By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
Sketch by Dewen via the Kathmandu Post (Inside: Ameet Dhakal of the Post: The hometown syndrome)
“Some leaders are suggesting us to eat poison and jump from steep hill. We don’t want to see army giving guard of honor to the king by disrespecting martyrs.”
Krishna Pahadi, human rights activist
A few days ago, while returning home late night from office, one of my colleagues said: “King Gyanendra must be worshipping an idol of Girija Prasad Koirala these days.”
“Why?” someone in the vehicle asked.
“Koirala is the one who miraculously saved king Gyanendra’s job and, mark my words, he will soon start advocating the role of king in future Nepal.”
“That might be true,” second colleague replied. “But Girija’s politics came to life solely because of the foolish deeds of king Gyanendra. So these two persons are complementing each other.”
Within slightly more than a week after this conversation we heard Koirala advocating for the ceremonial role of monarchy in Nepal. Arguing that all forces should get appropriate space for a lasting peace to arrive in the country, according to eKantipur, PM Koirala said, “This is why I have been putting forward my view to keep a ceremonial king.”
Koirala knows what he has spoken about. He has that right to say what he said ( in his home town Biratnagar). But people are the ones who will decide the ultimate fate of monarchy in Nepal. Koirala and his party Nepali Congress are free to take the agenda of ceremonial monarchy in the election of constituent assembly but as the Prime Minister he has no right to make the election of CA conditional. The election should be unconditional and people must have that freedom to vote for the agendas they like. They shouldn’t be given the choices like voting between ceremonial monarchy and constitutional monarchy in the future state structure.
Some conspiracy theorist ague that Koirala spoke on the issue as per the secret understanding reached in New Delhi while he was in India recently. You can never predict what Maoists will decide given the examples of how they have changed their stands over the months. Even if Maoists are also part of this secret understanding, people should be given the full opportunity to decide the fate of monarchy.
If Koirala wants to advocate for the ceremonial role of monarchy, he should resign from the post of Prime Minister. No one will feel bad if Koirala, as the president of Nepali Congress party, advocates for the ceremonial or active role to the king. Even if I consider myself as a distant sympathizer of Nepali Congress party, I will happily vote for any party who goes to the people with the agenda of democratic republicanism in Nepal. Anyone assuming the Prime Ministerial responsibility should be neutral, the state must be neutral regarding the specific agendas of CA election. As a time when country is engaged in peace talks with the Maoists, such issues should be left for the people to decide, Koirala is no one to impose his decision on people.
Students have started protesting Koirala remarks and distinguished members of civil society have started voicing their concerns as well. “Some leaders are suggesting us to eat poison and jump from steep hill,” said Krishna Pahadi, a human rights activist. “We don’t want to see army giving guard of honor to the king by disrespecting martyrs. We warn leaders to correct themselves and don’t go to wrong path.”
Another distinguished member of the civil society Dr. Mathura Prasad Shrestha opined that it was a crime to keep remains of monarchy in Nepal. “People haven’t slept yet,” he said. “They are still awake.” (Both Pahadi and Shrestha were speaking in a discussion program organized in Kathmandu today.)
King should be given ceremonial role: PM Koirala
BIRATNAGAR, June 14 – Prime Minister and President of the Nepali Congress, Girija Prasad Koirala has said that the king should be given a ceremonial role. Arguing that all forces should get appropriate space for a lasting peace to arrive in the country, PM Koirala said, “This is why I have been putting forward my view to keep a ceremonial king.” Addressing a gathering of party activists at his residence here in his hometown Biratnagar Wednesday morning, PM Koirala said that the Nepali Congress was moving ahead on the agenda of making the king ceremonial and bringing the Maoists and the seven parties into the democratic stream.
Hinting at the monarchy, Koirala said if not provided with some room, any force could opt for an “unpleasant path” due to the resulting frustration. “That’s why we have been saying that the king should be made ceremonial,” he said. Saying that all (forces) needed to be given some space in the transition phase, Koirala said if all sides are not given some room in democracy, it leads to disappointment and unpleasant incidents may take place, adding, “Anything could be done once the transition period was over.”
All parties have been given some room in the transition phase and the Maoists, too, are carrying out their activities for the same reason, Koirala said. Expressing optimism over the peace talks with the Maoists, the prime minister, however, said that arms management was an issue of “concern”. “We asked the Maoists not to collect donations; they issued a statement,” PM Koirala said, “They (Maoists) said they are concerned about feeding their army.” (continue reading)
Students Protest Koirala Remarks
Students of various campuses in and outside the capital have protested against Prime Minister and Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala’s remarks about keeping ceremonial monarchy in the country. In protest of the PM’s remarks on Wednesday that the king should be given a ceremonial role, students of the Amrit Science Campus at Lainchaur and Ratna Rajya Campus at Pradarsanimarga burnt effegies of the PM and shouted slogans against his “irresponsible” comments. Traffic remained disrupted for over an hour in the protest areas this morning. Student protests over the PM’s remarks have also been reported in Siraha. No one was arrested during the protests.
