Indian Army and had joined the Indian National Army lead by Subash Chandra Bose too.
The Mukti Sena manpower consisted of neither political activists nor ideologically indoctrinated Communists. During the armed struggle, which lasted for a short span of time, the militant wing had not committed any acts of terrorism, criminal activities or systematic extortion. Kangaroo courts and parallel governments were never operated by the revolutionaries. When the revolution was considered successful and ceasefire established, the Mukti Sena was renamed with dignity as the Rakshaya Dal.
Except those who revolted under the leadership of Dr. K. I. Singh, the rest were formed up to create three para-military battalions of the Nepal Armed Constabulary (NAC) to function as a back-up force to the Police while maintaining general law and order. Later, Officers of the NAC were designated as Civil Police Officers also. In reality, the nucleus of the Nepal Police Officer Corps was subsequently provided by the NAC. Ex- IGPs G. B. Yakthumba, Puran Singh Khawas, P. S. Lama, Rom Bahadur Thapa and Durlav Kumar Thapa are the examples.
The three battalions of the NAC failed to perform satisfactorily in the insurrection in 1961-62 and lost significant weapons to the insurgents. As a consequence, the NAC was rigorously re-trained by the then RNA; army Officers, Warrant Officers (WOs), NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers), and fresh soldiers were integrated into the units and transformed into Home Guards and the new force was brought under the chain of military command by 1963. The three battalions of Home Guards were then declared as regular infantry battalions of the (R)NA by 1966 and equipped accordingly.
Those who had initially enlisted in the British Indian Army as late as 1944 were at least forty years old. There were only a handful of Officers and WOs who were still serving when their units were regularized. A DIG, Dil Man Singh Thapa, was transferred to the (R)NA with the NAC as the brigade commander and eventually retired as a Brigadier General.
The significant aspect to be noted is that though they were conventionally trained and possessed no ideological beliefs, the process of transforming a revolutionary militant to a regular soldier lasted from 1951 till 1966. The result of such a process was an absolutely peaceful integration and the continuation of respect to existing Military Law and dedication to professionalism.
The Indian Government did create a Naga Battalion composed of surrendered Naga insurgents that were strictly trained. However, the plan was simply symbolic because the unit was neither assigned any operational responsibilities nor stationed in Eastern India. Later, the unit failed to attract new recruits and today, remains as a symbolic emblem only. The general belief in India is that insurgents should never be integrated into the National Security Forces as far as regular channels to recruitment remain a viable and effective alternative.
The Current Day Context
The most offensive style adopted by the Maoists after the activation of the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement ) has been to physically counter, neutralize and eliminate all affiliated organizations of other political parties. The mobilization of the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) and the YCL (almost a day time PLA/ night time Young Communist League) to coercively dominate and control Nepal's urban and rural populations has rewarded the Maoist Party with the status as the largest political entity in the Nepal's CA (Constituent Assembly).
The impunity that the Maoist party enjoys through their threat to return to war has to be challenged politically in order for the nation to move forward. Leveraging the peace process as a symbolic icon of Maoist victory has been extremely effective for the Maoists as they continue to enjoy unconditional impunity; the same process has also been a convenient excuse for the incumbent government to remain in power with the pretext of upholding peace.
Now, the prime intention of the Maoists is to capture total national power through a peaceful political process. The steps are as follows:
a. Forcefully manipulate and amalgamate all the leftist parties under its leadership (the presidential elections were a major snag, but one the Maoists are bound to overcome as alliances change based on issues)
b. Maintain an ostracized democratic set-up composed of a marginally reduced liberal opposition whose capability to challenge the Maoist one party rule is virtually absent.
c. Deceive the international community and derive assistance with a commitment to be more transparent, accountable and in conformance with international standards.
d. Maintain a prolonged one-party rule (although the presidential elections did not go in the Maoists' favor, it should be noted that their machinery has been mobilized in support of the general elections already - none of their political competitors have thought this far ahead).
What the Government Should Consider
In order to ensure a smooth constitution making process and also to limit the Maoists' monopoly on force, the integration of Maoist combatants should include the following minimum standards:
a. Maintain reduced cantonments with the weapons and those combatants verified by the UN.
b. Implement a re-verification process with a special questionnaire including whether they prefer to join the NA or NP or APF. Maoists should never be integrated in the NID (National Investigation Department) for the organization has its own vetting process, does not have a rigorous training syllabus and the process of de-doctrination cannot be enforced (in the NID). Maoists in the NID will have serious adverse implications to the collection of information and ultimately, to good governance.
c. Those who volunteer to join the NA must meet the existing physical, medical, educational and vetting standards without compromise. They should also be cleared of human rights violations and extortion activities.
d. Those who are considered eligible must firstly sign a contract declaring that their links and loyalties to the Maoists will be considered unlawful; should their behaviors be in contravention to the signed contract, their employment with the NA should be terminated immediately. Further, should former Maoist combatants be linked to human rights violations, criminal activities or extortion, they should be immediately discharged. (There exists detailed and voluminous amounts of data from the insurgency period, that meticulously documents human rights violations by Maoist militia and combatants. This information should be made public during an independent, third-party re-verification process).
e. The basic training should be executed with utmost strictness and compromises on established standards should be resisted with conviction. Strict oversight must be maintained over the entire vetting process.
f. Those who have managed to complete the training should be posted to less sensitive units and sub-units and dispersed in small numbers. Three to four basic training courses should be conducted consecutively to complete the integration process over two years.
g. Entry into the NA should be either through recruit training or the officer cadet training; NEVER through the technical basic course, clerk basic course or the Para Folding course.
h. Units with only Maoist combatants should never be established.
i. Those who prefer to stay out of the Security Forces should be included in separate cantonments. Allowances, clothing and rations should be provided by the Government. Vocational training, political indoctrination (to align with democratic principles and practice) and adult education should be conducted. (Foreign donors are interested in such projects and should be approached with ideas). The combatants must be encouraged through logic as well as propaganda to opt for vocational training where they will be able to earn more money and also be able to go abroad as skilled manpower.
j. Should the Maoists insist on forming their own intact units, they must be issued the same weapons in the container that have been registered and all other weapons besides those should be declared illegal. Certain elements of the NA, NP and APF must be inducted in such a unit in its chain of command. The role assigned to such a unit should be very much secondary in nature such as security for vital, physical assets in remote areas.
Reforms within the Existing Security Sector
On the NA's part, the organization must immediately establish strict standards concerning the code of conduct, professional training standards, proper and impartial assessments of performance and acceptance of accountability while exercising authority.
The practice of commanders remaining entangled with commissions on contracts and purchases and entertaining with the funds made available from surplus rations should be banned. This practice is prevalent throughout the chain of command and often seeps into the political layer. Such acts must be exposed, unconditionally reprimanded and persons found guilty of involvement, tried to the extent afforded by military law.
Prototype living standards, storage, office and dinning accommodations must be established and constructed urgently. The old theme to save the government funds at the cost of soldier’s comfort and basic needs must stop. Taking these steps will automatically hedge against the possibility of Maoist combatants exploiting such grievances to their political organization's benefit. The APF uprising followed by the uprising in the police force are token examples of what may come, should the necessary action not be taken.
