Thursday, April 28, 2005

State Vandalism in Nepal

King Gyanendra would call his foreign tour that included his participation in the Asian-African Summit 2005 a successful one - mainly because the Indian Government did the U-turn about the military aid. At the summit, he reiterated his commitment to democracy and put forward some points supporting his February 1 coup that had definitely earned him some good fame.

But saying and doing are two different things and that can be entirely different: the King proved it.

On April 25, plain-cloth policemen vandalized the central office of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) or CPN (UML) - the second largest political party of the nation, when the party was mourning death of a leader - Sadhana Pradhan - the wife of first elected communist prime minister of the world Man Mohan Adhikari.

If you think this a party propaganda, read the statement from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), whose chairman supported the King's move in the international forum which drew much criticism. According to reports, Nayan Bahadur Khatri said after the inspection: "This is foolish act and we will take necessary action."

The statement by NHRC said plainclothes policemen in masks vandalized the door and windows and also pointed guns at the students at the UML office. The move was criticized by all the political parties, more than a dozen human rights association and many other organizations.

But had we heard anything from the government? Where is the answer of the question? Will there be an investigation on the issue? All the answers should have a 'YES' answer in democracy, but in King's rule, it might just be unheard and unanswered of.

On April 27's night, former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was oust by the King to grab the power, was arrested on corruption charges. It would have been a good move by the state if it had been done properly with the assurance that there will be proper investigation. But the way it happened indicates it as a terrorism functioning than a state functioning.

Deuba was arrested at 2am when he was asleep by plainclothes policemen. More than three-dozen policemen, some of them uniformed, entered Deuba's house after cutting off the phone connection and arrested him despite family protest of 'midnight action'. After the arrest, the electricity was also cut off at his residence.

Despite strict direction to press not to criticize the King, some newspapers condemned both these actions calling it a 'vagabond action'.

Plainclothes policemen are more at action than the uniformed one - we don't know why. Besides these, the arrests of student leaders including Gagan Kumar Thapa and many other rallying protesters and leaders, plainclothes policemen do the action.

The King's democracy has all this for us. Let's see what will come next and how long.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Peace Bond: Sign of Problems

For the first time, Nepalis were given a chance to know that the King alone is unable to run the country smoothly. The news of the government issuing Peace Bond to raise Rs. 5.5 billion is a clear effect of the lack of fund for coming fiscal year as the international donor communities have shy away.

Despite stern warning to the press, some noted newspaper criticized the government's latest decision saying 'this would have a long term effect on Nepali economics.' No wonder, it was a tested formula - by neighbors. India and Pakistan did the same after donors stepped back due to their nuclear test. Notable here is that the Indian were more successful in it than Pakistanis and that's because Pakistan was being ruled by a man.

Nepali government has probably hopes that Nepalis living abroad would be interested in the bond - and for that reason, it could be bought in equivalent to dollars and named 'Peace' - a word that would attract anybody.

Will I buy it? No, not because it has nothing to do with the peace. It will be used more for army's budget and to kill the Nepalis. Since, the rebels' leader has denied talking in such condition, there is no way we should give money to army to kill Nepalis (especially in the condition when their acts are hidden due to media absence). There have been lots of talks about human-rights abuses by the army, even the King in his interview with TIME magazine, didn't deny that.

The present government is the most uncompetitive in recent times, thus we can expect no visionary program from them. They probably overlooked the future of economy while the King told them about the bond. But that will be the big burden for Nepal in coming future because - neither it isn't likely that the country is capable of developing national resources to pay back nor the international donors seem convinced with the King's move and motives. Also another damaging factor is that the interest rate of the bond would be much higher than that of international loan (and also considerable is the valuation of the bond in dollars).

The King has to step down someday - there is no alternative to that but it looks like he wants all Nepalis to curse him for burden when he steps down.

