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Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: Shame on You

Shame on You


By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar
Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nepal has been plagued by the dynastic rule and the unscrupulous business community for centuries; the people’s movement in April 2006 was to put an end to those nuisances for ever; however, the recent development in the politics and the business community has shown that leading people of both the politics and the business community have been nervous of losing their unscrupulous businesses, and have been attempting to turn the clock back to the previous status.

Defying the court order and ignoring the request of the consumer’s forum for calling off the Nepal-close before the second-most-important Nepalese festival called Tihar, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) went on strike on Tuesday, October 17, 2006, forcibly closing even the street vendors when Nepalis need to shop the most.

FNCCI says the reason for going on strike is the government could not stop the forced-collection of donations by the Maoists from the business community and could not provide them with security. It is true the government could not do the both. However, Nepalis believe that the FNCCI has something more than the reason for going on strike taking even the risk of the contempt of court; that reason must be the phobia of getting some large business houses punished for bank-loan defaults.

Recently, the Parliamentary Account Committee (PAC) took a look at the bank-loan defaults committed by the large business houses, and the Court’s ruling on taking the name of one of the large business houses out of the blacklist of bank-loan defaulters. The Court’s ruling prompted other defaulters to file similar law suits. The PAC was not happy with the Court’s ruling and it certainly went against the public interest. The PAC recommended the government to take a strong action against the large business house for bank-loan defaults.

One of the main reasons for the FNCCI to go on strike is certainly to defuse the possible actions by the government as recommended by the PAC. The large business houses would need to pay off hundreds of billions of rupees to the state-owned and the semi state-owned banks they have ignored to pay so far. Certainly, they are nervous and they see the only way to get out of it is to go on strike at the time when everybody is prompted to go on strike for any conceivable reason.

Only few business houses could compete with colleagues or rivals in making money without indulging in unscrupulous deals with the corrupt politicians and the undemocratic system in Nepal. So, the standard practice for the business people has been to go along with the corrupt politicians and the system. One of the leaders of the business community and the young bright businessman called Rajendra Khetan in one of his TV interviews said, “I gave money to Maobadis and Khaobadis.” Maobadis means the Maoists waging guerrilla war against the government, and Khaobadis means the corrupt politicians running the government. The question is whether such a businessman is doing a fair business?

The FNCCI shamelessly supported the king’s coup staged on February 01, 2005. They continued to do so until it came to an end on April 24, 2006. Since, then the business community has been keeping a low profile. Once, the PAC started digging out the bank-loan defaults concerning the business houses, the FNCCI became nervous, and it saw the only way out of it is to go on strike and demonstrate its muscle in the public without thinking such an action might backfire exposing their misdeeds even more.

Thus, the unscrupulous Nepalese business community has been as evil as the Shah-Rana dynastic rule for common Nepalis.

The people’s movement in April 2006 effectively brought the Shah dynasty to an end. However, some corrupt politicians are trying hard to put it back. The first attempt made to this end was when Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said he was for a ceremonial king. He repeated it again by coincidence or by design at the audience given to the FNCCI members at his official residence. He went alone with it for some time as some of the members of his Nepali Congress (NC) party openly said that it was not the NC’s position on the monarchy. Recently, he garnered sufficient support of his party lieutenants for his stance on the monarchy making a NC’ stance, and making it a stumbling block to the peace process.

Until recently, the NC has been a historical party that has led Nepalis to a democratic system from the dynastic rule. The NC has been the most Democratic Party, and Nepalis have been proud of being the members of it. It led the historical movement against the despotic Rana oligarchy in 1950, then in late 1950s to put Nepal back on the democratic track again. In early 1960s, Nepalis lost democracy until the NC led the movement against the king and his party-less system in 1990, and successfully put Nepal back on the democratic track.