Further, should sweeping changes be implemented, the improvements derived would be appreciated by the rest of the security forces as a "gift" from the Maoists too and may help to bridge the animosity from having been forced into combat.
The Options at Hand
Ultimately, the Maoists have two options at hand:
a. Either to come to power and maintain a very compromising stance with India concerning the issues of national interests and agreements on natural resources. An evolutionary process to democratize without loosing political power may be pursued; OR
b. Maintain a nationalistic stance with more dependence on external resources (other than Indian) and the use of the China Card occasionally. Very similar to the traditional power structure implemented by King Mahendra in the past and perhaps a desired meeting point between Maoists and the more traditional parties in Nepal.
The first option will certainly lead to a drastic down-sizing of the NA, complete dependence on Indian military hardware and assistance, a ban on foreign military training assistance and a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of the UNPKO (UN Peace Keeping Operations) role.
The Indians do openly claim that the APF is their force and that certain allegiance to their orders have surfaced openly. The Indians are intent upon re-establishing border outposts along their northern border and a possibility often voiced is the induction of the Maoist combatants in those posts where contact with the population is minimal. As clarification, it is not India's northern border for which the suggestion is being made; rather, the Indian recommendation is for outposts to be included as part of a Nepal-Tibet Border Security Force. Definitely a suggestion that may be hard for even the Maoists to chew on.
Endless Possibilities in the Republic of Nepal
All Attention on the Army
The Nepali Army is a Favorite Target for Cheap Provocateurs - An Analysis of a Nepali Adolescent's Professional Obituary
The Utility of a Professional Nepalese Army
UNMIN's Arms Verification Process in Nepal - More Timely Information and Transparency Needed
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thank you so much for forwarding your Spotlight interview to me. I read it with great interest. I deeply admire the stand you have taken; I support your beliefs and appreciate your efforts and the sacrifices you have made for our country. I do not take any of these lightly. Rather, I salute you and all who are fighting for the just cause in our battlefield’s frontline. We have a difficult mission at hand in Nepal, but it is not impossible to accomplish. Let us have faith, come up with a prudent policy, and work with confidence.
However, if I were an ordinary Nepali, based on this interview I would be totally confused where you stand politically on the many issues confronting Nepal. Moreover, if I were a foreigner, I would not have gotten a clear picture of the present situation in Nepal. There is no coherent message and clarity of thought here. To begin with, what are the fundamental values and core principles that we are trying to protect and preserve in Nepal? What is the root cause of our problem? Deep down, what is at stake? What are the potential solutions to our difficult situation? How can we best respond? I am not questioning your sincerity, but I must question your judgment. I have no doubt that your heart is at the right place, but I am not sure you have thought everything through.
Let me jump right to the point: For the life of me, I cannot understand how you can justify G.P. Koirala’s appointment as the Prime Minister as being constitutional. He became the PM by leveraging riots, the Maoists’ hired goons, their guns and violence. It was a triumph of might over rights and of mobocracy over democracy. The King was forced to appoint this morally depraved man and reinstate the dissolved Parliament. By any logic or definition, this cannot be defended either as constitutional or as democratic. In reality, it was a death blow to our fledgling democracy.
After grabbing power, Koirala insulted the intelligence of the Nepalese people by installing an appointed Parliament. This assembly of power-mongers, criminals and tribal leaders has drafted a so-called interim constitution which can hardly be described as democratic or legitimate. I do not believe that I need further explain the rest of Koirala’s tamasas and crimes. He is just a ruthless tyrant hiding under a cloak of democracy, who has never been happy without absolute power. Now, he wants to establish his own dynasty. He does not stand for anything except raw power and he is determined to maintain power at any cost. He is our Robert Mugabe. As long as Koirala is in power, he is bound to take Nepal down as Mugabe is doing with Zimbabwe.
Koirala is solely responsible for the destruction of the Nepali Congress (NC). As the latest political landscape stands in Nepal, the NC will never recover from its massive loss in the recent CA polls. It has no chance of regaining the confidence of the majority of the Nepalese people. Nor do I believe that it should be revived, since its soul has been poisoned. Its size shrunk from the premier political party to a small gang of vested-interest groups and crooks. More than anything else, Koirala, the godfather of this gang, is responsible for the demise of democracy in Nepal. Now, if we allow him, he is going to destroy our beloved Nepal in short order. Stopping him – not helping him stay in power – should be our thunderous and straightforward demand. If you would only utter, “Enough of you Koirala, enough!” it would go a long way towards liberating our country. Break the silence and show some sense of outrage, my friend!
The Maoist’s criminal gang could not win the war by turning Nepal into the worst killing field in our history; it could not break our country’s will; it could not defeat our national army. Rather, it won by finding the weakest link – Koirala and company, a small group of power mongers. Koirala was simply thirsting to become the prime minister. The Maoists were looking for something bigger – to capture Nepal. After coming to power with the Maoists’ help, Koirala was busy occupying his much-loved chair and flaunting his ultimate prize. Prachanda and his partners-in-crime wasted no time, and stayed on the offensive with their characteristic violence, threats, intimidations and extortions. To ensure their victory, they relentlessly used their other potent weapons: propaganda, lies and distortions. The NC may cry “foul,” but through ballots the Maoists have achieved what they could never have achieved with bullets. Koirala and his sycophants in the Congress will never accept the responsibility, but with their incompetence and appeasement of the Maoists they handed a landslide electoral victory to the Maoists in Nepal. Now, it is a matter of time that they will hand over the country to them. Why are our people not railing at the injustice being perpetrated? Where is our national response?
You are right to say that, “Nepal is in its weakest point in our history,” but, my friend, you did not go far enough. Nepal is already a failed state on the verge of withering away. How weak must it become before we wake up and do something about it? Today, our country is far worse than what we inherited from the Panchayat System. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but it is a fact in which I’m sure you would agree. I am inclined to say, “Give us the Panchayat System back so that I can fight for democracy.” This is how far we have fallen. What have we become?
When you say, “Present politics is following a pre-planned road map,” I guess you are referring to the 12-Point Agreement reached in Delhi between the so-called Seven-party Alliance and the Maoists criminal gang at the behest of the Indian Government. Shouldn’t we be saying that it was a road-map to disaster? If nothing else, doesn’t the prevailing situation in Nepal prove this point? The 12-Point Agreement was the biggest historical blunder the Nepali Congress ever made. Sorry, I take that back; it was the biggest betrayal of our country in our nation’s history. Koirala, a small mind with an insatiable appetite for power, not only sold his soul; he bartered our national honor, our independence and our vital national interests to Delhi. Consequently, the 12-Point Agreement gave an unprecedented role for the Indian government to meddle in our internal affairs. Coming to power was the only thing that mattered to the NC. Shamefully, any ramifications for the country were never given any serious thought or consideration. Girija did this to grab power, nothing else. Almost everyone in the NC supported him in the hopes of benefiting from the feat.
