Nepal Today

Thursday, April 28, 2011



Kathmandu, 28 April: Prime Minster Jhalanath Khanal Thursday suggested the tenure of the constituent assembly (CA) whose second extended mandate ends 28 May by extended by at least four months.
The tenure will again be missed and major political players are showing no regrets.
The premier, who is also UML chairman, argued the extension was needed to complete the delayed peace process and constitution drafting.
He said this while inaugurating a general convention of a teari-body affiliated with the party in Janakpur.
But main opposition NC President Sushil Koirala told Khanal Thursday he and his party were against tenure extension under the present circumstance.
Khanal earlier said the CA tenure should be extended indefinitely until the assembly drafts a constitution to institutionalize a declared republic.
Parties have floated ideas without adopting formal official positions.



Kathmandu, 28 April: In the regional power play, Prime Minister Jhal Nath Khanal’s coalition government has been rudely tossed onto the defensive. The new government formed in early February, according to a section of the Maoists, was the culmination of Nepali genius, Maila Baje writes in Nepali Netbook..
The claim gained wider resonance as the not-quite-secret seven-point accord underpinning the new coalition was reached during President Ram Baran Yadav’s visit to India ostensibly for consultations on breaking the deepening deadlock following Madhav Kumar Nepal’s resignation as premier.
Whether or how deeply the Chinese were involved in building the new alliance is hard to fathom. The most Beijing would publicly assert was the urgency of unifying all patriotic forces to strengthen Nepali sovereignty and territorial integrity. The elasticity of that assertion, Maila Baje feels, served China’s characteristic pragmatism. But the Maoists and, to a lesser degree, the CPN-UML, sought to profit from the perception of a new northern tilt.
So when a new minister of state representing one of the indigenous and marginalized communities our new Nepal was supposed to have advanced turned out to be an alleged confidant of the Dalai Lama, triumphalism collapsed with a raucous thud.
Minister of State for Finance Lharkyal Lama resigned amid allegations that he carried passports of both Nepal and India, apart from a Tibetan refugee ID card. A UML lawmaker from Sindhupalchowk district, nominated under the proportional electoral system, Lama was also accused of involvement in Free Tibet activities in violation of Nepal’s longstanding one-China policy.
While he termed the allegations as ‘imaginary and baseless’, Lama said he had chosen to resign to facilitate the government’s investigation into the charges. But the move seemed to have come after much personal resistance.
The controversy left Khanal with a putrid egg on the face. How lax could the vetting process have been. That, too, on something he would have been expected to exercise particular prudence. Khanal had hardly endeared himself to the mandarins up north when, somewhere on Chinese soil, he took a call from India’s powerful minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and cut short his visit to return home and criticize then-premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s decision to sack the army chief.
The demolition ball this time hit Dahal hard, too. Or maybe he anticipated – if not quite engineered – something like this. The Maoist chief has now veered to the peace camp led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. While hardliners like Mohan Baidya will continue to persist in the urgency of a people’s revolt, Dahal has craftily positioned himself for the post-May 28 situation.
Although visiting Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna reportedly gave Dahal an earful about the former rebels’ waywardness vis-à-vis the south, there are indications that New Delhi may be ready to meet Dahal at least quarter of the way.
No longer able to shun him, New Delhi has presented Dahal with blandishments. If he signed the dotted line – on, say, the extradition treaty, allowing Indian security personnel to man sensitive areas, etc – New Delhi could be sympathetic to the Maoist chief’s return as prime minister.
From his subsequent public comments, Dahal does not seem to have been entirely impressed. What he will do on the China front is anyone’s guess. Maybe – just maybe – he might clear the way for Dr. Bhattarai gain the premiership and implement his grand geopolitical vision. Dahal could then just as easily swing back to the Baidya camp to restore the regional equilibrium, regardless of how the Lharkyal Lama episode plays out.


Kathmandu, 28 April: People are known by the company they keep or endorse. Binod Gyawali and his two broadsheets appear to know be aware of the meaning of this adage. His publishing house tried to prop up the names of Ram Prasad Shrestha and former Finance Secretary Rameshwar Khanal, who both have just retired, Trikal Vastavik writes in People’s Review..

Nepali "Nagarik" of the "Republic" took the initiatives of offering special recognition to the two retirees on the occasion of the "Republic" day. Gyawali is interested in money. Two years ago, he prompted his father Hem Raj to pull out from Kantipur publications, the country's "largest" publishing house. The split is said to have earned the Gyawalis about Rs 750 million.

