Newslook: Gyanendraspeak, Grave-theory, Nepal-bound, Large-Hearted & More
NEWSLOOK scans some important and interesting stuff online for the week, February 1-7.
Catch-up with the latest news and opinion online on this page (Updated throughout the week, February 1/08 to Feb 7/08)
More words from [king] Gyanendra: Reporter Yoshio Hanada of Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reports (Feb 07/08) that he told a visiting group of Japanese journalists that the recent decision by the country's lawmakers to abolish the monarchy did not reflect the spirit of democracy: "[The decision] doesn't reflect the majority view of the people. This isn't democracy." The king cited a recent survey conducted by a local research institute, which showed 49 percent of respondents favored the continuation of the monarchy in some form. Gyanendra added: "A majority of the people find great meaning in the institution of the monarchy. In all clouds, there is a silver lining. Let us hope."
Earlier, breaking almost two-year-long silence, he told journalist Hari Lamsal of Rastravani weekly (on Jan 30/07) that democracy had weakened in Nepal. He said his slience did not mean he was not active ("Silence is also an action") and that come what may after April 10 CA elections, he would not leave the country. He characterized Nepalis as forgiving, saying that Nepalis have a large-heart.
A greed that wrong media labels only frame the truth about Shivapuri site in the wrong way. Some Finnish forsenic experts are now in KTM to study the site. And here's the latest reality check on labeling:
BBC appears cautious and qualifies the cremation site as "mass grave" within quotes. AFP calls it a "disposal site." The Finnish publication Helsinki Sanomat calls it a possible mass burial or cremation site (also "killing fields").
Key domestic sources appear as variegated as the international sources: Nepalnews names it as a "suspected cremation site". The Rising Nepal brands it "the place of mass burial." Kantipur Online identifies it as a "mass cremation site."
But what's wrong with the UPI, which continues to call it a "mass grave"?
Sex and Nepal-- what's the connection? This week, there are stories that attempt to link these two. In a Documentary called "Fairytale in Kathamndu" (which is to be screened on February 18 and 21 during the Dublin International Film Festival and on RTE One on March 13) a well-known Irish poet, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, says he had sex with young Nepali boys. The Irish Independent reports (Feb 05/08) Gardaí, Ireland's national police, in collaboration with the Nepali police, is investigating the nature of sex he had have with Nepali boys. The hour-long documentary is by Neasa Ni Chianain, a fan of the poet himself.
An intro to the film says (see official website here) that the filmmaker accompanied the poet on a trip to Kathmandu where he has many young male friends. For each of the past ten years, he has spent his winters there and have donated money to the boys. But soon thereafter, first a hotel manager, and then some Nepali youths come forward to tell a different tale, and the picture of the kind benefactor falls apart. Unable to believe the allegations about the poet she idolized, the filmmaker is forced to enter the action and confront him.
The news reports now do not seem just the pre-screening publicity stunts. Ó Searcaigh is an openly gay man although he says he has been portrayed unfairly in that movie. He denies exploiting young men (above 16, the age-limit in Nepal for illegal sex).
More sex in Kathmandu: This Eursoc report urges travelers not to go to Kathmandu without condoms. The brief starts off, with some contrived excitement: Thamel offers sex without any bounds. Even the government is not ashamed of what is going on there...
How real is the reality in KTM? Would the Nepali authorities, or the Nepali press care?
But wait: Westerners not only see sex in Nepal, but also an increasingly greater passage for God. One year after the predominantly Hindu nation became a secular country, Christianity is making notable headway. Out of a population of 26 million, there are now around 700,000 Christians in Nepal.
The ruling political parties claim consensus on the way ahead and the CA elections are re-announced for April 10, and yet nothing is predictable in Nepal. In spite of their participation in the central government and in violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Times of India reports the Maoists have actually activated a parallel government. Another view from India, courtesy Ashok K. Mehta, a retiree of the Indian Army, is that the elections, if held at all, would be a messy one. He writes in the Pioneer (Feb 5/08): "The best case scenario is an imperfect election in April whose outcome the Maoists could reject. In this kay garne (what to do) contingency, the political parties can rise to invent yet another constructive compromise."
The Nepali expert view, in the voice of our own Kunda Dixit, is not much different. In an Inter Press Service news analysis, Dixit writes: "A lot of things can go wrong between now and then, as has happened in the past. Maoist hardliners could try to sabotage polls in which they feel they will have a poor showing. The radical right, still loyal to sidelined King Gyanendra, could provoke violence. Militant groups in the plains bordering India may prevent voting. Or all of the above."
A great follow-up story on the "missing Nepalis" in Huntsville, Alabama. Unlike many stories this past week, reporter Challen Stephens of the Huntsville Times (Feb 03/08) does not speculate and run after rumors. The reporter talks to the Nepali side, too. Local Nepalis, who include a scientist, some students and a former journalist, provide their version of the story: They say those 100 Nepalis are not "missing" -- they only left for better opportunities on the consent of their former employer, the Canada-based Cinram.
Plus this: The Nepali wokers did not steal furniture and they only left Cinram for better opportunities, says this AP story (Feb 4/08).
When it comes to international coverage of Nepal, Indian media are at the forefront, followed by US and UK news outlets. It is rare for French publications to report or comment on Nepal's affairs. This report by Cédric Bosquet in Le Monde Diplomatique (Feb 08) terminates that rarity. The commentary explains UK's discriminatory policies on ex-Gurkhas. It says: Worst affected are the surviving second world war veterans, but there are many vulnerable ex-soldiers who were sent home in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Its adds: [The UK's move to address some of the grievances] could be viewed as a subtle means for the British government to improve its image by supervising the distribution of aid, although this aid is inadequate on the ground and the whole system seems extremely unaccountable.
