Editorial Update: Foreign Press on Nepal Monarchy
In the wake of Dec 21 deal between the ruling alliance and Maoists, some Indian and Pakistani newspapers editorialize the fate of Nepal's monarchy.
A sample of editorials follow (some of which concern peace process, conflict, etc). More editorials updates will be posted on this page.
End of Nepali monarchy
The Post (Pakistan), December 30, 2007
Nepal is a small mountainous region located between two giant nations, namely India and China. As one would imagine, at least one of these countries would play a major role in the sustenance of such a small country and this has left India in a powerful position to dictate policy to Nepal. This is especially true in reference to the obstruction India creates in the building of important hydroelectric dams which promise to bolster Nepalese industrial activity but leave India high and dry, figuratively speaking, since the dams would block water that eventually ends up in the Indian lowlands.
Another major consequence of this, decidedly, Indian tilt is that the Hindu monarchy – the principle political centre of power up until recently, enjoyed a long and relatively languid control over the reins of the country. This trend, however, was challenged in the early 1990s with the emergence of the anti-monarchy movement, which struggled to overthrow this retrogressive force. This movement, led mainly by democratic groups within the country, was inadvertedly helped out further when Crown Prince Dipendra, in a drunken rage, murdered many members of his family, including the then King, King Birendra – his father – and left his uncle, the present King Gyanendra, as the political head of the nation in June 2003. Upon coming to power King Gyanendra – who is famous for having said that ‘democracy and progress contradict one another’ –imposed an emergency and revoked all human rights in the country in February 2005 – firmly establishing him as an absolutist monarch. This move only served to consolidate his opposition further when a new and rising power joined the struggle – the Nepali Maoists in the form of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organisation led by chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, affectionately referred to as Comrade Prachanda by his party members. The guerrilla movement of the Maoists was launched on February 13th, 1996, and intensified manifold with the support of both citizens as well sympathizers in the democratic movement. The Maoists’ guerrilla war against the monarchy succeeded in not just bringing the monarchy to the negotiation table but also to its knees. As a result of these negotiations, earlier this year, the Nepali Maoists entered the government with a specific set of demands. These demands were, interestingly enough, not predominantly socialist, rather were bourgeois democratic in nature. Other than the main demand of the abolition of the monarchy, these demands still contained many social elements such as the stress on health, education, employment, equality of opportunity, emphasis on industrial development, etc.
Though the Nepali Maoists left the government alliance in September over differences on the abolition of the monarchy and its replacement by a democratic republic, today cooler heads have prevailed and the peace process is on the right track once again. Furthermore, the most important demand of the Maoists out of their 23-point agenda, i.e. the formal abolition of the monarchy has been passed in the Nepali parliament with a two-thirds majority and Nepal is all set to make the transition to a democratic republic once the new constituent assembly to be elected in mid-April meets for the first time. The Nepali Maoists have embarked on a unique experiment of abandoning their guerrilla war in favour of a peaceful political dialogue. It remains to be seen what the future of this experiment holds for Nepal.
Nepali Times, From Issue #380 (28 December 07 - 03 January 08)
Nepali lefties have always had a flair for pompous rhetoric. Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Babu Ram Bhattarai insist on using a paragraph to say what they can in one sentence.
So we have a 23-point agreement among the seven parties in which the communists commit themselves, once again, to constituent assembly elections.
Nepal has been declared a republic, but it will only take formal effect sometime in the middle of next year after it is ratified by the constituent assembly. But the king is in his palace, still paid a salary by taxpayers money.
The mixed election system has been slightly modified as a face-saving device for the Maoists, btu the essence of the earlier arithmetic remains in place. The 23-point agreement is what is already in the interim constitution and in previous accords.
Let’s not go into why it took them so long. It’s like asking why does the sun set in the west. The important thing is that the peace train which had stopped at a siding (not derailed as some cynics insisted in October when the Maoists left the government) is now on the move again. Essentially, it was never a problem between the leadership of the Maoists and the NC, it was a problem within their parties between the hardliners and moderates. The radicals, of course, are still not satisfied.
Janajatis have also gone along saying the elections are more important for now. Madhesi militant factions have denoucned it, but the Forum will take part. The rightwing RJP and RPP dubbed the deal undemocratic. China, India and UNMIN cautiously welcomed the new agreement. The scepticism is understandable because by their past behaviours the seven parties give us no reason to trust them this time.
