Tag Archives: Nepal

Contradiction, Evidences Suggest, is the Communist Religion in Nepal

Temple hopping CP Gajurel (You spotted him! Silver-haired and in white kameej) of the Maoist party at the Doleshwor Mahadev temple.
Temple hopping CP Gajurel (You spotted him! Silver-haired and in white kameej) of the Maoist party at the Doleshwor Mahadev temple.

By Siromani Dhungana

Communist movement in Nepal is full of controversy and contradictions. Nepal has seen communist leaders who once called parliament a “butcher’s shop, where dog’s meat is sold by displaying the goat’s head” got elected in the same parliament to lead a government. This country has also seen communists who waged a bloody war against parliamentary democracy join the mainstream, got themselves nominated to the parliament and take part in elections of a parliament to be the largest party in the House.  The country has also seen atheist communists who condemned religion as opium turn into devotees and companions in temple hopping. Continue reading Contradiction, Evidences Suggest, is the Communist Religion in Nepal

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Nepal Needs More Transparency in Political Finance

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

Political parties in Nepal should recognize the value of transparency in the political process and the importance of providing citizens with information on funds raised and spent in the election to influence their votes.

It is clear that money counts in elections where there are needy voters and greedy politicians. Politicians have always exploited vulnerability of poor voters. They have bribed poor people and bought votes in this country. The forms of bribery varies from cash to goods or favor and a few glasses of raksi.

Rich leaders in a poor country do not hesitate to spend billions during the election time. Most of the leaders mobilize goons just to create psychological threat to the voters and supporters of opposition parties. Bribery is a form of intimidation but more straight mediums are always used in all elections.

Another usual feature of Nepali elections is no leader or candidate, however much they spend in campaigns (which includes bribery), comes up clean with their account details.

A Washington-based independent organization International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES)- which is already in Nepal as poll dates have been announced, in a book entitled “Handbook on Campaign Finance in Tunisia: Issues and Monitoring” says:

“Political parties and electoral contestants need money to campaign and make their platforms known to the electorate. Political finance is all the more important in a context of democratic transition given the emergence of new political parties not always known by the electorate. Financing is necessary for parties to strive and play their role in a democratic society.”

I think it is not fair to keep political money hidden from the public eye. Nepali political parties spend millions without revealing the source of their funding and consequently, voters never learn of the origins of the money used in financing election activities including the heavy advertising done during the campaign. This is less than ideal for an electoral system in a country that has its leaders tirelessly talking about democracy not fully institutionalized.

Why Disclose?

It is high time that the need for public disclosure of political finances be demanded. Disclosure helps prevent financial abuse during election and is necessary to promote healthy political competition.

We need a body akin to what was set up in the U.S. under the Federal Election Campaign Act 1974. An agency called the Federal Election Commission supervises all financial transactions by political bodies that have solicited or spent money to support or defeat federal candidates. The organization verifies all reports presented and discloses the same to the public and the media. The Election Commission in Nepal should be empowered to do exactly the same.

Political parties, on the other hand, should be ready for the public audit of their income and expenditure. In a book ‘Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns’ published by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Karl-Heinz Nassmacher writes:

Most democracies have provided their controlling agency with the powers to sanction in one way or another financial misconduct by a party, candidate or other person or organization subject to the regulation.

In my own opinion, democratic system should be more transparent than any other political system and political parties should pledge to introduce a law to ban anonymous donations in democracy. In the context of Nepal, all political parties should formulate a common minimum understanding and issue the white paper regarding public disclosure of income and expenditure during election time for the time being.

Challenges of Undisclosed Contributions

An undisclosed contribution from any party is not a good sign for democracy. It is believed that contributors want returns from concerned political parties in the long run. But contributors themselves wanting anonymity would not deign well either as they will tend to take advantage of their political affiliation at the expense of ordinary people.

Past experience shows that undisclosed contributions can fuel ‘policy corruption’. The government in a country like Nepal compensates its financial contributors while introducing the budget. Tax exemption or special treatment to particular business enterprises can be regarded with suspicion as the number of politically active tax-exempt groups grows.

Undisclosed contribution often raises questions as to whether political parties benefit from influence peddling, organized crime or drug trafficking.

Terrorized Business Community?

Principally, a major share of funding should come from voluntary contributions but that is not happening in Nepal. Forceful donation drives by political parties has become a common phenomenon and has terrorized the business community. Almost all political parties tend to amass cash by forceful measures.

Some businessmen have even been revealing in public that all revenue frauds committed by them is a result of heavy donation that they have to give to political parties. According to them, they face problems in adjusting donation money in the balance sheet during the auditing process.

