“NEPAL’S DOWNWARD SPIRAL”: Senator Patrick Leahy talked about us Wednesday in the US Congress
Mr. President, this is the third time in the past six months that I have spoken in this chamber about Nepal. I do so because this land of mostly impoverished tea and rice farmers who toil between India and China on precipitous hillsides in the shadows of the Himalayas, is experiencing a political crisis that may plunge the country into chaos.
As many predicted, King Gyanendra’s seizure of absolute power on February 1st and suppression of civil liberties has damaged Nepal’s foreign relations, triggered clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and the police, and strengthened the Maoist insurgency.
The Maoists, whose use of extortion and brutality against poor villagers has spread throughout the country, announced a unilateral ceasefire on September 3rd which they recently extended for an additional month. Although flawed, the ceasefire was the impetus for a loose alliance with Nepal’s weak political parties after the King refused to negotiate with them and sought instead to consolidate his own grip on power.
Last month, the Maoists and the parties endorsed a vaguely worded but important 12 point understanding that could be the basis for a national dialogue to restore democracy and end the conflict. That, however, would require some reciprocal confidence building measures by the army, which has so far rejected the Maoist ceasefire as a ploy and continues to see itself as the defender of an anachronistic, corrupt and autocratic monarchy.
Although the army has won praise for its role in international peacekeeping missions, its reputation has been badly tarnished because of its abusive and ineffective campaign against the Maoists. It has engaged in arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings of ordinary citizens, which has alienated many of the same people who have been victims of the Maoists.
On December 10th, when hundreds of Nepali citizens took to the streets to protest the King’s repressive actions, the police used force to break up the rally and arrested several dozen people. The press reported another 120 arrests and dozens injured in demonstrations on December 17th. More protests are likely, and it may be only a matter of time before Katmandu is in the full throes of a pitched battle between pro-democracy demonstrators and the King’s security forces.
This is the disheartening situation in which Nepal finds itself today. The immediate challenge for the United States is how to help promote a political dialogue which includes the broadest possible participation from Nepali society to restore and strengthen democracy and end the conflict.
The Maoist ceasefire, while welcome, was a tactical move to lure the political parties into an alliance and further isolate the palace. There is no way to predict with confidence if the Maoists would participate in a political process in good faith, or simply use it as a ruse to gain new recruits and weapons. A resumption of attacks against civilians would be condemned and resisted by the international community. The Maoists should know that they cannot defeat the government by force, and as long as they extort money and property and abduct children they will be seen as enemies of the Nepali people.
Similarly, military experts have concluded that Nepal’s undisciplined army cannot defeat a determined insurgency that attacks civilians and army posts and then disappears into the mountains.
There are also concerns about Nepal’s political parties, who do not have a record of putting the interests of the nation above their own self interest. But the political parties, for all their flaws, are the real representatives of the Nepali people. They urgently need to reform, but there is no substitute for them.
Despite these difficulties and uncertainties, it is clear that the King has failed to provide the leadership to build bridges with the country’s democratic forces and develop a workable plan. It is also clear that efforts by the international community, including the United States, to appeal to the King to start such a process, have failed. The Bush Administration should apply whatever pressure it can, including denying U.S. visas to Nepali officials and their families.
With few options and no guarantees, Nepal’s hour of reckoning is approaching. There is a growing possibility that the King’s obstinacy and unpopularity will trigger massive civil unrest, shootings and arrests of many more civilians by soldiers and police, Nepalâ??s further isolation, and perhaps the end of the monarchy itself.
Only the army has the ability to convince the King to abandon his imperial ambitions, but time is running out. The army’s chief of staff, General Pyar Jung Thapa, was privileged to receive training at the Army War College and he has participated in other U.S. military training programs. He has led Nepali troops in UN peacekeeping missions. He knows, or he should have learned, that the function of a modern, professional military is to protect the rights and security of the people, not the privileges of a dictator who has squandered the moral authority of his office. It is not only in the interests of Nepal, but in the army’s long term self interest, to show real leadership at this critical time.
