Category Archives: Wagle Web Log 2

Mobile Phone Craze and Shameful Failure of Nepal Telecom

In a shameful act today, Nepal Telecom, a government entity, couldn’t provide mobile phones as per the demand and halted the distribution of SIM cards indefinitely

By Dinesh Wagle

If there is any name that represents the incompetence, pessimism and failure in a grand scale in the Nepali corporate sector, it’s undoubtedly Sugatratna Kansakar. It’s a shame that this man is the Managing Director of Nepal Telecom (NT), the country’s telecommunication giant, even after today’s artless drama performed on the streets of Kathmandu and in front of the NT offices. As many as two hundred fifty thousand people stood in the queues leading up to the Nepal Telecom counters in the city hoping to get prepaid SIM cards for the mobile phone. Telecom distributed slightly more than 60 thousand cards amidst chaos and poorly managed system. Such was the customer pressure that NT had to postpone the SIM card distribution abruptly and indefinitely. And here comes the incompetence and failure of Sugatratna Kansakar. He and his company knew that there were hundreds of thousands of people eagerly and tirelessly waiting for SIM cards. NT had refused to distribute the cards despite heavy demands citing, mainly, inadequate infrastructure. Over the several months, we have been told, NT improved and expanded the infrastructure to cater the ever-growing demand of cell phone lines. Today we saw how much improvement Kansakar did in Nepal Telecom. Continue reading

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Sher Bahadur Deuba Against Constituent Assembly Election: Why?

There is a saying in Nepali: Ikh nabhayeko chhora ra bikh nabhayeko sarpa ekai hun [A son without resolve and snake without poison are same (or useless)]. Sher Bahadur Deuba, the former Prime Minister and president of Nepali Congress (Democratic), is a perfect example. He is speaking against the election of Constituent Assembly and indirectly helping the king.

By Dinesh Wagle

The king kicked on his face several times but Deuba never stops acting like a loyal royal slave. And he always talks in such a way that would be beneficial to the king. [King Gyanendra sacked Deuba from the post of Prime Minister branding him "incompetent" to hold the general election in 2004 and, again in 2005, put him in house arrest in 2005 after sacking from the same post of PM.] After the royal coup of Feb 2005, Sher Bahadur Deuba was vocally against the king (or monrchy) though there were some people who used to say that this man could do the U turn at anytime. They used to cite Deuba’s pro-royal activities, including accepting royal awards which have been traditionally declined Nepali Congress leaders for decades. It seems those skeptics are going to be correct. Deuba has started showing the sing of U turn. Yesterday he talked against the possibility of election of Constituent Assembly on time (by June). He thinks the security situation is too bad to hold an election and says eight parties [ruling alliance and the Maoist] should unanimously agree to reschedule the election program. Talking to journalists at his party’s headquarters in Maharajgunj, Deuba said: “In light of the recent incidents in the country, the voters are in no position to cast their votes in a fear-free environment.” How can an ‘incompetent’ Deuba say so? For him, the security situation wasn’t favorable even in 2004 and, when he tried to push the election dates, faced royal sacking. Now, the same guy is talking about pushing the election to uncertainty on the pretext of same old reason.

Yes, security situation is not good in Nepal these days. Even the Prime Minister has accepted this harsh reality. But it’s not bad in all areas. The situation is challenging mainly in a few districts in southern Nepal. There is no security problem in hilly and mountainous districts. No problem in many other districts in Terai itself. Some, including the election commission, say there are not enough staffs and security personnel for the election. Why not go for options like holding election in phases? The most promising aspect is that Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is committed to holding election in time. He said so in his recent meeting with the election commissioner which was attended by all leaders including Prachanda of the Maoist, Madhav Kumar Nepal of CPN UML and Deuba. Deuba expressed negativism on the prospects of election in that meeting as well where as Koirala, Nepal and Prachanda firmly committed themselves towards the democratic process. (Today MK Nepal said that “worsening law and order situation has overshadowed the election issue”. This statement from his is intended at pressurizing the government than trying to push the election to uncertainty.) The only person supporting Deuba in the meeting was Surya Bahadur Thapa (of Rastriya Janashakti Party.) Thapa recently came heavily against democratic development. It’s not hard to see the anti-election nexus that is slowly growing.

