Nepal Today

Friday, June 21, 2013

OPINION LET THE FUN LAST A BIT LONGER Kathmandu, 21 June: Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai describes western powers and their pliant non-government organizations as the biggest obstacle to fresh elections. His boss, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, holds the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and the breakaway Maoist faction responsible for pretty much the same offense, Maila Baje writes in People’s Review. Collectively, constituents of our political class take turns each day chastising Interim Election Council Chairman Khil Raj Regmi for failing to even set an election schedule. Regmi, for his part, points to the parties’ stalling tactics. Civil society leaders are mad at everyone. Their principal gripe, though, is a little weird: seven years after entering the mainstream, the Maoists are still behaving like the Maoists. But, then, what good is the grievance industry without grievances? In the midst of this quite enjoyable mêlée, the Americans were stung the deepest by Dr. Bhattarai’s censure. Ambassador Peter Bodde, according to published reports, rebuked Dr. Bhattarai, but apparently not to his face. The ambassador chose to vent his ire during a meeting with Dahal (who, Maila Baje might add, must have relished every string of words the ambassador managed to construct). Bodde has been insisting that elections are the only way forward for Nepal. It’s easy to say so when you’re representing a government that has – we now know – a prism to snoop on your own people – supporters and opponents alike – 27/4. Nepalis just want to be sure we don’t trip on the same stone twice without some redeeming purpose. Dr. Bhattarai, too, agrees that elections need to be held at the earliest. In a sense, he can claim that he had resigned precisely in that expectation. But he prefers these days to insist that the Chinese and Indians both want us heading to the ballot boxes as soon as possible. It’s easy to understand how badly our northern and southern friends want our western ones out. (When it comes to the eastern ones – the Japanese and Australians, in particular – the north-south convergence tends to get fuzzier, though.) However, is neighborly concern for their own geo-strategic well-being good enough reason for Nepalis to keep proving how committed we are to the exercise of our inalienable democratic rights? If the Chinese are so enamored of the people’s verdict, how come they don’t like to test it on their turf? The Indians, too, marvel at the opportunity available in Nepal for widening the political mainstream. Yet their own Maoists find it so hard to make themselves heard through anything less baleful than bombs and bullets. Deep down, the federalism debate is said to be scaring our neighbors the most, and animating those farther afield. Whether or how Nepal needs to be federalized is something we should be allowed to settle internally. If our neighbors and friends have a problem with this notion of self-determination, then maybe we should quit feeling helpless and start using it to our advantage. If we can turn any pulsating peril of deeper instability around to something that ends up saving us, that shouldn’t be castigated as extortion. The Chinese and Indians, after all, find that trade-off perfectly fine when it comes to the North Koreans and the Iranians, respectively. For now, we’re kind of enjoying the touch and tenor of the blame game. Let’s not interrupt the players. nnnn MIRAGE ON RECONCILIATION Kathmandu, 21 June: In the 17 years since the Maoists hurriedly submitted a 40-point demand to the Sher Bahadur Deuba government and hardly waited for their own deadline to complete its full course to go ahead with its “people’s revolution, more than 16,000 lives were lost, trillions of rupees worth of destruction occurred and deep-rooted setbacks in development activities were the results, Trikal Vastavik writes in People’s Review.. The mere declaration of the country as a secular, federal republican state has meant nothing more than empty promises that “240 years of suppression” would end, heralding a “new Nepal” where life would be bliss. The three million Nepali youth overseas and about two million others in neighboring India stand testimony to what sort of development has taken place in the name of the so-called achievements. In a country so overwhelmingly supported by remittance from the youth labor that sweat and toil in West Asia, South-East Asia and other parts of the world, the exodus of the young population is an indicator of the current economic state and that that of the next decade. The more talented and skilled flock to Western destinations. Imbecile talk advising to “be positive and not negative” is asking to indulge in uncritical acceptance of things and be removed from reality. What’s the solution then? As long as the current crop of syndicate-politicians is at the helm of the state affairs, the harsh fact is that a whole generation is in for years far worse than the pre-2006 period. Law and order has been the order of the eighth year. Instability is stably holding its stranglehold on the helpless