In two years time since the Gyawali broke away from Kailash Shirohiya, a lot has changed. There have been breakups and heartbreaks in the rival business groups. Shirohiya is prepared to lose double of what the Gyawalis lose. His strategy is to squeeze out "Nagarik" and "Republica" where pro-Congress sympathies are said to be dominant.

Today, with the senior Gyawali, having retired or made to retire, now out of the scene, the junior Gyawali has the reins. But the emperor of the republican publications is finding his coffers shrinking fast. He has burnt up half of what Sirohiya had paid his father as the "golden handshake".

With such losses caused by lack of foresight and no prospect of outrunning Kantipur publications in circulation and outpacing them in revenue collections, the Gyawali strategy seems to be engagement in gimmicks with the objective of public attention. This might, or might not help the Gyawali and his publications. But being associated with such publicity stunts will not help former Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha who is supposed to be after spiritualism and complete retired life. A number of Shrestha's decisions as the chief justice had created a positive stir, sending shock waves down the spines of the corrupt, of the past scandals or ongoing ones.

As for Khanal, just because he retired a year or two earlier than his normal term does not equate him with Shrestha. Khanal is not the only person who resigned from office in Nepal's history. In that case, one could place former Chief Election Commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel at a high level; for he left his job mid-way to pursue "higher studies" etc. He tries to open his mouth and yet closes it. Some of his friends among pro-Congress journalists might try to spin stories with any story. Khanal is selective and secretive even when he calls for "transparency". His wife's tale of success, thanks to brokerage also involving state-owned corporations, resulting in crores of rupees makes an interesting story.

Moreover, for Shrestha and Khanal to be associated with publicity stunts launched by groups with commercial interests will not enhance their credibility, especially when they are trying to project themselves as motivated by nothing but social welfare and public good.

Ironically, there are persistent allegations against the senior Gyawali who was a senior civil servant with lucrative postings, including customs office, during the Panchayat days. At the height of Gyawali-Shirohiya dispute, quite a few editorial staffs at the not yet split Kantipur House were an audience when the issue of a questionable bank account in Singapore was raised and one of the disputants admitted "error" and apologized.

One recalls how a lecturer at Pashupati Campus said a few years ago during the "united" Kantipur Publications days when the government-owned Gorkhapatra Corporation paid substantially more taxes to the government than did the country's "first private sector broadsheet papers" that boasted of the widest circulation and whose pages boomed with a splash of ad. Khanal is apparently unaware of all this.

In a league similar to the above one is the situation concerning President Ram Baran Yadav who chose to handpick his advisers with out-and-out pro-Nepali Congress background.

Surya Dhungel, legal advisor, might go on speaking and writing against the extension of the Constituent Assembly. He was against the extension last year too. When the CA members gave themselves an extension, Dhungel was found empty of stance. Instead of resigning as presidential advisor he decided to keep the post. It was his freedom to stay on as long as the boss did not dismiss him. In a court of law, he would wear a black coat to submit the argument to the hon'ble bench. But his ethics? Down the drain.

Yadav's media advisor Rajendra Dahal, a Sanskrit Madhyama of the free Sanskrit hostel, once went around as a "water resources" expert of a journalist. His writings on the Arun III hydropower project need to be recalled for what his expertise really was in. I cannot prove to the court of law whether he is pro-Maoist or a pro-UML or any other party, including, of course, the Nepali Congress. But NC leaders admit that he time and again served as a member of NC publicity committee during general elections. It would make his image proud if the former chairman of Nepal Press Council Nepal publicly denied serving NC in the past or the present.

Political advisor Hari Sharma, till last heard of, a novice lecturer of political science, is associated with an NGO with specially American funding that has also assembled people like Sushil Pyakurel, former member of National Human Rights Commission, and considered to be UML associate. Pyakurel's views on Ganesh Man Singh, who led the 1990 movement for multiparty system, are such that Pyakurel might like them to be buried beyond the reach of fact and history. But then Hari Sharma, who served as PA to the late Girija Prasad Koirala, might not find Pyakurel's attitude toward the late Singh a problem.

There are serious questions raised over the links with foreign funds and the NGOs that some of President Yadav's advisors are associated with. Yadav is charged by his critics in NC as taking Janakpur as his fiefdom for family politics. Shital Niwas pretends to show a "busy" president meeting with political leaders and "expressing serious concern" over absence of peace and delay in constitution making process. His advisors get busy in showing how pained their boss is over the multifarious problems. Would the president have been equally enthusiastic to leak or break such non-stories if, say, Girija Prasad Koirala was the prime minister?


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