Polls have been postponed twice. This time, if they fail to have elections by April, the leaders don’t just lose face, they lose all legitimacy.
Still, from now till April there are three spoilers. Monarchists will try their damnedest to not allow elections to happen, an escalation in madesh violence would be a problem, and the wild followers of the Maoists will have to be defanged.
The YCL has harmed the prospects of its own parent party in elections, but the risk is that their excesses will be used by the hard right to wreck elections. Together, the six-party alliance and Maoists must finally prove they are capable of governing.
A government that can’t ensure supply of essential commodities, arrange garbage disposal in the capital, guarantee freedom of movement and can’t check crime is susceptible to sabotage by society’s malcontents.
Nepalis don’t want to hear any more speeches. The leaders must see elections as a chance to mend ways and improve their tarnished reputation among the public.
Exit the King
The Times of India, 28 Dec 2007
Strife-ridden Nepal is readying itself to implement a new deal worked out between the current interim government and the Maoist rebels. One of the conditions for reaching an understanding, to abolish Nepal’s more than 200-year-old monarchy, has now become a certainty and it is expected that the Himalayan state will cease to be a kingdom in 2008 following the election of a new constituent assembly in April next.
The Maoists had walked out of the government earlier this year, demanding abolition of the monarchy. While observers say that most people in Nepal would be happy to see King Gyanendra go, the decision to do away with the monarchy was taken by the government as a reaction to Maoists’ demands and not as a response to a democratic vote-count on this specific issue among the electorate. Be that as it may, the fact is that Nepal’s woes are not going to end dramatically with the end of royalty.
Maoists and other political parties and groups need to guard against going back to a centralised structure of governance - the very system they have rebelled against for so long. Any future political and administrative set-up in Nepal should strive to be a fully democratic institutional structure, formulated in consultation with all concerned, including the Maoists.
This is a great opportunity for Maoists to demonstrate their democratic credentials, since their past actions - of violence and rebellion, some of which have had repercussions across the border in India - have infused fear in many rather than hope and confidence. In this, Nepal’s Maoists could take a leaf out of the experience of India’s Left parties that are endeavouring to balance ideology with the democratic requirements of a multiparty political system and an aware and vocal public.
India’s role in Nepal’s political churning has been constructive, and in no small measure contributed to Kathmandu veering towards multiparty democracy. India has had to revise its stand on the monarchy in Nepal from one of advocacy to studied neutrality. That China has preferred to stay neutral and the US and UK are supportive of India’s attempts to hasten the peace process has helped ferment Nepal’s political process and coming of age after long years of turmoil following the tragic royal massacre in 2001. It is in Nepal’s interests to shore up support from countries like India to avert being branded as a 'failed state’ and prove that even without a constitutional monarchy, a democratic political process can bring the people of Nepal together.
Nepal’s royal mess
Hindustan Times, 26 Dec 2007
Political developments in Nepal suggest that the country has taken another major stride towards democracy. The ruling Six Party Alliance (SPA) has given in to the former Maoist rebels’ demand for abolishing the monarchy and signed a 23-point agreement with them to declare Nepal a ‘federal democratic republic’. With the Maoists seemingly ready to rejoin the interim government, the deadlock in Kathmandu’s political establishment will hopefully end, and breathe new life into the faltering peace process, paving the way for Constituent Assembly (CA) elections next April.
It seems Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala preferred a ceremonial monarchy in a democratic Nepal, leaving it to the CA to have the last word on the issue. But the need to salvage the peace process with the Maoists evidently forced his hand.
After all, it’s hardly democratic for the monarchy to be arbitrarily dismissed by an administration that itself is only interim, and which was expressly constituted to hold constitutional elections. It is just as well for the SPA leaders that Gyanendra happens to be one of the most unpopular monarchs in the world, after pro-democracy protests ended his authoritarian rule in April 2006.
The Maoists, who waged a ten-year rebellion against the king before renouncing violence and joining the political mainstream, had never made any bones about abolishing monarchy in all forms — even a ceremonial king without any actual power. So it seemed the obvious thing for them to do when they walked out of the interim government last September to press their demand. What was not so obvious, however, was the fact that they were actually unsure of facing the electorate after trading their guns and fatigues for a chance to become elected lawmakers. Such jitters prompted them to demand the election of a larger section of the new parliament on the basis of proportional representation.