Besides, Koirala had no shame in shaking hands with the biggest criminals in our history, whose hands were drenched in thousands of our sisters’ and brothers’ blood. Now, we all know that this bogus document was clearly designed not to restore peace and democracy but to weaken our nation state and destroy our oldest institution: the monarchy. The Maoists obtained everything they wanted without giving anything in return: an interim government which they could dominate and a so-called election to a constitutional assembly whose outcome they could control. They did not have to renounce violence and they did not have to give up their deadly weapons. They did not have to abandon their tyrannical ideology; they did not have to change their violent behavior.
In return, the Nepali Congress surrendered our long-and-hard-fought democracy and our democratic Constitution of 1990 to the Maoists. The sacrifices made by our martyrs and heroes were blatantly dishonored. The blood, sweat, and tears of a throng of Nepali men and women were exchanged for power. The founding principles of the Nepali Congress were quickly buried. B. P. Koirala’s, Ganesh Man Singh’s and K. P. Bhattarai’s vision were dismissed as outdated and irrelevant. All this was done with the stroke of a pen to pave an easy path for G.P. to reclaim power. In addition, to further his selfish pursuit, our nation’s sovereignty and nationalism were surrendered to Delhi and our age-old dharma to secularism, which, in practical terms, will give way to Christianity.
The Maoists did not come to Girija. It was Girija who went to India seeking audience with these violent criminals. He coaxed them from their hiding places in India so that they could roam freely and terrorize the people throughout our country. Even when the Maoists were turning back from their pledge of restoring peace in the country and were engaged in all kinds of violent activities in order to consolidate their power, the Nepali Congress turned a blind eye and accepted every proposal the Maoists put forth. The Maoists understood very well that they could easily exploit the Congress’ weakness and Girija’s incompetence. Hence, they dictated every policy and decision in the government and Girija’s gang readily obliged. Peace never returned to the country as promised, but still the Congress turned the same old blind eyes and deaf ears. John F. Kennedy once stated, “The mere absence of war is not peace.” Our present situation in Nepal is a glaring example of that. The Maoists have continued their campaign of terror against the people for the last two years despite the so-called ceasefire.
No Nepali with a conscience is surprised at the outcome of the CA elections. The people simply voted for their lives. Or, rather, they voted out of fear. The Nepali Congress was not there to protect the people or address their concerns. They even did not go to the people to ask for votes. By voting for the Maoists, the people were hoping against hope that their lives could be made safer. After all, what choice did they have? They desperately clamored for order and peace to be restored in the country. Of course, their pleas were disregarded by the Congress. The people were left with no options but to abandon the Congress.
For the last several years, Koirala and his cohorts have been busy vilifying the King while ignoring the Maoists’ appalling violence, killings, destructions of public property and extortions throughout Nepal. In order to cover up or deflect their incompetence and mismanagement of the country, the politicians in the Nepali Congress started blaming the King instead of assuming responsibility themselves. They demonized, insulted and humiliated the King. Unfortunately, they succeeded in convincing many people that it was the big bad King who was responsible for all of our country’s ills. Therefore, I agree with you that the CA elections were orchestrated by a few people, mainly G.P. and the Maoists and their leftist supporters in the Congress, to declare a republic. The election had nothing to do with honoring the will of the people or implementing a democratic process. I agree with you that it was a political decision to rush to remove the Monarchy. Constitutional debates and due process of the law was never under consideration. The outcome was predetermined.
Furthermore, it is not what you said but what you did not say that really concerns me. Sadly, there was no mention of the victims of the Maoists violence and terror, whose wounds will never heal and pain will never go away. Is our country going to forget the thousands of people -- civilians, policemen and soldiers -- who were slaughtered in one of the most horrific crimes in history? What about those hundreds of thousands of people whom the Maoists drove out of their homes and lands? Where is the cry for justice? Is expediency to power more important than justice and principles? Can there be any peace in Nepal without justice? If so, what kind of peace would that be? And, without justice and peace, what kind of democracy are we talking about? Sorry my friend, something is so utterly wrong here that we must start asking: What kind of people are we going to be?
It is also hard for me to believe that you failed to defend the concept of a constitutional monarchy in Nepal. You could, at least, have said that the removal of the monarchy was wrong and the manner in which it was removed was also unjustifiable; it did not meet any constitutional standard and did not express the Nepali people’s will. Why can’t you be as explicit and clear as Kisunji about this monumental issue? If you take the same position, why are you hesitating? I do not think that hiding under the smooth talk of democracy is going to help you, much less assist our country during these times of peril. It is high time we recognize that Nepal is facing an existential challenge and that we must do whatever we can to meet our obligations.
What's more, recovering from the grievous harms already done by Koirala, his gang, the Maoists and the rest of the communists is the monumental task at hand. But, first we must attack and reject the solutions that they are offering to solve the present crisis in Nepal, such as the concept of a federal structure, which is intended to divide our country into several small states based on ethnic and linguistic grounds. We cannot even run a single government; how can we sustain multiple governments? And, where are the money and the resource going to pour from to fund such a costly enterprise? By the same token, how can our country afford a parliament of 601 people? It is a sheer madness. These people simply are busy trying to divide our country rather than tirelessly working for national unity. If we don’t stop these people, they will tear our country apart piece by piece. As it is, our country’s unity has already been shaken. The unity and harmony achieved since Prithivi Narayan Shah unified Nepal into one single entity has already been shattered. It will be a herculean task to recreate and reconnect what has already been divided. We have already lost our individual liberties. We cannot afford to lose our country’s liberty, as well. That is Nepal’s territorial integrity and independence.
Above all, I did not find you, anywhere in this interview, making a case for our country’s quintessential values: Nepal’s independent identity, our right to self-determination, our right to preserve our own way of life, our culture and our age-old dharma. Why can’t we say that made-in-Delhi solutions are unacceptable to the Nepalese people, that we will not tolerate anything that is imposed on us from outside? The nature and character of our democracy is not going to be determined by Jimmy Carter’s signature and approval. We are quite capable of making decision for ourselves. We are the masters of our country. We are quite capable of controlling our own destiny. Our history is a powerful testimonial to that. This generation cannot and will not abandon that responsibility. Our democracy, and our solutions must stem from our own ethos and values. My friend, if we do not speak up, how are the Nepalese people and the rest of the world going to understand the full weight of our predicament?
I am impelled to ask all my friends who are as concerned as I am about our grave situation in Nepal, “If we cannot even fight a war of words, how can we fight a real war?” Make no mistake about it, we are fighting with a brutal enemy that is hell-bent on destroying everything we believe and stand for in Nepal. It is an assault on our very heart and soul. It saddens me to have to say this, but I cannot even think of democracy at this point. Peace and order are the necessary preconditions for the advancement of democracy, and they are completely broken. What is worse, we are in a war of survival for our country. Nothing less than our country’s future is at stake.
The task of rebuilding our country is going to be almost impossible. It will take generations to build institutions, undertake reconstruction, and reinvigorate national confidence. We must begin the efforts now by making our case. First and foremost, we need to start winning the war of words. The real battle will come next. And, we must be prepared for that as well. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “If you want peace, we must be prepared for a war…So long as fanaticism and fear brood over the affairs of men, we must arm to deter others from aggression. Nation’s strength and security are not easily obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained… There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice.” So far, we are tragically unprepared on every front.
