Nepal Today

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SAARC FOREIGN MINISTERS TO MEET JULY Kathmandu, 1 May: Maldives has proposed a ,meeting of SAARC meet of foreign ministers in Male in in the first week of July, sources at the headquarters in the Nepali capital said. The meeting of the eight-nation South Asian regional organization will discuss a proposed delayed summit of the body and regional issues. Nnnn EVEN AFTER SUPREME COURT VERDICT, PARTIES STILL DIVIDED OVER LOKMAN SINGH KARKI APPOINTMENT Kathmandu, 1 May: Former Chief Secretary Lokman Singh Karki ’s appointment to the top post of the anti-corruption watchdog is far from final despite a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that he faces no legal barriers to his appointment, Phanindra Dahal writes in The Kathmandu Post.. Leaders of major political parties have said they would hold cross-party talks in the new context before recommending Karki for the post of the chief commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). While top leaders of the UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress are firmly backing Karki, CPN-UML has said it would not accept the ‘corrupt and controversial figure’ for such a crucial appointment. UCPN (Maoist) spokesman Agni Sapkota said the party is yet to fix its position over the appointment of Karki as CIAA chief after the court’s ruling. “Our party chairman has just returned from his India visit today. Our party is in favour of further discussion between parties over the issue in the changed context,” he said. Nepali Congress Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel said his party would honour the apex court ruling, while taking a call on appointment at the CIAA. “Congress has always been honoring the verdict of the court. We will do what the court has said in this case,” said Poudel, cautiously avoiding any wordings that directly implies NC’s support to Karki’s appointment. CPN-UML leader Prakash Jwala said it would be ‘politically and legally’ incorrect to appoint Karki to the CIAA post. “We will not compromise against our firm opposition to his appointment just because the Supreme Court lifted its stay order. We are firm that the former bureaucrat who suppressed people’s movement in 2006 and is charged with corruption does not fit for such a respected post,” he added. On March 17, the High-level Political Committee headed by UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had recommended Karki’s name to the Chairman of the Interim Election Government Khil Raj Regmi for the top CIAA post. The Constitutional Council, a statutory body responsible for making recommendations to the constitutional body, did not entertain the request made by top leaders of UCPN (Maoist), NC, UML and the Madhesi Morcha after it was challenged at the Supreme Court. On April 16, UML’s politburo decided not to support Karki’s appointment to the anti-graft body. UML leader Jwala said his party leadership “would not accept Karki’s appointment at any cost.” Though the parties appear divided, a knowledgeable source told the Post that no one can now stop Karki from assuming the top CIAA position. “With the Supreme Court’s green signal, I think nobody can now stop his appointment,” the source said. Bimal Gautam, press advisor to the chairman of the interim election government, said the government is not in a mood to immediately make appointments to the constitutional bodies. “Currently we are totally concentrated on bringing the agitating parties in the election process. The government has not even thought about making new appointments to any of the constitutional bodies. nnnn INTERVIEWS Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal spoke to Post correspondent Mahesh Acharya about issues ranging from bilateral support to New Delhi’s perception towards his party before leaving for Kathmandu after completing his visit. The excerpts: How do you sum up your India visit? It was great. I believe this visit has helped create the atmosphere to realise the goals that I had when I arrived in India. Firstly, the objective of my trip was to create a new trust base with India. The second agenda on the list was to arrange the atmosphere for assistance and cooperation for the elections. The third and the final goal was to hold talks on economic growth and quantitative boost in bilateral support. As for the issue of building a new trust, I believe, I achieved more than I had expected. What exactly are you trying to envision when you say ‘building a new trust base with India’? We decided in our party’s general convention to emphasise on economic growth and move ahead accordingly. We must focus on progressive nationalism from now on. Blind nationalism and feudal nationalism are counterproductive to Nepal. The Rajas and Maharajas of the past fed this delusion of feudal nationalism, thereby making the people poor. What did you talk with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? Did he have any concerns? Firstly, he extended his congratulations on completion of Nepal’s peace process and the integration and rehabilitation of the combatants. He also said that it was a good thing the parties got together and formed an election government. I put before him the same things that I had said outside. That holding the elections is the main requirement at present and for that, we need support from every side. I told him that most importantly Nepal needs the support from India since the political process in Nepal right now had its genesis in New Delhi, where the 12-point agreement was signed. Our talks also touched on the subject of India’s security concern, to which I told him that this issue will be addressed once we have started moving towards the path of economic growth after there is a political stability in the country. He said that India will extend its support in this process. Were there any talks with the Indian Prime Minister on trilateral cooperation between Nepal, India and China? I did not raise the topic of trilateral cooperation, as the context on the issue never came up during our meeting. But, you had said in public that the topic was among your top discussion priorities. Why did you back off? I did not back off. I kept the subject of trilateral cooperation before the Indian people and intelligentsia. I did clearly mention the issue during my address at the Indian Council of World Affairs on Monday. Discussion on the matter also took place with the high-level officers in the Indian government like the National Security Advisor and the Foreign Secretary. The context to discuss three-way partnership, however, did not come up during my meeting with the Indian Prime Minister. We