The United States should do everything possible to encourage the army to announce its own ceasefire, to accept international observers as the Maoists have said they would do, and to support a broadly inclusive political dialogue with or without the participation of the palace.
Such a process, to be meaningful, must lead to free and fair elections. The municipal elections announced by King Gyanendra for early next year, without any consultation with the political parties, are no solution. An attempt to apply a veneer of legitimacy to an otherwise undemocratic process will only prolong and exacerbate this crisis.
Many of the Maoist’s grievances mirror those of the majority of Nepal’s people who for centuries have suffered from discrimination, poverty, and abuse by one corrupt government after another. But Nepal’s problems, which are at the root of the conflict, can only be solved through a transparent, democratic process. The Maoists have opened the door a crack for that to begin. The army should reciprocate. The international community should lend its support.
14 Responses to “Patrick Leahy Rises To Speak, Again”
December 22nd, 2005 at 10:47 pm
Thank you very much Mr. Leahy putting the Nepal perspective very well. Problem has been well elaborated. For solution: If it would have been simple may we would not have been talking in this blog now. The real issue to solve is KG himself. For some reason KG thinks that by organizing the election he would become legitimate in the eyes of international community and therefore by hook or crook in Saddam Hussain style this fellow is going to organize the election. But now the 12 point agenda between MBs and the seven party alliance and official boycutting the election, MBs threat on card, what I am seeing is bloodshed in the making. I do not think the international community can support KG for such kind of election but removing KG at least in my view is also not in the cards of US and others at this time. KG is banking on this stand of US, which perhaps makes the equation complicated.
For me removal of KG perhaps is the best answer. But this means giving upperhand to MBs that any sensible Nepalese would not agree. Therefore the wayout would be to push KG out of this drama inside the palace with all party Government formed giving the mandate to the thus formed Government to bring the MBs into the mainstream but also being pragmatic to wipe out MBs with best possible international support if these guys continue with their rhetorics of not giving arms.
December 22nd, 2005 at 10:55 pm
you are right…
Things has to change gradually… simply kicking KG out is not gonna work…
I think huge protests should be there.. led offcourse by political parties but not girija at fore front.. some body else like gagan thapa for instance.
The larger the protests the more it will force both KG and maoists to sideline and create an environment of revolution… both birds KG and maoists can be killed with one stone… revolution and the constituent assembly… but to pull that off requires both able leadership and strong support by people who have been suffering for too long… I am positive about both happening in near future…. Thanks to people like Mr. Leahy
we have support of international community for our “ANDOLAN”.
December 22nd, 2005 at 11:40 pm
everything Patrick Leahy is doing for nepal is appreciated by us and thank you for being so concerned about nepal.
December 23rd, 2005 at 12:05 am
I think it’s time now to promote Deepak Gurung to the Army General Post, and get rid of Rana-Shah oligarchy. He has been escape goat for every bad conduct army has done, although those bad conducts are reflection of Chetri charactors.
Gurung can be the most neutral leader of the Army of Nation, unlike the Rana and Thapa who are the protector of the dictator, not the nation.
Banning political leaders, Gyanendra, who are mostly Bahun/Chetries who hoarded national wealth, from travelling to US and other counrties is very a good idea. They thought they were invincible and can get away with anything. I think it’s time to corner them and make them realize what they have been doing to the country and its people is a punishable crime. I hope that it won’t turn into French Revolution.
December 23rd, 2005 at 1:26 am
“The Bush Administration should apply whatever pressure it can, including denying U.S. visas to Nepali officials and their families.”….
I doubt to what extent Mr. Leahy is suggesting denying visas to Nepali officials and their families. However, if this is for those repressors supporting the palace then its perfectly fine…and their families should be denied visas….
Good job Mr. Leahy. I think the other senators related to foreign affairs and human rights group should raise such concerns in the senate. This will reflect the urgent situation Nepal is facing.
