World Editorials Update on Nepal
Few world newspapers of repute are editorializing Nepal since the historic peace agreement last year. Here is a 6-month sampling.
The following five editorials since January 2007 comment on the difficulties of political transition in Nepal:
A right royal muddle, Hindustan Times, June 19, 2007
For a brief while early this year, it seemed that Nepal had stopped drifting, as the Maoists joined other parties in parliament and the country took some major strides towards democracy. But, alas, current goings-on suggest there could be more turmoil in store. Last Monday, the Maoists reportedly rejected Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s efforts to get King Gyanendra to abdicate in favour of his five-year-old grandson, Hridayendra, before the polls scheduled for later this year. Maoist chief Prachanda rules out accepting the monarchy in any form — even if it is a ceremonial position without any actual power.
This is not surprising, considering that the former rebels, who waged a 10-year rebellion against the monarchy before joining the mainstream, never made any bones about abolishing monarchy in all forms. Gyanendra is inarguably one of the most unpopular monarchs in the world, after pro-democracy protests led by a political alliance that included the rebels ended his authoritarian rule in April 2006. Stripped of his powers, he has since been waiting for the special assembly to be elected in November, which is expected to draft a new constitution and decide on the fate of the monarchy.
What is surprising though is the way democratic parties are succumbing to pressure from an alliance of communist parties that is obviously in a hurry to trash the monarchy. The interim Parliament adopted a resolution just last week, empowering itself to remove the King if he tries to sabotage the polls, provided a two-thirds majority supported the move. So at this point it would be quite undemocratic if the monarchy were arbitrarily dismissed by a parliament that itself is interim, and which was constituted to hold elections. Now that it’s clear that the Maoists won’t allow the smooth functioning of any administration till a final political dispensation is reached, the parties must set their house in order. After all, it was their squabbling that enabled the king to stifle dissent and strengthen the monarchy in the first place.
Building trust will not be easy for Nepalis, South China Morning Post, April 3, 2007 Tuesday
After a decade of civil war, Nepal has a chance for peace and security now that former Maoist rebels have joined an interim government and elections have been set for June. If these goals are to be achieved, however, the nation also has to strive for accountability, a strong rule of law and a process of reconciliation.
A power sharing deal alone will not allay the anxieties, doubts and misgivings of Nepalis. The deaths of 13,000 people and disappearance of hundreds more during the conflict cannot be brushed aside with the signing of a political agreement. Only through properly dealing with the past can Nepal move confidently forward. But building the necessary trust will not be easy for a nation that has suffered so much trauma.
Nepal is among Asia's poorest nations, despite having a major tourist draw in the Himalayas. The Maoist insurgency frightened off visitors, curtailed economic growth and stifled investment. Police, the military and the Maoists they were fighting were responsible for countless human rights abuses. But a breakdown in the rule of law, compounded by an incompetent judiciary and authorities' inadequate investigating skills, has meant that all but a handful of cases have been ignored.
Democracy has had a rough ride. Ushered in by the late king Birendra in 1990 following demonstrations, there has since been a succession of short-lived governments. Birendra's death, along with most of the revered royal family in a drunken shooting spree by his son in 2001, rocked the nation. But its democratic foundations were most severely shaken by the king's successor, Gyanendra, who, in 2005, declared a state of emergency and snatched back power.
Weeks of violent strikes and street protests led a year ago to the king reinstating the Nepali Parliament. Last November, the government and rebels signed a landmark peace deal and the way was smoothed for Maoists to enter an interim government on Sunday. The Maoists want the monarchy banished and Nepal made a republic. June's elections to choose an assembly that will rewrite the constitution will determine the country's political direction.
Nepal's 27 million people have much to celebrate about the political changes of the past year. But their hopes will be short-lived unless questions of impunity and law and order and, more widely, truth and reconciliation, are also addressed.
No crown but counting: Gyanendra not out of the equation yet, The Statesman (India), February 28, 2007
Contrary to expectations that stiff action would be taken against King Gyanendra for defending his usurpation of power in February 2005 during a speech to the nation on the eve of Democracy Day, the council of ministers has merely said he had no right to address a public meeting without the government's consent.
