Portfolio Seniority Dispute Derails Interim Government Formation

Contrary to widespread expectations, the interim government couldn’t be formed today because of the UML introduced seniority bargain.

Who is senior between Ramchandra Poudel and Sahana Pradhan? Who should come first in the cabinet list? [We mentioned RC’s name first based on alphabetical order, by the way.] Nepali Congress thinks its general secretary is senior where as CPN UML firmly believes its senior leader is senior. Poudel is a former Speaker of the parliament and former Deputy Prime Minister where is 79 year old lady started her political career almost 6 decades ago. Her political background is enough to make her qualify for the number second in the cabinet, UML argues. According to C P Mainali of Left Front, a coalition partner, Nepali Congress had expressed its interest in nominating its member on the second position after PM. “At a time when even Maoists have abandoned their demand of appointing DPM from their party and Nepali Congress has expressed its intention of keeping second position with itself in yesterday’s meeting,” Mainali told KTV, “UML’s today put forward a name of the senior former minister and stressed that she should be given the number 2 ministerial position.”

Here UML is clearly acting like a problematic child. After accepting Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala as the Prime Minister who isn’t very well and clearly needs an aide from his own party to run the government it’s childish for the UML to argue for a mere issue like seniority of a minister in the cabinet. It is worthy of mentioning that recently UML had proposed Sahana’s name for the ambassadorial appointment for Russia. Meanwhile, Ramchandra Poudel refuted the report that Nepali Congress had objected the UML’s choice of Sahana Pradhan to lead the party in the government. “Mr Koirala asked me to assist him as a senior minister in the cabinet as he is not very well,” he told KTV. “How could I reject the request of my party president? But Nepali Congress has no problem with Sahana Pradhan. It’s UML’s right to send whoever they want to send to the cabinet.” Poudel hoped that the unexpected problem would be solved through conscious by tomorrow. Another problem came in the form of Amik Serchan who said his party wasn’t consulted while distributing cabinet portfolios. Serchan is DPM and Health minister in the current cabinet. Big four parties have agreed on removing the post of DPM which means it will be almost impossible for him to continue as minister because of seniority problem.

Contrary to widespread expectations, the interim government couldn’t be formed today because of the UML introduced seniority bargain. Diplomats had reached to the parliament this morning to witness the oath taking ceremony. They returned as politicians failed to reach conscious and the meeting of parliament was cancelled for the straight second day. Huge media presence was witnessed in the parliament and at least two TV stations had planned to broadcast today’s parliament session. Prime Minister Koirala will head for New Delhi tomorrow 4 PM to take part in SAARC meeting. Let’s hope, we will see the new interim cabinet by then!

Common Minimum Program of Interim Government of Nepal

Political parties (members of Seven Party Alliance and the Maoist) yesterday (30 March) finalized the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of the interim government that will be formed today. The leaders also gave final touches to the code of conduct for ministers, a commitment paper for creating a conducive atmosphere for elections and guidelines for the future coalition. They decided to set up a committee to maintain coordination among the ruling parties. In the CMP, the parties have given top priority to promotion of national interest, loktantra and progression; improvement of security situation; change and reforms in all state systems and immediate relief for conflict-hit people. Major points in the Common Minimum Program are:

– CA polls in free and fair manner by mid-June
– Promotion of competitive politics, human rights and press freedom
– Strict implementation of peace accord
– Formation of peace and rehabilitation, truth and reconciliation, and state restructuring commissions
– An action plan to democratize the Nepali Army, a special cabinet committee to oversee, integrate and rehabilitate Maoist combatants
– Proper management of Maoist cantonments
– End to all sorts of red-tapism and corruption
– Nationalization of royal property
– End to strikes and bandas
– Reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure
– Education and health institutions to be peace zones
– Creation of investment-friendly environment, strong action against willful defaulters
– Common development strategy and effective social reforms and welfare programs

The parties also finalized a code of conduct for ministers. The code includes:
– Immediate ouster of ministers involved in corruption
– All political appointments based on political consensus
– Implementation of eight-party decisions major duty of ministers
– No public comment on matters of cabinet debate
– Respect for a coalition culture