discussed many other issues. Were there any discussions on large-scale hydropower projects and development of Lumbini? I said to the Indian Prime Minister that there should be a special cooperation between Nepal and India for development of major hydropower project and Lumbini area. I also told him that it would be a good thing if we include China as well. It was not a discussion on trilateral cooperation per se, but it will eventually head towards the direction. How practical do you think it is to conceive the possibility of major projects in Nepal when the projects like Pancheshwar are moribund and when there is a heap of old problems at hand? We do need to reassess the old projects. At the same time, we also need to make a fresh start. In that vein, new and major projects are possible in Nepal. During your New Delhi stay, you said that Nepal and India should forge a new trust base and redefine the ties between the two nations according to the changed context. When you last visited India five years ago, you raised the subject of reviewing the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, but not this time. Does that mean the UCPN (Maoist) has changed its stance on the subject? There was a backlash when I brought up the issue last time. But if you closely listen to my address to the Indian Council of World Affairs, I have touched on the topic. I have mentioned that the history should be reassessed. Speaking about the 1950 treaty will be seen as provocation. So what I stressed was that we should redefine our ties befitting the conscience and awareness of the people of today’s Nepal and India. You stand among the senior leaders of Nepali politics at a time when the country is going through a transition. What do you think was the Indian understanding and perception regarding your role in guiding the country through the transition? I felt that I was invited more as a representative of my country than a chairman for some party. We are currently going through a transition and what we need is to ensure political stability in the country and press ahead with development works. The way I was treated and hosted during my stay here made me think that I was honoured as an emissary of Nepal. The honour was for Nepali people, not Prachanda of UCPN (Maoist). I believe that this will set a new relationship benchmark between Nepal and India. What is the take of India and the Indian Prime Minister on the new policy adopted by the party’s general convention? A. Learning from our experiences and weaknesses, the party’s general convention adopted a policy that was competitive and yet peaceable. We came up with a strategy for the country’s economic growth and prosperity. For that, we agreed on gathering the support from the neighbours. When I shared these things with the Indian Prime Minister, he said they were pragmatic and expressed his belief that it will help create a new relations. The same assurance had come from China. I think the pragmatic policy we adopted has started showing its effect. If we were to see what the Indian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and other leaders had to say, it is clear that India wishes for stability and development in Nepal. The Chinese side was worried about federalism. What was India’s reaction on the matter? China was concerned rather than worried about federalism in Nepal. It was a concern about how things would turn out. I did not find the Indian side were that concerned about federalism. India seems to take the issue positively. From my observation, I take it that India is okay with the track of discussion on federalism that we are having at the moment. Having concluded the visit of the two neighbouring nations with important influence over Nepal, are you hopeful that Nepal will have a speedy and successful transition? I am very much hopeful and excited after visiting the two neighbouring nations. I feel that I have a big responsibility to undertake after the two neighbours invited me and wished for stability and prosperity in Nepal. I made these visits for Nepali people and it should not be perceived with a biased judgment. There is no alternative to elections. Through the elections we should write a new constitution and propel the country towards economic progress. Nepal will reach a new level if we chart a roadmap and follow it for 10 years. The governments from both neighbouring nations and their leaders understand that their security concerns will not be addressed unless Nepal has prospered. We should utilise their goodwill for a better and larger cause of developing our country. Let us not waste this chance by fighting among ourselves. nnnn STATUS QUOISTS WINNING SAYS DEVENDRA RAJ PANDEY Former finance minister Devendra Raj Panday was among those considered by the political parties to lead a neutral government after former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai stepped down. A senior civil society leader who played a crucial role in the 2006 Janandolan, Panday has closely followed political developments since the signing of the 12-point agreement between the then Seven Party Alliance and the then CPN-Maoist. Panday spoke to the Post’s Dewan Rai about the prospects of elections and current political developments. Where are we now in this political transition? Confusion, uncertainty and the angst that followed the demise of the Constituent Assembly (CA) has made it difficult to assess the situation. We are back to square one, back to the days before the election to the last CA. Back then, we were worried about whether the elections would be held and whether the constitution would be written. Do you think the constitution will be written this time around? I am not sure but I cannot be pessimistic. Hope is the only option, especially for those of us who consider ourselves stakeholders in the constitution-writing process. People made sacrifices during various movements, whose culmination is the constitution. Why has civil society been silent in this protracted transition? Civil society is not monolithic nor is it silent; it is active. The question is, what section of civil society is active and what are their objectives and vision. During the Janaandolan, we were all together, even the political parties were together. Millions of people came together to the streets and surprised the world. But the situation changed ever since the reinstatement of the parliament. Civil society started to associate itself with the parties. How did civil society frament after the second Janaandolan? There are three types of people in civil society. First, there were those merely looking for a change in government, as Gyanendra’s autocracy was not acceptable