people. Secularism is confined to proselytizing by missionaries on the sheer strength of money bags flowing from mainly Europe. Prosperity and equality are promised but not delivered with the required drive and discipline. Party loyalty and sectarian slogan have become meritocracy. All new jobs in institutions run by public money are allocated to “loyalists” on temporary or contractual basis. Unsurprisingly, the temporary employees eventually become permanent, thanks to the unions of employees that are committed to look after the welfare of their ideological members affiliated to one party or the other. In industrial and commercial establishments, too, the virus of political loyalty has vitiated the work place. Political pressure in recruitment of staffs is rampant. Labor unions affiliated with political parties exercise their own pressure to recruit their nominees. A leading hotelier told this author sometime back that for each new staff recruited by the management, the union demanded that it be matched by the union’s own nominee. That being the situation, the vast majority of others, however qualified they might be, are second class citizens drowned in anguished silence or suppressed voices in the absence of no effective forum to voice the injustice they suffer. Who channelizes their suppressed feelings and sufferings in what way and for what purpose is the grave question. So when careerists in the garb of NGO activists and other incarnations of civil society leaders cry hoarse about truth commission and all such rhetoric, the ploy sounds self-serving. If nominees get recognized only for party affiliation more than independence, competence and proven integrity, the whole exercise is guaranteed to lose credibility. Investigations and other procedures get seen as politically biased and professionally prejudiced. Against such background, the question of reconciliation getting addressed with the cooperation from all sides is certain to be most uncertain for all practical purpose. In the absence of sincerity, sense and sensibility in the politicians who are ruling the roost and resort to shameless and shocking series of political malpractice and misuse of power for so long, it would be foolhardy for the masses to reconcile to the need to forgive the past. Suppressing people to silence is one thing; convincing them for genuine reconciliation is another. Among the “senior political leaders,” whose kith and kin was a victim during the decade-long war? Sushil Koirala’s or Jhala Nath Khanal’s? Ram Baran Yadav’s or Khil Raj Regmi’s? Hisila Yami”s or Sujata Koirala’s? Baburam Bhattarai’s or Sher Bahadur Deuba’s? Madhav Kumar Those with the burden of having to bear the pain and anguish caused by tragedies want justice and perhaps reconciliation out of conviction rather than under any shade of duress. Cosmetic work of reconciliation will leave deep wounds that do not heal with continued festering feelings. It may be fashionable to cite and quote the South African experience. In fact, it is the lone exception of any reckoning. But then Nelson Mandela is also an exception. Would the very countries that promote the South African example agree to apply the same in their own countries or in countries where they have been deeply involved in war? These are times of persistent rejections employed by political groups of all strands. Without correcting the situation, the times of tranquility get inordinately delayed and tormenting tides keep on hitting at society. Those in power or exercising big clout are too inflexible against the weak and too flexible in bending backwards when confronted by stronger forces or the more muscled or moneyed. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, at a Baridiya rally in April, said CPN (UML) as a party did not exist. A few days later, when confronted by an avalanche of criticisms, he characteristically said that he did not mean to say what was attributed to him. Dahal and his entourage had hired a private company aircraft to ferry them to mid-western region. Who in the Nepal can hire a helicopter a party’s expense, a party claiming to speak for the proletariat of the world’s list of poorest countries? UML’s K.P. Oli in Butwal, on the day Dahal ridiculed the former’s party, declared that UCPN (Maoist) was communist party only in name. Oli’s party comrade Madhav Kumar Nepal was also quick to hit back at Dahal at various forums. Dahal’s deputy Baburam Bhattarai was reported to have dismissed the 33 opposition parties as complete non-entities. “Who are they? I don’t know them?” a newspaper report quoted him saying at a Banepa program. The culture of denigration, public ridicule, expulsions and isolation is a blot hard to be blotted off. Many pertinent issues are forcibly buried under the weight of the four-party syndicate consisting of UCPN (Maoist), NC, CPN (UML) and Madhesi Morcha. When so much hate is hawked so regularly against competitors, free thinkers and those holding opposing views, expecting a reconciliation of a sound and proper nature at this particular juncture sounds highly doubtful. For some it could be a cruel joke. NNNN


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