We must unambiguously and unequivocally state our problems, offer our solutions, define our goals and objectives. What I am trying to tell you is that we have to plead our case with our own people as well as with the international community. I strongly believe that we have a silent majority in the country that is desperately waiting for someone to lead them in a different direction, someone who represents their values and aspirations. We must have our people’s support as well as some backing from the international community. We must wage our fight on both of these fronts. So far, we have done neither. To that end, it is vital that we create a public opinion first. Unless we do that, we have no chance of succeeding. Until now, all of us have done a poor job in this regard. What we are doing is complaining or making halfhearted comments and shifting or assigning blame to others. That’s all. Sorry, my friend, making clever or cunning statements or mincing words is not going to help us. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection… We will have to repent in this generation not only merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
If nothing else, I hope that we can leave behind the following legacy to future generations: that politics is a noble profession and public service is worth pursuing, that our principles matter, that the means we use is as pure as the end we seek, that honesty and truth can and must be the only policy, that personal integrity is key in gaining public trust, that public service is a sacred obligation. If we are serious about our commitment to our country, we have no choice but to start right here, right now.
Correspondingly, our loyalty to our country must always come first, followed by principles, party and leaders, in that order. We must return to the principles and idealism of the Nepali Congress’ founding fathers if we maintain any hope for the future. B. P. always used to put Nepal in the forefront of his conversation with us by asking: “What about the country?” When he was terminally ill, he returned to Kathmandu from Banaras and found dignity and solace by living in the tiger’s cage of his beloved country rather than rushing to Delhi. He understood our forefathers’ ultimate sacrifices, valor, dignity and honor to keep our country always independent and equal among nations. With gratitude, he carried that profound sense of our rich history and pride in his heart, and his thoughts flowed from reading those powerful lessons of times past. President Thomas Masaryk, upon liberating Czechoslovakia after 300 years of slavery in 1918, told his countrymen, “It is difficult to set up a state; it is even more difficult to keep it going.” Remarkably, B. P. understood this and any decision he made about Nepal emanated from his awesome sense of responsibility and obligation for his country. Today, if one is willing to follow the mandate of his conscience and the wisdom of our forefathers, the mission is very clear for us in Nepal.
In the similar vein of Nobel laureate Jane Adams, B.P. believed, “The lessons of great men are lost unless they reinforce upon our minds the highest demands which we make upon us.” He knew that our forefathers’ valiant struggles to make Nepal a great country would not be fully realized without democracy, freedom, social justice and improving our people’s lives. When he recognized the futility of violence, which proved to be antithetical to democracy, he quickly abandoned the armed struggle he had started to restore democracy in Nepal. In its place, he appealed for a national reconciliation. He understood that democracy required a peaceful and stable society, a society that was opened for a healthy debate and dialogue with mutual respect for each other. It also required compromises in order to make progress. B.P. fathomed that the road to democracy was not an easy one, but we must take that road. To him, saving our nationalism and promoting democratic values were equally important. He was not willing to sacrifice one for the other. He realized that the threat to democracy came from the right as well as from the left. While fighting against the King’s autocracy, he was keenly sensitive to the communisms’ threat to democracy globally and its potential impact in Nepal. He believed in reforming the institution of the Monarchy, not abolishing it. He envisioned the possibility of the monarchy and what it could do for Nepal rather than merely looking at what it was. By the same standard, he also demanded that the people change our attitudes and values in order to create a democratic society. Thus, B.P. set free the spirit of democracy in Nepal.
Like many Nepali, I am devastated and horrified by the senseless nature of Nepal’s crisis. I am even more disturbed by the failure of my fellow patriots to muster an appropriate response. I do not know if we can ever recover from the damage that has already done to our country. At best, it will take generations. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “… whenever the rule of force as distinct from the rule of law is seen to succeed, the world moves a step closer to anarchy. …Playing for time is not working for a peaceful solution. Wasting time is not willing a peaceful solution. It is simply leaving the aggressor with the fruits of his aggression. …that to appease an aggressor is to invite aggression … on an ever-increasing scale.” I need not remind you that the current reality in Nepal proves Thatcher’s insight.
If they have any decency left, the politicians in the Nepali Congress must take responsibility for the horrendous damage inflicted to our country. Our politicians (I do not think you can call them leaders) are engaged in a deadly power struggle rather than trying to solve our nation’s crisis. No matter who wins, Nepal will be the biggest loser. G. P. wants to cling to power at all costs; the Maoists want to seize power at any price. The international community basically says, “It is not our problem.” In the meantime, our people continue to suffer with no end in sight. And let us not have any illusion: Our neighbors will exploit the present crisis in Nepal to enhance their own national interest. At the same time, the Maoists fanatics are not going to disappear overnight unless we have the courage to eliminate their top brass or bring them to justice for their appalling crimes. Commenting on Hitler’s heinous crimes, Winston Churchill said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” That is what we have in Nepal. So the challenge for us is simple: Do we have enough wisdom and courage to meet our obligations?
Yours for the cause of our national salvation and peace
The Nepali Congress should Focus on the Party's Reinvention, not on Koirala's Legacy
Nepali Congress Lost in Democratic Translation
All the Right Agendas
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Lately, the politicians have discovered a new mantra for building a "New Nepal." And that new mantra is, "negotiation." Be it mutiny within the security forces or an absurd demand like creating a single province to house heterogeneous populace, anything and everything is up for negotiation. Nepal could tip into "freefall" if a parameter for what is negotiable and what is not, is not set.
There is no method to the ongoing political madness. The politicians can do anything and everything and get away with it. There is no accountability whatsoever. We have a finance minister, who talks about fiscal responsibility and financial restraint, but runs finance ministry like a drunken sailor. He wants to exhibit his sense of entitlement on national coffer by disbursing 330 million to ex-members of the Legislature-Parliament. And, we have another great one -- Krishna Prasad Sitaula. Nobody has really been able to understand, who his real masters are.
Sitaula's job is to maintain law and order in the country and that is what precisely he has been unable to do for the last two years. The Young Communist Leaguers seem to be safer than ordinary citizens under his tenure as a home minister. Sitaula has his own unique way of uplifting the spirits of Nepal Police -- negotiate with mutineers. What a brilliant home minister we have, don't we? If you negotiate with mutineers, mutiny will never end. The only way to deal with it is, do what other countries do -- use brute force to bring it down so that it never happens again. If there are institutional problems like ill-treatment of the fellow servicemen and corruption in the security forces, which I am sure there is, initiate institutional reforms.
In a lawless society like ours, mutiny if negotiated, will shatter the required cohesiveness within the forces and destroy its ability to maintain law and order.
It is not only the Nepali Congress (NC) that houses "luminaries," Jhapali Naxalites too have their own set of geniuses that are relentlessly engaged in churning out innovative ideas. In order to fight widespread corruption and social justice and counter youth brigade of brigands of Ropali revolutionaries (read YCL), Jhapali Naxalites have come up with a custom and unique solution -- create brigade of brigands of their own. Initially, we had one brigade of brigands to deal with, now, we have two. For ordinary citizens, it might be "political warlordism," but for our progressive leftists, it is an efficient use of wasted youth force. Can anyone argue such a brilliant proposition?