The parties agreed to bring the country’s situation to normal as a means to create a conducive environment for polls. The agreements include:
– The Maoists will stop extortion and intimidation, return sized
– Both government forces and Maoists will leave all forcefully captured buildings
– All weapons outside cantonments will be declared illegal
– Joint committees to be formed in districts for monitoring agreements

The parties will form a United Coordination Committee (UCC) at the center to assist the government in implementing the CMP in coordinated manner. Parties’ senior leaders will be members in the UCC. The common programs, government’s operation guidelines, code of conduct for ministers and parties’ commitments to peace will be made public on Saturday after an eight-party meeting.

After Fighting For 10 Years, Maoists in Nepal are Hours Away From Joining Government

Finally, political parties have won the ‘fight for the balance of power’. Or have they?

By Dinesh Wagle

Paulo Coelho might have no idea at all about Nepali politics but his lines in the best selling “The Alchemist” tell all about the current situation in the Himalayan nation. Here I extract a paragraph from the book in which the leader of the caravan tells to the travelers:

“We don’t know when the war will end, so we can’t continue our journey. The battles may last for a long time, perhaps even years. There are powerful forces on both sides, and the war is important to both armies. It’s not a battle of good against evil. It’s a war between forces that are fighting for the balance of power, and, when that type of battle begins, it lasts longer than others- because Allah is on both sides.”

In yet another historical development in Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that launched violent insurgency for 10 years beginning from 1996 is hours away from joining the interim government. This has happened after series of intense negotiations among the coalition partners and the Maoist. The interim government, that will be formed tomorrow if nothing super extraordinary happens, should have been formed on 1 December 2006 according a landmark agreement reached between the ruling Seven Party Alliance and the CPN Maoist in November 2006.

The Interim Cabinet of Nepal

Nepali Congress

Girija Prasad Koirala Prime Minister and Defense Minister
Ram Chandra Poudel Minister for Peace and Reconstruction
Dr Ram Sharan Mahat Minister for Finance
Krishna Prasad Sitauala Minister for Home Affairs
Mahantha Thakur Minister for Science and Technology


Sahana Pradhan Minister for Foreign Affairs
Pradip Nepal Minister for Education and Sports
Chhabilal BK Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives
Ram Chandra Yadav Minister for General Administration
Prithvi Subba Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ram Chandra Yadav
Mohan Singh Rathaur State Minister for Education and Sports

CPN (Maoist)

Krishna Bahadur Mahara Minister for Ifnormation and Communication
Dev Gurung Minister for Local Development
Hisila Yami Minister for Physical Planning and Works
Matrika Yadav Minister for Soil Conservation
Khadka Badhadur BK Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare

Nepali Congress (Democratic)

Narendra Bikram Nemwang Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Ramesh Lekhak State Ministers for Labour and Transport Management
Gyanendra Bahadur Karki State Minister for Water Resources

Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandidevi)

Rajendra Mahato Minister for Commerce, Industry and Supply

United Left Front

Jagat Bahadur Bogati Minister for Land Reforms and Management

(this list was updated on 1 April)

But the timetable set in that agreement experienced delays in every aspect. No interim parliament was formed on time and interim constitution wasn’t announced on time as well. Whatever the case, people in Kathmandu are relieved to hear the news that parties have agreed on the cabinet portfolios n which, it seems, Nepali Congress will play the shot. Nepali Congress has retained all ministries considered major (Home, Finance and Defense) and there will be no Deputy Prime Minister (another idea of Koirala). But it seems Maoists are happy with the arrangement.

The interim government, to be headed by Nepali Congress president and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, will have the primary responsibility of holding the election of Constituent Assembly on time, that is, by mid-June 2007. This will be the single biggest challenge for this government in the wake of recent violent protests in southern Nepal. Formation of the interim government and holding the election of Constituent Assembly are part of the peace process. Maoist and the government have already signed a comprehensive peace agreement. Maoist has put its arms and guerillas in seven cantonments across the country. Many hardliners, including those who are soft to the royalists, strongly believe that the Maoists are not honest to the peace process because they didn’t put all of their arms in the containers (cantonments) while others think that it’s impossible to expect from any former guerilla force to expect to containerize their 100 percent arms. Another issue strongly raised by the Prime Minister’s party Nepali Congress is that the Maoist hasn’t returned lands and properties it confiscated from many people across the rural areas during the insurgency.

