Category Archives: Nepal in Transition 2

Fate of a King: Poor and Powerless Overnight

By Ameet Dhakal
News Editor, the Kathmandu Post

gyanendra king of nepalThe Shah Kings, through royal decree, usurped power and amassed wealth umpteen times during the last 238 years. But today (15 Jan) people have turned the tables on the monarchy: By proclaming a constitution invoking their sovereign rights the people have made the reigning king both poor and powerless overnight.

The king will no longer act as head of state – let alone exercise any political power. Significantly, the constitution has also snatched away a major chunk of the royal assets. According to the interim constitution, property belonging to the late King Birendra will go into a trust and the property inherited by King Gyanendra by virtue of ascending the throne will be nationalized. But the king will continue to enjoy his private property, including his businesses. How much does the king own in business? Contrary to popular perception, The Kathmandu Post investigation revealed that he owns “very little”

The common perception that the king is “super rich” comes from an assumption that he owns a majority share in the Soaltee Group, which does not exist any longer. However, the investigation also revealed that he owned only a “miniscule” share in the Group’s businesses that expanded rapidly over last two decades. Before being dismantled in December 2005, the Group had nine business enterprises in its fold: Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd, Bhotekoshi Company Pvt Lt, Himal International Power Corporation, Sipradi Trading Pvt Ltd, Gorkha Lawrie Pvt Ltd, Himalaya Goodricke Pvt Ltd, Amaravati International Pvt Ltd, Maersk Nepal Pvt Ltd and Amaravati Travels Pvt Ltd. Out of these nine enterprises, Gorkha Lawrie was sold off in 2004.

Now a majority of these enterprises are owned and managed by Tara Management, which belongs to Prabhakar Sumsher Rana and his son, Siddhartha Rana. Records at the Office of the Company Registrar show that the king and his family own only 0.15 percent share in Himal International Power Corporation; 56 percent in Himal Goodricke, 40 percent in Soaltee Hotel and 10 percent in Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd.

But the king and his family have no share in Bhotekoshi Company Pvt Ltd, Sipradi Trading Pvt Ltd, Amaravati International Pvt Ltd, Amaravati Travels Pvt Ltd and Maersk Nepal Pvt Ltd. Among the enterprises that the king has a share in, both Soaltee Hotel and Himal Goodricke are currently loss making ventures. While Soaltee Hotel, a public limited company, hasn’t distributed any dividend for the last six years, Himal Goodricke has paid out about Rs 1.5 million as dividend during the last one decade. The only company that seems to be paying a significant dividend to the royal family is Surya Nepal. Last year it paid Rs 12.5 million to the family.

A source privy to King Gyanendra’s financial situation said, “The income from his [king’s] businesses is hardly enough to meet his expenses.” The source also said the king often withdrew dividends from the companies in advance. This claim has a lot of credence since officials at the Kaushitosh Khana – the office that disburses state sanctioned funds to the royal palace – also said the palace used to withdraw all annual allocations within 48 hours of the budget announcement till last year.

The source also claimed that King Gyanendra was neck deep in debt by the time he ascended the throne in June 2001. “In 2002, he sold 10 percent of his stake in Surya Nepal to Indian Tobacco Company Ltd and used the proceeds to repay his huge debt.” In terms of share capital, the king and his family have Rs 80 million worth of share capital in Soaltee Hotel; Rs 6.5 million in Himal Goodrick; Rs 33.6 million in Surya Nepal and Rs 250 thousand in Himal International Power Corporation.

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Nepal in Transition: Interim Constitution, Interim Parliament and Maoists in House

8:22 PM The House that was restored by the peoples’ movement in April has been, as speaker Subas Nemwang declared, automatically dissolved. The first meeting of interim legislature will be held in a few minutes. [Nostalgia: People’s Power]

7:46 PM The parliament votes YES (185) vs NO (0) to approve Prime Minister’s proposal of “Lets promulgate the interim constitution.” The constitution is formally promulgated. [Highlights: Interim Constitution of Nepal 2063]

7:00 PM The parliament unanimously approves Interim Constitution 2063. The meeting of the house rejected all amendment proposals by majority YES votes and a few amendments, including that of CPN UML, were taken back.