The appointment of a ministerial committee to nationalise King Gyanendra's property, acquired as head of state, and also that of his brother and sister-in-law, the late King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, looked like punishment, but action, if any, is to be taken later, based on a political agreement. In fact, the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists settled the question of nationalisation last October.
It bears recall that the fourth round of talks between them had to be postponed after Prime Minister GP Koirala said the SPA 'would not conduct an election asking the nation to choose between the monarchy and a republic', adding he was ready to accept the Maoists' demand to strip Gyanendra of the last vestiges of executive authority and nationalise his property and that of other members of the royal family 'if they did not insist on a republic set-up until the constituent assembly elections'.
Koirala did champion the cause for making Gyanendra a ceremonial monarch. Why, even Maoist supremo Prachanda once said the monarchy was acceptable but later explained this was meant only for the late King Birendra, after which the monarchy as such was dead following the 2001 palace massacre.
A recent opinion poll conducted in 27 of Nepal's 75 districts showed a majority going against King Gyanendra but not the monarchy. The King's contention ~ that he dismissed the Sher Bahadur Deuba government because it failed to hold parliamentary elections in time ~ was merely intended to elicit public sympathy. He knows he has support, particularly in the Terai, and if, in the new constitution, he is reduced to a commoner, he would likely be more of a nuisance to democracy than he was as King.
New Hope For Nepal, The Japan Times, February 3, 2007
The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is undergoing a transformation that could lead to its rebirth as a peaceful nation. But the country's path will not be an easy one. Assistance from the international community for reconstruction will be indispensable.
Nepal, which has a population of 27 million, has seen more than 13,000 deaths since the Maoist armed struggle started in 1966. The revolt has impoverished the country and rendered it unstable.
Tourism, a vital industry, has been badly damaged. It is hoped that the current process, although seeing some dissatisfaction and violence, will lead to the strengthening of democracy, and bring about peace and stability.
One of the keys to the country's rebirth will be disarmament of the Maoist group, which effectively rules 80 percent of the country. On Jan. 17, work to disarm the Maoist fighters in seven areas started under the watch of the United Nations.
While many in the government and mainstream parties support constitutional monarchy, the Maoist group calls for the monarchy's abolition. Although it is believed that there is strong support among the people for keeping the monarchy and that the mainstream parties are likely to enjoy a strong showing in the constituent assembly elections, some people suspect that King Gyanendra may have had a hand in the June 2001 palace massacre.
At the same time, many people fear the Maoist group because of its past armed struggle.
The international community, including Japan -- the biggest aid donor for Nepal -- and India and China, Nepal's powerful neighbors that have worked to improve their own relations, need to join hands in helping the Nepalese government and people rebuild their country.
Himalayan hang-ups: Nepal dilly-dallying unwarranted, The Statesman (India), January 9, 2007
Nepal's political parties are caught up in a state of flux as is apparent from the Seven Party Alliance and Maoists taking longer than expected to announce the Interim Constitution that would pave the way for a new legislature with Maoist participation, and elections to the constituent assembly in mid-June.
Though they finalised the draft interim statutes last month, a formal announcement is due only after the Maoists' arms are securely locked up under UN supervision. But even this process is reportedly behind schedule. Maoist supremo Prachanda's threat to start another janandolan if no announcement is made before 14 January has to be taken seriously.
The Election Commission is also concerned because any delay would entail a chain of setbacks since 22,000 poll workers and officials have to be trained before preparation of the voters' list. If elections cannot be held by mid-June, the monsoon will be upon Nepal in the subsequent months, making the voting process impossible, particularly in remote hill areas.
Since the Constituent Assembly is to rewrite the constitution, it is to be hoped that the grievances of the Madehsias (living in the Terai) will be addressed. Last month some miscreants disturbed communal peace in the border town of Nepalganj while protesting against the government's indifference to their plight. Yet another discordant note is being heard, this time from Supreme Court judges.
They feel the provision in the interim constitution which empowers the Prime Minister to appoint a chief justice is against the spirit and essence of an independent judiciary. The new set-up can hardly ignore this.
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Posted by Editor on July 5, 2007 9:15 PM