Krishan Bahadur Mahara, the man who headed the Maoist team to negotiate peace with the SPA government formed after the popular April 2006 uprising, will head the Maoist party in the interim cabinet. Mahara will have the responsibility of Information and Communication ministry according to Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. The Maoist party will have five portfolios in the cabinet.

With the formation of the interim government, the “fighting for the balance of power” has only entered to the next round. This fight isn’t like the one we saw in April 2006 that ended in 19 days (that too after rounds of failed attempts) as that was “a battle of good against evil” and good emerged victorious against evil. The fight for the “balance of the power” will continue until the fragile peace process will safely landed. And we know that will take a lot of efforts from all warriors. Good luck to the interim government!

Election Commission Invites Parties to Register

30 March: Even as uncertainties rule over the exact date of the election of the Constituent Assembly, the Election Commission today invited the political parties who want to contest in the Constituent Assembly elections to register themselves at the commission. At a press conference organised in the capital today, EC officials said the process of registering the political parties will begin from Saturday (March 31) and end on April 27. CA election is constitutionally slated for mid-June.

Chief Election Commissioner Bhojraj Pokhrel told reporters in a press conference in Kathmandu today that all parties wishing to contest the elections will have to apply for registration within the stated time with at least 10,000 signatures. The new constitutional provisions require both the old and new political parties to register at the EC. The parties that are currently represented at the interim parliament do not need to produce 10,000 signatures. They can simply re-register themselves. Pokhrel further informed that the verification of the signatures submitted with the parties’ registration applications would be completed within a week of the closing of the registration process. When asked whether the elections were possible within the stipulated time, Pokhrel said: “Our job is to prepare for the elections.”

Exposed: Indian Group Behind MPRF

The local administration claims that yesterday’s sit-in protest by Seema Jagaran Manch of Bihar (India) on Indian side of the border supporting MPRF was enough to justify the earlier suspicion of infiltration of Indian nationals in rallies organized here by MPRF in the past.

By Binod Bhandari and Bhim Ghimire

BIRATNAGAR- At a time when speculations are rife about the involvement of people from neighboring India in violent rallies of the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) in terai districts, an organization based in the Indian state of Bihar staged a sit-in in the Indian side of the Jogbani border point “protesting police crackdown on Indian nationals during MPRF rallies and expressing solidarity with MPRF’s protests”, Wednesday (28 March). The sit-in by Seema Jagaran Manch, Bihar, has not only confirmed the involvement of Indian nationals in violent MPRF rallies, but also raised questions over the type of nexus the MPRF has with the organization. Customs work was halted as agitators prevented vehicles from plying via the border point. On a normal day, around 300 goods trucks pass through the point while the Customs Office collects at least Rs 18 million in revenue.

In a statement, the Manch also accused Maoists of attacking Indian nationals with the help of police in Biratnagar, Gaur, Birgunj and many other places during MPRF’s protest programs. “The sit-in at the border point is also aimed at exerting pressure to stop the Maoists’ ongoing expansion of their organization in India in recent times,” said Bhanu Prasad Rai, chairman of the organization. He also clearly said that his organization “fully supports MPRF’s movement in the Terai”. The local administration claims that Wednesday’s sit-in was enough to justify the earlier suspicion of infiltration of Indian nationals in rallies organized here by MPRF in the past.

On January 31, two Indian nationals- Dalbal Tiwari and Rustam Miya- along with half a dozen other MPRF cadres were injured in a clash with police at bordering Materuwa area as protesters tried to snatch weapons from the police. On that very day, Sub-inspector Nareshjung Karki was brutally killed as MPRF cadres stormed the Budhanagar police post. Local authorities also claim that a large number of Indians had taken part in the violent demonstration at Singhiya Bridge area on February 7 where two MPRF cadres were killed in police action. Meanwhile, police claimed that MPRF cadres and leaders were also present at the sit-in. MPRF’s Budhanagar chairman Prithvi Chanda Sah, Biratnagar-22 chairman Mahesh Shah and many cadres of Amaduwa village also participated in the sit-in, police sources at bordering Rani post claimed.