In Nepali politics, politicians' past does not hold any importance. You can be from a Tharu community; marry a Pahari woman, serve pahari masters for decades and make fortune out of it, marry off your siblings to paharis, and overnight propose yourself as the biggest proponent of Madhesis' rights. Pahari-bashing is fine, you might have to do that to disassociate with past associations, but discrediting Tharus' revolution against one Madhes, one province proposal as UML's sponsored act is, totally outlandish. And, strangely, Madhesi friends with whom we grew idolize such politicians and see us as colonizers. Where in the world will you find such a well- intentioned people other than in Nepal?
As an undergraduate student at the University of Delhi in the mid-nineties, I was surprised to see my Indian friends hate Pakistan. During the cricket matches between India and Pakistan, hostel's common room where we gathered to watch matches would be filled with curse words. It was surprising to see my friends whose parents might not have been born during the partition share such strong emotions against their neighbor. Pakistan-bashing politics practiced in India for the last fifty years is to be blamed for that. While India shirks its responsibility in establishing and supporting Mohajir Qaumi Movement in Pakistan, it blames Pakistan for every terrorist attack that takes place in Indian soil. In the process of finding a "scapegoat" for its security lapses, India has permanently vilified Pakistan in the hearts and minds of millions of Indians.
Like in India, where Indian politicians have been cashing in on anti-Pakistan rhetoric for more than half a century now, Madhesi politicians in Nepal are filling the hearts and mind of illiterate and semi-literate Madhesi populace with anti-Pahari propaganda. Every pahari living in Madhes is being painted as colonizer, which is far from reality. There are hundreds of thousands of Pahari like myself, whose family have been living in the tarai for more than eleven generations. We might have been in the Madhes well before the family of many Madhesi politicians, who now claim that the Madhes belonged to Yadavs, Thakurs, Mishras, Shahs, Shuklas, Tripathis, Mahatos, and Guptas and paharis colonized it.
I grew up with the first generation Madhesis. And, it didn't bother me a bit. So forget about, who came first and to whom Madhes belongs. Such debate will not lead us anywhere. We all are there now and should try to prosper together. The Madhesi people should not get carried away by political slogans put out there by the politicians. Where were they when the late Gajendra Narayan Singh was fighting a lone battle against Pahari elites for Madhesis' rights and dignity?
The very same people, who blame the past rulers of forcing a national language upon Madhesis, are now giving speeches in Hindi rather than in Maithili. The politicians by nature are self-serving. It is, thus, important to remain vigilant about their motives.
It would be foolish to look upon India for emancipation of ethnic minorities in Nepal. The Bhutanese refugee imbroglio is a case in point, which clearly shows India's sensitivities towards ethnic rights of foreign nationals. For India, its national interest comes well before democratic rights or ethnic emancipation of foreign nationals. The Madhesi leaders should not be too influenced by the assurances of India's point man in Nepal. If they are really for ethnic rights of Janjatis and Madhesis in Nepal, where were they all these years? Why didn't ethnic minorities' issues come under their radar for so long?
Had India not supported King Mahendra's autocratic regime, we would have had democracy long ago. It is because of India's backing of Mahendra's rule, life of a visionary politician like B P Koirala got wasted. When India could not trust a person like BP Koirala, who had close ties with Indian leader like Jaya Prakash Narayan fully and force King Mahendra to bring down his autocratic regime, Madhesi leaders should reassess the assurances and promises made by the point man in Lainchaur durbar. Their unequivocal support for the Maoists, whom they had unilaterally branded as terrorists, in the changed political context shows how quickly they change sides. It might be worth joining hands with fellow pahari citizens in Madhesh and putting up a fight against the ruling elites for greater rights rather than be at the mercy of Indian benevolence.
One thing that I still remember what my Sri Lankan roommate of two years during my stay in Delhi University told -- there is no clear winner or loser in an ethnic conflict, we all lose equally and often wish we could undo the past. Pahari rulers should not hold the rights that Madhesis deserve and Madhesis should not stick to unreasonable demand like one Madhes, one province just because New Delhi's point man wants you all to stick to it. Sticking to unreasonable demand will make the conflict intractable and worsen the lives of not only paharis but also madhesis, whom Madhesi politicians want to see prosper.
Riding the Republican Bandwagon
The Pitfalls of Relying on Indian Benevolence
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The demand of ‘Madhesh Ek Pradesh’ is the most unpatriotic, unethical, immoral, bias and hypocritical act by any political force in history of Nepal. People from certain regions are neither calling themselves Nepali nor speaking their mother tongues and are enraged by the term Nepal. Most of them have adopted ‘Hindi’ as their official language raising apprehension about their credibility as well as their loyalty to ‘Maithili’ and ‘Bhojpuri’. Their secret meetings with Indian diplomats and official disgust slogans against ‘Pahade’ people have provoked and damaged unimaginable social harmony amongst Nepali people. The accents of ‘Tharus’ and ‘Chure Bhaware’ may sound little sympathetic but they too are standing for ethnicity based autonomy and many more communities are going to follow suit. These voices of ethnic and racial based autonomy are the biggest and unprecedented threats to the national unity and sovereignty of Nepal. The most fearful question at this time is: Is this the beginning of the end of the disintegration of Nepal?
Whether we interpret the modern Nepal as the expansion of the Gurkha kingdom or the unification of tiny states by Prithivi Narayan, the entity is the same. During the expansion and during the protection of national boundaries, Nepalis demonstrated their ferocious bravery. Technologically isolated but culturally enriched Nepal was gradually opened to the western world after the fall of colonisation. Through out the Nepal’s history, Nepali are univocal on nationality, integrity and sovereignty. It is only in the recent past that some stooges have started to play the politics of race, skin, language, and ethnic background. Have they learned these lessons from Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, Kosovo, Albania, or Bhutan? Who is the ideological ‘Guru’ for these cowards? Can they find any history in the world where it has worked? I got a simple retort; if you are not a Nepali, you do not belong to this land.
Prithivi Narayan had quoted 250 years ago as, “Nepal Char Jaat Chattis Barna ko Sajha Phulbari ho”. Nepal was and is home to multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural people. The most dominant ethnic groups are: Sherpa, Dolpa People, Larke and Siar People, Manang Bas, Lo Pas of Mustang, Olangchung People, Brahmin, Chhetris, Kirats, Newars, Tamangs, Magars, Gurungs, Thakalis, Brahman and Rajputs, Tharus, Rajbansis, Satars, Musalmans, etc.
These people never had any problems in terms of their coexistence and their nationality. But in the recent past, things have changed radically. Are these voices coming from Nepali people? Unjustified ultimatums, gruesome murders, abductions and forceful displacements of Pahade background people are not simply voices for autonomy. Burning Nepali flags, planned attacks against marginal ethnic groups, waging armed separatist movement, forceful demands for advantageous rights; are simply unpatriotic proceeds. I not only believe that south block’s interest is involved but also significant number of thugs guided by south’s interest have infiltrated in these uprisings. This saga began when Maoists started to teach lessons of ethnic based division and autonomy to spread cheap propaganda and to gain popularity. Ethnicity based federalism should never be declared and it will never work for Nepal.
