Nepal Today

Friday, June 14, 2013

SUSHUL KOIRALA CONDITION NORMAL AFTER CHECK-UP FOR CANCER Kathmandu, 15 June: NC President Sushil Koirala Tuesday underwent a health check-up at the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital. The check-up was conducted by a team which included Dr.Anjani Kumar Sharma, ‘His condition is normal after a regular check-up<” Annapurna Post quoted Chief of Surgical Oncology Department Dr. Pakash Ran Neupane as saying. . Koirala has undergone treatment for tongue cancer several years ago in New York. nnnn NEPALI AMBASSADOR URGES DEPORTATION OF HER COUNTRY FOLKS Kathmandu, 15 June: Nepali Ambassador to Qatar Maya Kumari Sharma has requested the Qatari government to deport a Nepali migrant worker who allegedly published an article critical of her, a confidential document made available to the Post has revealed. Sharma, who invited controversy for describing Qatar as an open jail a few months ago, sent a written request to the Qatari authorities on May 1 to immediately arrest and deport Dipendra (Dipak) Bhetwal of Chitwan. In the letter, the embassy has accused Bhetwal of defaming the ambassador and provoking wage-deprived workers to start protests through his article written in an online news portal. “He (Bhetwal) wrote an article against the embassy of Nepal in Doha, criticising the personality of HE the ambassador. In the same article, he is encouraging workers to strike against their companies in case of non-payment of salaries and that if no action is taken, they can commit suicide by setting themselves on fire,” reads the embassy’s letter addressed to the Consular Affairs Department of the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The embassy dispatched the letter under the registration number 069/70/1669. The letter has further urged the department to instruct authorities concerned to detain and deport Bhetwal to Nepal as early as possible. It has also requested the Consular Affairs Department to inform the embassy about the time and date of his departure to Nepal. “The embassy will communicate to the authorities concerned in Nepal to arrest and take action against him,” the letter says. But the embassy has not informed the government and the Nepali Ministry of Foreign Affairs of its move against Bhetwal.Bhetwal has been working as a manager in a Qatari company. The ambassador’s letter came to light after the Qatari government summoned him. The Qatari Investigation and Monioring Depart-ment summoned Bhetwal subsequently after his return from an official errand to China a month ago. “I had returned from China on Friday. On Sunday, the officials informed me about embassy’s request for deportation and asked me to bring my passport and a plane ticket,” Bhetwal told the Post. “I was released after a public relations officer of my company intervened. I was asked to present myself on Monday,” said Bhetwal. Ambassador Sharma, however, denied sending any such letter. “He himself went to the police for repentance. I have not written any letter against him. You can inquire about it with the one who got the information,” she said. On the behest of the civil society and Non-Resident Nepalis in Qatar, Chief Secretary Lilamani Poudel instructed secretary at the Foreign Ministry, Durga Bhattarai, to immediately stop Sharma, claiming that the move was against the welfare of the public. Bhattarai subsequently instructed Sharma to promptly withdraw her move. Nepali workers in Qatar have called such activities as misuse of authority from a person holding an influential position. nnnn NEW BEGINNING FOR STALLED MELAMCHI Kathmandu, 15 June: The Melamchi Drinking Water Project (MDWP) is back in business with the government selecting contractors to build a water treatment plant at Sundarijal and resume work on the project’s incomplete tunnel, Ashok Thapa writes in The Kathmandu Post.. On Friday, the government awarded the contract to build the water treatment plant at Sundarijal to VA Tech Wabag Limited-Pratibha lndustries. Similarly, CMC Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna has been contracted to build the tunnel. Work on the tunnel had been halted since the government terminated the agreement with the contractor China Railway Bureau 15. Following repeated deferrals of the contract deadline, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) wrote to the government on Friday endorsing VA Tech Wabag Limited-Pratibha lndustries, an Indo-French joint venture, to build the water treatment facility. The firm had quoted a price of Rs 4.75 billion. JICA is the major bankroller of the plant. Originally, the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board (MWSDB), the project’s implementing agency, had chosen CWE China from among three short-listed firms to construct the water treatment plant after doing a technical and financial evaluation. “We later found out that some of the information provided by CWE was fake, due to which VA Tech has been chosen as the contractor,” said a high-level board official. CWE China had proposed to construct the treatment plant for Rs 4.69 billion, the lowest bid. Hitachi Technology of Japan had quoted the highest bid of Rs 5.53 billion. The board had invited bids for construction of the water treatment plant on April 25, 2012. Meanwhile, MWSDB Director General Krishna Prashad Acharya said Italian firm CMC Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna had been awarded the contract as it had been approved by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), one of the project’s major financers, on Thursday. Earlier on May 28, the ADB had shortlisted two bidders for final