Constituent Assembly on November. What About Election Laws?

For many it was a sudden development but today’s ending of political deadlock was the result of long bargaining, blame games and backbiting. Ruling coalition of eight parties decided to hold the election of Constituent Assembly at the end of November. Not only that the Parliament session today went on smoothly after two months of disturbances. On the peace process front, the meeting of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC) took place and all three parties of the JMCC- UN, Maoist and the government- discussed about the second phase of verification of arms.

Now, don’t ask what about the earlier Eight Party Alliance commitment (which is actually printed in the current constitution) of holding the CA election in June. Didn’t you notice all the allegations and counter allegations, blaming and backbiting in the political theater in the past several weeks after the Election Commission announced its inability to hold election on scheduled time? Finally they have decided that enough is enough, if we don’t get our acts together, we will be in trouble because as we were busy in the blame game Gyanendra got salute from Army in Dakchhinkali temple.

But the original question remains unanswered. Will the ruling alliance be able to formulate key election laws that the EC has been pressuring it to bring out soon? Mixed voting system or proportional representation? They have agreed to review the Election Constituency Delineation Commission (ECDC) report but will they be able to reach consensus so that no voice of resentment will be raised in the run up to the biggest democratic process in the history of Nepal? What about holding talks with agitating groups like Madhesi Forum, two factions of TJMM and Indigenous groups?

It seems the process of reconciliation has just begun and it has a long way to go.

Just like Schools, Capital of Nepal is Also Closed

Depriving Children’s Rights to Education in Nepal

By Conflict Study Center
Contributed by Dr. Bishnu Pathak and Chitra Niraula. Assisted by Shankar Poudyal, Rushma Shakya and Prem Prasad Pathak. (Source: Media Monitoring and Field Observation)

Today, Kathmandu is closed down again. No vehicles are running, no shops are open and no business is operating. People are scurrying hurriedly on their feet to their destinations for fear of mis-happenings. The smoke of the burning tires in crossroads has choked the neighborhood. In many places, not only public and private vehicles, but also ambulances have been stopped.

Factor for the closure

On May 25, 2007, Educational Republic Forum (ERF) that is close to Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Institutional School Teacher’s Union (ISTU) organized a sit-in at the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) on the eight day of the strike of all public and private educational institutions at and below Secondary level. Police charged with baton and fired tear gas, where more than 76 people were injured. Many have severe wounds in the head and many others have fractured hands and legs. Protesting the brutal treatment to them, they called for transport strike within Kathmandu from the afternoon. This has further aggravated the environment for talks.

Educational Data

Schools-8,500 (Private) 27,500 (Public)
Students-1,500,000 (Private) 63,00,000 (Public)
Teachers/Staffs-150,000 (Private) 600,000 (Public)

On May 26, 2007, ERF and All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary), Maoist Student’s Wing, demanded for a public apology from the Education Minister Pradip Nepal for his order to inhuman and cruel treatment and abuse to the demonstrators, and compensate expenses for medical treatment to the injured. Almost 7.8 million students across the country have been affected by the strike. Both the organizations had jointly organized rallies, processions and meetings throughout the country, and called for an indefinite strike. Their original principal demands were: all the agreements done by earlier governments should be immediately implemented; and the private schoolteachers and staffs should be availed remuneration and facilities equal to the civil service.

