Nepali Times

Almost there

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Two weeks after electing the Prime Minister, the country is likely to have a cabinet of ministers by the end of the day.

After late night talks on Sunday, the two largest parties, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML were able to chart the tentative shape of the new government and the portfolios the parties will head. Out of the 26 ministries, the two parties are likely to get 10 portfolios each. NC will take charge in Ministry of Defence, Finance, Communication, Cooperatives, Local Development and Education, among others. CPN-UML has laid claim on 10 ministries including Ministry of Home, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Health and General Administration. Smaller parties that have supported NC are also in line to head some ministries. The final allocation is expected to be formalised within today.

Internal talks are underway since early morning today to formalise the deal made between the two parties and pick the candidates for the ministerial positions. NC Parliamentary Party is meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwatar to endorse the deal.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala was finally able to convince CPN-UML to join the government after conceding the Home Ministry. The meeting of the two parties on Sunday focused on allocating ministries. The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

Untangling the Home Ministry knot

The power sharing talks between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have concluded on Sunday deciding that the two largest parties need to discuss the matter again on Monday.

Today’s talks focused on allocating ministries to NC and UML. The NC has already decided to assign Home Ministry, the main contention between two largest parties, to the UML.

The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

In today’s talks, Gautam along with UML Secretary Bishnu Poudel took part in the talks on behalf of UML, while NC Secretary Krishna Prasad Situala led the NC team in the talks.

The next round of talks on Monday will start early in the morning at 7 a.m., it is learnt. It is expected that the talks will conclude soon, paving way for the swearing in ceremony of UML and NC’s new ministers in the evening, the same day.

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Goodbye Gabriel García Márquez

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

The first time I read Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) was when I was proofreading the galleys of  The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, which the Editorial Sudamericana was getting ready to reprint in Argentina.

I was working in the offices of the Sudamericana publishing house, in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of San Telmo, where I could find myself editing a gothic novel or a literary classic or a work by the Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik, due to the varied menu.

I was 17 years old and I was mesmerised by that short tale, a journalistic report by García Márquez published in a number of installments in the El Espectador newspaper in Bogotá, in 1955, which came out as a book in 1970.

The complete title was The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor: Who Drifted on a Liferaft for Ten Days Without Food or Water, Was Proclaimed a National Hero, Kissed by Beauty Queens, Made Rich Through Publicity, and Then Spurned by the Government and Forgotten for All Time.

Through the first-person account of the exploits of the survivor, García Márquez denounced that the shipwreck of the sailor and his seven companions, who drowned, was due to overweight contraband on the Colombian Navy’s destroyer Caldas.

Colombia at the time was under a military dictatorship, so the report led to the closure of the newspaper and the first of García Márquez’s various periods of exile. The last one began in 1997. He never returned to live in Colombia.

From there, of course, I jumped to One Hundred Years of Solitude, the masterpiece that the same publishing house, the Editorial Sudamericana, published in 1967, which was going to revolutionise Spanish language literature and influence the rest of the world’s image and cultural impression of Latin America.

We Latin Americans fell in love, and were shocked, by the Colombia that García Márquez described in this novel and in his other great works of fiction.

The cruelty of Colombia’s wars, the solitude of its heroes, the pathetic flip-flops of its politicians and military leaders, the eternal rule of its dictators, the ominous foreign presence, the state of abandon of its rural villages ­ all of it contained the realistic feel of first-hand experience. And, while unique, it was also similar to what was happening in so many other corners of the region.

But in the voice of García Márquez it took on another dimension, dreamlike, exuberant and humorous, which transported us as readers and allowed us to reflect on our own woes even with a kind of joy.

Like other great writers, García Márquez built a universe of his own, made up of real and invented places, unlikely characters, and lineages and genealogies.

Their names, like Macondo or Aureliano Buendía, now form part of the collective memory of Latin America, just like what happened centuries earlier with El Quijote.

I devoured all of his short stories and novels, from La Hojarasca (Leaf Storm ­ 1955) to Memoria de mis putas tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores ­ 2004), through the formidable and very dissimilar El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch ­ 1975) and El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera ­ 1985).

When I was proofreading the galleys of  The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, I didn’t yet know that I was going to become a journalist.

Many years later I travelled to Colombia as a reporter, and had the chance to see the land that I had caught a glimpse of through the books of García Márquez, who in 1982 was awarded the Nobel Literature prize.

I saw for myself how the war continued, undaunted, with shifting protagonists and nerve centres, but with the same trail of blood and the same grinding dispossession and neglect.

Since 2012, the Colombian authorities and the main leftist guerrilla group have been discussing in Havana how to put an end to the last half century of war.

García Márquez, who died of cancer on Thursday 17 April  in Mexico, did not live to see his country at peace. Hopefully his fellow Colombians won’t have to wait another 50 years.