Reporter Laurie Goering of the Chicago Tribune (February 03/08) writes (see printer friendly version here) that Nepali Maoists, despite their rhetoric of equality and opportunity for women and their role in some legislative reforms on women's rights, have frustrated their womenfolks-- the latter get little space to participate in the peace and political process. Hundreds of former women fighters are languishing in UN-monitored camps, and the are loosing their patience.
This same story reprinted in the Baltimore Sun.
Here's a great story for conservationists, and a very long one by Chris Vaughn of Star-Telegram (Feb 02/08). An American biologist (and a billionaire conservationist) Ramona Bass recounts how Nepali rhinos reached America. The story starts with Arati, a one-horned rhino now in Fort Worth Zoo, gifted by Nepal's king. . The story quotes Hemanta Mishra, a noted Nepali conservationist, who has lived in the US since 1992. Mishra played an important part in that process and his latest book The Soul of the Rhino (released Jan 2008. Here's an amazon link) recounts Arati's passage to America.
The story continues: Asian rhinos are still not completely safe in Nepal, which has been wracked by political unrest and violence in recent years. But Hemanta Mishra is encouraged that the population in Royal Chitwan National Park is still strong, probably because of the benefits of environmental tourism.
So we in Nepal have undoubtedly heard by now that Americans have one this Super Bowl (USA Today, Feb 1/08). The burden to know things-- near and far-- is so heavy on us, really!?
Something new in Sanfebagar village of remote Accham in the far West: There is a health center now. Only a few years ago, there reportedly was only one doctor for the whole district. Some medical students from the US-based Yale University started the Nayaya Health two years ago. The charitable effort was not easy to start; the founders experienced some bureaucratic problems (Yale Daily News, Feb 1/07). In the beginning, the clinic focused primarily on addressing the problem of HIV and raised funds on that platform. Now it focuses on maternal and child care.
He has been criticized in the past for speaking his mind. But King Gyanendra breaks a long silence once again.
In an informal conversation with Hari Lamsal of Rastravani weekly newspaper (published Wednesday, but not online on the newspaper's website as of Feb 1/08), he says silence is also a form of action, but he has remained quite to help the peace process. The king hints an understanding between the parties and himself and suggests monarchy is to stay in Nepal in some forms, and there is no question of him leaving the country, whatever the outcome of the CA elections slated for April 10.
It has been about three years since his coup, which forced a nation-wide protest that ultimately led to his suspension.
This INS report captures more details of the conversation. And this report by Nepalnews says the king said Nepali people themselves should speak out on where the nation is heading and on the direction it is taking and on why it is becoming chaotic. He refuted that monarchy has ever sought power.
Possibly, in line with their unspoken policy to boycott most things royal, National, mainstream media have not yet picked up this in their reports.
A grave is different from a cremation site-- there's more probability to find remains of dead bodies in the former than in the latter. But news reports seem gushy in covering the reported site of a cremation site at Shivapuri. This report leans toward the grave-theory, attributing to sources with a list of 49 victims believed to have been buried in the grave after being killed during a decade-long insurgency by the Maoists.
Many stories, some exaggerated and some cautious have recently appeared in the Nepali media on this issue. Some local investigators are at work to determine the authenticity of the claim. Now a team of two Two Finnish forensic experts are visiting Nepal on Feb 4 to assist and advise the ongoing investigation. A Reuters dispatch says the team will be in Kathmandu for two weeks to carry out preliminary investigations on the request of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR). The police has reportedly made arrangement of twenty-four hour security in the area.
A Maoist fighter; a daughter she was of a royal Nepal army general, so begins this Time magazine story. The father and the daughter have reconciled. But the real reconciliation among Nepal's leadership has not happened.
Nothing much new in this article-- it does put together a lot, all the gloom and doom in Nepal, and the complexities of the peace process. And the reporter himself visited Chitwan and talked to a line-up of carefully selected sources from inside and outside the country: Jayaraj Acharya, Kanak Dixit, Mandira Sharma. Kamal Thapa, C.P. Gajurel, R.S. Mahat, Rhoderick Chalmers, Nepal expert for the International Crisis Group, Sanjog Rai, a college student in Kathmandu, Bojraj Pokhrel, chief of Nepal's Electoral Commission, S.D. Muni, a Nepal scholar formerly at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, with reporting by Yubaraj Ghimire and Santosh Shah/Kathmandun. (Notice the "n" at the end, a Time typo perhaps)
Perhaps more important, Time (and this one is the Asian edition) chose to run this long piece as a cover story for its South Asian readers. When was the last time, since the royal massacre and the conflict, did this magazine run a report on Nepal?
And this one is a Tharoor's writerly display, too; like father like son. Ishaan does it, and from this reporting, he must have cultivated some understanding of this part of the world.
Prachanda speaks, too, yet again, in Kantipur online's 3,400-word interview. The Maoist leader displays a softer tone this time around, but wants to have both ways-- war and peace, his version of the two-pillar strategy. Interestingly, he is not unlike the king in his assessment of Nepali people: "Nepali people have a large heart," [Read: Nepali people are forgiving] he says. That is what the king said with Rastravani interview (see above).
To put Prachanda's blabber into a context, read this piece by Dhruba Adhikary in Asia Times Online (Feb 1/08). This journalist tries to explain why Prachanda and Co. display a newfound zeal after their apparent reluctance to go to poll in the past. He reports doubts in the process, actors, integrity and conduct of the upcoming CA polls.
Posted by Editor on February 1, 2008 3:12 PM