Nepali Times

Nepathya in New York

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
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The Nepali folk rock band Nepathya performed to a packed audience at the Manhattan Center in New York on Saturday, with vocalist and lyricist Amrit Gurung singing his hit songs as well as newer compositions.

The audience of about 1,500 New Yorkers were mostly people from Nepal applauded loudly with the opening song, Ama. The head of the Nepali delegate to the UN General Assembly Foreign Minister  Prakash Saran Mahat and Nepal’s Ambassador to the US Arjun Karki also attended the show.

He then went on to play evergreen numbers like Bheda Ko Oon Jasto, Lampate Surati and Chari Maryo. He also sang Nepathya newly- released songs, Rama and Yoshiko Pani.

As usual, Amrit Gurung peppered the intervals between songs with short messages about the situation back in Nepal.

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“In this race of establishing our ethnic identity, have we ever thought about our national identity being at risk ? What I proudly say is – I am a Nepali first and then I am equally proud to be a Gurung,” he said to loud applause.

As the night advanced with Resham, Taal ko pani, Amrit took some time in between and said. “You all live here in the center of the world, whatever legal status you may possess is not an issue. I am sure you are still proud to be a Nepali. Do contribute to your motherland. Keep her in your thought and wishes,”

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Between other songs, Gurung said: “We have fought long for freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, we still live in a state of fear. In this struggle to fight against this fear, we are lucky to have few people with high integrity leading their way. If we cannot join the fight we can at least support the cause. Let us stand behind such people of high integrity fighting to make a state free of fear for our children.”

The closing number, as with most Nepathya concerts was Rato ra Chandra Surya, which has become a alternative national anthem of Nepal.

On Tuesday, the band headed to San Francisco for another concert on 1 October.


KC’s ninth hunger strike

Monday, September 26th, 2016
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Crusader Govinda KC launched his ninth fast-unto-death on Monday, demanding reforms in medical education and impeachment of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Chief Lokman Singh Karki.

Before beginning his indefinite hunger strike at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu where he works, KC welcomed tabling of the Medical Education Bill in Parliament, but pushed for more reforms.

“Tabling of the bill is a welcome step,” KC told a press meet. “But that is not sufficient, it should be passed from the ongoing session of Parliament. More importantly, our suggestions must be incorporated into this bill before it is passed.”

KC also reiterated his demand to impeach Karki accusing him of obstructing reforms by abusing his power. “One after another evidence is surfacing against Karki, but our sovereign parliament is not even debating his wrongdoings,” he said. “It shows how powerful Karki’s parallel government is.”

KC also asked the government to fix medical education fees as recommended by a committee led by Education Expert Kedar Bhakta Mathema. The government had formed the Mathema committee under pressure from KC’s previous hunger strikes.

In addition, KC also asked the government to implement the deals reached with him in the past, including appointment of the new Dean at the Institute of Medicines (IoM) on the basis of seniority and action against the corrupt officials of the IoM.


More money for reconstruction

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
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A meeting of the Advisory Committee of the NRA on Sunday. Photo: RSS

Exactly two months after a devastating earthquake last year, Nepal’s political leadership won praises for successfully holding an international conference in Kathmandu where donors pledged Rs 410 billion for post-quake reconstruction.

The then-Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat was even named by the UK’s Banker magazine as the Best Finance Minister of 2016 for successfully mobilising resources for reconstruction of the earthquake-hit Himalayan nation.

However, the National Reconstruction Authority, which was set up late last year after months of political wrangling over its leadership, said on Sunday that Rs 410 billion is not even half the money required for rebuilding houses, schools, health institutes, temples and infrastructures.

When the NRA’s Advisory Committee held its first meeting under the leadership of new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Sunday, the NRA CEO Sushil Gyewali said: “We need to manage more resources either internally or from donors.”

According to a report presented by Gyewali to the NRA Advisory Committee, the money pledged by donors is just 47 per cent of the actual need of Rs 938 billion. “We need an additional Rs 595 billion,” he said.

Previously, the NRA had prepared Post Disaster Recovery Framework (PRF), requiring Rs 838 billion for reconstruction over the next five years. But after Dahal became Prime Minister, the new government proposed to add Rs 100,000 to the original Rs 200,000 housing grants. The NRA Advisory Committee, however, has yet not endorsed the government’s proposal.

“If we give Rs 100,000 more, and loan up to Rs 300,000 for reconstruction of individual houses, our total budget goes by Rs 100 billion,” said Gyewali.

 


Karki’s ‘file’ at SC

Friday, September 23rd, 2016
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The government on Friday submitted the official documents related to the appointment of Lokman Singh Karki as the Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

Based on these documents, the Supreme Court will now review a writ petition that challenged Karki’s appointment in May 2013.

Advocate Om Prakash Aryal had filed a writ at the SC, claiming that Karki lacked moral character, experience and qualification to head the anti-graft body. But a bench of Justices Gopal Parajuli and Om Prakash Mishra dismissed Aryal’s writ, saying Karki’s appointment was ‘legal’.

Last year, Aryal filed another writ asking the SC to review its own decision to quash his previous writ. When the SC sought the documents related to Karki’s appointment to decide whether to review its previous decision, the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCP) informed the Apex Court that the documents were missing since the earthquakes.