Nepali in Transition: Updates on Political Developments

Bargainings for portfolios continue. Here is the latest along with what pro-Maoist newspaper like Janadesh and pro-UML paper Drishti say. Plus, Jana Astha weekly on Gyanendra’s blatant ignorance to the government investigation

By Dinesh Wagle

The politics in Kathmandu is focused in forming the interim government in which Maoists are expected to join. Talks between the political parties, mainly Nepali Congress, CPN UML, CPN Maoist and Nepali Congress Democratic are going on. All big four parties are reportedly bargaining on the exact details of power sharing: who should get which portfolio in the cabinet. Home, Finance, Defense and Communications are considered the four key ministries. UML is claiming either Home or Finance where as NC or the PM wants all first three. Maoist is expected to get Communications.

As bargains are going on among the parties, Maoists are increasingly becoming frustrated by the way Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is presenting himself the power sharing negotiations. They feel the delaying caused by Koirala is helping those who don’t want to see the Constituent Assembly elections happening in June. (According to the interim constitution of Nepal, the CA election must be held by mid June.) Nepali Congress, Koirala’s party, wants to keep plum portfolios with itself in the interim cabinet where as CPN UML and CPN Maoist strongly disagree with that intention. They say the cabinet must represent the power equation of the interim legislature parliament where all three big parties are represented almost equally. Maoists are demanding the senior Deputy Prime Minister saying that when they agreed to accept Subash Nemwang of UML to be the speaker of the parliament all parties had in principle agreed that the Maoist would get the post of senior DPM. In yesterday’s meeting with Prachanda, Koirala shocked the Maoist leader by saying that he didn’t want to continue with the post of DPL at all.

There is another uncertainty: will the interim government form by the end of this week, before the PM heads to New Delhi, India on April 1, to take part in the SAARC meeting. The foreign minister has to attend the pre-summit ministerial meetings before that date. So there is very little time to continue the apparently never ending negotiations. An informal meeting of the central secretariat of the Maoist the day before yesterday gave ultimatum to the PM to form the government by Friday. If not, the party said, there will be Jana Andolan (People’s Movement) III. The Maoist mouthpiece Janadesh weekly in its Tuesday issue has this banner headline: “Feeble possibility of Maoist joining the government.” The paper writes: “The special meeting of Central Committee secretariat will be held today. The meeting will decide on joining the government in the present context in which the possibility of holding CA election by mid June seems fading. If the meeting decides not to join the government, new programs to start peoples’ movement will be brought out, the source said.”

Nepali language Janadesh further writes: “Nepali Congress is not ready to take a solid decision on the monarchy, the paper writes. The imperialist and royalist regressive elements within Nepali Congress are busy in different conspiracies and that is pushing the election of CA to uncertainty.”

Here is more from Janadesh: “There is no point of Maoist joining the government if the election couldn’t be held by mid-June. Nepalese peoples’ wish is to hold the election by that date and construct a new Nepal by a restructured [state machinery]. If there is a conspiracy to take the Maoist to the government but not hold the election by the stipulated date, there is no meaning for the Maoist joining such government. Maoist will not join such government.” Continue reading Nepali in Transition: Updates on Political Developments

Buddha Boy Update: Ram Bahadur Bomjon Now Meditating in Pit

28 March: Ram Bahadur Bomjon, popularly known as the “Buddha Boy”, who stole the limelight after spending months in meditation, reportedly without food and water, has been found again, meditating inside a pit dug underground at Ratanpuri recently. Bomjon, who had started meditation under a Pipal tree in the village, had gone missing since March 11, 2006, and again reappeared on December 25 the same year. According to Inspector Rameshwor Yadav of the Area Police Post Nijgadh, Bomjon was inside the bunker-like square ditch of seven feet.

