Nepali Times

Mainali named PSC Chair

Thursday, February 26th, 2015
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Former secretary Umesh Mainali has been recommended as the new Chair of Public Service Commission (PSC).

A meeting of Constitutional Council (CC) on Thursday recommended  Mainali as the PSC Chair, despite objection from the main opposition UCPN (Maoist).

The UCPN (Maoist) had been lobbying for the reappointment of Kayo Devi Yami as the PSC Chair. After the tenure of Kayo Devi, who was appointed as the PSC Chair by the UCPN (Maoist)-led government in 2009, ended early this month, the post had been lying vacant.

Kayo Devi is an elder sister of Hisila Yami, a UCPN (Maoist) leader and wife of the party Vice Chair Baburam Bhattarai.

Earlier, two meetings of the CC had ended inconclusively as the UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal insisted on Kayo Devi’s second term. In its third meeting, the CC decided to recommend Mainali’s name despite objection from the UCPN (Maoist). The ruling NC and the UML have backed Mainali’s recommendation.

Mainali, who will be formally appointed as the PSC Chair within a week, has headed several ministries in the past, including Ministry of Home Affairs.

The CC meeting also recommended Brinda Hada, Dr Govinda Kusum, Shree Purush Dhakal, Ashok Kumar Jha, Brahma Dev Raya and Krishna Chandra Jha as members of the constitutional body.

However, the CC has not recommended names for vacant posts of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the Elections Commission (EC).


A yam between five boulders

Thursday, February 26th, 2015
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Despite differences, Nepal and Laos have so much in common, academics of the two countries should meet and compare notes

David N Gellner

Imagine a beautiful mountainous landlocked country squeezed between larger, richer, and more populous neighbours. The country is a tourist paradise, with gorgeous rivers for canoeing and rafting, exquisite countryside for trekking, and, in its few urban centres, ancient Indic temples.

The rivers have great potential for hydro power, only partially exploited. The valleys are sculpted with terraced rice paddies, cows and water buffalo graze on the post-harvest stalks. In winter the valleys fill with mist that is burned off as the day advances. In the hills, and mixed in with each other, the country has over 50 officially recognised ethnic groups and many languages.

During its chequered political history, the country rid itself of its monarchy, thanks to a powerful communist movement. For development it is heavily dependent on foreign ‘donors’. Perinatal maternal mortality is high and in remote areas people are among the poorest in the world, but health and education indicators are going in the right direction.

The country shares a long and effectively open border with its powerful southern neighbour. Many of its citizens work in the neighbour’s factories. Its national language is linguistically close to that of the southern neighbour, its script is similar. Most people speak the southern neighbour’s language. The tv, the films, the music, the magazines, and the literature of the southern neighbour are overwhelmingly dominant. There is a dark side to dependence on the neighbour in that many local girls end up in its brothels.

The country I am describing is not Nepal, but Laos. Its big ‘southern’ (actually southern and western) neighbour is Thailand. A Nepali in Laos would probably feel very much at home, but might wonder at the fact that there are so many cows and buffaloes and no one thinks to milk them. A Laotian in Nepal would wonder at the sight of Nepalis worshipping cows but never think to eat them.

The parallel between Nepal and Laos is not complete. Most strikingly, Laos’s population is only a quarter of Nepal’s in a similar-sized territory. There is far more forest and its cities are less crowded. There is 24-hour electricity (however, most villages remain unconnected to the grid as yet). Laos has borders with five countries (China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam), not just a highly asymmetrical border/relationship with just two, as in Nepal’s case.

Laos’s political history is tied to Vietnam rather than Thailand. During the colonial period it was ruled by the French from Hanoi. Laos has a single-party communist regime which retains all ultimate power, despite recent economic liberalisation. Chinese investment in Laos is huge today: in dams, in roads, and in rubber plantations.

Despite these differences, the structural similarities between Laos and Nepal are such that surely it is time for the academics and intellectuals of the two countries to meet and examine them in detail in order to see what each could learn from the other.

Laos has many advantages that Nepal lacks: a relatively small population, a strong and stable (if authoritarian) government, and neighbours that are among the most economically dynamic countries in the world. Nepal, on the other hand, has freedom, including the freedom for political parties to compete and ethnic groups and trades unions to organise. It has a vibrant public sphere with many Nepali-language newspapers and radios.