Transparency in donation would help boost the morale of the business community that has faced problems in adjusting their accounts because they were forced to donate with such conditions that they could not keep any record of the money dispensed. Political parties should now ensure that the election is not an event meant for terrorizing the business community.

Even Businessmen aren’t so clean

The business fraternity, however, is not clean of controversy. They also tend to appease political parties to hide their malpractices in business. The integrity of Nepal’s private sector is not very high. Multi-billion Value Added Tax (VAT) scandals, adulteration in food products and other unethical business practices have been growing in the country and successive governments have failed to take action against even a single corporate house. The private sector is guilty of its own crimes, and of being protected by the political leadership, which it cannot deny. Renowned faces from the business community entered the last CA representing different political parties which clearly showed that they want political protection and affiliation to go ahead in their business undisturbed.

A Silver Lining

In a commendable move, the Nepali Congress has recently promised that it is ready to reveal its sources of funds for the coming elections. The party has announced its commitment to accept donations through cheque as well.

Transparency is an essential principle of free and competitive markets; it is equally important in a system of free and competitive elections. Public disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures is a core prerequisite of any effective system of electoral campaigns, and its value is yet to be acknowledged by the Congress and the courts.

The announcement may have provided relief to the business community. It is a common practice around the world that political parties rely on donations to build and sustain themselves, to train party cadres and to fight in the elections. Equally important is the fact that the sources of its funding undeniably influence the behavior of the party if it comes to power. The issue thus has a direct impact on democratic rights.

In the End

The recent announcement of the Nepali Congress party has provided strong ground for the business community to bring the donation issue to the public domain. Other political parties should be ready to do the same. As public institutions, political parties should be proactive to disclose their information and arrange for regular briefings using various information demystification channels.

Channeling money through bank accounts can also improve the identification of contributors which is important for the monitoring of limits as well as the disclosure of sources.

Nepal needs to set up a mechanism that can ensure accountability on the source and utilization of party funds. The present opportunity and its timing can be used to promise this much-needed change since the country is ready to go for new a CA election.

(Siromani is the Editor of UWB. He  tweets @siromanid and can be contacted at siromani@blog.com.np)

Elections 2013: Challenges Ahead for Nepal

The government has finally announced dates for the CA polls (19 November). This has raised hopes of Nepal getting a new elected body. Not yet time to celebrate hoping that Nepal will have a government that is accountable to people and its acts transparent. Similarly, there will not be a competition among political parties based on issues and ideologies in the upcoming CA polls. The only reason to be happy about this announcement si that this election, if it happens, may remove the current government of bureaucrats.

Siromani Dhungana
UWB

2013 elections are going to be held in the same circumstances in which 2008 CA elections were held.  Almost same faces, mainly same political parties and more or less same agendas. Some politicians have changed their parties but the ideological division that existed in 2008 remains unchanged.

Confrontation (reality) vs Consensus (Illusion)

The problem is politicians are divided not on the basis of ideology or philosophy rather on the basis of their personal interest and benefit. There is wide rift between communists and non-communist forces. The division, a the moment, is in its worst level. There is division within communist forces and also within non-communist forces too. This deep division, almost to the level of hatred, may create obstacles in the election process. It will certainly be a stumbling block in the constitution writing process as it was before. Continue reading Elections 2013: Challenges Ahead for Nepal

A Conversation with Departing Nepal Chief of the UK Aid Agency

Dominic O' Neill on his last day in office as Head of DFID Nepal.
Dominic O’ Neill on his last day in office as Head of DFID Nepal. Pic by Amish

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

At one point on his last day in office as head of DFID Nepal, Dominic O’ Neill was waiting for reporters. And a photographer.

“So, you guys want to take a picture?” He said as he fixed his tie. “This will probably be the last meeting with journalist in my nearly two years of stay in Nepal.”

“Tomorrow,” he said on Friday, “I will be leaving this beautiful country. I will never forget this land. Be it Humla, Mustang, the Tarai or Hilly belt, my desire to visit all the parts of the country will always remain the same. This county will always stay fresh within my heart.”