Existing complexities

• Educational sector has been a wrestling ground of political parties.
• Significant differences exist in private and public schools in terms of policies, strategies, curriculum, etc.
• The private schools charge high admission fees annually and monthly fees compared to public in the name of better education. Similarly, there are discrepancies concerning fees in different private schools.
• The salaries and benefits to teaching and non-teaching staffs of private is less compared to public; whereas there is discrepancies amongst private schools in these regard too.
• Textbooks are not available in the remote areas on time.
• Many public school teachers have not been availed permanency albeit their long services (some even more than 20 years) so that their occupation is not secure.
• Civil Servants and officials along with public school teachers send their children to private schools. The leaders of political parties and senior bureaucrats send their children to schools abroad. Whereas, they are the prime investors and investing heavily on the private schools.
• Education although a foundation to economic, physical, social and cultural phenomena, has been less prioritized in the government policies, plans and programs. The agendas included in the programs are not implemented on time.
• The MoES in drowned in corruption and commission.
• The Asian Development Bank and World Bank have been imposing educational reforms that are not compatible in Nepali perspectives.
• No educational materials developed by the government on mother tongue for the ethnicities and nationalities despite of government’s repeated commitments.
• Illiterate parents/guardians also have ‘inkling’ towards English and send their children to private schools.
• Discrimination: The children of the rich families study in rich private and better schools and become doctors and engineers, whereas those from the poor families are bound to study in poor public schools to become their workers.
• Parents impose their wishes on the children while selecting the subjects or schools.
• There is no forum to share and discuss the issues relating to education among students, teachers and parents.
• The Nepali media has not given due response to this critical issue, but exclusive coverage on politics.
• Priority to money, muscle and mafia instead of mind. Continue reading Just like Schools, Capital of Nepal is Also Closed

Gagan Thapa Declares Nepal Student Union Presidency Candidacy

Update: Pradeep Poudel, with 830 votes of 1500, won the presidency of NSU, the student wing of Nepali Congress, in it’s 10th National Convention. Bikash Koirala got 402. “I will take forward the aganda of democratic republicanism,” Poudel said. Gagan Thapa, at the eleventh hour, decided not to fight and supported Poudel who is a senior.

………..Original Post…….
Republicanism Vs Monarchy: Has The War Formally Begun?

In a dramatic (but somewhat expected) development today in Narayanghat, Chitwan, Gagan Thapa, an influential student leader has declared candidacy for the presidency of the of Nepal Student Union, the sister organization of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party. Gagan Thapa is a popular figure among Nepali students. He is also a vigorous campaigner of the democratic republic of Nepal. He is also considered a “thorn” for the conservative section of Nepali Congress leadership, including Koirala, who in one way or the other want to give space to the monarchy. Gagan Thapa is the symbol of Nepali aspiration for change and new Nepali youth consciousness.

NSU is organizing its national conference that will select new leader. The election is expected to be held tomorrow in which, it seems, Badri Pande will be fighting against Thapa. Pande is considered a favored candidate of the Koirala camp. If Thapa wins, that will have a huge impact in equation of Nepali politics in the coming days. That will also be considered a blow to the pro-monarchy forces within Nepal’s largest political party that is also leading the ruling Seven Party Alliance.

How will the Congress brass react to this development? Well, they might well try to prevent Thapa from being elected. They can do anything from even derailing the Conference. Lets see what happens.

Latest on Nepali Politics: Four Key Points

Amidst seeming deadlock, the political parties are busy in behind-the-scenes parleys and making tangible progress.

By Ameet Dhakal

The negotiations are mainly in two sets – between the Nepali Congress and the Maoists and between the government and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF).

Negotiations between the Nepali Congress and the Maoists are focused mainly on four issues:

A. Return of seized property
B. Release of salaries for the combatants
C. Construction work at the cantonment sites, and
D. Monarchy.

Return of seized property

The Nepali Congress has taken a strong stance on return of seized property and has linked this to the release of salaries for the Maoist combatants. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala told Maoist Chairman Prachanda that the government would not release salary for the combatants if the Maoists did not return seized property. Finally, the two sides agreed that release of salary and return of seized property would progress simultaneously. “That’s why Dr Baburam Bhattrai and Dr Shekhar Koirala went to Dang last week, to facilitate the return of seized property,” said a source. But the Maoists received a jolt in Dang when their cadres and peasants refused to oblige and instead engaged in manhandling of NC cadres. Dang soon became a ‘test-case’ for whether or not the Maoist leadership could assert its authority on its own cadres.

But they succeeded in making significant progress in Dang Friday evening. Following a public statement by Maoist Chairman Prachanda on the return of seized property and strong directives from the Maoist high-command to the district leadership, Maoist and NC district leaders in Dang held a meeting Friday at which the former agreed to return the seized property of 83 people in the district. But they have held on to the property of 15 people saying they would be released after completion of the investigation. Maoist district commander Surya issued a press statement Thursday urging all the displaced to return to the district and reclaim their property.