The main point is we should not push the election of Constituent Assembly on any pretext. We have the history, very bitter, about not being able to hold the CA election. And the king took advantage of that situation in the 50s. There was no effective pressure for CA election at that time because, as I read somewhere, the CA election issue was only raised by the parties at that time. Today situation is different. People want constituent assembly. The whole country has made the CA election the main agenda. When the whole country is ready to caste vote, the masked efforts from people like Deuba to derail the election plan must be countered effectively. In the past few days Nepali Congress general secretary Ram Chandra Poudel has also hinted that the process of election couldn’t be finished by the end of Jestha meaning that the process could be extended for weeks. That can be accepted but I see some problem with Deuba statement. He isn’t honest. I see some kind of conspiracy in his remarks. It is a known fact that the palace wants to stop the election of the assembly that will decide the fate of monarchy with a simple majority. It’s almost certain that the assembly will vote to eradicate the feudal institution from Nepal. Even a child understands why palace wants to stop the election.

The Constituent Assembly is not just for dealing with monarchy in Nepal. It’s about drafting the new future plans for the country. It’s about restructuring the state, empowering various groups and ethnic/marginalized communities and bringing them to the mainstream of Nepali ruling. That is why all efforts must be focused on making the election of Constituent Assembly a reality.

Cricket World Cup and Game of Politics in Kathmandu

The game of politics being played in Kathmandu is far more interesting than the cricket being played in West Indies.

Wagle’s Web Log

The cricket word cup has begun in the Caribbean and even our Kantipur TV is providing us the latest scores of the match on a small display panel on the upper left corner of the screen. (Another score card is added on the lower right corner of the screen if there are two matches at the same time.) We don’t have a team from Nepal to play the cricket world cup but hey the intense match of politics being played in the rooms of Baluwataar Prime Ministers’ residence and other selected houses in Kathmandu is no less interesting. Forget about six sixers in an over by a South African or the craze of the game in India as they are facing Bangladesh today evening. Watch the game of Nepali politics. Actually, this is the game that I have been following very keenly from my bed were I have been taking rest fighting common cold (weather change!). This game is about forming the new [interim] government of Nepal that will have a primary responsibility of holding the election of Constituent Assembly by July (or, may be, August).

Here the cup comes in the form of important cabinet portfolios and influence in the government. Everyone from Maoists to UML folks agree that Nepali Congress will lead the government. Even in a historic time like this when communists are in clear majority against the non-communist forces in Nepal, they are not being able to actually LEAD the country. This might be because one communist in Nepal considers the other communist its biggest enemy and threat and Nepali Congress, the democratic party with undemocratic nature, is enjoying this to the fullest. That is exactly why it is also claiming the portfolio of deputy prime minister in the cabinet. Nepali Congress thinks: come on folks; look at the health of Girija babu. We must get the senior DPM to assist our party’s PM. For others, it’s about how many DPMs? If there will be only one DPM, Maoists think, forget about our earlier commitment about top leaders not joining the government, we will send our second-in-command: Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. Some say cabinet must be formed along with the announcement of Prime Minister and UML is leading this group. Others say, first let’s form a small cabinet; announce the Prime Minister and we will discuss further to expand the cabinet. Yes, this comes mainly from Nepali Congress and, since UML is against it, Maoists are for it.