1:55 PM Hurray!!! Nepal is about to have a New Constitution!! Interim Constitution. Clap, clap, clap!! No HUNNA (NO) vote in the parliament against the constitution. The House approved the constitution for further discussions with the HUNCHHA (YES) vote.

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Nepal is creating yet another history in a few hours time when the restored parliament promulgates an interim constitution, nullifies the one issued in 1990 and declares itself dissolved. A new interim legislature will immediately replace the existing legislature. In yet another historical move, 83 members of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) will enter inside the parliament house today as the members of the interim legislature. [The existing parliament was restored in April by the historical peoples’ movement.] Members of various parties in the (old and existing) parliament are already saying that today will herald a new beginning of the process of making a new Nepal, a democratic republic of Nepal. The interim constitution significantly reduces king’s role in the state of affairs and empowers people of Nepal like never before. The main objective of the interim house and interim constitution will be to hold the election of constituent assembly on time (by mid June).

9:25: Law minister, on behalf of Prime Minister, has jsut tabled the Interim Constitution for the discussion in the house. Nepali Congress MP Sushil Koirala is on the rostrum. This bearded politician’s speech is not much exciting.

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CPN-UML‘s Bharat Mohan Adhikary presented his party’s stand that the interim constitution should be amended. Stating that a provision for referendum should be included in the Interim statute to decide the fate of Monarchy, Adhikary also demanded a proportional electoral system instead of the mixed system as mentioned in the soon-to-be promulgated statute. Stating that there were no laws as of yet to punish those identified as guilty by the Rayamajhi commission in the heavy handed suppression of the April pro democracy movement, Adhikary appealed for the inclusion of a new provision to this end in the interim constitution. Furthermore, the UML leader also urged for a provision to have the serving Prime Minister removed — if need be – adding that the present constitution could very well render the PM an all powerful dictator.

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Likewise, Rastriya Prajantra Party (RPP) president Pashupati Shamshere Rana expressed concerns said that the interim statute was being promulgated without following any parliamentary norms. Rana said that the interim constitution, which is the nation’s governing body of rules, was being promulgated in haste without any regards for the existing parliamentary norms. “The opinion that the interim constitution should be amended prior to its promulgation is gaining strength,” Rana opined, adding that all quarters of society including the media, professional organizations, bar associations are all of one voice regarding the amendments. The RPP chairman further said that the interim constitution had “neglected” the women, nationalities, muslims, jajajatis and other marginalized groups. Rana also warned that the RPP would boycott the house if the amendment proposal is not heeded. “The soon-to-be promulgated interim constitution has rendered the parliament merely a rubber stamp,” Rana said.

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Likewise, MP Chitra Bahadur KC of a faction of Jana Morcha Nepal said that the decision to make the serving Prime Minister was in violation of the universal notion of separation of Power, adding that the interim statute had served only to establish what he called an “eight party monopoly”.

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Hmm, Lilamani Pokharel of Janamorcha (whose Amik Serchan is the deputy prime minister in the cabinet) is talking some sense in the parliament right now. He says it’s understandable that parties not represented in Seven Party Alliance (SPA) are expressing their dissatisfaction with the interim constitution but it’s shameful for the SPA members to disagree with the contents of the interim constitution in the ongoing last meeting of the parliament since they agreed for the same in the summit meeting between SPA and the Maoist. “Some are saying this sovereign house should be able to amend the interim constitution. Do you know how this sovereign house came into existence? The interim constitution is an agreement between the SPA and the Maoist in their attempt to resolve the conflict peacefully. That is why this house can’t amend the interim constitution.”

As I am typing these lines, the parliament session has kicked off for the last time and chairman of public accounting committee is presenting the 14th report. This is exciting moment. What did the restored parliament do in its special and historical term? The most important point is that it issued a never seen before kind of declaration in May that made people of Nepal sovereign in true sense for the first time in the nation’s history. It passed several acts including army act that has made the army accountable to the people.