“Now the government will release part of the pending salary for the Maoists combatants and release the rest as progress is made in returning seized property,” said an NC source. The prime minister has already agreed to provide a monthly benefit of Rs 3,000 each to the combatants starting from the day they entered the cantonments.

Construction at cantonment sites

The sub-human living condition at the cantonment sites was emerging as a major irritant in the peace process, with commanders at the cantonments threatening the Maoist leadership with revolt if things did not improve soon. Though the finance ministry had released funds for construction a few weeks ago a dispute over the modality for fund release at the site had held up construction work.

The Maoists were demanding that the money should go directly into the hands of the commander at the cantonment, but the government had proposed that it should go to a committee headed by the Chief District Officer.

A high level meeting this morning attended by four ministers — Ram Chandra Poudel, Dr Ram Saran Mahat, Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Hisila Yami — sorted out the issue.

They have agreed to form a committee with the chief at the cantonment site (a government under secretary), an engineer of the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction and the cantonment commander as members. The cantonment site chief will oversee the funds. At the centre, the funds will go through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Construction headed by Maoist leader Yami. Finance Minister Dr Mahat informed the Post that his ministry has already released Rs 90.3 million for cantonment construction.

On Monarchy

The NC and the Maoist leaders haven’t discussed the monarchy much since they were preoccupied with “more pressing issues”. The Maoist public stance still remains that the monarchy should be abolished by the interim legislature before the nation goes to the constituent assembly (CA) poll. But NC sources say the Maoists haven’t raised the issue with the same vigor during closed-door negotiations. In all probability, the leaders are likely to agree on amending the constitution — a bill for which is already in the legislature — giving powers to the interim legislature to abolish the monarchy if it were found to be meddling with the CA poll. The implementation of past agreements on monarchy such as nationalization of the king’s property, scrapping of the army secretariat at the royal palace and further severing of the army’s ties with monarchy are other likely agreements.

MPRF, Govt near deal

The government has made significant progress in its negotiations with the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF). In its negotiations, the government has conceded the major demand of the MPRF — formation of a judicial commission to investigate the loss of life and property in the terai during the Madhes movement. The Commission, however, will also investigate the Gaur incident. The MPRF has demanded that the commission be led by a judge of Madhes origin but the government has told the Forum not to stick to any individual name. Once the government forms the commission the two sides will hold a formal dialogue and seal the deal. “Whenever the next cabinet meeting takes place we will form the commission,” Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel told ekantipur.

Significantly, the MPRF has dropped its demand for the resignation of Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula but has raised seriously the issue of security for its leaders since it fears retribution from the Maoists. “We are confident of resolving the rest of the issues with the MPRF when we sit for a dialogue the next time,” said Minister Poudel.

(Ameet Dhakal is the news editor of the Kathmandu Post where this article originally appeared.)

Unacceptable: The YCL Activities

UWB agrees with the Kathmandu Post editorial published today: The Young Communit League (YCL) activities are not directed at cleaning the society but at cleansing rules, norms, system and civilization of this country.

Prachanda and his rag-tag army committed the first blunder by declaring an armed rebellion back in 1996. Even if we agree on their claim that they raised awareness in the rural areas, the loss of human lives, infrastructures and economic deterioration do not justify the so-called people’s war. The compulsion they confronted to join the mainstream politics also proves the point. Thankfully, the obdurate king helped them by not inviting the political parties until things turned unmanageable. The Maoists would have, otherwise, joined the mainstream in much weaker position. Alas! Even after joining the government at equal strength as that of UML, the Maoist leadership has not realized its myopic vision in handling the home-grown goons called Youth Communist League (YCL) which is ruining its political achievements, and also risking the sovereignty of this country. So, the second blunder the Maoist leadership has made is the unleashing of YCL.