“We call it bunker,” he said, adding, “Although it’s seven feet deep, there is no lack of oxygen inside,” said Yadav, who claimed to have seen him going inside it from close range Monday (Mar 26). A police team, under the command of Yadav, had gone to the place after word of Bomjon being on underground meditation spread in the area. “His face was clean and hair was combed well,” Yadav said. According to him, “the bunker” has been cemented from all sides with roof of tiles. Even as frequent “hide and seek” were continuing, some locals recently spotted him in the local forest on 9th March. After his mysterious disappearance last year, his “disciples” had claimed that he had gone in search of a peaceful place for the purpose, as thousands of curious people began visiting him daily then. However, a few others had even termed it a ploy of his followers to earn popularity and money.

Indra Lama, a local, who has been deployed as caretaker for him since he began meditation, said the “bunker” was prepared as per Bomjon’s order. “After granting audience a week ago, he expressed his desire to meditate inside the ground; so we built it,” he said.By Upendra Lamichhane

Interim Nepal Government: End The Bargain Soon

The Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists have failed to hammer out an agreement regarding formation of the interim government. The major sticking point is division of portfolios amongst the four major parties- NC, UML, NC (D) and Maoists. The difficulty in power sharing amongst various political parties is understandable. Not only do different parties have different claims about their strength; but each of them will also be competing in the upcoming Constituent Assembly (CA) elections.

This only adds to the complications of power sharing negotiations. None of these parties want to be seen as weaker or junior partner in the interim government. With one eye fixed at the CA Polls, the parties think the make up of the interim government will symbolically reflect their strength. That’s why the Maoists are claiming the post of deputy prime minister and the UML wants either the Home or the Finance ministry. But Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala wants to retain all three powerful ministries-Defense, Home and Finance-with the NC.

Bargains, bluffs and protracted negotiations are the realities of coalitions the world over. So, expecting a swift deal overnight would be asking too much from the parties. That said, we want to draw the attention of the seven-plus-one parties to the current fluid situation. Close to the first anniversary of the April Movement, we have achieved a lot. But it is also true that a lot remains to be done. The major task, which will go a long way in consolidating the gains of the April Movement, is holding the CA Polls. Election is a power making/power eroding process. Once election is held and people provide mandate to certain political forces, it legitimizes that political power. On the contrary, rejecting other political forces in the polls, people erode their legitimacy. We need elections not only to decide the future of monarchy in Nepal but also to establish through popular will who they want to see ruling the country. Once elections are held we will get rid of the problem of legitimacy that every political party is claiming now. Continue reading Interim Nepal Government: End The Bargain Soon

‘MPRF Hired Professional Killers in Gaur’

Dr Mathura Shrestha, a prominent human rights activist, visited Gaur a day after the carnage, in which 28 persons died. Dr Shrestha served as Health Minister in the post-1990 interim government. He attended a meeting of MPRF in Delhi and met also Chief of Janatantrik Mukti Morcha, Jaya Krishan Goit, a couple of times. Dr Shrestha out-rightly rejects Prachanda’s view of outlawing MPRF. He suggests that addressing the Madhesi problems and implementing the decisions taken by the SPA plus Maoists, thus far, help restore peace and democracy in this country. Dr Shrestha shares his opinion and recounts eyewitnesses’ count on the Gaur carnage with Puran P Bista and Ghanashyam Ojha of the Kathmandu Post.

Q: How do you recount the gory incident of Gaur after your recent visit?

Dr Mathura Shrestha: Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) had made an announcement through mikes five days ago for holding a public meeting in Gaur at 11 pm on last Wednesday. Madhesi Mukti Morcha (MMM) set up the stage for the carnage after it, too, decided to hold the public meeting on the same ground at the same time on the same day.

The locals feared of something. As a result, president Deo Padayar Gupta of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Rautahat branch, invited the MPRF and MMM cadres to attend the meeting on Wednesday morning at around 8:00 am.

But none of them attended the meeting. At around 10 am, rallies of both the parties began. Some of the participants in the rallies had come from adjoining VDCs. The rallies, organized by both the parties, met near the district court. The participants in the rallies waved, clapped their hands and welcomed each other’s rally, showing an understanding on the holding of Wednesday’s public meeting. The locals took this incident as a good gesture that MPRF would hold its meeting first, and then MMM would do so, on the same ground but at different time. Then, the Maoist rally passed through Gaur, while MPRF’s rally converted into a public meeting at the Rice Mill ground.