Nepali people are known to the world by various synonyms such as Gurkhas, Sherpas, Bahadur etc. It all depends where and what industry they are in. But, ultimately they are all Nepali and to this date, all are proud of what they are. With the abolishment of monarchy, parties have also dumped the polices of social harmony, unity, integrity, esteem and sovereignty. The games of division, disrespect, disloyal and dishonour were never seen in Nepali politics before. As a common citizen, every body should have been concerned about the welfare of this country. But instead, few people are demanding autonomy of the whole economic hub of the nation, because they look different from most Nepali. They want to disadvantage other fellow citizens because they do not look like them. And they asking to leave their territory who look different. What kind of democracy and autonomy these people demanding for? All whites are not American and all blacks are not Zimbabwean. Having olive skin doesn’t mean one is Indian and calling themselves Madhesi doesn’t mean they are not Nepali. The reality is they are Nepali and they must accept that and they must be loyal to this country and be committed for the wellbeing of this nation as a whole. Do not play the dirty politics of disintegration. South part influenced by India and the north part influenced by China will not make any one victorious, but in fact that will turn Nepal into another Kashmir, a disgusting territorial dispute between two brothers in the name of religion.
After decades of strategic failures in planning, development, and foreign policy, leaders are still tyring to master in puppetry. Every single day, the country is going backwards, however, the leaders are pretending in such a way that they doing something big this time. We see the same faces, which have enjoyed the spending spree of national treasury, going round and round selling different promises. I can not simply believe if these leaders have any spirits at all. I don’t think it is expected in competitive democracy to be in parliament or ministries after failing to gain popular votes. Some bloke is still dreaming of becoming the first president who failed to gain popular votes not just from one but two constituencies. One day a leader is labelled ‘royalist’ or ‘mandale’ and the other day once s/he changes the party, s/he becomes national hero. This all happens only in Nepal. How bizarre?
Leaders are working to develop a ‘khichadi’ democracy. They want to get bits and pieces of democracy from round the world and mix it together to write the innovative constitution in new Nepal. A mixed bag of capitalism, socialism, communism and fascism. A mixed bag of divided, abhorrence, irrational, primitive, pathetic, anarchic society. A mixed bag of ethnic, tribal, religion, lingo based autonomy. A mixed bag of criminals, corrupted, disloyal, deserted, conspirator leaders. And of course, the new party, which marched thro 15000 corpses to establish a communist state but turned capitalist overnight, as a new force to rule the country. And why forget the faction of that same party who abandoned communism but started a disintegration campaign in the name of autonomy. The country is at halt to divide the power. Five leaders in a closed door can decide any thing, anything, about you, me and the nation. I can not whiff any form of democracy in the governance. I have enough scepticism about the CA assembly and its functioning and power. I hope it will not be like former Rastriya Panchayat or current UN Assembly, where most of the members are no more than idle observers. The CA members must wake up now and stop this Madhesi model of federalism and come together for regional and geography based federalism. Time has come to save the nation, not the party.
(The writer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Endless Possibilities in the Republic of Nepal
All the Right Agendas
Sunday, July 13, 2008
A battle royal is being fought by the political parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA), and outside, as to who should or should not be members of the current National Defence Council (NDC). At a time when security sector reforms is high on the national agenda, and one is quite unsure as to whether the federal democratic republic of Nepal is going to be endowed with a presidential or parliamentary system of governance by the CA, one can appreciate why all 25-33 political parties should clamour to be on board to protect party interests. Given the above uncertainties, the problem is being made more complex by the fact that, as agreed by the government and seven parties, the Head of State (HOS) will now be the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The complexity arises from the fragmentation of the unitary state; the polity of proportional representation into parliament leading to in-built instability, and the non-resolution of the issue over the optimal powers for the presidency (ceremonial vs constitutional).
This basic thrust of this article is that only the government should be the member of the NDC. However, all are welcome to be members of the National Security Council (NSC), including civil society and professional experts and academicians.
The other thrust is to underscore the vital need for the CA to define precisely what ‘national security’ is supposed to mean and demarcate the nature, scope and authority of the NSC as a fundamental constitutional agency. In doing so, we, the citizens, would expect that each political party would consider the matter with due intellectual diligence by being analytically grounded in geo-politics, geo-economics and geo-psychology in consideration of 2 factors and its forces: (a) the current status of Nepal’s national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and (b) the future threats to the integrity of Nepal from the probable centripetal and centrifugal forces within a federal body politic, including threats from outside its national territory—be they states, international business, international non-governmental organizations or the international mafia.
Word has it that, when the army lobbied successfully, and rightly, for the NSC to be a constitutional organ in 1990, the proposed NSC was more akin to the NSC of the USA and India: being more of an open, participative think tank on national security where policy and research inputs would be garnered from all political parties, civil society and experts as members and invitees. A National Security Advisor would lead the NSC. This would allow for sufficient national debate, dissent and dialogue before a national security strategy is actually adopted founded on national consensus, if possible . Such an overall national security policy was expected to guide Nepal’s foreign policy, foreign relations and internal security matters in a holistic manner.
Unfortunately, what was originally sought by the army could not take form as intended owing to (a) the Royal Palace military secretariat’s traditional stranglehold over any innovation by the army, (b) the inability of the army to mobilize public opinion with effective public relations and (c) the utter lack of harmonious interface between the various security agencies. Thus what we landed up with was to settle for the NDC, as is, which now is embroiled in deep controversy over who should be members. It must be mentioned that the NDC Secretariat is purely military. It is precisely because of the overwhelming military nature of the secretariat that one recognizes it more as ‘NDC’ than ‘NSC’.
Its major achievements, perhaps, are the development of greater inter-agency communication, cooperation and coordination in response to grappling with civil disobedience, insurgency, terrorism, civil war and natural disasters. It has been highly successful in being able to preserve Nepal as a viable—albeit weak--- state that is nowhere in sight of becoming a ‘failed state’.
Because the current security agency is more an NDC than NSC so, therefore, it should be led by the Head of Government (HOG). Where, however, the HOS is more than just ‘ceremonial’ it is possible, and probably appropriate, that the HOS chair meetings of the new NSC. Both should have their place in the body politic but only the NSC should be imbibed in the Constitution.
To repeat, it is argued here that the NDC should not include any political party as its function is to communicate, coordinated and control defence policy being implemented by the security, security-related and intelligence agencies as approved by the Council of Ministers. The scope of decision-making in the NDC is purely over issues of war, civil war, insurgency, terrorism, curfew, counter intelligence and national emergencies. In short, it is primarily concerned with issues over the break down of law and order and threats to Nepal’s territorial integrity, national sovereignty and independence. The NDC is accountable to parliament through the Ministry of Defence. This should suffice.
It is appropriate to mention hear, which actually is suggestive of just how narrowly conceived the NDC was, that the Foreign Minister in not a member, even when UN peace keeping and peace enforcing operations are or should be legitimate agenda items for decision by NDC.