In an hour long conversation with us (friends Gaurav Aryal and Amish), Dominic addressed a range of issues- from donors’ role in Nepal to socioeconomic situation. What Dominic says as head of DFID Nepal is important because the UK aid agency, called Department for International Development (DFID), is currently the largest bilateral donor in Nepal. DFID “disbursed £55.9m of bilateral development assistance” in Nepal in fiscal year 2012/13. The UK also “disbursed £3.56m as debt relief.” According to DFID Annual Report and Accounts, UK aid to Nepal for the FY 2012-13 was divided into several sectors: Continue reading A Conversation with Departing Nepal Chief of the UK Aid Agency

To Hold Democratic Elections, Supreme Court Chief Justice Becomes Prime Minister in Nepal

WHAT- Nepal got a new Prime Minister today. President Ram Baran Yadav appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi as the Chairman of the Interim Electoral Council of Ministers (basically the Prime Minister) of Nepal. Dr. Yadav also administered the oath of office and secrecy to Regmi this morning. Regmi became the PM because Nepal’s top political parties, at war with each other and unwilling to accept leadership of the party other than their own, finally agreed on CJ Regmi’s name for the leader of the electoral government to hold elections of the Constituent Assembly. It is believed that Nepali leaders, generally considered corrupt and incompetent, did so at the behest of foreign forces especially our southern neighbor.

GOOD? BAD? Both.

First, why it is good:

1) Regmi replaced Dr. Baburam Bhattarai as the PM. This is good. I had big hopes from Bhattarai when he became pm 18 months ago. But he turned out to be a utter disappointment. Just another corrupt man who promoted nepotism and favoritism and, through his wife, misused resources of state in a naked manner. So Bhattarai’s exit is a relief. The Maoists were milking the state resource. I am not sure if that will be stopped entirely because the militant party in Nepal has the capability to extort and intimidate general public, business and government machinery even when they are not in power. Moreover, they have put in place many of their men and women in many plum and crucial positions in Nepali government machinery and administration that it will childish to say that their illegal flow of income from the state coffer will stop.

BAD

Now, why it’s bad?

1) If you believe in democracy, its principles, constitutionalism and fairness in politics, you will be very sad with the way Regmi’s name was proposed and appointed to lead the government. When he was appointed the prime minister, he was the serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Stunningly, he still is the CJ. He hasn’t resigned. Now, where has that basic principle of a constitutional democracy called separation of power gone? And look at what happend at the Supreme Court today? It was supposed to hear on the writ filed against the appointment of the CJ as PM. But the hearing was differed because CJ was appointed PM merely an hour before the hearing  was scheduled to begin. The whole concept of independent judiciary has received a big blow.

NOW WHAT?

Those who are support the CJ’s appointment as the PM argue that it was done to hold elections and provide an outlet to nearly 10-month long political deadlock. Okay, I get the point. But will an election which itself is an outcome of undemocratic exercise be able to provide solutions? It will be a step towards right direction if Regmi resigned from his post of the CJ.

Also, there really wasn’t any constitutional way to appoint a new pm because political parties who were to work in conensious were not willing to accept each other’s leadership. The only other option would have been to continue with BRB, whose legality was already in question, at the helm. Nepal’s current flawed interim constitution provides only ways for a prime ministerial appointment: one, the person has to win a majority of votes in the CA which is no more. Two, the person has to garner the support of major political parties, namely the NC, UML and UCPN Maoist (called national consensus).

I am all for elections. My hands are etching to caste a vote (two votes actually). Yes it will be very hard for me to choose the candidate (or a party) because all of the partie that are likely to contest in the elections have been tried and tested and they have all disappointed us. I just hope that some good candidates show up in the elections and some really good leaders emerge out of the democratic process.

Some say they doubt elections can happen under this government. Some say, there are high chances for elections to happen (in November, not in July though) because parties do want to rule and the only way for them to go back to power is to content elections and win the votes of the people.

Now the danger is that we can fully trust this government either. It is because these bureaucrats (two former secretaries were appointed ministers today and eight more will be included in the cabinet) are accountable to none today. And people can not punish (or award) them in elections either. They may turn out to be even more corrupt. Bigger danger is that they may get unduly influenced to sign anti-national treaties and other provisions.

A Maoist Attempt of Merging the Judiciary into the Executive

Appointment of the SC Chief Justice as the Prime Minister will be Supreme injustice to the people of Nepal.

Political parties in democracy can, of course, be good or bad but most certainly without a capable leadership of political parties, the democratic system will never be anything but bad. –tweaked version of Albert Camus’s quote on free press

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

On January 30, before the Maoists proposed appointing incumbent Supreme Court Chief Justice as Prime Minister, I had written in in this blog: “Democracy in Nepal is on the verge of collapse. Most of the indicators of democracy are either dismantled or dead. The basic notion of democracy- ‘check and balance’- has been destroyed and now there is only the check of the communist-led government.”