Comrade Prachanda and his followers are turning deaf ears to the fact that the YCL activities are not directed at cleaning the society but at cleansing rules, norms, system and civilization of this country. The manhandling of chief district officers, vandalizing of district administrative blocs and attacking on other government officers are nothing but sheer highhandedness, disrespect to the rule of law, and typical to an autocratic and criminal mindset. The YCL cadres have gone beyond control. Not only in Mahendranagar, they have committed such crimes in various other districts and even in Padma Kanya College. Their assertion has been unabated because they have won the psychological war with the leadership. These people are taking the advantage of fissure in the Maoist leadership. Prachanda and Baburam look timid and helpless in controlling YCL because they do not want to lose them to the trio — Kiran, Badal and Gaurav — who is growing strong within the party.

If the Maoist leadership has consciously unleashed YCL to do whatever and attack whomever, their strategy is absolutely wrong and will have a detrimental effect on the Maoists themselves. Maybe, they are trying to manage the level of fear that general public had on them before they laid down their weapons. But if they achieve that goal, the CA elections will not take place. If they fail to achieve the goal, they will land on their face in the CA elections. Their acts will also cost the country dear because the feeble administration is simply unable to cope up with the pressure from separatists, fundamentalists and criminals operating in terai. It is high time the Maoist leadership reconsidered its stance and mulled seriously over the future of this country. At the moment, the YCL activities are unacceptable and the Post strongly condemns them.

Time for Meeting As Madhav Nepal and Prachanda Have Changed Their Tone

Madhav Nepal and Prachanda of UML and Maoist respectively have finally shown the signs that they have cooled down or are in the serious process of doing so. Ever since the election commission expressed its inability to hold elections in June, both communist leaders had lost the control of themselves and were in full swing to say whatever came to their mind. In addition to that Prachanda’s out-of-cantonment army, popularly (?) known as Young Communist League (YCL), was in intimidation spree. The criminal-like activities of YCL are still continuing but the not with the same intensity because the tone of their Supreme leader Prachanda has been changed over the last couple of days. In this whole fiasco, Nepali Congress has again emerged as the mature and reliable force. Too bad for the cause of republicanism in Nepal and the blame solely goes to the shoulders of Madhav Nepal and Prachanda. They must understand that declaring Nepal a republic on paper won’t really make the nation a republic and this government in which Maoist and UML have key ministries have failed to implement many pro-republic decisions taken by the previous parliament. We have already seen that throwing one declaration after another but not caring about implementing them won’t take us anywhere. Implementing those decisions is the key to lead Nepal to republicanism and all of the constituencies of the government have to be united to implement those decisions. Blaming Nepali Congress or Girija Prasad Koirala won’t have positive impact.

While playing all the blame game in the past weeks, we know, both Madhav Nepal and Prachanda knew that fact. They even talked about Left unity which is an impossible thing in Nepali context. But the harsh reality in politics is different. Here, people speak what they really don’t mean and they speak for the mass. They speak what their followers want to hear. And the mass still wants to hear that the election must be held on June, no matter what! And while taking about the Left unity, they only gave opportunity to people like Surya Bahadur Thapa to talk about ‘democratic alliance’. Reactionary forces, in the avatar of Thapa, almost raised their heads when parties were fighting with each other.

Talking about the election dates, all developments are hinting that that will be sometime on November this year. Now Prachanda must stop further bargaining, tell his cadres to behave responsibly and prepare himself for the eight party meeting. Nepali Congress has rightly demanded change in Maoist cadres’ behavior and Maoist must listen to that voice seriously. As long as the Maoists don’t act properly, we will not have right atmosphere to go for election campaign and, without campaigning, election will not be an election.

[UWB: All comments posted under this post were deleted. The Comments table in the UWB WordPress database was removed by someone or somehow- we don’t know- which meant all comments posted in the Comments section were also deleted. We have reposted the backup which didn’t include the comments posted in recent posts including this one. Our apologies to those who had posted their thoughts and arguments.]

How Can The Declaration of Republic of Nepal Be Legitimate?