to any freedom loving Nepali. Second, there were those who wanted not just a regime change but also a change in political structure. A reinstatement of the 1990 constitution was not enough for them; they wanted a republic. The third category believes that everything has remained the same, only the republicans have replaced the monarch. This third category, which I fall in, wants an end to the monolithic state and Kathmandu-centric government. We want the government to reach the public. We want the country to become common to all people in the federal republic. But isn’t it the right time for you to be more active? I would love to be active, just tell me how and who with. The media doesn’t seem to have given space to the third category of civil society. Civil society needs strong professional associations but we don’t have the same unity we had in the past anymore. Do you see this third category of people at the political level? Many of these agendas are there in political rhetoric but the political parties have not given attention to the third category since the establishment of the republic. The Maoists have been raising issues of decentralisation and devolution of power, at least in rhetoric. The Madhesis also have not given up on federalism. However, we don’t know the Maoists’ political plans and programmes. There is no question of supporting them when it comes to violence, war, a totalitarian regime or a Marxist-Leninist structure. But on the social, cultural and economic front, we can work together. How close are we to achieving the goals of the third category? Eventually, there will be no alternative to ending the monolithic state and going for a federal structure. Given their accountability towards the nation and their commitment to political legacy, the parties affiliated with the Seven Party Alliance have no alternative other than to follow this road. They need to decide where they stand politically in this critical stage, where intense struggles are taking place for social change. Who is this struggle with? At the moment, this is a struggle for social change between the status quoists and progressive forces, where the status quoists seem to be winning. This s not good for the country. All the aspirations, dreams and visions that the progressives captured will not come tru. Only those deaders who can internalise and lead on these issues can become statesmen of the country. The question is whether they want to do it. If this leadership fails, someone else will come up. In every party, there are young leaders who will take the lead one day. If the forces that are now winning keep winning, there could be a revolt. Why are the party leaderships oblivious to this reality? There is no doubt there are progressive forces in all parties. But like in civil society, status quoists and conservative forces are winning the battle. That’s why there is conflict within the parties. There needs to be a reconfiguration of political forces. The only thing the parties are guarding against is the opposition: the Maoists fear the bourgeois will win while the Nepali Congress fears the communists. This political strategy does not work. How hopeful are you that the goals of the third category will be achieved? The reason why we should be hopeful is that, in my experience, everyone wants to contribute to development according to their capacity. There is division in the country but what is the division about? Ethnic groups criticise the Chhetri-Bahuns but their politics is also problematic. Although Madhesi and ethnic groups seem to sometimes take extreme positions unnecessarily, at the end of the day, they are all fighting for this country and are demanding access to the state and resources and want to exercise power. Why has the political leadership not understood this? The political leaders do not interact. They have their own coterie and their own interests. We don’t want anybody to be derailed from the democratic path but the path needs to be widened to assimilate progressive agendas. But the parties don’t want to communicate with those who hold different opinions. They don’t have to agree with us but they do need to talk to us. All they want to talk about are the tactics to get power. What is your opinion of the bureaucratic government? We are in a situation where we cannot support the government but we cannot oppose it either. Because we need a constitution, we need to hold elections. The parties failed to do so themselves and brought in the wrong person. The irony of it all is that Khil Raj Regmi was instrumental in dissolving the last CA. Now, we are asking him to hold CA elections. If he considers what he did in the past to be a mistake and attempts to rectify it, that would be another matter. But if he doesn’t think he was mistaken, how can we be sure that he is actually interested in holding elections on time? If we look at this broadly, bureaucrats across the world are known for favouring the status quo. Still, we are in a situation where we need to trust these bureaucrats to guide us and bring change. This government doesn’t have to be loyal to the parties that brought it to power. In spite of all these contradictions, hopefully, they will move the process forward. Is there a guarantee that the second CA will write the constitution? The political parties did not even have drafts of the constitution in the first CA They know that they have already been discredited and are embarrassed to face the people. Secondly, they have to give the people something to hope for and the thing only they can give is the constitution. Like in the first CA, federalism will once again be the main agenda if it comes down to a contest between the Maoists-Madhesis and other forces. How do you perceive India and China’s concerns about federalism? They are both federal countries. It is natural that they will have their own interests. The type of state to be formed and the power centres to be created across the border area is their concern, which happens to also be the concern of some political and social strata in Nepal. This is where the political leadership has a role to play. They have to look at conflict points and interests. If they cannot address these issues then the elections will not be held. Finally, where do you see us headed? There are problems along the way but we are moving forward. Other countries also went through major problems during their revolutionary stages. Every nation finds its trajectory and we thought we found one in 2006 and after the 2008 CA elections. But we have deviated from that path. The country will need to take up that trajectory once again. nnnn


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