Nepali Congress is strongly pushing forward the issue of lands and properties confiscated by the Maoists in different parts of the country and Maoists are saying okay okay we will return the lands to the owners soon, what about our comrades that are still in jail? [BTW, this blogger's parent's lands and houses in Ramechhap are still in Maoist control and when they went to the village to claim their property recently the former rebels refused to return the property. Mr and Mrs Wagle are still in Duragaun, Ramechhap and they are probably following the developments in Baluwataar carefuly via radio reports.] I am sure all contentious issues will be sorted out as I can see tough bargains that you will not see even in Kathmandu’s Hong Kong Bazaar are going on. Give and take, claim and compromise, accept and reject, talk and do. To use the negative term, you can say a great deal of satta sangharsha (struggle for power) is currently going on in Baluwataar among eight political parties. But I wouldn’t say that. I would say this is actually a very much welcome move and they are having nice time while distributing portfolios among them. The best thing about all these bargains is that parties are also talking about the program and policies of the interim government. This gives me the hope that these parties, armed with the experience of running coalition government in the past, are not just thinking about power but also about the job that they are supposed to after joining the government.-Wagle Continue reading

Surya Bahadur Thapa Interview: Hidden Messages?

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle’s Web Log

Surya Bahadur Thapa has appeared in TV today in a very suspicious manner to defend the king. Former Prime Minister Thapa, who formed his Rastriya Janashakti Party after the royal takeover of Feb 2005, today told Kantipur TV’s Fire Side program (hosted by Bhusan Dahal) that the Interim Parliament has no right to take any action against the monarchy. “This parliament is not sovereign,” Thapa, a lifelong royalist who was instrumental in repressing democratic movement in the dark autocratic days of pre-1990 Panchayat system, said. “Only the Constituent Assembly can decide on big national issues. We shouldn’t give importance to who says what. The king can’t have any impact.” Thapa, who was nominated the Prime Minister by Gyanendra after the king with autocratic ambition, dismissed a democratically elected Prime Minster in 2002, also categorically said: “The time hasn’t come for republic.”

Thapa said: “When you talk about taking action [against king], you are taking about an individual. A person has given [the statement], how can you strike against the other [monarchy]?” Thapa said, “Let’s wait for a few days and see how the government acts [on the parliaments directive to take action against king].

Meanwhile the government today formally condemned the king for giving out the Democracy day statement without its approval or knowledge. “This is unconstitutional, undemocratic, unauthorized, condemnable and contentious,” government spokesperson and information minister Dilendra Prasad Badu told reporters. “The cabinet has decided to take appropriate action against king based on political understanding [with ruling parties.]

These views from government and Thapa come at a time when rumors are doing rounds in Kathmandu that yet another coup, from military, is being mulled in foreign land. Even Prachanda mentioned about such rumors the other day. This must be noted that Surya Bahadur Thapa visited India for about three weeks recently. He came back to Nepal two weeks ago. We have no information what Thapa was doing in India and whom he met. There are many such forces who will not hesitate to exploit and sabotage the current fluid situation in Nepal? Is there any coincidence between Thapa coming to the press and the dubious Upendra Yadav of Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF or MPRF) re-starting the agitation in Terai for no reason? Will any sensible person believe that MJF is restarting the agitation that clearly threatens the social and communal harmony in Nepal just because they didn’t get Home Minister’s resignation? In addition to this, there is no surety that Yadav will not launch another round of agitation after the Home Minister resigns. He might come with another excuse as he as done in the recent past. That is because he is not deciding for himself; he is working for someone else who wants to create havoc in Nepal.

Thapa was asked if he was leading an alliance of pro-king groups. He didn’t categorically deny but said: “Kathmandu is a country that is engulfed by gossips and rumors etc.” He said a broad democratic alliance was necessary to save the sarbamanya prajantra (democracy of wide acceptance) and [to act] against the dictator.” He didn’t elaborate about sarbamanya democracy but it could be easily understood that he was dismissing the democratic republic (or loktantrik ganatantra) and using the “sarbamanya prajantra” term instead.

“Who is that dictator?” Thapa was asked.

“That will show up itself in a few days,” Thapa said.

“Who do you think monarchy is closer to: democratic forces or dictatorship?” Thapa was asked.

“You can’t see him closer to either force if you see the statement,” Thapa said. “Monarchy is not the topic for debate. [This whole debate on monarchy] is just a diversion from the main issue.”

