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Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: Illusion or Reality

Illusion or Reality

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

I could not believe what “Senior Leader of the CPN-Maoist, Dina Nath Sharma said that the CPN-Maoist have decided to collect all the remuneration of the Maoist members of the interim legislature, and the parliamentarian-mobilization cell of the CPN-Maoist would provide the lawmakers with necessary expense and facilities. The CPN-Maoist also decided that it would mobilize one cadre each to the lawmakers as a personal secretary rather than allowing them to select their personal secretary.”

Each lawmaker gets almost Rs.34, 000 per month including remuneration and other benefits. So, the total amount Dina Nath and his company collect would be Rs 34,000x83=Rs 2,822,000 for 83 CPN-Maoist lawmakers including the additional 10 members the CPN-Maoist received as a bonus from the 48 seats allocated to civil society and others but later on shared among the political parties.

I thought that the CPN-Maoist is going to make some of its cadres rich and later on even might make available a Japanese luxurious car called “Pajero” as did the CPN-UML and other political parties did during their heyday. In 1990s the newly elected members of parliament fresh from the underground political movement and hardly having enough to live like civilized persons and wearing only flip-flop overnight started wearing gray jackets and after sometime even riding “Pajero.” However, perhaps, this would not happen to the CPN-Maoist members of the interim legislature despite they already wore gray jackets as they would not have a chance to touch the money they receive as remuneration, but their sustenance would be taken care of by the CPN-Maoist.

Back in mid 1970s when I was working for a UNDP project in Nepal, I was surprised when my Russian counterpart and colleague told me that he needed to submit his UN thick pay-check in dollar to the then-USSR embassy in Kathmandu, then he would collect the salary in Rubles (USSR currency) and in the pay-scale set by the USSR government. He, however, was entitled to buy the subsidized-Russian hard and soft drinks and other food stuffs. This was a regimented regime, and failed badly after experimenting in USSR for 70 years. However, our CPN-Maoist comrades seem to repeat the same experiment although they have seen that the leaders of the country from where they borrowed the name “Mao” for Maoist have already discarded the failed-regimented system and have been on the regular track of human society. As a result, today the Chinese leaders have already created a number of billionaires, thousand of millionaires and a better-off middle class living at the standard the Nepalese people could only envy.

When the US Ambassador to Nepal, James Moriarty was repeatedly saying that the Government of Nepal should not let the CPN-Maoist join the government until they laid down the arms and become the regular political party renouncing violence I thought that the envoy has stepped out of the line of limit set by the civilized diplomatic society. I even wondered what the US government would do if the Nepalese Ambassador in Washington D.C. does the same thing what the US Ambassador has been doing in Kathmandu.

Now, I realized that the US envoy was really correct in repeatedly reminding not only Prime Minister and other influencing political leaders by meeting them again and again but also to the Nepalese people in general by his public statements even crossing the civilized diplomatic line of limit that shaking hands with the Maoists would not be in the interest of the country from the very beginning when the seven-party alliance (SPA) and the CPN-Maoist leaders were engaged in reaching understanding. The Prime Minister and political leaders have pretended that they agreed with the US diplomat and issued one statement after another saying that the Maoists were not involved in the People’s Movement in April 2006, and then said that they would not have a peace agreement, and then would not have an interim constitution and so on until the Maoists renounced violence. What Nepalis have seen is nothing has stopped the Maoists from fighting from wilderness to entering the glittering parliament hall.

The Maoists have neither given up violence nor have laid down the arms but everything has been going on as the Maoists wanted, and they are in the interim legislature and soon would be in the government too. However, the SPA could not bring the Maoists to the mainstream of democracy as the Maoists have shepherded their members of the interim parliament, and clearly indicated that they would follow the obsolete communist dogma rather than following on the democratic values and principles. The Maoists are not converted communists yet as has been the CPN-UML. So, the Maoists got everything whereas the SPA has lost almost everything. The time has come the SPA would not be able to run the administration without the Maoists’ backing.

I thought that all understandings reached between the CPN-Maoist and the SPA, have been based on the give-and-take principle. Obviously, it was not so. The SPA has been giving everything to the CPN-Maoist even letting the Maoists sit in the interim legislature, and feeding the Maoists’ combatants at the enormous cost to the taxpayers but at the same time letting them to collect taxes or voluntary donations as they liked to call.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala boasted that he has been fighting for democracy for sixty years. Perhaps, he meant that he would not let slip democracy out of his hands this time. It is hard to believe him. He might be right saying he has been fighting for democracy but he did not say that he has been doing so without the concern for the welfare of the ordinary Nepalese people. He has not been sensitive to the people’s need. Once, he gets into power he forgets everything and everybody. So, the history has already shown the five-term Prime Minister has brought nothing but chaos and left behind chaos too. For example, he almost broke up the chain of command in the bureaucracy firing most of the experienced senior bureaucrats and then hiring his own supporters most of them holding fake certificates in early 1990s and letting his daughter to interfere in the administration. Then he broke up the Kathmandu-Bhaktapur trolley-bus services and left Nepalese Airlines Corporation in shambles. Currently, he is trying to do the same thing to the Nepal Drinking Water Service Corporation.