However, Nepal lost its hard earned democracy again on February 01, 2005. By this time the NC had lost its principles and political values. The NC under the leadership of Girija Prasad Koirala has been the symbol of a political party run by a gang of corrupt politicians. After the 1990-movement for democracy, President Koirala as a Prime Minister and his party clique have successfully dismantled the public road transport system such as the trolley bus in Kathmandu, and the Sajha bus system run throughout the country, and sold the two jet planes owned by the state-run airlines recently renamed Nepal Airlines only to take similar planes on hire. Anybody could imagine how much money the middle men have made in those deals. Currently, the Nepal Airlines have been fighting for survival where as the Thai Airlines set up on the same day more than 35 years ago have been one of the largest airlines in the world. These are only an iceberg of the huge corruption scandals one NC government after another has made.

Despite its tainted figure, the NC leaders could forge an alliance with other left parties to form first a four-party alliance to fight against what they called ‘regression’ after the king dismissed the democratically elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba charging him of incompetence. However, they could not move very far because Nepalis did not trust them any more. Their street demonstrations have become only the rallies of a bunch of political cadres shouting slogans against the government. It went on for more than three years without any sign of putting down the ‘regression’. Then, the most expected coup of the ambitious king came on February 01, 2005, effectively putting an end to democracy in Nepal.

The king not only crossed the line of killing democracy but put the political clock back to medieval age. He suspended the Constitution of Nepal of 1990 making only its Article 127 effective for hiring one Prime Minister after another. He harassed the media people attempting to muzzle them, and the people in general controlling everything possible with the force of the army and the police. Nepalis began to feel the heat of the arbitrary rule of the despotic king.

Then, the NC forged a seven-party alliance (SPA) with other like-minded parties for fighting against the despotic king. The SPA felt a need for going together with the rival political group called the Maoists for jointly fighting against the autocratic king once and for all now. So, they made a deal called 12-point understanding on November 22, 2005 to finish off the king and his dynasty forever. They launched a decisive street battle in April 2006. Soon, the rallies heated up on the streets of all towns and cities in Nepal. They got the unprecedented support of the people for demolishing the 237-year-old Shah dynasty that came crumbling down at the late night of April 24, 2006. The king lost the power but he is still keeping the palace and his huge assets including the industrial and business enterprises some inherited from his brother king Birendra and nephew posthumous king Dipendra both killed in the mysterious palace massacre.

On April 25, 2006, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal and President of the Nepali Congress – Democratic (NC-D), Sher Bahadur Deuba jointly proposed the name of Girija Prasad Koirala for the position of Prime Minister fifth time. In view of the unsuccessful past four terms of his Prime Minister, Nepalis skeptically accepted him as a Prime Minister once again thinking he might have been a changed man by that time as required by the people’s aspirations.

Obviously, Girija Prasad Koirala was not a changed man. He took some time before he publicly revealed his true nature once again. In his hometown called Biratnagar speaking to reporters gathered at his residence, Girija Prasad Koirala told reporters that he was for a ceremonial king. It hit the Nepalis as a bombshell. Nepalis were stunned. Students staged protests against it. They burnt Koirala in effigy. Some members of his NC party made public statements saying that the Koirala’s stance on the monarchy was his personal and it was not of the NC. Nepalis believed them. The anger at it cooled down.

However, Prime Minister Koirala has not given up his position on the monarchy. He went on repeating it once again while speaking to the reporters at his residence after the meeting with the representatives of the FNCCI in Kathmandu.

During the peace negotiation with the Maoists in the second week of October 2006, his position on a ceremonial king became the stance of the NC and became an obstacle to the peace process. Thus, Girija Prasad Koirala has successfully brought down the once-historical political party to a palace party or a royal party even overshadowing the political parties directly supporting the king. Those parties directly supporting the king even could not be stumbling blocks to the peace process as they were not the members of the SPA but the NC became. There is nothing left for us to do but to commiserate with Koirala and his cliques over leading the historically prestigious political party NC to a royal or palace party. This is not only unfortunate for the NC but for all the democracy-loving Nepalis.

*************

Write to Siddhi Ranjitkar at srilaxmi @ wlink.com.np, and visit his website; www.SiddhiRanjitkar.com for more articles on Nepal.

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