Fractured Peace, Imperious Govt., Bleeding Nation
Fractured Peace, Imperious Government, Bleeding Nation
Shashi P.B.B. Malla
There can be no doubt that in the political sphere, everything is very foul in the now nearly 'republican' state of Nepal. It is a state of lawlessness, where edicts are announced and decisions reached at the PM's quarters in Baluwatar and not from Singha Durbar, the various ministries, or even the 'supreme', still breathing House of Representatives. But everything is very nebulous and there is no sense of transparency. The power centres are very vague and no one really knows who really decide things - in a definitely autocratic manner. The movers and shakers are probably the PM's close relatives, friends - in any case a coterie deciding the nation's fate.
The Maoist leadership - as the flare up over the appointment of ambassadors showed - are also governing and administering (even though they still have not formally joined the government) - and applying the brakes where they deem necessary according to their own interests.
Everyone is talking about the 'all-powerful' prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala (aka Giprako), when in fact the 'Butcher of Madi' and Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Prachanda) is calling the shots. The government and the reigning power elites have had to backtrack regarding the appointments of 12 ambassadors - again under Maoist pressure.
On a daily basis we hear of momentous decisions reached after secret powwows between Koirala and the Supreme Leader Prachanda in Baluwatar. Thus, Maoist nominees will be appointed to four (forcefully vacated ?) diplomatic posts, as have the mainstream Communists (United-Marxists-Leninists/UML) already with five. This is supposed to be based on "simple arithmetic" as both Communists groupings will posses equal strength in the 'interim parliament'. The rest of the postings have been decided upon (or will be) by the two factions of the Nepali Congress (NC). This is bad governance and corrupt horse trading pure and simple.
The violation of basic human rights continue unabated. None other than the vice-president of the NC, Sushil Koirala has accused the Maoists of reneging on the peace pact: "The Maoists are continuing to threaten people and have not stopped extortion and other hostile activities."
They are also not letting VDC-secretaries, who are responsible for updating voters' lists for the constituent assembly (CA) polls to return to their villages. This is an obstruction of the democratic process. At this rate the CA-elections will be a farce. Not to be outdone, the comrades from the All Nepal National Free Students' Union (ANNFSU), the student union of the UML (a key constituent of the present government) have taken the law into their own hands and closed four universities, allegedly because the government was unable to decide on major appointments since June!). Now, it only remains for the Maoists to nationalize all private schools - of course, in the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity (all men are equal, but the Maoists are more equal than others!) - for the chaos in the educational sector to be complete.
In the economic sphere, these 'former' terrorists are also hampering reconstruction and development. All over the country, since the Jan Andolan II (people's mass movement) and the ushering in of the greatly vaunted Loktantra (total democracy), these 'true democrats and revolutionaries' are obstructing the proper functioning of the District Development Committees (DDC's) and Village Development Committees (VDC's). Soon the government will only be present in the capital city! The government is also a mute spectator to the antics of the All Nepal Hotel Workers Union (ANHWU) which has succeeded in closing hotels and restaurants in Pokhara indefinitely after its astronomical and unreasonable demands could not be met. This could be the death-knell for tourism in our country, which has been experiencing a rejuvenation since October.
The Maoist sympathizer, nay ally, Padma Ratna Tuladhar (prominent 'human rights activist' during the Royal regime), the so-called Chairman of the Newa Republic Front for Autonomy has even threatened to disrupt meetings of monarchist groups in the Valley. So much for freedom of speech and expression. He has also made the nonsensical statement that the Newars were "the most affected victims of the autocracy of the Shah Dynasty" and would, therefore, not tolerate the monarchy at any price. This dull-witted agitator doesn't realize that his and other exclusive ethnic organizations wedded to the Maoists are only encouraging fissiparous tendencies leading to national rupture, whereas the need of the hour is to promote 'unity in diversity' and Prithvi Narayan Shah's famous and beautiful dictum: 'a garden, where many flowers blossom.'
It's a huge joke when Giprako announces that political parties will be consulted before major decisions are made. The practice has been just the opposite. What we observe is governance by a clique and this is what Loktantra has been reduced to. Apparently the appointment of envoys was a minor matter! But we should not bitch; after all every country gets the government it deserves, and the Nepalese are a nation of sheep! That there is absolute mayhem at the top echelons of government is illustrated by the fact that the acting general-secretary of the UML has demanded that Koirala take the political parties (of course, restricted to the illustrious 7 parties of the 'alliance') into his confidence. The Koirala cabal insists in a belated disclaimer that Prachanda and UML-GS, Madhav Kumar Nepal (the three poles of power?) were indeed consulted. A Giprako-NC apparatchik has said that the envoys' appointment would only be finalized after a hearing of the appropriate parliamentary committee, and a Deuba-NC functionary maintains that the appointments should have been made only after the formation of the 'interim government'. A riot of confusion indeed!
This government (including the PM's close advisers and aides) seems impervious to critique; its 'highly-motivated political leaders' neither read newspapers nor books. Thus, there is a perceptible corrosion of support even among the warmest apologists of Loktantra. It is to be expected that they will finally pay the price for this negligence: "Men of power have no time to read; yet men of power who do not read are unfit for power" (British MP Michael Foot).
Many astute political commentators have compared the present government to the Rana regime, but they have erred on the side of leniency. One Rana PM after another looted the country, because they considered it their own fiefdom, but the current government which has no mandate whatsoever gives itself democratic airs. And the rubber-stamp 'parliament' endorses everything and the international community seems very gullible and is being taken for a grand ride. And the Ranas at least took meticulous care to preserve Nepal's territorial integrity and national independence. Our politicians are dancing to the Indian fiddle!
Thus, because of the inept, illogical, nepotistic and placating (towards the Maoists, that is) policies of a directionless government (7+1, or SPA+M), the country is going to the dogs and has become a playground of the great powers and other vested interests. The so-called 'interim constitution' has no basis in law-even the present 'parliament' had no hand in its drafting. And now to add insult to injury, an ostensible 'interim parliament' is to be constituted. This is like putting the cart before the horse. The democratic process would have first demanded elections to a constituent assembly, which would then have drafted a new basic law. This would have laid down the form of government and state. The new constitution would have to be approved by the people in an overwhelming majority in a referendum. The time interval leading up to the constituent assembly elections should be bridged by a government of national unity and reconciliation, not a hand-picked, 'exclusive' disparate one of only the SPAM. Under Maoist pressure, democratic norms have been thrown to the winds, and the country is on the verge of being rent asunder.