What counts in Democracy is the majority of the vote of people, their aspiration, their sentiment and their demand for the fundamental change that will establish their rights to ‘self-governance’, and ‘self-determination’ in nation building process. Therefore, the legitimacy of the declaration of the Republic solely depends on the aspiration of people that can be demonstrated either by the votes or by the uprisings. Since the opportunity to cast vote has been put under uncertainty, we must act as per the last year’s uprising that had only one voice: do away with the monarchy.

By Prakash Bom

The argument of the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel in opposition to the leftist call for immediate declaration of Republic of Nepal through the parliament can’t be justified. Mr. Poudel, who has just fought to penalize the monarchy, might have under estimated the people’s power in last year’s uprisings that can legitimate changes.

People’s power has already legitimated several fundamental changes- “proclamation of the sovereignty of people, declaration of secular state, suspension of monarchy, and so on.” It is obvious that these political leaderships, whose dream is to stick to the status quo of an ‘elite group’, keep forgetting the strength of people that has been taking momentum for fundamental changes in the current democratic evolution of Nepal. That is why people could not accept the elements of status quo in Interim Constitution and therefore demanded their right to ‘self-governance’ and ‘self-determination’ through the establishment of federalism. People know now what will guarantee their “civil liberty’, “civil rights” and “human rights” which have been traditionally denied by the establishment of an ‘elite group.’ Nepali people are watching closely some cunning politicians who grab the power out of people’s uprising to dishonor people in return.

In order to declare Republic Nepal immediately through the Parliament the Interim Constitution needs further amendment to make the declaration constitutionally legitimate and internationally acceptable. The ball is in the hands of eight political party leaderships. Bills that have been recently endorsed by the eight political party leaderships- “bill that can give the Parliament right to declare Republic with the two third of votes if the monarchy conspires against CA elections, bill that can give the Parliament right to impeach the Prime Minister for his or her removal, and bill that will allow the Parliament amend the dates of CA elections”, are getting rusty on the table of the cabinet. Why the cabinet is keeping these bills away from the Parliament is very distrustful. However, people are very much aware of such intention that is antagonistic to the people power. People know declaring Nepal Republic will empower them with the right to ‘self-governance’ and ‘self-determination’ under the federalism.

Political elements that are obstructing these bills in the cabinet are obviously the rudiments of the elite group, which are intrinsically exclusive with their politics of power. The longer the cabinet obstructs the worst will be the consequences. Most probably it will be detrimental to the status quo, and unfortunate to the nation that has dream to create a new democratic Nepal. Naturally, where there is no constitutional option for the people there will be uprising. People’s uprising is the ultimate political struggle for the historic change. The historic change is inherently legitimate, and internationally acceptable.

Logistically, if we accept the assertion that the first meeting of the CA will decide the fate of the monarchy at this critical transition where CA elections are not possible to be held as scheduled in the Interim Constitution, there must be other option. After all it is inevitable that eventually Nepal will be declared Republic- “The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.”

The political power of the ‘elite group’ with the institution of the feudal monarchy is under demolition. The club must accept this reality in which major political parties such as Nepali Congress and UML have participated and how much they are addicted to the club depends on their individual leaderships. Principally, party politics wise UML has been able to commit with the sentiment of the people for the republic setup. But, powerful Nepali Congress leaderships have failed to liberate themselves from the addictions of status quo in support to this cause and to the sentiment of people of Nepal. If the majority of people’s vote rules the democracy then what other option Nepali Congress parties have other than politics of obstructions.

Nepali Congress party, as the largest in the Interim Parliament and as the leader in the Interim Government, must decide how it wants to address this crisis- introduce the bills or the referendum, or make reassertion for CA electoral first meeting with new CA elections dates or do nothing thus ignite the public uprising. Since it leads the government, Nepali Congress will be held accountable for any bitter consequences: pro-republic or pro-monarchy.

[UWB: All comments posted under this post were deleted. The Comments table in the UWB WordPress database was removed by someone or somehow- we don’t know- which meant all comments posted in the Comments section were also deleted. We have reposted the backup which didn’t include the comments posted in recent posts including this one. Our apologies to those who had posted their thoughts and arguments.]