In the interview with KTV Surya Bahadur Thapa cleverly avoided answering the question on the possibility of CA election by mid-July though he repeatedly stressed on the argument that only CA can do whatever is needed to be done. “Do you think CA election could be held by Jestha?” Bhusan asked. Thapa replied: “No one can end this uncertainty. Only CA can. The sooner the CA comes, the uncertainty will go. But whatever activities are happening….sovereign people are now hostage of Maoists.”

A Day After Snowfall, It's Strike in Kathmandu

A day after Valentine’s Day and the historic snowfall in Kathmandu valley it was time to be disappointed for the residents of Nepali capital who were planning to go to the hills surrounding the valley and play with the snow. There is a strike in the city thanks to an organization that claims to be the representative of Nepal’s indigenous and ethnic people. Very few public vehicles are playing on the otherwise chaotic streets and supporters of the organizer, Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN), mainly unruly street kids, are in charge of many junctions in the city. They are stopping the vehicles that dare to run and vandalizing them. A few vehicles carrying tourists can be seen. A few cabs and three wheelers are carrying passengers in mainly in those routes where no protesters were present. The NFIN called for a valley banda to put pressure on the government to address its demands and amend the interim constitution, reports eKantipur. The NFIN has been demanding proportional representation electoral system based on ethnic population. (Here is more about the strike.)

A Day After Snowfall, It’s Strike in Kathmandu

A day after Valentine’s Day and the historic snowfall in Kathmandu valley it was time to be disappointed for the residents of Nepali capital who were planning to go to the hills surrounding the valley and play with the snow. There is a strike in the city thanks to an organization that claims to be the representative of Nepal’s indigenous and ethnic people. Very few public vehicles are playing on the otherwise chaotic streets and supporters of the organizer, Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN), mainly unruly street kids, are in charge of many junctions in the city. They are stopping the vehicles that dare to run and vandalizing them. A few vehicles carrying tourists can be seen. A few cabs and three wheelers are carrying passengers in mainly in those routes where no protesters were present. The NFIN called for a valley banda to put pressure on the government to address its demands and amend the interim constitution, reports eKantipur. The NFIN has been demanding proportional representation electoral system based on ethnic population. (Here is more about the strike.)

Nepal in Transition: Prachanda Will Be Public After 25 Years!


An overview of the gathering. Click here for the image. And here is an experience after attending the mass meeting.

All campaigns need an effective tagline and the Maoists in Kathmandu are repeating that line (see the title) for past several days in a loud voice. Comrade Prachanda will appear public first time in the last 25 years, said their spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara. Every poster publicizing today’s event is dominated by Prachanda’s image. Newly designed t-shirts for volunteers boast a big black and white image of the chairman. Even the identify card those volunteers are using have the photo of Prachanda. The Brand Prachanda is everywhere: from hoarding boards in prime locations in the city to posters pasted on the walls and pamphlets Maoist cadres are distributing everywhere.

I am not sure about the marketing impacts of a commercial product if Prachanda chooses to endorse but I think he is the most visible face in Nepali society now. Even before being public, he is one of the most widely recognized faces in Nepal. The tagline hype is nothing more than the Maoist’s effort to gather as many people as they can in today’s mass meeting in Tundikhel. Prachanda had already become public when he gave that famous interview to journalists Narayan Wagle and Prateek Pradhan in February last year. Then we saw him on Kantipur TV talking to Sohan Shrestha in June. Then he was live on TV in Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwataar. (Here is the photo from that day.) Prachanda was supposed to appear public last November but the program was cancelled in the eleventh hour.

Today is important for Maoists (and perhaps for Nepal) because their Peoples’ War was started exactly 11 years ago. This is the first peaceful Falgun 1 that they are marking. That too in the heart of the capital city, brining traffic to standstill and completely disrupting the general life. Rallies are moving towards the central ground in the city screaming slogans for republicanism. Today’s mass meeting is one big opportunity for Prachanda to make public his party’s plans and strategies for peaceful politics. His cadres need to be assured about the party’s permanent path to peace and competitive politics. I guess his speech will be long (may be longest ever!).