Diana Cariboni

Diana Cariboni is the editor in chief of IPS news agency.

TRC bill tabled

Friday, April 18th, 2014

After much disruption, the bills on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission on Enforced Disappearance were finally tabled in the Legislature Parliament on Friday.

Minister for Law Narhari Acharya tabled the two bills for deliberation in the House that resumed today after two consecutive days of disruption by the Maoists protesting against revival of conflict era cases. If the bills are endorsed by the parliament then the two commissions will have the sole authority to into all the conflict era human rights abuse cases.

The next meeting of the Legislature Parliament scheduled for Sunday is expected to deliberate on the two bills.

Earlier this morning, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who is also president of ruling Nepali Congress, CPN (UML) Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had reached to an agreement to amend the bills registered in the parliament by giving the transitional justice commissions full authroity to look at the conflict-era cases.

UCPN (Maoist) leader Giriraj Mani Pokharel said that as per the “gentleman agreement” between the political parties the government will not take up any conflict era cases from now on and that the two leaders have agreed to resolve all the conflict era cases through the two commissions.

The parties reached to this agreement a day after the Chitwan District Court released two Maoist cadres arrested in connection with the conflict-period Adhikari murder case, on bail.

Citing Adhikari murder case and the subsequent arrest of Maoist cadres, the UCPN (Maoist) had been obstructing parliament meeting and boycotting the all-party meeting.

Nothing to hide

Friday, April 18th, 2014

The quarterly magazine Himal Southasian  has reacted to a statement by leaders from the UCPN (Maoist) and the ruling Nepali Congress party regarding funding it has received from the Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Maoist lawmaker Shakti Basnet had said in parliament on Thursday that the fund received by the 25- year-old regional magazine was used to undermine the peace process in Nepal and demanded an investigation.

“No shred of evidence has been produced in support of these claims and we strongly object to the use of spurious and wild allegations to try and muzzle an independent media organisation and its freedom of expression,” the statement read.

The magazine’s editors said the documents regarding The Southasia Trust’s funding for the magazine that Basnet brandished in parliament was in the public domain.

“Himal Southasian is a media organisation and its work is available in the public domain on our website and in our printed issues. The contents of both speak for themselves and will demonstrate that all our work has been done in the cause of public service journalism and in pursuit of furthering development and cooperation in the Southasian region,” the statement reads.

Earlier, Himal Southasian editor Kanak Mani Dixit posted a response on his Facebook page which said: “I am clear that the UCPN(M) has raised an issue not relevant to my pursuit of justice in the case of Krishna Prasad Adhikari.”

The Maoists have been obstructing CA proceedings protesting the government’s prosecution of those accused in the Krishna Adhikari case.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu also issued a press statement today refuting such claims of Norwegian funding being misused by The Southasia Trust.

“We want to be clear that we have no reason to believe that the Embassy’s funding to Himal Southasian magazine has been misused. However, any such allegations are serious, and requires necessary action from our side,” said Norway’s Ambassador to Nepal, Kjell Tormod  Pettersen.

Avalanche on Everest

Friday, April 18th, 2014

The victims of the avalanche below Camp II of Mount Everest in Solukhumbu district on Friday morning have been identified as the death toll in the tragedy increased to 12 by today evening. All of them were Nepali guides.

The Home Ministry as well as the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) have confirmed the death of 12 mountaineers so far. Three other mountaineers are still missing while three others who were found injured have been airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment.

The mountaineers were killed when an avalanche swept away climbing parties at 5,800 meters, just below Camp II, of Everest on Friday morning.

Dipendra Poudel of Trekking and Mountaineering section under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) confirmed the death.

“Around 15 persons were swept away by the avalanche. We have rescued two alive and recovered four bodies,” Poudel said.  A team of doctors and rescuers have left for camp 1 from the EBC in order to start search and rescue operation to locate the missing mountaineers. “Liaisons officers, personnel of Nepal Army and Armed Police Force as well as guides from Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) and icefall doctors are involved in rescue operations,” he said

Climbers of as many as six expeditions were swept away by the avalanche. “These expeditions were operated by expedition operators like Alpine Ascent, Summit Nepal, Himalayan Guides and Beuyl, among others,” added Poudel.

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Losing lives to save them

Adhikari murder case

Friday, April 18th, 2014

The Chitwan District Court on Thursday released two Maoist cadres arrested in connection with the conflict-period Adhikari murder case, on bail.

After conducting a hearing for two days, District Judge Binod Mohan Acharya delivered the order in the much-talked about case that is making uproars in the parliament, of late.

As per the court order, Bhimsen Poudel and Chhanilal Poudel have been decreed a bail amount of Rs 27,000 and 20,000, respectively, as the pre-condition for their release from the judicial custody.

More than 20 lawyers including former attorney general Mukti Pradhan pleaded on behalf of the defendants. Likewise, government attorney Ek Narayan Lamsal pleaded on behalf of the government demanding life imprisonment for the accused.