Nepal has one huge advantage over Laos. Nepal may have suffered a ten-year civil war in which 17,000 died, but Laos has suffered far more and for far longer. In particular, as part of the Vietnam war the USA, in a secret operation, spent $17 million a day for nine years dropping bombs all over Laos in a misguided attempt to wipe out communism. That unexploded ordinance (UXO) is still scattered all over the country and kills or maims 100 Laotians a year. Small NGOs (including the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group) are doing brilliant work painstakingly clearing the mines, one village at a time, but that work is a drop in the ocean.

Prithvi Narayan Shah famously compared Nepal to a yam between two boulders. For better or worse, Laos is a yam between five boulders – and perhaps, given the legacy of US bombing, that should be six boulders. Whatever USAID is contributing to this effort (said to be a mere $4,000 a day), it is not enough. The United States has never accepted responsibility for what it did, the Laotians are living with the consequences and will be for the foreseeable future.

David N Gellner is a professor at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford.

 


Challenges for new governor

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
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From the Nepali Press

Ashish Gyawali in Annapurna Post, 25 February

 

With Nepal Rashtra Bank (NRB)’s governor Yubaraj Khatiwada‘s five-year tenure coming to an end next month, the government has announced its search for a new candidate. On Tuesday, the cabinet formed a three-member panel led by Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat to recommend two names for the post.

Many aspirants, from bank CEOs to former finance secretaries, have begun lobbying for their candidacy. A host of challenges awaits the new governor.

Immediately after assuming office, the new governor will have to decide whether to release controversial businessman Ajeya Raj Sumargi’s money which is currently withheld by NRB. After news that Sumargi’s company has not been registered with the Department of Industry came to light, the NRB withheld around Rs 3.5 billion, which was deposited in Sumargi’s bank accounts by unknown sources in the British Virginia Islands.

How the new governor deals with Sumargi’s case will be an early indicator of his character.

Another decision that the new governor needs to make is whether to allow Ncell from repatriating dividends to its foreign promoters which has so far been barred by NRB. How the new governor acts on this issue will partly determine the future of foreign investment in Nepal.

During Khatiwada’s tenure, nearly a dozen financial institutes were declared ‘problematic’. Khatiwada had also stopped issuing licenses to new banks and financial institutes. But, there are many development banks and financial companies still sailing through rough water. Will the new government introduce stringent policies to save problematic financial institutes?

CEOs of some private banks are already lobbying for issuance of new licenses. It will be a challenge for the new governor to withstand this pressure, apart from continuing with the NRB’s bank merger policy. Bankers will also exert pressure on the new governor to withdraw his predecessor’s decision to restrict chiefs of banks and financial institutes from serving more than a certain period

The NRB is now in the process of revising some key acts, including NRB Act-2002. But, bankers are opposed to some provisions in the revised acts. Whether the new governor will defend revisions of acts or give in to pressure by bankers will define Nepal’s future financial policies.


No PR for civil servants

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
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The State Affairs Committee of the Parliament has passed a bill to sack government employees possessing Diversity Visa (DV) and Permanent Residency (PR) of foreign countries.

Once the bill, which was drafted to amend the Civil Service Act-1991, gets endorsed by the Legislative Parliament, the government will be able to fire any civil servant holding DV and PR.

Earlier, General Administration Minister Lal Babu Pandit had launched a drive to identify and take actions against civil servants holding DV and PR, but he faced legal hassles as the act does not specify that civil servants cannot acquire DV and PR. So, he had been lobbying for amendment of the act, even seeking support from President Ram Baran Yadav to amend the bill.

The amended bill purposes that civil servants can choose to remain in jobs if they express their commitment to give up their foreign residency permits within a certain period of time.

Similarly, the bill states that spouses of civil servants can hold DV and PR after informing the government about it.

Sources say dozens of civil servants, including high-level officials, are  in possession of DV and PR while still active in the government service. A committee formed by the government has already prepared a list of such civil servants but their names have not been released.


Acid victims want justice

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
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Acid attack victim Sangita Magar

Chameli Magar (left) with daughter Sangita. Pic: Devaki Bista

The mother of the girl who got severe burn injuries in an acid attack early this week in Kathmandu has urged the police to arrest the culprit.