Unfortunately, the Maoists have proved me right yet again with their flabbergasting proposal. You don’t have to be a political scientist to know what the Maoists are trying to do is completely against the basic notion of democracy, that is, the check and balance. And, incompetent and shortsighted opposition parties are once again going to be fooled by the UCPN Maoist. And that will cost Nepal’s fledgling democracy dearly.

The propose of appointing incumbent chief justice as the Prime Minister of the country has apparently showed that the largest political party of Nepal is trying to ruin the basis democratic concept ‘check and balance’ among major state organs — judiciary, executive and legislature.

If materialized, the Maoist proposal will not only ruin completely the independence of judiciary but also jeopardize the entire justice system of Nepal. On the other hand, it will also help undermine the importance of political parties in Nepal which will have repercussion in the long run.

It is for sure that the Maoists want to resume their war-time ‘kangaroo courts’ which they operated in villages in a direct challenge to the existing judicial system. Even after ending armed conflict in 2006, the party had floated the idea of reviving ‘kangaroo courts’ in 2007 in an effort to step up pressure against the then interim government headed by NC leader Girija Prasad Koirala.

The Maoists never believed in current judicial system in Nepal. They have constantly argued that this is the one State organ that still represents that feudal, old Nepal. They have constantly flouted Supreme Court decisions. Their senior leaders, including the PM, have every now and then spoken against the judicial system and courts in general. They think, after controlling executive and having had largest number of seats in legislature parliament (dissolved in May 2012), the judiciary is the last  bastion that still remained out of their sphere of influence. The fact that the Maoists couldn’t win notable number of seats in the recently held elections of national committee of Nepal Bar Association despite fighting polls against democratic candidates in partnership with the UML-supported lawyers shows their poor presence in judicial sector.

And now, suddenly, they have this new-found trust in judiciary! Doesn’t sound plausible at all. Those who have been criticizing and flouting judicial decisions are now suddenly seeing ‘most independent and trustworthy’ person in the head of the same judiciary.

And at a time when the SC is already stretched- and is functioning with only around half of dozen judges and can’t fulfill vacant positions because there doesn’t exist a mechanism in the absence of parliament.

And at a time when the SC has issued quite a few orders staying or stopping several controversial decisions of the Maoist-led government including in the case of Dekendra Thapa. Continue reading A Maoist Attempt of Merging the Judiciary into the Executive

Press Council Nepal: From a Watchdog to the Maoist Lapdog

Awadesh Kumar Yadav
Awadesh Kumar Yadav

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

The present Press Council Act in Nepal need to be revisited, restructured and reformed to ensure the independence of the council and to establish it as a true ‘watchdog mechanism’.

After the appointment of new chairman at Press Council Nepal (PCN), the need of reforming the existing legal provision has further garnered its relevancy.

In what appears to be a controversial move of the Government of Nepal, it appointed former Supreme Court Justice Awadhesh Kumar Yadav as the Chairman of Press Council Nepal on January 25, 2013.

Reportedly, Yadav as the apex court Justice had issued an order to prevent the prosecution of a war-era criminal case against then Maoist lawmaker Keshab Rai. Continue reading Press Council Nepal: From a Watchdog to the Maoist Lapdog

To All Privileged Bahun-Chhetri Elites of Nepal [and Zamindars of South]

By a nonelite, unprivileged Bahun

I am totally amused, almost to death, by the hypocrisy of REAL Bahun Chhetri elites whose parents (bureaucrats, judges, ministers etc) were lucky (or corrupt or influential or combination of all) enough to make money to send their kids to top schools of Kathmandu (xaviers, ‘kanthas etc), D’ling and D’doons and to the collages and universities of amrika and belayet (Columbia, Brown, SOAS for example).

Is it a coincidence or just that I am selectively getting to read views of such ‘educated and rich’ Bahuns/Chhetris whose parents and grandparents had access to resource? A minister’s daughter or a judge’s son or a sachib’s grandson. Of course these elite Bahuns/Chhetris can rightly think that since they are privileged, well off and can live in between Kathmandu and (London, NY or Toronto) they don’t need any more facilities from the state.

These elite and privileged Bahuns/Chhetris- not sure if they are sympathizing with the Janajati/southern movement or patronizing it- with their rosy glasses see all Bahuns and Chhetris of Nepal as rich and privileged as they are. But these elite Bahuns/Chhetris CAN NOT speak for the millions of poor and rural Bahuns and Chhetris in rural areas of Nepal or those in Kathmandu who had to come here as a compulsion during the difficult times of conflict or those who somehow have built homes in Kathmandu by selling whatever they had in the villages and still live in incomplete/unfurnished or rented buildings in Kathmandu.