Nation states and communities within it, just like individuals, feel insecure when their very existence, their material and financial assets, and their fundamental values are threatened by other nations, societies and individuals respectively.
Nations, communities and individuals' families feel internally secure when there exists, within its territory, communal harmony and tolerance so that there is safe from social turmoil and violence. They also feel secure when there is the absence of political disruptions with law and order prevailing with clear prospects of easy recourse to, and dispensation of justice, by a highly trusted judiciary. Freedom of the press and ‘press security’ is equally vital for individual, communal and national security.
Feeling secure in this new age of inter-dependence and instant exposure of daily events throughout the far corners of the globe has got to be a challenging business. Because never before in mankind's history have there been so many nations with so many peoples making daily contacts at the state-to-state and people-to-people levels with attendant vulnerabilities and risks at the global, regional, national and community levels. To respond quickly is the task of intelligence and counter intelligence.
Past experience tells us that a Nepal Central Intelligence Agency (NCIA) is a dire need for the country; and will be even more needed when it moves towards federalism. The lesson from our own insurgency and civil war is that there are limits to military strategy to maintain law and order. With globalization the sanctity of international borders is questionable. Rise of non-state actors in such forms as religious fundamentalists, international anarchists, international mafia, international civil society, and 'sovereign individuals' (individuals with wealth that exceeds those of states in the realm of e-commerce) are cause for great intelligence concern.
If traditionally diplomacy is the alternative to war, in the new era of globalization it may just as well be said that intelligence is the alternative to diplomacy. As a matter of fact, given the huge need for public expenditure to meet the social welfare cost of the world’s graying population intelligence spending is working out to be the first line of cost-effective national defence for most nations. Nepal should not be an exception.
Further, the inter-state struggle for natural resources, like water and minerals, for example, to maintain high economic growth rates will be lost or won on effective intelligence strategy formulation and implementation rather than relying simply on traditional diplomacy and trade and commerce deals. Perhaps the greatest argument for an autonomous central intelligence agency is the dominant mood of the 21st century where global anarchy and wars between civilizations will be a commonplace scenario across continents from the dynamics of global warming, mass migrations coupled with food, energy, water, financial and economic crises.
The other lesson from our political sphere is that, as a weak state, our national administration is near-totally infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies and their allies, which calls forth a powerful counter-intelligence strategy implemented in earnest to expunge external infiltration and working towards supporting a national anti-corruption drive that seeks legal action combined with social sanctions against traitors and offenders.
In attempting to define ‘national security’ we must learn from Japan, who in the mid-1950’s developed the visionary concept of ‘comprehensive security’ to grapple with the trauma, humiliation and horror of the loss of national sovereignty to the Americans and the psychological sufferings from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stranded without any natural resources—other than human resources. So they defined ‘national security’ in the broader, more comprehensive concept of ‘human security’.
Fundamentally, the Japanese doctrine of human security rests on the premise that for national security there must not only be ‘military security’ to defend the nation from outside threats but also ‘human security’ to 'defend' nations from inside threats as national stability depends on each individual having sufficient food security, employment security, social security (education, health and old age pension), energy security, information security (access to transport and communications). We might now add ‘water security’, ‘environmental security’ and ‘pandemic health security’ ( HIV AIDS, TB, bird flu ) to the Japanese definition to bring it up to date in its comprehensiveness.
Nepal is now in quest of a new national identity after the removal of monarchy and becoming a secular state. Alienation and confusion is a natural state of in our current social psyche. Political ideologies of the various parties are not going to fill this deep void. Only common values can.
As almost all Nepalese are religious so a new Nepal moral order must be at the core of the national security value system: truth; peace and compassion as preached by Lord Buddha; non-violence and reconciliation as preached by Mahatma Gandhi and, furthermore, duty, devotion; discipline and discrimination to connect the nation’s and each individual’s body, mind and soul, as preached by one of the greatest modern Saints of South Asia-- the Shivapuri Baba of Nepal.
A most valuable organ of state for inter-communal harmony is to have the Council of Relgious Elders (CRE) meet regularly, chaired by the HOS, with rotating co-chairpersonship amongst the various faiths represented, to have constant inter-faith national and local dialogue for communal harmony so as to negate the use of religion, by political parties, to create electoral vote banks, which actually weakens democracy and the rule of law while nurturing communal hatred.
Last, but not least, each ministry and department should review and recommend comprehensive security needs from their sector’s perspective annually henceforth.
Security Sector Reform: Taking a Regional Approach and Promoting Cooperative Security Arrangement
The Utility of a Professional Nepalese Army
The Finance Ministry has done an unpardonable disbursement of the scarce national resource. It has decided to give Rs one million each to 330 ex-Members of the Legislative Parliament. Some of the ex-MLPs have been re-elected in the present Legislative Constituent Assembly and will continue till the life of the LCA. But most of the ex-MLPs have been defeated in the LCA election. In the political connotation they do not represent any people any more. Not all of them represented the people in the first place because they were nominated by their parties. Even those, who were elected in the earlier election, had lost the people's trust in the recent election. In both the cases, the disbursement is unjustified.
First of all, the very policy of distributing Rs one million to an MLP to be spent at his discretion is not justified. A democratic country runs through the wishes of the people. In matters of development, the people's wish is the prime factor. The discretion of the leader is not compatible with the concept of democratic governance. In the second place, Nepal followed a policy of decentralized governance, where the local bodies make all the development decisions. The concept of distributing money through the MLP creates a chasm or a polarization between the local bodies and the national level MLP. It is not proper to superimpose the MLP over the local body like the village development committee, the urban municipality and the district development committee.
In the third place, the earlier decision to disburse the money was stopped at the behest of the Supreme Court, wherein it was stated that the money at the hands of the MLPs would be a factor of influencing the voters in their favor vis-à-vis other elector competitors. At that time, at least some of the MLPs (by no means all MLPs) could be considered people's representatives because of their past electoral victory. The court had made a moral link to the money factor. At this new instance, most of the MLPs have lost their popular touch. The Finance Ministry has gone ahead without consulting the court. The tenure of the LP was terminal with the official institutionalization of the LCA. Granting money after the termination of their official status of people's representatives is constitutionally illegitimate and morally repugnant.
In the fourth place, the timing of the disbursement is untenable with all the financial procedures. The annual budget comes to a close on the twentyfifth of Ashar. The money is being disbursed with the condition that it should be spent in just five days after disbursement, with all the financial procedures met and the development work done. (If development were so easy and the leaders so efficient, Nepal would have turned into a paradise in the last two years of the interim rule!)
In the fifth place, the intention behind the disbursal is immoral. It is intended to appease the leaders who could not get the popular support. That is the overt attempt. The covert intention is even more sinister. The Finance Minister belongs to the party that lost the most seats. This appeasement would, therefore, benefit the candidates of that party in the utmost.
