Guest Opinion: Ruling by hypotheses in Nepal
Ruling by hypotheses in Nepal
By Surendra R Devkota, Ph.D.
The king Gyanendra of Nepal ascended to throne as a head of the nation after a controversial, if not a conspiratorial, royal massacre in June 2001, political spectrum in the country has changed significantly. By dissolving the parliament, and mobilizing the army, the king was able to regain the lost authority as a constitutional monarch and re-empowered himself to unilateral decision making ability. Historically, over two hundred years, the monarchy in Nepal always kept itself above the constitution except for a brief period in the nineties and royal orders were the sole mantra for government as well as people. Now and again, the royal orders are being re-incarnated in different names and forms. By knowing the facts that the king’s acts are not accountable to anyone but himself, his rulings are based on full of assumptions, which are being converted into the so-called Ordinances. These ordinances are nothing but hypotheses based on false assumptions.
One of the latest hypotheses of the king aims to control the press through a ordinance to control comments about his authority. Except an authoritarian regime, no one in the world dares to oppress the freedom of speech and writing. The king assumes that people of all walks of life should not raise any questions about his deeds. The pretext could be that our forefathers either knowingly or forcefully were silent about misdeeds of the monarchy, so wants for the present generation to do the same. For instance, in November 2005, Nepal’s attorney general appointed by the king publicly told to the Supreme Court that Hindu king’s divine words are unchallengeable.
The other victim of the king’s supposition is non-governmental sectors, which are working in different parts of the nation. The fact is that royal regime and its administrative activities are limited to major cities and district headquarters due to Maoists insurgency that is waging a people’s war against the monarchy since 1996, and the only presence of non-governmental sectors in many remote constituencies has been providing a ray of hope to local people. Now, keeping a main stakeholder of socioeconomic development out of their constituencies, the royal regime’s assumption will further push the local people into severe destitution. This is the most unpatriotic and irresponsible ruling character of an autocrat regime.
Another major postulation of the king that has been frequently spoken by him at different occasions is about patriotism. Implicitly, the royal appeal indicates that he is the one to be addressed and focused as a symbol of patriotism and a national unity – a slogan of royal cronies since sixties after the father king Mahendra orchestrated the first royal coup and banned the multiparty system in 1960. Royalists are trying to impose that monarchy and nationalism are complementary, whereas majority of people believe that sources of the patriotism are the people, people’s sovereignty and constitution made by the people. Though the 1991 Constitution was landmark of democratic devolution of power from monarchy to people of Nepal and coexistence of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, the royal take over of February 1 2005 not only violated the people’s constitution, but subsequent activities of the king proved that a reconciliatory attitude for coexistence of democracy and monarchy is a failure approach.
The king and his government are running on a very flawed assumption that all political parties are unpopular and the so-called silent majority is behind him. Political parties are one of the major components of the social capital to which people are proud of. People have frustrations on behaviors of few of their leaders, but they are also well aware of how to discipline them. On the other side, the monarchy over past two hundred years simply lagged behind to be a part of the social capital, because it never tried to infuse with people, rather loved to dictate. The recent political demonstrations in different parts of the country reveal that people are against the king’s ruling under hypothesis.
As the country is deadlocked due to the king's absolute political command, and political parties also realized that the king gained by playing a zero sum game, of lately, seven major political parties and the Maoists reached a 12 point understanding to end the autocratic monarchy. This political development, which seems unholy to royalists and diplomats, is leading to a political confrontation between the king and parties. People are now concluding that the means of democracy and peace would begin by the election of a constitutional assembly, whereas the royalists are heading for the local municipal election, which will be boycotted by the parties as they already announced. Ironically, the king had sacked previous three prime ministers by blaming them for their inability to hold national election. Now, why the king opted for holding local municipal election only? Does that mean he is losing control in four thousand villages? This pronouncement of the king may tangibly benefit the Maoists because it justifies of their claim over two thirds of countryside. Whether this municipal election for 15 percent of population brings peace in Nepal is also based on a very wrong assumption. Rather, it is nothing except to show the others that the king is committed to democracy. Well, the previous kings also orchestrated such election drama and the outcome was simply negative. The king seems determined to keep his traditional exclusive authority, while people are in favor of a new constitution that guarantees rights, resources, and responsibility, accountability at different levels, and empowers people at local level rather than a simple politico-administrative makeover at the central level. Nepal will further suffer by the ad-hoc rules of the king that are also posing a great risk to people and country as the king is trying to find right answer by solving wrong problems.