Communal Tension:Nepalgunj incident

Nepalgunj has remained a sensitive place ever since it showed signs of Hindu Muslim clash in 2004 after 12 Nepalese were killed in Iraq. And the recurrence of another communal conflict when the nation is in transition can be signs of danger if not addressed on time. Here is more about the first curfew order issued by the government after the 19 day April Movement from Ekantipur

6-hour curfew clamped in Nepalgunj

By J Pandey

BANKE, Dec 26 – The District Administration Office of Banke on Tuesday imposed a curfew in the wake of a rising tide of communal tensions in Nepalgunj.

The local administration issued the curfew orders effective from 11 am to 5:30 pm today “to prevent disruption of communal harmony.”

Tensions were high in Nepalgunj following a scuffle that ensued on Monday between Madheshis (people from Terai region) and Pahades (people from Hilly region) during a Madhesh banda (general strike) called by Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi) (NSP-A).

A scuffle ensued this morning between protestors and transport entrepreneurs against vandalism that went on during yesterday’s strike, following which the DAO imposed the curfew order.

The police fired at least six rounds of tear gas earlier today in addition to firing shots in the air to control the street violence.

Both sides however defied the curfew order as they continued their agitation on the streets.

Meanwhile, major political parties including Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, NC-D, Jana Morcha Nepal, NSP-A, CPN-Maoist have appealed the locals to show restraint and to prevent the situation from worsening.

Likewise, representatives of the civil society, journalists and various others professional organizations also urged the locals not to act against the spirit of communal harmony.

This is the first curfew order issued after the April pro-democracy movement.

Now, Restructuring State of Nepal Is the Key

Preliminary political realism: Nepal had almost gotten the status of ‘failed sate’ recently and if the current political development fails to restructure the sate, country will soon fall back to the dark old stage of regression.

By Prakash Bom in Queens, New York

The landmark peace accord between SPA and the Maoists is historic though it is not immune to the challenges ahead. The fundamental challenge it faces is: Restructuring of the state. The failure of the post-1990 multi-party democracy lies in the inability to restructuring the state. Take this an example: popularly elected district chairpersons were ignored from forming a district administrative cabinet. Instead the major political party leaderships chose to continue with feudal oligarchic political tradition of appointing a government employee as district chief officer. To our surprise it is still in effect. This means the urgency of restructuring the state (with electoral democratic institutions in top priority) is yet to be materialized. Continue reading Now, Restructuring State of Nepal Is the Key

Nepal's India Yatra: Great Expectations

An editorial in the Kathmandu Post titled Koirala’s visit.

It has become a tradition. India is the first official destination for every successive prime minister. China is the second one. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has also decided not to break the practice. Postponing his medical visit to Bangkok, Koirala is embarking on a three day visit to India seeking economic and political support for the newly established democratic government. Reportedly, Koirala is formally requesting for a special economic assistance package. Apart from this, Koirala would also seek India’s blessing for the success of the peace talks with the Maoists. Kathmandu wants Delhi to back the UN role in disarming the Maoists, if the need be. Koirala must be in an upbeat mood because Indian newspapers have already announced that India is planning a “mega economic” package for Nepal. The visit of the prime minister is, therefore, expected to garner support for the economic development and political stability. Continue reading Nepal's India Yatra: Great Expectations

Nepal’s India Yatra: Great Expectations

An editorial in the Kathmandu Post titled Koirala’s visit.

It has become a tradition. India is the first official destination for every successive prime minister. China is the second one. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has also decided not to break the practice. Postponing his medical visit to Bangkok, Koirala is embarking on a three day visit to India seeking economic and political support for the newly established democratic government. Reportedly, Koirala is formally requesting for a special economic assistance package. Apart from this, Koirala would also seek India’s blessing for the success of the peace talks with the Maoists. Kathmandu wants Delhi to back the UN role in disarming the Maoists, if the need be. Koirala must be in an upbeat mood because Indian newspapers have already announced that India is planning a “mega economic” package for Nepal. The visit of the prime minister is, therefore, expected to garner support for the economic development and political stability. Continue reading Nepal’s India Yatra: Great Expectations