evaluation, the Italian firm and China’s Sino Hydro Corporation. Four firms, including China International Water and Electric Corporation and China Overseas Engineering Group, had been competing for the contract. The Italian company has quoted Rs 7.72 billion, some Rs 3 billion less than Sino Hydro’s price. On June 7, the MWSDB decided to award the construction work to CMC after doing a financial evaluation of the two short-listed firms, and sent the name to the ADB for final endorsement. Earlier on Dec 1, 2012, the government had floated a fresh tender for the headworks and diversion tunnel construction after the previous contractor, China Railway 15 Bureau Group, abandoned the project midway in September last year. MWSDB Deputy Director General, Ghanashyam Bhattarai said all the competing firms had been informed about the board’s decision on Friday. He added that the successful contractors were required to deposit a performance security bond amounting to 10 percent of the total contract amount within 28 days. “Once they deposit the security amount, formal contracts will be signed with them in the next few days,” he added. As per the bid document, the contractor of the water treatment plant has to complete construction within 27 months of being mobilized at the project site. “The time will start from the day the contractor enters the project site,” said Bhattarai. However, the contractor of the tunnel has to finish construction within 36 months of the signing of the contract. The MWSDB said the Melamchi Project is expected to be completed fully by June-July 2016 as per the new schedule. nnnn ROWHANI LEADS IRAN ELECTIONS Kathmandu, 15 June:: Iran's reformist-backed presidential candidate surged to a wide lead in early vote counting Saturday, a top official said, suggesting a flurry of late support could have swayed a race that once appeared solidly in the hands of Tehran's ruling clerics, AP reports from Tehran.. But the strong margin for former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani was not yet enough to give him an outright victory and avoid a two-person runoff next Friday. Rowhani had about 45.8 percent of the more than 1.8 million votes tallied, said Solat Mortazavi, head of the interior ministry's election department, well ahead of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf with about 17.6 percent. Hardline nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was third with about 14.1 percent. It was unclear when the final count would be known. Iran has more than 50 million eligible voters, and turnout in Friday's election was believed to be high. Many reform-minded Iranians who have faced years of crackdowns looked to Rowhani's rising fortunes as a chance to claw back a bit of ground. While Iran's presidential elections offer a window into the political pecking orders and security grip inside the country — particularly since the chaos from a disputed outcome in 2009 — they lack the drama of truly high stakes as the country's ruling clerics and their military guardians remain the ultimate powers. Election officials began the ballot count after voters waited on line for hours in wilting heat at some polling stations in downtown Tehran and other cities, while others cast ballots across the vast country from desert outposts to Gulf seaports and nomad pastures. Voting was extended by five hours to meet demand, but also as possible political stagecraft to showcase the participation. The apparent strong turnout — estimated at 75 percent by the hardline newspaper Kayhan — suggested liberals and others abandoned a planned boycott as the election was transformed into a showdown across the Islamic Republic's political divide. On one side were hard-liners looking to cement their control behind candidates such as Jalili, who says he is "100 percent" against detente with Iran's foes, or Qalibaf. Opposing them were reformists and others rallying behind the "purple wave" campaign of Rowhani, the lone relative moderate left in the race. Mortazavi said Rowhani had more than 834,000 votes from the 1,819,984 counted so far. Qalibaf trailed with more than 320,000, and Jalili had more than 257,000. The other three candidates were further back. But even if the last-moment surge around Rowhani brings him to the presidency, it would be more of a limited victory than a deep shake-up. Iran's establishment — a tight alliance of the ruling clerics and the ultra-powerful Revolutionary Guard — still holds all the effective power and sets the agenda on all major decisions such as Iran's nuclear program and its dealings with the West. Security forces also are in firm control after waves of arrests and relentless pressures since the last presidential election in 2009, which unleashed massive protests over claims the outcome was rigged to keep the combative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power for a second and final term. He is barred from seeking a third consecutive run. The greater comfort level by the theocracy and Revolutionary Guard sets a different tone this time. Opposition groups appear too intimidated and fragmented to revive street demonstrations, and even a win by Rowhani — the only cleric in the race — would not likely be perceived as a threat to the ruling structure. Rowhani led the influential Supreme National Security Council and was given the highly sensitive nuclear envoy role in 2003, a year after Iran's 20-year-old atomic program was revealed. "Rowhani is not an outsider and any gains by him do not mean the system is weak or that there are serious cracks," said Rasool Nafisi, an Iranian affairs analyst at Strayer University in