December 23rd, 2005 at 1:52 am
I think Mr Leahy should have talked about the ways to rein on the US envoy to Nepal Mr Moriarty who ’s colluding with the Royal palace internally by increasing pressure upon political parties. Althouth he says King should reachout to the political parties but in substance he is saying parties to reach to the King in order to share power. Mr Leahy, if your are a true democrat, you should take steps to recall this fellow Moriarty back and send someone true democrat from your state department mandarins. We’ve enough with this crap chap who dances in Indian tune and acts for the promotion of rightwing agenda in Nepal. We strongly reject this person here and that this person can’t be an envoy from a free world if he carry on his diplomacy of double standard.
December 23rd, 2005 at 2:08 am
Thank you Mr. leahy but I disaggree with your point that only army can persuade the King to be sane…….we, the people of Nepal will do it ……….we do believe in ourselves…..and won’t wait for a Thapa or Rana to do that for us
December 23rd, 2005 at 12:08 pm
“…He knows, or he should have learned, that the function of a modern, professional military is to protect the rights and security of the people, not the privileges of a dictator who has squandered the moral authority of his office. It is not only in the interests of Nepal, but in the army’s long term self interest, to show real leadership at this critical time….”
December 23rd, 2005 at 12:09 pm
I don’t expect that from RNA though, just wanted to tell them what world says.
December 23rd, 2005 at 12:34 pm
Just wanted to say Thanks Leahy bro. You are doing a heck of a job. I wish my senator Diane Feinstein would do that.
Nepal needs to be liberated from the most brutal, corrupt and murderous king in the world rightnow.
December 23rd, 2005 at 5:52 pm
It is ironic that Diane Feinstein is not more involved in speaking out, as her husband, Richard Blum, is the founder of the American HImalayan Association and has long been involved in nepal.
As for the other posters comments on the US Ambassador, that is unfair and simply not true. Moriarty clearly was aware of the talks between the parties and the maoist leaders in Delhi, as it would never have occured had India not allowed the Maoist leaders to be there. The USA wants peace, and now they see that since the King is not budging, perhaps a maoist-party alliance is best.
however, what did you expect? of course the maoists were going to disrupt the polls. anyone who thought otherwise is just blind to reality. personally, i dont blame them. the feb. 6 polls are a sham anyway. the king is going to do his best to disrupt them himself, so that only those he wants in power will win…there would be further violence no matter what, whether it came from the maoists or the RNA, lets face it.
this is not directly related to that, but i always believe Paras is the wild card. if the King is ever overthrown and forced to go in exile, what will Paras do? he will not go out without a fight. Look at the history of mental illness in his family. you think that drunk army guy was terrible for the massacre he committed? wait until you get a drunk paras….
December 23rd, 2005 at 5:55 pm
write to senator leahy and thank him. I know he would welcome words of thanks and comments from all of you. he is a great man and one of our most distinguished and senior senators:
December 24th, 2005 at 12:11 am
sanobahini:’perhaps a maoist-party alliance is best.’
then what. your senator has stated that Nepal political parties are weak—which is very much true—this alliance is no good for anyone but maoists.
if you insist to see the prachanda & co in power, then have a special seat in your Senate and place him over there, not here.
sanobahini:’but i always believe Paras is the wild card…’
why are you always after this fellow?
Patrick Leahy:’Only the army has the ability to convince the King to abandon his imperial ambitions…’
i think its really bad idea to encourage the army for anythink like that. if you try to split the Palace and army then it is possible that we might see another millitary ruler. south asia has witnessed many army general rulers. it should not happen here.
A Nepali Says:
December 24th, 2005 at 12:21 am
I am afraid Gurungs are even more obedient and honest to their masters. So the promotion of Dipak Gurung won’t solve the problem. There were many other gurungs such as Krishna Gurung, but all were very obedient to their masters. So it does not matter whoever there will be in the army, he will be loyal to the KING because army belongs to him. Therefore, the need for changing the owner of the army is so laud. We have to put army under the parliament and the palace under Raj Sabha such that no killer can become a king as it happened in 2001. The killer of own parents ascended to the throne. what a same. You are right. Ranas have still deja vu and therefore they are so cruel to the people on whom they feed and suck. In that sense Dipak Gururng is slightly better. But question is whether he will stop killing? If he stops killing he will be killed by the royals. Killing is a piece of cake practice in the palace.