Among the 13 Maoist cadres alleged of involvement in the Adhikari murder case, 11 are absconding. The court has issued arrest warrant against them.

Citing Adhikari murder case and the subsequent arrest of Maoist cadres, the UCPN (Maoist) has been obstructing parliament meeting and boycotting the all-party meeting.

The UCPN (M) has been saying that the conflict-period cases have to be dealt through a separate Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Disappearances.

As for the government, it has been stressing that it is committed to forming such commissions, but has no control over filing of individual conflict-era cases at the court of law

Just want justice

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The quest for justice unites two women whose relatives were killed and disappeared by the Nepal Army and the Maoists

Last Thursday, Purnimaya Lama (pic, right) and Debi Sunwar were among the 20 human rights activists arrested by police from Singha Darbar to protest the amnesty provision in the bill on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances (CID) which were tabled in parliament on 9 April.

Bikash Karki/Annapurna Post

Bikash Karki/Annapurna Post

Sunwar’s daughter Maina was 15 when she was tortured and killed by officers of the Royal Nepal Army in 2004 and Purnimaya’s husband Arjun Lama was abducted by the Maoists in Kavre in 2005 and was never seen since. Since then the two women, like thousands of Nepalis whose lost children, parents, siblings or friends to extra-judicial killings by state security or the Maoists have been
seeking truth and justice.

The NC-UML coalition tabled the bill even though it was weaker on providing justice to the survivors and relatives than the one drafted by the Maoist Bhattarai government two years ago. The three parties agree that conflict era crimes, except the grave ones, should be addressed by the Commissions and not by normal criminal courts.

But both Lama and Sunwar say the bill is unacceptable. “The clause on general amnesty is an insult to the victims and their families who have been fighting so long to see the perpetrators tried and punished for their actions,” Sunwar told us on Wednesday. One of the most vocal activists among relatives of conflict-era victims, Sunuwar filed a complaint at Kavre District Police Office in November 2005, naming alleged perpetrators, including Capt Niranjan Basnet.

It was only after the conflict ended that Maina’s body was finally exhumed in March 2007 from inside the army base. The Kavre District Court has issued orders for the arrest of the four accused in 2008 but they are still free.

Says Sunwar: “We are being treated as second class citizens in our country, our hopes of justice have died now. We will be forced to take things in our hands if this situation continues.”

The bill tabled last week defines rape, torture, custodial killings, forced disappearances, among others as ‘grave human rights violations’, crimes which merit prosecution. However, it also gives power to the Commissions to grant amnesty, and in such cases closing door for prosecution.The Commission can also drag cases out, citing lack of evidence.

Her quest for justice for her husband’s death has taken a toll on Purimaya Lama’s health. She is now 50 but looks older, and is frail. Her father-in-law died a few years ago without ever finding the whereabouts of Arjun Lama, and Purnimaya now worries about her own health.

“My body can’t take all the stress and sometimes I feel all this will drive me insane,” says Purnimaya. Former Maoist ministers Surya Man Dong and Agni Sapkota, have been charged with involvement in Arjun Lama’s abduction. “My husband was not involved in the war, his murderers, instead of being punished became ministers. We are humans, our fight will not end without we get a closure.”

Bhrikuti Rai

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Pillay not pleased

Monday, April 14th, 2014

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has expressed “grave concern” at the Nepal government tabling a bill in parliament on Wednesday which has provisions for amnesty for grave crimes committed during the conflict.

The bill lays out the provisions of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on Enforced Disappearances which will allow amnesty and pardon for perpetrators of atrocities during the war 1996-2006.

“While I welcome steps taken by the Government of Nepal to take the Transitional Justice process forward, I am extremely concerned by its new attempt to introduce amnesties for serious human rights violations,” Pillay said in the statement. “Such amnesties not only violate core principles under international law but would also weaken the foundation for a genuine and lasting peace in Nepal,”

The bill will have to be ratified by parliament even though the Supreme Court last year rejected a draft bill that was stronger than this one.

International law bars amnesty for grave violations of human rights. Pillay added: “I call on the Government to respect international law and to fully implement the decision of the Supreme Court, which clearly stated that Commissions should not be used to prevent, replace or delay criminal investigations and prosecution for serious human rights violations.”

“The people of Nepal have the right to know the truth about what happened during the internal armed conflict which affected their country, through a genuine truth process. This process should be victim centred, depoliticised and should respect the right to a remedy and accountability through criminal prosecution,” said the High Commissioner.

During the second periodic review of Nepal three weeks ago, the Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also expressed its concerns at the prevailing culture of impunity for gross violations of international human rights law during the 1996-2006 conflict. The Committee specifically highlighted the lack of investigations and prosecution of perpetrators, and the denial of effective remedies to victims.