Virginia. "The ruling system has made sure that no one on the ballot is going to shake things up." Yet a Rowhani victory would not be entirely without significance either. It would make room for more moderate voices in Iranian political dialogue and display their resilience. It also would bring onto the world stage an Iranian president who has publicly endorsed more outreach rather than bombast toward the West. The last campaign events for Rowhani carried chants that had been bottled up for years. Some supporters called for the release of political prisoners including opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, both candidates in 2009 and now under house arrest. "Long live reforms," some cried at Rowhani's last rally. The rally was awash in purple banners and scarves — the campaign's signature hue in a nod to the single-color identity of Mousavi's now-crushed Green Movement. "My mother and I both voted for Rowhani," said Saeed Joorabchi, a university student in geography, after casting ballots at a mosque in west Tehran. In the Persian Gulf city of Bandar Abbas, local journalist Ali Reza Khorshidzadeh said many polling stations had significant lines and many voters appeared to back Rowhani. Just a week ago, Rowhani was seen as overshadowed by candidates with far deeper ties to the current power structure: Jalili and Qalibaf, who was boosted by a reputation as a steady hand for Iran's sanctions-wracked economy. Then a moderate rival of Rowhani bowed out of the presidential race to consolidate the pro-reform camp. That opened the way for high-profile endorsements including his political mentor, former President Akbar Heshmi Rafsanjani, who won admiration from opposition forces for denouncing the postelection crackdowns in 2009. This, too, may have led to Rafsanjani's being blackballed from the ballot this year by Iran's election overseers, which allowed just eight candidates among more than 680 hopefuls. Iran has no credible political polling to serve as harder metrics for the street buzz around candidates, who need more than 50 percent of the vote to seal victory and avoid a runoff. Journalists face limits on reporting such as requiring permission to travel around the country. Iran does not allow outside election observers. Yet it's clear that fervor remains strong for Rowhani's rivals as well. Qalibaf is riding on his image as a capable fiscal manager who can deal with the deepening problems of Iran's economy and sinking currency. Jalili draws support from hard-line factions such as the Revolutionary Guard's paramilitary corps, the Basij. His reputation is further enhanced by a battlefield injury that cost him the lower part of his right leg during Iran's 1980-88 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which at the time was backed by the United States. "We should resist the West," said Tehran taxi driver Hasan Ghasemi, who supported Jalili. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not publicly endorsed a successor for Ahmadinejad following their falling out over the president's attempts to challenge Khamenei's near-absolute powers. Ahmadinejad leaves office weakened and outcast by his political battles with Khamenei — yet another sign of where real power rests in Iran. The election overseers also rejected Ahmadinejad's protege Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei in apparent payback. The usually talkative Ahmadinejad gave only a brief statement to reporters as he voted and refused to discuss the election. Khamenei remained mum on his own choice even as he cast his ballot. He added that his children don't know whom he backs. Instead, he blasted the U.S. for its repeated criticism of Iran's clampdowns on the opposition and the rejection of Rafsanjani and other moderates from the ballot. "Recently I have heard that a U.S. security official has said they do not accept this election," Khamenei was quoted by state TV after casting his vote. "OK, the hell with you." By many measures, this election is far removed from the backdrop four years ago. Iran's security networks have consolidated near-blanket control, ranging from swift crackdowns on any public dissent to cyberpolice blocking opposition Internet websites and social media. Hackers calling themselves the Iranian Cyber Army disrupted at least a half dozen reform-oriented websites, including one run by well-known political cartoonist Nikahang Kosar. Prominent reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was jailed after the 2009 disputed election, voted from his cell in Tehran's Evin Prison, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported. The economy, too, is under far more pressures than in 2009. Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear program have shrunk vital oil sales and are leaving the country isolated from international banking systems. New U.S. measures taking effect July 1 further target Iran's currency, the rial, which has lost half its foreign exchange value in the past year, driving prices of food and consumer goods sharply higher. Outside Iran, votes were casts by the country's huge diaspora including Dubai, London and points across the United States. "I hope we take a step toward democracy," said Behza Khajavi, a 29-year-old doctoral candidate in physics from Boca Raton, Florida, as he voted in Tampa for Rowhani. In Paris, a 25-year-old Iranian student, Sohrab Labib, voted at his nation's consulate while a small group of protesters gathered across the street. "It's our country. It's our future," he said. "In any case, even a little change could influence our future." nnnn


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