Nepali Politics: Terai Issue, View from Nepal Army, Hindu Fundamentalism

Suddenly, it appears, things are now returning to normalcy in Nepal. But everything is not rosy.

Terai Talks:

There are no long queues of vehicles near petrol stations as the supply of fuel has increased in the city. No demonstrations and strikes in south and east Terai since yesterday (Friday 9, Feb). The Wednesday midnight (7 Feb) speech of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has been widely welcomed. The talks committee formed by the government (and headed by Agriculture Minister Mahantha Thakur) has invited agitating breakaway Maoist factions (both groups of JTMM) and another suspicious group called Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF). So far so good but I see no reason to talk with these people, especially in today’s situation in which the demands raised by recent demonstrations have already been addressed. Even a child can conclude that this Updendra Yadav of MJF is not genuine. He saw how Prachanda became a national leader by launching a movement and went to hobnobbing with the likes of Prime Minister and senior leaders of major political parties. He wants to do the same, a common trait of copycats. In addition to this, Yadav is driven by sinister motives of dividing the country. He is not satisfied by the second speech of the PM but was forced to halt the agitation (for 10 days, he said) because everyone was welcoming it. It should not be surprise if he comes with one weird demand after another. A friend of mine recently joked: “after all of his demands are fulfilled, he will say, ‘now, ensure ceremonial monarchy.'” If we are to abide by the bond of nationality, people like Yadav must be discarded effectively. Now that the government has initiated talks with these factions, it is in the best interest of all to closely watch the developments and support the process.

Background 1
Background 2

The View from Army:

Another positive development comes from within Nepal Army. Army Chief General Rookmangud Katawal yesterday talked about democracy and people with officers. Unexpected and hard be believe but pleasing news at the same time. He instructed military officers to be active in making democratic institutions stronger and more reliable and for fulfilling the people’s desire for lasting peace. Political parties are representatives of Nepali people, said the General and asked officers not to do anything that would hurt faith of representative political parties. General Katawal was addressing the 13th convocation of Command and Staff College cadets at Army Headquarters. Gen Katawal instructed officers to work honestly as per the people’s desires and needs, taking into account the changed circumstances and demand of the time. “Especially in the post-conflict transitional phase, we should give enough consideration to the behavior of the national army and seriousness of expression,” Katawal said. He reminded his officers about “civilian supremacy” and said that Nepal Army works under civil control. “We should be equally committed to make our activities transparent and accountable to the people,” he said. “I also want to remind all of you that the military, as per the principle of civilian control, will be controlled and mobilized by civilian authorities.”

These words from General Katawal are especially relevant and important because they come three days after his subordinate Dilip Shumsher Rana, acting chief at Western Divisional HQ of Nepal Army, spit venom against democracy and democratic leadership. Now the question is how much honesty the words of General Katawal carry? Does he believe that his words are able to control the damage done by Dilip Rana? I think this is a good starting to make the institution of army responsible to civilian authority. It would be appreciated if General Katawal goes further to make sure that army is actually accountable to the people and is under the control of civilian authorities.

Background

Maoist Vandalism:

Not everything is rosy though. We are heading for the election of constituent assembly and the election commission is preparing voters’ list throughout the country. I just registered my name today in such list. But unfortunately Maoists are playing villain in that process. They seized voters’ list from the government team yesterday in Dolakha’s Kavre VDC. The team had reached there distribution of citizenship certificates. Maoists seized the documents following a dispute regarding enlisting their cadres’ name on the list. According to a report, Maoists forced government team members to enlist their cadres’ names who were from other districts. A few days ago, Maoists did the same in Kathmandu. Maoists must understand that they can’t hijack the electoral process and brings results in their favor just like they used to terrorize people with their guns until recently. This is going to be a democratic election and they must understand there will be ballets, no bullets, in such process. There will be voice, no violence. I think SPA and the government should talk to Prachanda, the Maoist chairman, about these incidents and tell the comrade to put his comrades in control.