“When will they (the police) arrest him (the culprit)?” asks Chameli Magar, whose 16-year-old daughter Sangita is now undergoing treatment at Kathmandu Medical College (KMC).

“I want to see his (the culprit’s) face. I want to know why he destroyed my daughter’s life.”

In the wee hours of Sunday, an unidentified man threw acid at Sangita while she was waiting for her tuition class to begin in Jhonchhe, Kathmandu. Acid has burnt her face and hands.

Sima Basnet, 15, who was sitting next to Sangita in the same room, also got some burns. She is now undergoing treatment at Bir Hospital. Her condition is not as critical as Sangita’s.

According to Chameli, Sangita rushed home and fell on the ground shortly after being attacked with acid. “Before she fainted, she asked me not to spare the culprit,” says Chameli.

Two days after the incident, police has yet to find the perpetrator who threw acid on Sangita and Sima.

Sangita’s parents make a living by washing dishes. Chameli says she is too poor to bear the medical expenses for Sangita’s treatment but does not want to beg for money.

“My relatives, friends and neighbors gave me around Rs 50,000,” she says. “I spent all that money in just three days. I do not want to go around asking people for money.”

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the police to identify and arrest the culprit at the earliest.

On Tuesday, school students carried out a rally demanding justice for Sangita and Sima.

Devaki Bista

Interview with Chameli Magar

 


Maoists revive YCL

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
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211Hundreds of youths holding red flags and batons came out on the streets of Kathmandu on Tuesday.

They rallied protesters from different areas to throng the Exhibition Road of Kathmandu.

They were all wearing red caps, which had ‘YCL’ printed on them. The YCL stands for Young Communist League, the most notorious youth organisation of the UCPN (Maoist).

This is the first time the UCPN (M) has organised a rally of the YCL in the last few years. The YCL was dormant after it faced criticism for its violent activities.

The YCL rally took place just four days before what the UCPN (Maoist) says would be their biggest show of strength.

On 28 February, the UCPN (Maoist)-led alliance of opposition parties is organising a mass rally in Kathmandu to put pressure on the NC and the UML to write a new constitution through a consensus. The UCPN (M) has firmly instructed all their cadres to participate in the rally.

Addressing the YCL cadres, the UCPN (M) leader Janardan Sharma said: “Carrying batons is not our choice but compulsion. We felt the need to carry batons to write the new constitution as per the spirit of our past political movements.”

Sharma, who is also in-charge of mobilising volunteers, said the YCL will remain active unless the new constitution is written.

The ruling NC- UML and the opposition UCPN (Maosit)-Madhesi have not held talks after the Constituent Assembly (CA) initiated a vote on the contents of the new constitution.

Earlier, the opposition wanted the ruling coalition to halt the voting process for talks to resume. However, even after the CA Chair Subhas Nembang halted the voting process, talks have not resumed.

Both sides are now waiting for the 28 February rally. By bringing hundreds of thousands of people to Kathmandu on that day, the UCPN (Maoist) wants to prove that they have people’s support. On the other hand, a poor turnout will force the opposition to compromise on their stance.

 


To sing or to leave

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
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somea1

From the Nepali Press, Himal Khabarpatrika

19-year-old Somea Baraili became an overnight star when her duet Jaalma, with Kali Prasad Baskota for the upcoming movie Resham Filili, went viral on YouTube last month. Catchy lyrics and typical Nepali-way of singing have helped the song get over 900,000 views, and the official video of the song hasn’t even been released.

Baraili landed the gig when producer and actor of the movie, Vinay Shrestha, heard her singing at a restaurant. She had been singing since a young age and has not taken any professional singing lessons. It shows talent can be appreciated with or without formal training as evidenced by the singer.

She is ecstatic because of her new found fame but it has also put her in a dilemma. A first year undergraduate student, she had plans to go abroad to study before the singing opportunity landed on her lap. “Now that I am getting good offers for songs, I don’t know whether to go or not,” says Baraili.

Apart from Jaalma, other songs from the movie including the title song Resham Filili and let’s get lucky tonight have gathered much accolade.  The audience is eagerly waiting for the movie to be released 24 April only based on the popularity of the songs.

Read the original article 


 

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