Must-Read Stories: April 20

Exclusive Stories From TIME Magazine on Nepal

Rebel Territory: A look inside the lives of Nepal's Maoist rebels

Gunning for Nepal: A TIME special report on the bloody civil war that is tearing the Himalayan kingdom apart

Interview with King Gyanendra [TIME]

Extended Interview with King Gyanendra [TIME]

A Strategy of Failure
South Asian Intelligence Review

UN Human Rights Body Urges Nepal to Restore Democracy
Voice of America [VOA]

Human rights abuses escalate under the state of emergency
Amnesty International

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Municipal Election: For Covering Up the Death of Democracy

The King has announced that there would be municipal election in the country within a year. The Election Commission said they had already started updating voters' list to fulfill the 'wish of the King'. The political parties said they would not participate in the election unless there is democracy and freedom in the country.

So what's next? I believe there will be municipal election soon - no problem if the parties choose to stay out (that will be even better for the King and there will be small parties willing to participate to benefit from the opportunity), no problem if the turnout is low, no problem whatsoever with the results. The King wants to show the world that he believes in the democracy and thus using the election (considered worldwide as a mean of exercising democratic power by the people) as a tool to deceive the international communities.

The result of municipal election is going to have no problem for the King because a) the elected body will have no power in the high level, and b) even if they try to do something like that the King has already implemented a plan to stop that by appointing his men as zonal-chiefs in 14 zones and regional chiefs in five development regions (Politically Nepal is divided into 5 Development Regions, 14 Zones and 75 districts).

So there can be nothing better for the King to show the world his 'democratic commitment' than by holding election. You will see how the authority will try to show the municipal election as a democratic process and the international media will be tried to utilize by feeding such information that this election is a first step to show the King's commitment towards democracy.

And, since he has said the election within one year, the international communities would be forced to wait and see it for a year. And after election, the King would try to persuade them for continue stopped support for Nepal. But I believe the international communities should understand the situation - and believe that unless the King steps down and give away the executive powers to the people's representatives, there will be no democracy in Nepal.

Articles of Interest: April 16

"One of the biggest press freedom crises in the world "
Anne Cooper, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Interview in Nepali Times

A State on the Verge of Failure
New York Times

The crackdown and after
By Daniel Lak, column in Nepali Times

Monday, April 11, 2005

Attempts to Blur Borderlines

Is peace equivalent to the King's rule? Is Royal Nepal Army's success against Maoists is the King's success? Are political parties and rebel group similar? Are political parties supporting insurgency?

There are attempts to make people believe all the answers to these questions 'Yes'. But the reality is that most of the answers to these questions is NO. And I strongly believe blurring the border between many things stated above will not have a good result in future.

Here I present my views on each question and the difference in two things compared.

The King & the Peace

I agree that political leadership in past years didn't honestly try to solve the problem, and the King has for many times reiterated his commitment to restore peace in the country (after which he had said he would return democracy). That certainly shows the King's willingness for peace but that doesn't mean that he is the synonymous to peace. His honestly towards bringing peace could make him one or two step ahead of other but not the only one who can restore the peace in the country.

Royal Nepalese Army & Maoists

RNA claimed a grand success against the rebel group in Khara in Rukum where the insurgents lost more than 113 fighters.

Maoists claimed a grand success in Dolakha where they restrict army in the barrack keeping them busy in fire exchange while the other group brunt down offices and broke into district jail.

The propaganda: in first event, the rebel claimed death of more than five dozens armymen while in second event the army claimed successful retaliation that saw only two policemen killed. Certainly the media carried the army's version in both events due to censorship.

In anyway, the question is: Is army is successful due to the King's rule? Yes if you believe in 'no information is good' theory. And also, if the same army is capable of fighting against rebels why didn't that happened in past because the army were same. (Since the King was the supreme commander of the army, was he behind all these planning for power takeover?)

Political Parties & Rebel Group

The King told the people there are not only two group in the country - first those who want peace and other of those who want bloods. The first he said were with him and the second were those who criticized him.

The rebel group called political parties to join them. Some of the leaders of the political parties agreed that there could be strategically cooperation if needed.

It is no good.

The King is trying to make people believe those political parties favor rebels. And some leaders are talking without thinking of consequences.