Hindu Fundamentalism:

Yesterday Madhav Kumar Nepal spoke something serious while inaugurating district convention of his party CPN UML in Kathmandu. He said that Hindu extremists are trying to create havoc in Kathmandu on the occasion of Shivaratri, a Hindu festival that is celebrated in Pashupatinath this month. Many Indians also come to take part in the annual extravaganza. Hindu fundamentalists are unhappy with the new constitutional provision of secularism in Nepal. “It has been come to our notice that royalist elements are trying to gather unwanted people in the capital at the time of Shivaratri and execute another ‘Hritik Roshan incident’. The government and eight parties must be united to defeat such elements.” [A few years ago, deadly demonstrations were organized to protest alleged remarks on Nepal by Bollywood actor Hritik Roshan. Later it was known that Hritik never made any such statements.] It is an open secret that the palace will do everything to destabilize the democratic government to fulfill its vested interests. It will sabotage every occasions, religious or social, to make it appear that democracy is not helping Nepali people to have peaceful life. They will do their best to foil the plans of Nepali people to hold election of constituent assembly on time. The government, eight parties and civil society must be careful. By Wagle

Gyanendra Shah Must Be Punished

The HLPC report must be taken seriously and its suggestions must be implemented

By now the world has learned from the High Level Probe Commission that Gyanendra was (and is) guilty of suppressing the historical popular uprising in April and responsible for the death of 21 innocent Nepalis who were fighting for their freedom. Did we really need the Commission to tell us that truth? Not actually because we saw the ambitious monarch on TV in Feb 1, 2005 dismissing remains of democracy that he started destroying systematically in mid 2002. That was the biggest crime he did and I am sure he will be punished in the election of Constituent Assembly. No vote for any party or candidates who want to give space in whatever form to monarchy in Nepal. At least I will not give. Baru Maobadi lai halchhu :wink: Continue reading

Prachanda Praises India While Thrashing Pakistani ISI

Why Maoist chairman Prachanda chose to expose himself in New Delhi by speaking against one country in favor of the other?

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle’s Web Log

One of the most shocking parts of Prachanda’s recent New Delhi, India visit was the statement he made during an interview with the Hindustan Times daily. It was interesting to see the Maoist chairman repeating the same lines from the interview to Nepali journalists in Kathmandu’s International Airport upon his return from India.

First read these lines from the Sunday edition of Hindustan Times:

With the Maoists on the ascendant in Nepal, activities of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are on the decline, because their activities were actively encouraged by the Palace. In an interview exclusive to [Nilova Roy Chaudhury of] the Hindustan Times, Chairman and supremo of Nepal’s Maoists ‘Prachanda’ disclosed, he said, for the first time ever, that when he decided to take the ‘movement to the streets’, back in 1996, he was offered “assistance” in the form of arms and money from representatives claiming to be from the ISI.

“We must accept that the anti-India activity from Nepal (including acts like the hijack of IC814) was centred in the royal durbar,” Prachanda said. “When this feudal king (Gyanendra) was just the king’s brother, and a businessman, he had a business partnership with Dawood Ibrahim and conducted much of his smuggling through him,” said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who prefers his alias ‘Prachanda’ (the fierce one). “With our movement gaining people’s consensus, the anti-India ISI activity controlled by the Durbar is almost non-existent,” Prachanda said.

“When we initiated the armed movement against the corrupt rule in Nepal (in 1996),” Prachanda said, “ISI-type people offered us money and arms assistance. I resisted and our council agreed to refuse the assistance because we felt our movement would lose its Nepali-people-centric approach,” Prachanda said, explaining his reasons for turning down such assistance.

Even if Prachanda spent the last decade fighting for the dictatorship of proletariats, we defend his freedom of expression. But we feel that this statement demonstrates how thin Prachanda is willing to stretch himself to win the support of India to establish ‘new democracy’ in Nepal via his “Great Peoples’ Movement”. Continue reading