Although this demand appears to have been scrapped in the new deal, it is not very reassuring that the Maoists have yet to give a guarantee that they would allow free polls to take place.
Year of living dangerously
The Asian Pacific Post, 20 Dec 2007
The year 2007 will be remembered as a year when tens of thousands of Asians risked their freedom to march for human rights in Asia.
It will also be a year that will go down in history as one where Asian leaders resorted to draconian laws and violent suppression to quell the cries for basic rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
From Burma to Pakistan, The Philippines to South Korea, and throughout the rest of Asia, human rights eroded steadily as a result of repressive policies.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in its latest annual report said conflict and gross rights violations persisted as a way of life, despite the superficial workings of elected governments in many Asian nations.
The Philippines saw a continued failure to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, which has caused the situation of human rights in the impoverished southeast Asian nation to go from bad to worse.
Human rights defenders, labour unionists, peasant leaders and others continue to face grave threats to their lives. The police have been a major impediment to human rights, both through their acts and omissions.
Investigations are poorly done or are not impartial. Witness protection is for all intents and purposes non-existent.
Myanmar’s monkhood, which has a long history of political activism, took the lead in organizing peaceful protests against drastic fuel hikes announced in mid-August, as well as the country’s deteriorating economic conditions. The demonstrations culminated in ten-of-thousands taking to the streets of Yangon in increasingly aggressive protests against the military, which has ruled the country for the past 45 years. The junta finally cracked down Sep 26-27 with batons and bullets, killing at least 15 people and imprisoning more than 3,000. The actual death toll and the number of people still in prison in Myanmar remains a mystery.
The mass protests in Myanmar (formerly Burma) during August and September have shown that there is a wide consensus for a transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian government.
During 2007 in Cambodia, criminal lawsuits and arrests continued to be used as tools for political repression, particularly in land and labour disputes. There were also many restrictions on freedoms of the press, of expression and of assembly. Land grabbing was rife and remains one of the most serious economic and human rights issues in the country today. Cambodia continues to exhibit hostility towards UN human rights mechanisms.
The lack of political will in Indonesia has stalled reforms within the country’s police.
Torture has not been criminalized, while the military continues to be the dominant institution in many regions where historic injustices have not been righted. Impunity remains the key feature of law and order, for torture and for other gross abuses of human rights.
In South Korea some major human rights concerns persist over laws relating to, and treatment of, migrant workers; the rights of “irregular” workers; restrictions on freedom of assembly, and the continued use of the National Security Law.
However, the proposed revision of the Criminal Procedure Act in the Republic of Korea sets in place many new measures to prevent abuses during criminal investigation, including provisions for non-custodial inquiries and rights to an attorney.
Thailand’s military decisively reasserted its prerogative to determine the shape and direction of the nation following the coup of last September. The army has awarded vast increases in funding to itself with no outside accountability, and reestablished a cold-war era command to oversee domestic affairs. And while it announced investigations into the human rights violations of the former government, it firmly blocked efforts to investigate killings, torture and other abuses committed under its administration, particularly those of soldiers.
Malaysia has resorted to its draconian Internal Security Act, which provides for detention without trial, to quell segments of its restive population.
At least 23 human-rights lawyers, activists and opposition politicians were arrested.
On November 25, an estimated 30,000 ethnic Indians from across the country converged in Kuala Lumpur to highlight what they perceived to be systematic ethnic marginalization and religious discrimination by the government. Many believe the embattled premier is on the brink of ordering a major crackdown against dissent.
In South Asia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India all suffered human rights setbacks.
China continued its top ranking as the world’s bad boy when it comes to human rights abuses. China today is the world’s biggest prison for journalists (33 detained), cyber-dissidents (49 detained) and free speech activists. In all, about 100 of them are currently serving prison sentences in appalling conditions after being convicted on charges of political dissent.
The world’s rights violator remains a member in good standing in the United Nations as its shows off its economic prowess to mask the prevalence of human rights violations.
When it came to human rights of our fellowmen in Asia, 2007 was a year of double standards.
We in North America portrayed ourselves as global defenders of human rights.
But the litany above shows we did very little.
[Note: The above editorials are lifted from the websites of respective newspapapers. If you own copyright to the above texts and would not like us to excerpt them, please email us at email@example.com and we will immediately remove them from our website-- Editors]
Posted by Editor on December 30, 2007 10:02 PM