They are different: one is fighting for democracy where everyone will be accommodated with people enjoying rights. The rebel group is fighting to establish their one-party 'democratic' rule. And more importantly unlike the King said, the political parties fall on the third group - those wanting peace but criticizing the King.

And to conclude, should fight for democracy be fight for republic?

There have been a considerable number of people who believe it should be. Seeing that the monarch twice assumed power dismissing democracy, the answer should be yes. Once there is republic, the danger for democracy's dismissal by the monarch will end.

But the alternative view is that which is quite more useful is to keep the monarch powerless as honorary head of the state. He should be given no power and his assets and budget should be transparent and his deeds publicly debated.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

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Press: Support King or Die

It is what the King's government is saying to the press. Like every undemocratic ruler, the King can't tolerate any criticism and has said 'there would be no state advertisement for the newspaper that does not support the nation and crown.'

This is a big blow of small newspaper, especially weeklies which are more vibrant in criticizing the government.' Most of them run on small investment and don't have sales or advertisement to support them fully. The government used to provide ads to them according to their classification performed by government agency. It was of a great support for them.

A weekly, Jana Astha, published a main story revealing the new circular by the government asking all the government offices not to provide ads to newspaper other than those run by state. They published the circular and it went wide - dailies and other paper carried the news. And minister for communication and information Tanka Dhakal had to speak about it (two weeks after the decision).

"We are seriously thinking of giving incentives to those media working for the nation and the crown, so we have stopped giving ads to the private media temporarily," Dhakal said in a press conference.

All this comes after the media censorship that still prohibits newspaper to write freely.

And the authority is also following a double standard about news of the rebels - Maoists. The army Directorate of Public Relations is issuing daily dispatches about the death of the rebels and their surrenders, but are prohibiting media even to write a word not included in the dispatches. The authority in Pokhara summoned three reporters for reporting the torching to seven vehicles by the rebels (while the government, before the news was published, decided to compensate the vehicle owners).

This is a clear message by the King to the press: either support me or you will be left to die.

Related Headline:
The Kathmandu Post: No govt ads to private media: MoIC

Articles of Interest: April 7

New Kerala, India: Nepal's NHRC tells govt not to encourage anti-Maoist clashes

Reuters: Nearly 50 Killed in Nepal Clashes -Rights Group

ReutersAlert: Nepal Human Rights Crisis Continues

Deccan Herald, India: UN urges Nepal's parties to respect human rights

Asia Pacific Media Network: BBC Radio blocked

Bloomberg: Nepal Will Act Against Anti-Government Protests, Minister Says

Friday, April 1, 2005

Nepali Congress leader released from house arrest

Girija Prasad Koirala, Nepal's most influential political leader and the chairman of Nepali Congress, has been released from house-arrest today, the best day in the whole year to release him because it's an April Fool day and the Monarchy of Nepal wants to fool the world by reiterating its commitment to democracy (people's will).

Koirala, who has been Nepal's prime minister for three times, is being taken as the only leader capable of leading the movement against the King's Feb 1 move despite his detiorated image, and his release would certainly boost the morale of those who have already taken to the roads. With Koirala, 258 other arrested political activists have also been released.

The release of Koirala is the King's attempt to show India that he is true to his words - he had urged India to give him 100 days. And although India has welcomed his release, it is unlikely that they will be impressed by this. Lately, there has been a few articles in Indian newspaper indicating that Nepal has joined the anti-Indian group by enfriending Pakistan and China. That impression will do no good for the country.

India has also demanded release of other leaders, including the general secretary of Nepal Communist Party - United Marxist Lennist Madhav Kumar Nepal and to curb all the restrictions on fundamental rights.

"For Koirala, as for other top political leaders similarly penalised under the king's state of emergency, house arrest has not only meant being confined at home. It also involved an almost total severance of communications such as phone lines and the cutting of their access to independent media." - according to BBC, UK.

BBC added: "Others, however, remain confined or detained, including the leader of the country's second biggest party, Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is reported to be in poor health. Strict media censorship means it is difficult to know how many detainees there are."