The so-called democratic parties have been inept. Girija Prasad Koirala was thought to be a strong personality and would do whatever he thought was correct not worrying about the public opinions and concerns. Even though he was doing so today too but he was sandwiched between the CPN-Maoist and the monarchy. He wanted to preserve the monarchy and at the same time to bring the CPN-Maoist under the democratic umbrella. He failed in both. He looked very weak every time he faced the CPN-Maoist supreme Prachanda, and capitulated to Prachanda even though he regretted it next day. None of the SPA leaders could stand up to Prachanda not to mention about bringing him to the democratic fold. Now, Prachanda is not only the supreme of his own party but soon would be the supreme of all.

Most of the democracy-loving people simply hated Girija Prasad Koirala when he said that he was for a ceremonial monarchy at a time when Nepalese people were still fresh in their mind what the king had done to them. He again repeated the need of the monarchy for the country. He has been working for preserving the monarchy going against his own party as majority of the party members are for a republic, only a small circle of party members supports him. He spent most of the time and energy on thinking how to save the monarchy rather than on solving the national problems. He successfully dictated the interim constitution deleting or not including the federal system, and not giving autonomy to the ethnic communities. He did not believe that the ethnic communities as a whole is a force but he still believes the king is a force to reckon with even when the king was totally stripped of his power and even assets.

The main drawback of the SPA is it could not bring any drastic changes in the governance in 1990s when they were in power, and now they are back to power again for more than nine months but they could not bring changes in governance. The corrupt politicians are still having a say in their respective parties. Ministers continue to seek rents for their decisions. The bureaucracy is as corrupt as used to be. Nepalese people have to pay under the table for buying and selling their property even today. Sincere Nepalis are harassed by the government officials at the Tax Office, Customs Office, and other state-run utility-providing offices. The Tatopani Customs Officials and traders jointly went on strike protesting against the actions taken by the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on Jan 12, 2007 and returned to work only on Jan 23, 2007, but the SPA-backed government did not fire those government officials and did not take actions against the wrong-doing traders. The SPA might take the credit for stripping the king of his power, and denying him to enjoy his inherited assets. The question is whether these things have made any difference to the Nepalese people when the government runs the administration as usual.

Not only were the common Nepalis fed-up with the SPA but also its members because it did not bring any changes in the governance except for changing the political parties themselves. So, most of the sincere members of the CPN-UML have started drifting to the CPN-Maoist. Even the Nepal workers’ and Peasants’ Party (NWPP) has been facing difficulty in keeping its monopoly of influence on the people of Bhaktapur where the CPN-Maoist has started on influencing the Bhaktapurians and drawing the members of NWPP. Gradually, the CPN-UML is transforming into the Nepali Congress (NC) whereas the NC into the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). The CPN-Maoist might soon transform into the CPN-UML thus making every business as usual.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala should stop all sorts of intrigues to save the monarchy if the Prime Minister wants to save his party taking the place of RPP. CPN-UML leaders such as Bam Dev Gautam, Jhala Nath Khanal, Pradip Nepal and some time even Madhav Kumar Nepal should stop talking all sorts of political nonsense if they really want to keep the identify of their party as a serious political party committed to democracy and good governance. Recently, their statements have not carried much weight and most of the seriously thinking Nepalese people have stopped believing in what they say. The CPN-Maoist instead of working for the people has been compromising with the SPA on everything for only getting into power ignoring the Nepalese people’s demand for federalization of Nepal. They should not forget that none of the political parties could run the country peacefully without meeting the demands of the ethnic communities. So, the SPA and the CPN-Maoist deleting the provision for the autonomy of the ethnic areas from the Interim Constitution and denying them the proportional representation in the to-be-elected Constituent Assembly have committed a grave mistake of which the consequences they have been suffering in terai areas as some factions of the Madhesi communities with the backup support of the king’s people have been continuing the violent protests.

The CPN-Maoist’s main asset has been the changes it has brought in the rural areas. It rightly or wrongly ruthlessly ruled, punished the wrong doers and brought the culprits to justice then-and-there by the mobile people’s court. However, its main weakness is the imposition of the dictatorship and violence resulting from it. They should know that we are for democracy and immediate changes in administration and then in our lives. So, they should have respect for human rights, freedom of press, independent judiciary and for an elected parliament. To this end, they need to be converted communists rather than orthodox, and bring immediate changes as we desired. One thing I would like to remind all political parties is that none of the political parties would be able to run the country without giving autonomy to the ethnic communities. This is the reality the Nepalese politicians should take into account.

The ethnic communities should put forward the demand for their autonomy no doubt about it but in doing so all the ethnic communities should go together rather than one ethic community after another going individually for achieving their goal of getting their demand met. They should do it peacefully and should not let in their peaceful rallies other people with their vested interest. They should refrain from violence that would weaken the peaceful movement, and would give opportunities to the extremists to rise.

Currently, we are in between the two extremists: one on the right is the king and his supporters and another on the left is the Maoists and their militia. Both of them could take benefits from the ongoing violence in the terai region. Organizers of the rallies should take into consideration of such possibilities and should not do anything that would give the royalists and the Maoists the chance of taking the country to regression. They should work very hard for getting autonomy to the ethnic communities and for getting proportional representation in the Constitution Assembly.

The ethnic communities also should fight for getting at least one of their remarkable and outstanding personalities on the Nepalese coins and banknotes, not another princess Bhrikuti as proposed by the Nepal Rastra Bank. Buddha images on the coins and banknotes should be universally acceptable; for other images to be on the coins and banknotes, the ethnic communities should also have a say. The Government of Nepal also should consult the ethnic communities about this matter, and ask the ethnic communities to come up with their outstanding personalities to be included on the coins and banknotes of Nepal.


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