The hometown syndrome
By AMEET DHAKAL
from the Kathmandu Post Op-Ed
Every time Girija Prasad Koirala goes to his hometown, Biratnagar, he says something controversial, something unpleasant. Or to be more precise, every time Koirala wants to say something controversial he flies off to Biratnagar. This “hometown syndrome” is as interesting as it is idiosyncratic and puzzling.
Koirala’s remarks in hot and humid Biratnagar the other day, have sent ripples across the nation. He wants monarchy to stay in a ceremonial form.
His remarks have done injustice to the revolutionary image of his hometown to say the least. It is land from where his father, Krishna Prasad Koirala, about a century ago, fired a salvo against the Ranas. It’s also the land where he himself took the lead in the Workers Movement in 1948 and his two charismatic brothers masterminded the downfall of Rana Oligarchy. Biratnagar, therefore, deserved to hear something forward looking rather than a pledge to the status quo, from its veteran fighters.
However, to be fair to Koirala, he wasn’t flip-flopping on the issue. Before the success of the April Uprising and ever since October 4, 2002, he has consistently rooted for a ceremonial monarchy. Remember his famous life: “Ceremonial monarchy is a borderline between monarchy and a republic”?
But his position appears dispiriting in the light of the new consciousness spread to the nooks and corners of the country by the April Uprising. The Uprising began with people pouring on to the streets against the king. And it stopped when they were told that they had secured the right to decide whether the monarchy will be a part of Nepal’s future or of the past. That’s the essence of going for constituent assembly elections. But Koirala’s remarks hit at the very core of this consciousness, and will backfire on him and his party. Society’s collective consciousness does not have any back gear, so it moves only forward, leaving behind those who can’t move along.
Why Koirala is so anxious to save the monarchy, which has failed to prove its relevance, is puzzling? And that too in an age when monarchy in a state is seen like an appendix to the human body – a completely useless part which can nevertheless be fatally dangerous when it malfunctions. That’s why surgeons often remove the appendix when they get a chance.
So there has to be some thinking – if not compulsions- behind Koirala’s argument. One of the three theories or a mix of them could help us understand this. First is a theory of fear, which has two sides. On the one side is the king, which Koirala himself admitted in his remark. If pushed to the wall, like a cat, the king will hit back. This fear also shows Koirala’s lack of trust in the security forces, chiefly the army. In other words, the omission of the word “Royal” from the army’s name was just cosmetic, and deep down inside the army still remains loyal to the crown. On the other side of the fear are the Maoists themselves. Koirala still doesn’t trust the rebels and wants to use monarchy to counterbalance them.
Second is a theory of favor and forgiveness. At 81, Koirala wants to do a favor to the king and win the loyalty of the army and the Shah-Rana clan in return. Koirala, perhaps, has also become a little generous, a little forgiving. Who else would be a better person to forgive than the king, who once thought Koirala was his enemy number one?
Third theory says it’s a deal sealed long ago. Brokered by India, the Seven Party Alliance – possibly with a nod from the Maoists – had assured the king that the monarchy would have a place in a future Nepal.
All these theories neither address past injustice nor ensure safety in the future. The monarchists argue that the monarchy is the pillar of stability and unity in Nepal. History, however, begs to differ. No prime minister has served a full term under the Shaha dynasty’s 238-year reign. None of the five Mukhtiyars (prime ministers) who preceded the Rana rule – Damodar Pandey, Rana Jung Pandey, Bhimsen Thapa, Mathawar Singh Thapa and Ranga Nath Poudel – had a natural exit from power.
In between 1952 and 1960, after the end of Rana Oligarchy, we had 10 governments in just eight years. In between 1960 and 1990 – the Panchyat era under the leadership of absolute monarchy – government heads were changed 22 times. None of the prime ministers, except Marich Man Singh, survived for more than 3 years at a stretch during the Panchayat.
And whenever people’s movements turned strong, the king and his henchmen compromised only to grab power in back at an opportune time. The past six decades of the political history of Nepal are a history of the people’s struggle for democracy. They launched their struggles – in various forms – in 1950, 1958, 1968, 1979, 1985, 1990 and 2005. In how many countries have people fought for democracy so relentlessly? And in how many have monarchies subdued by the people, come back to suppress them again?
No one is a better witness to our checkered past than Girija Prasad Koirala himself. He was on the frontline of that protracted and painful struggle. Just before the April Uprising he said something profound: “Let’s fight for democracy for the last time so that our future generations will not have to fight again.” It immediately captured the nation’s imagination. Why does he want to relent now?
It is wise not to be carried away by trivial short term considerations and lose sight of the future. “The temporary good is enemy to the permanent best,” wrote Bill Wilson.
ameet (@) kantipur.com.np