But the SC dubbed the government’s response ‘irresponsible’ and demanded ‘all the documents’ in one week’s time. A joint bench of Chief Justice Sushila Karki and justices Bishwambhar Shrestha and Sapna Malla also decided to review Aryal’s writ.

Karki’s fate now hangs in balance, with the SC all set to decide whether he is fit to head the anti-graft body.

 


Four trekkers killed

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
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Four trekkers, including a foreign national, were killed by a landslide on the Manaslu trekking route in Gorkha district on Thursday.

The landslide that occurred in Kerauja village of Gorkha in the western hills also injured six people, including four foreigners. They were airlifted to Kathmandu by a Fishtail Air helicopter.

The deceased Nepalis have been identified as 30-year-old Tsering Sherpa, 35-year-old Dorje Lama of Kathmandu and 32-year-old Ranjana Basnet of Okhaldhunga. The name and nationality of the foreigner who died along with the three Nepalis are yet to be confirmed, according to Gorkha’s Chief District Officer Narayan Prasad Bhatta.

The region where the tragedy took place was badly damaged by last year’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake with its epicentre in Barpak, Gorkha.


Bomb incidents condemned

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
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A bomb disposal team of Nepal Army at work in a school in Kathmandu. Photo: RSS

UNICEF has condemned the placement and explosion of bombs at more than half a dozen schools in Kathmandu Valley on Tuesday.

A Maoist faction formed by former ex-combatants had left Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in at least eight schools, and two of these IEDs exploded and caused damage to school infrastructure.

Police later arrested two suspects and presented them before media. 31-year-old Shankar Lakhe of Ramechhap and 24-year-old Chandra Bahadur Tamang of Sindhuli were arrested from their rented room in Baudha, Kathmandu.

“Schools are meant to be safe havens, whether in the public or private domains, and must remain as areas where children can learn and grow up in safe and happy environment free from any violence and threats,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Nepal Representative.

 


Not playing ball

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
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Pic: Bikram Rai

Pic: Bikram Rai

After the bloodshed in the Tarai that followed the promulgation of the ‘fast track’ constitution last year left nearly 60 people and a dozen policemen dead, it is once more decision time. The onus is on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on his return from India to carry out a second amendment to the constitution to satisfy Madhesi and Janajati dissidents.

But on the first anniversary of the seventh constitution in seven decades, Nepal is stuck again. The first constitution in Nepal’s history that was drawn up by a sovereign assembly elected by the people is supposed to be the last step in a peace process that began with the ceasefire in 2006.

There is hardly any precedence in recent world history of a constitution being passed by nearly 90 per cent of elected representatives. Despite that there was dissatisfaction in the Tarai, which some Madhes-based parties used to launch an agitation aimed at gaining back the support they had lost in the 2013 elections. The protests turned violent, and brutal police response on the streets led to many deaths.

The hurried promulgation of the constitution, despite misgivings from New Delhi, then led directly to a border blockade supported by India that crippled the country’s economy. The human disaster of the earthquake was followed by a humanitarian disaster of the blockade.

Through Nepal’s recent history of Maoist violence, the 12-point agreement in Delhi, the downfall of the monarchy and the decade-long transition after 2006 we have seen the impact of geopolitics on Nepal’s internal affairs.

Although both Nepal’s neighbours say they want stability here, recent decisions have shown that one of them prefers ‘controlled instability’. Many believe that some of the agitating parties that observed Constitution Day this week as a ‘black day’ and burnt copies of the statute may be acting at the behest of this outside force.

It is difficult to see how supporting such divisive politics of ethnicity benefits any domestic or foreign entity. How does uncertainty, anarchy and a constitutional limbo help a country with which we share a long, open border?

The main message that Pushpa Kamal Dahal attempted to give to both his Indian interlocutors and the public back home during his New Delhi visit this week was that he had restored India-Nepal bilateral relations to its earlier bonhomie. He may have succeeded in giving that impression in New Delhi, but back home the joint communique and purported secret deals have reinforced the belief that Nepal’s leaders have once more sold out to India.  Even if it is not true, the perception that he did so is neither good for Dahal, not for the country.

The fact that two of the four main demands of the Madhesi parties were addressed within five months in the first amendment is actually proof of the pragmatism and flexibility of the new constitution. It showed that democracy is alive and well, and taking legitimate democratic decisions. The Madhesi parties who want their other two demands to be fulfilled through the second amendment are a part of the constitutional process to press for those changes. The fact that they are working to achieve those ends through committees in the legislature is a healthy sign.

As we have emphasised in this space before, the demands of the Madhesi parties on border demarcations of the two Tarai provinces and the demand on citizenship cannot be fulfilled without the UML being on board. And the UML seems set to make it as difficult as possible so that it can extract its pound of flesh.

This deadlock is delaying all pending legislations governing the implementation of the new constitution which stipulates local, provincial and national elections to be held by January 2018. The Election Commission’s deadline for poll preparations have already lapsed. If voting at all three levels cannot take place in a little over a year, it could lead to a constitution crisis and bring us back political to square one.

Parliamentary elections need to be completed by January 2018, and elected federal assemblies can only function if local and provincial elections are held so that the National Assembly can elect a president and vice-president.  That in turn is only possible if there is agreement on the number of provinces, their boundaries — and for this the Madhesi parties need to be on board and the UML has to play ball. A deal is not in sight, and time is running out.


 

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