The ground is near the district court. First, the MPRF cadres dismantled the MMM stage built for the public meeting. A few MMM cadres present there were beaten up. These MMM cadres left the ground to inform their leaders of the incident. Chairing MPRF’s meeting was Ram Prasad Biswas. No sooner had Biswas taken his chair as a chief guest, than the MMM cadres entered the field and began to disrupt MPRF’s meeting. Then, from the southern and western sides, some people fired shots at MMM cadres. Later, some MPRF cadres fired from within the stage at MMM cadres.

According to eye witnesses, MPRF cadres used socket bombs and small fire arms, besides sharp weapons and cleft bamboo sticks. I think MPRF had hired notorious higher killers.

Q: How can you claim so when you were not present there?

Dr Shrestha: Within two minutes, over a dozen MMM cadres were killed. Then, the MPRF-hired professional killers chased the MMM cadres. Some of the MMM cadres not acquainted with Gaur entered into nearby houses for safety. They were dragged out of these houses and killed. Some of the MMM cadres were chased as far as eight kilometers and killed. Some of the dead bodies were buried in a water canal.

I was told by eyewitnesses that eight of the killers were local Nepalis and 25 others were Indians. The three locals are Balru, Hafij Mukhiya and Binda Hasin Sahani. The eyewitnesses recounted that “the police force could do nothing”. But local police contradicted this statement saying that “they blank-fired to stop the killings”. Some local people even claimed that Upendra Yadav was staying at the house next to Dr Tayab and the superintendent of police escorted him up to Barganiya near Nepal-India border.

What was heinous was that five of the women were raped in public. Two people caught their legs and other MPRF cadres raped them in public. Later their breasts were chopped off and burnt to deface their identity. Gagan Singh, Bhusan Singh, Baban and Guddu Jha were involved in raping and chopping-off-activities. Two local Muslim girls were taken away and their whereabouts are still unknown.

Q: Are these rapists local or Indian criminals?

Dr Shrestha: They should be local people because the local residents knew them well and everyone could pronounce their names clearly. Twelve of the MMM cadres were killed at Hajmonia, some 12 kilometers away from Gaur. They included three women and nine men. Continue reading ‘MPRF Hired Professional Killers in Gaur’

OHCHR Nepal On Maina Sunuwar Case

For the Record, Press statement from OHCHR Nepal: OHCHR-Nepal insists on full investigation of Maina Sunuwar following exhumation of remains

A team from OHCHR-Nepal on Friday (March 23) monitored the exhumation of the remains thought to be those of Maina Sunuwar, the 15-year-old girl who was allegedly tortured and died in the custody of the (Royal) Nepalese Army (NA) in February 2004. The team was accompanied by an international forensic expert, who assisted forensic pathologists from the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Teaching Hospital in the exhumation after an offical request was received.

The remains were exhumed from the grounds of the NA’s Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre in Panchkhal, Kavre District, where military personnel are trained before being deployed on UN peacekeeping missions.

The exhumation marks a crucial step in the criminal investigation launched by police into the girl’s death, which has been stalled for many months due to the NA challenging the jurisdiction of civilian authorities over the case as well as the reluctance of authorities to proceed with an investigation.

As part of a court martial, the NA in September 2005 found three military personnel guilty of failing to dispose of the body properly. However, details regarding the court martial and the NA’s court of inquiry investigation that preceded it have never been made public. The NA has also failed to provide court of inquiry and court martial documentation to OHCHR despite repeated requests.

While the exhumation is a positive development, it is essential that police complete a thorough investigation, with full cooperation from the NA. During her visit to Nepal in January, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, received assurances from the NA Chief of Staff and the Home Minister that an investigation would be carried out without delay.

“The exhumation Friday of remains thought to be those of Maina Sunuwar marks a crucial step forward in the quest for justice for her alleged torture and death. A full criminal investigation by police must now proceed to determine who was responsible and to hold them fully accountable,” said Sandra Beidas Officer In Charge of OHCHR-Nepal.