The present political situation is the most sensitive in the history of Nepal. The two and a half century old monarchy is just gone, but the future set-up is yet to take up a shape. The parties that were responsible for the removal of the monarchy are in the war path among themselves. The Nepali Congress is finding it hard to digest that the people have not trusted it in the hustings. The CPN-Maoists have been the largest party but the not so large parties in the hung legislative CA are trying to invent one alibi or the other to prevent the largest party from taking over power. The CPN-Maoists are not finding it easy to compromise their principle of hegemony with the other parties without whose co-operation the coalition is not going to succeed. Newly emerged groups and parties are claiming more than their share of popular trust. The CA has not been allowed to function because of this inflated boast.
In the above circumstances, all the efforts should have been directed towards making the present set up work. But the Finance Ministry is depleting the scarce resource on an unnecessary and immoral practice of bribing the untrusted leaders. What was the need? It was done in a desperation at the very end of the fiscal year. Not even seven days are saved for spending the money when the normal time would have required at least seven months to fulfill the demands of honest work to spend the money in accordance with the financial regulations. There is no money for many more urgent needs of the country. The government has raised credits from various sources to fill this need off and on. The government is going to need much more in the two years ahead because the strength of the inflated legislature even for their regular salary and perks.
The present disbursement is 330 million rupees, not a small amount for our financial strength. In the case of the LCA it is going to be a whopping Rs 601 million. Apart from the size of the money, the priority is wrong. The present disbursement is wholly deplorable for obvious reasons, some of them explained above. It is immoral. It is illegal. It is totally unwarranted. No tax payer will tolerate it. No sensible citizen will tolerate it. The outgoing finance Minister is not authorized to disburse it. The PM is not authorized. The outgoing cabinet is not authorized. The country is supposed to be run on moral principles. One of the moral principles is that the executive is accountable towards the legislature. When the legislature is gone, to whom will the executive remain accountable? The whole thing is a sham. It is shameful.This is out right robbery. It is naked corruption. It must not be allowed.
The priority before the LCA is the drafting of the new constitution and it should remain the top and the only agenda. The members of the LCA will have no time to indulge in any other work during their to year term. So, the practice of disbursing the development aid to them should be put to a moratorium for this period. The present case should be an eye opener. Let us not let the leaders loot the country. IF the present disbursement is effected at this hour, it should be recovered from the finance minister, the prime minister and the cabinet members remaining in the saddle today. This should be the first lesson of collective accountability.
The author can be reached at: email@example.com
CA Election: Compromised Beginning, Flawed Process and Ominous
Friday, July 11, 2008
This piece, in a way, can be taken as the logical continuation of “Forty-ninth Bhoto jatra” published 16 July last year. This year’s bhoto jatra is yet to be held as Lord Macchendranath is still stuck at Iti tole since about two months, there is nothing wrong with the chariot though. It is said that the Lord finds it very difficult to leave the place, as the saying goes, because of his mistress there!
As for RA one of its 757 has had, perhaps, the longest ever C check in any one’s memory. On the surface the reason for the delay is blamed on non delivery of the engine, which might as well be true. But what had stopped the then RA management from making timely and appropriate decision regarding awarding of repair contract earlier? The board and the government knew quite well that with one operational engine the aircraft will remain grounded for long. It is a ‘democratic’ country and naturally both the government and the RA board were within their rights in sitting put - twiddling their thumbs! We had hoped that by doing away with the ‘R’ the airline would turn a new leaf. Wonder whether bringing back the ‘R’ (for Republic this time) would do the magic! But, again, we can not be too hopeful seeing the way the elected assembly is functioning.
The 50th RA anniversary function was held at even lower scale this time amidst opposition from the unions. The chief guest was the Chief Secretary, not the Minister as was customary. There was no minister to chair the function as he had resigned under party’s order. The Chief Secretary, as the highest ranking guest, seized the god send opportunity to vent out his disgust by declaring RA was in the death bed. Many inferred it as the verdict of a ghatey baidya given the fast sinking trend of the airline.
Anniversary functions provide a forum to commemorate achievements, acknowledge faults, specify challenges and, last but not least, present broad improvement plans / promises for the future. There is no point in recalling that RA once flew to London and Frankfurt and had four jetliners. The stark reality is that RA has been doing the regional route with just one aircraft since the last seven months in one stretch. With its reach severely curtailed, it is no surprise that, skilled pilots and passengers have no option but to look for alternatives.
We see a fundamental similarity in the manner the RA and the country is run. The ‘elected’ politicians are seen to be least concerned with the general public and their welfare as they wrangle endlessly. And in the RA, the management is more concerned with its vested interest than start worrying about the sundries like passengers.
This time around the published write ups on the anniversary day were on the minimum. A person who had four different pieces last year had just one this time. As usual both the articles, written by RA insiders, spoke highly of the contributions made and lamented about the way the corporation was neglected by the government. Without substantiating one of the writers makes a tall claim that NAC was still able to “retain its popularity among the customers”. If it is to be believed then it looks like its RA clients were too happy to bear with it even when the services were abruptly cut.
‘Serious aircraft shortage’ was the title of the other piece published in the Nepal Samachar Patra. It points out at the duplicity on the part of the government which makes loudest noise about losses made while it fails to appreciate, by being helpful; the services provided to the remote areas despite heavy losses. The article boasts about RA ground handling services to many international airlines and the revenue this has generated. But in reality, RA landed the ground handling jobs more due to compulsion on the part of other airlines than on its merit.
The primary job of an airline is to fly passengers - profitably and as per the published schedule. We do not have to be an expert to say how RA fares on those aspects.
Coinciding with the Golden anniversary the RA has made its commitment public through the media. It takes a defensive stand, right at the beginning, by acknowledging that criticisms are valued highly and treated as guide lines for making improvements. Next it accepts that RA has not been providing services to the desired extent due to the shortage of aircraft. And that it can not solve all the problems on its own and needs help and understanding of all including the government and its employees. It concludes by hoping to get the love and understanding of all concerned as it strives to achieve the goals set up to create a ‘New’ Nepal.
There is no doubt that the document is extremely over laden with the ‘hope’ aspect. The ‘commitment’, as spelt towards the end, is too weak to be of any significance. One wonders whether it was brought out just as a ritualistic exercise. Surely, RA must have foreseen that it was not likely to create any waves whatsoever. It is an irony that the present excitement is more due to the impending return of old B-757 as if RA was about to get a ‘new aircraft’. But if the news in Kantipur (08 June) is to be believed then there is a serious doubt about return date again.
The government, which holds the controlling interest in the RA, has to seriously think about its future course of action. It will be just enough if the government runs the country properly by providing a rule of law, security to its citizens and make appropriate and sound policy decisions to encourage all round development. It is not the work of a government to engage itself with the nitty-gritties of running an airline. It may have been right to have taken the rein in the early years. But to drag a fifty year adult like a child and tell it constantly what it can do and what it cannot does not fall under good governance by any count.
We do not know what the future holds until we see the policies and priorities set up by the coming government. Hopefully, there will be some concrete steps to ameliorate the mismanagement all around including that in the RA as well. This will be a small step in the making of, not a ‘new’, but a better Nepal. Last year we had hoped that RA will arrest the uncontrolled dive and maintain a level flight before its 50th bhoto jatra. That is out of the question now. But we can not rule out a bleaker possibility should the future government exercise even stringer control over the airline. It may, like all others before, be tempted to learn flying RA first before it does any thing appreciable!
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