In this context comes the declaration of Khas Arya as indigenous people. The privileged and rich Bahuns/Chhetris and Thakuris AND politically indoctrinated ones can ridicule this decision. But to portray ALL Bahuns, Chhetris as rich and privileged is simply wrong. When Khas Arya were promised to be counted as indigenous yesterday that included Dalits too- one of the most underprivileged class in Nepal.

By the way, some of these elite Bahuns/Chhetris/Thakuris may rightly claim that they went to those elite schools because they deserved that and were capable to getting partial or full scholarship (from the university or the likes of Fulbright for example). However, they shouldn’t conveniently forget that there could be equally talented and deserving people out there in some remote areas of Nepal. But those in remote areas- yes, poor Bahuns and Chhetris (and of course poor Janajatis and Dalits too but now my point is about poor Bahuns and Chhetris) didn’t have neither ACCESS nor resources to learn, to begin with, about the scholarships or the schools.

They were not in Kathmandu, where everything was/is, because their parents (or grandparents or great grandparents) were not the bureaucrats, judges, ministers (or other influential people like royal priests) based in Kathmandu. Their parents were the farmers of the villages who had to toil day and night in the fields and look after cattle.

Just as there are two classes- poor/destitute and rich/elite- of Khas Arya, the Janajatis and Madhesis too have distinct classes in terms of wealth, access and education. There are elite Janajatis and elite Madhesis as there are poor, underprivileged Janajatis and poor, underprivileged Madhesis. There are zamindar and feudal Madhesis and there are super rich Janajatis. There are Dalit Madheiss and there are destitute Janajatis.

Therefore the clear demarcation of rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged CAN NOT be done on ethnic or regional lines. It has to be done on the basis of the poverty index. If one person gets more benefit form the State than other, that has to happen on the basis of how poor (financially, culturally and politically) the person is. It CAN NOT be done in a wholesome manner, along ethnic lines, with false claims that all Bahun Chhetris are rich, privileged and oppressors and all Madheis and Janajatis are poor, unprivileged and oppressed.

Federalization of Nepal can not be done on such flawed argument. That is why there can not be ONE Madhes ONE Pradesh or Provinces carved along the ethnic lines. It has to be done on the basis of need- who needs to get priority over whom. That prioritization should be done on the basis of, as stated earlier, poverty index (which is another way of saying resources, not identity) so that the same benefit can be offered to a Dalit of Dhanusha, a poor Panajati of Taplejung and a poor Khas Arya from Okhaldhunga or Kalikot.

Could This be Baburam’s Katwal Moment? Nepal Army Against Bulk Recruitment of Madhesis

The Nepal Army is dissatisfied with Tuesday’s (20 Dec) Cabinet decision (see below) to recruit 3,000 youths from the Madhesi and other minority communities. It plans to register its reservations with the government after receiving a formal order from the Ministry of Defence. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai invited Chief of Army Staff General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung at his residence on Wednesday (yesterday) morning. The PM, however, did not clearly instruct the CoAS on the Cabinet decision, an Army source said. Gurung is meeting President Dr Ram Baran Yadav on Thursday (today) to discuss the decision.

“If the government’s decision contradicts with the Interim Constitution and the Army Act, the Army will officially request the government to revise it,” the source said. The Army argues that recruitment is purely a ‘voluntary process’ and it cannot restrict ‘the right to equality’ guaranteed by the Interim Constitution by opening vacancies for any particular group. Under the existing recruitment process, 55 percent of the seats are filled through free competition, while 45 percent are recruited under the reservation quotas.

“If the government wants to make the Army more inclusive, it should amend the Army Act and offer more seats in the reservation quota,” the source said.

Army chief meets the Prez Continue reading Could This be Baburam’s Katwal Moment? Nepal Army Against Bulk Recruitment of Madhesis

Chinese Prime Minister Will Come to Nepal in December

wen jiabao
Wen Jiabao

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is arriving in Kathmandu on December 20 on a three-day visit, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said on Tuesday. “After the visit of the Chinese Premier, I will visit China,” PM Bhattarai told a select group of journalists. Wen will be the highest-ranking official to visit from Nepal’s immediate neighbours—India and China—since 2001. Earlier, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visited Nepal in 2001 and Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1996.

However, Wen’s detailed itinerary is in the process of finalisation and  Nepali officials have begun consultation to prepare agendas to be raised during the Chinese Premier’s visit. Continue reading Chinese Prime Minister Will Come to Nepal in December