Nepali Times

Gyewali goes to court

Monday, January 16th, 2017

The former CEO chief of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Sushil Gyewali has filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court on Monday demanding his reinstatement, stating that he was appointed for a period of five years, but was removed illegally. He was sacked by the Cabinet on 11 January for delaying post-earthquake reconstruction work.

Gyewali told Nepali Times: “I was removed due to political reasons, the government had praised me for my performance in the past, but all of sudden it took me out. This proves that the NRA is influenced politically.”

Gyewali himself was brought in by UML Prime Minister K P Oli after sacking Govinda Raj Pokharel who was appointed by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala of the Nepali Congress.C1ZBIQ2UAAAoB93-300x200

Gyewali has been defending himself against the government’s allegation and further claims that he did not receive enough support from the government during his tenure. Last week he directly blamed Prime Minister Dahal for obstructing his work.

Almost two years after the 2015 earthquake, only 452, 887 families have received the first tranche – Rs 50,000 – of the Rs 300,000 housing grant. The government has identified 6, 26,036 households in 14 earthquake affected districts as beneficiaries.

Pokharel was lauded for his performance as the first CEO of the NRA for producing a Needs Assessment Report in a short time and conducting a donor’s conference in July 2015 that pledged $4.2 billion for earthquake relief. Pokharel will have a friendly government when the NC takes over in April from the Maoist-Centre and is also regarded as a do-er.

Seven sisters in Nepal

Sunday, January 15th, 2017
Pics: Smriti Basnet

Banteilang Hynniewta’s Creation Myth displayed at the Siddhartha Art Gallery. Pics: Smriti Basnet


What comes to mind when one thinks of India are the clamorous streets of Old Delhi, the high sky rises of Mumbai or the majestic Taj Mahal but never the verdant hills and rustic towns of the seven states of northeastern India.


Banteilang Hynniewta’s Toil and Sweat

The exhibition ‘North East India: Mosaic of Art and Culture’ in Kathmandu this week pushes us to explore this hidden land. Organised by the Indian Cultural Center, the current artwork at the Siddhartha Art Gallery offers a window to the area of India that is off the main tourist circuit.

Paintings depicting the nature, folk tales and exquisite portraits of the life and people of these states take you on a journey to the least travelled states of the country.

Curated by Khasi artist Raphael Warjri, the exhibition was put together with contributions from various artists like him from all across India.“What I have tried to do is combine folk tales with contemporary concepts,” explains Warjri, showing his painting titled ‘Vanity’ that depicts a  gigantic peacock with the huge yellow sun towering above its head and a stretch of mustard fields below.

Artist Raphael Warjri's Vanity

Raphael Warjri’s Vanity

The folktales of the Khasi narrates that the peacock supposedly left the sun, believed to be its partner, for the bright mustard fields only to realise later they had no value. “We humans have also become the same, never satisfied,” stated the artist who has embedded this very concept of greed in humans in his other displayed artworks as well.

Most of the paintings in the exhibition explore the relationship between humans and nature. These recurring motifs in his and paintings of other artists are also a reminder of the increasing disillusionment caused by modernity and materialism. Artist Banteilang Hynniewta’s Creation Myth and Toil and Sweat are also distinctive for how they show a harmonious relationship with Mother Nature.

While the ground floor of the hall is filled with bright and vivid imageries, the top floor is dominated by portraits of people from different states in the region, which have traditionally been home to migrant families from Nepal.

IMG_20170115_143248 (1)

Milan Rai’s Khasi Lady

Striking and detailed, the one that stands out is artist Milan Rai’s Khasi Lady.  The oil on canvas painting of a woman furrowing her brows with its details and colours comes to life and compels the audience to stay with it a bit longer. This with the other portraitures gives the whole exhibition its unique identity: as if one is actually meeting these people.

One after another, the theme for the need to preserve the culture and the living heritage persists but without boring the audience. Instead, with every other artwork, the audience is driven to explore the next, to discover yet another aspect of the North East that will take us by surprise.

Smriti Basnet

Until 18 January, Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited, 11 am to 5 pm, 9818996169

Gyewali out, Pokharel in again

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Govinda Pokharel

The government had accused National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) chief Sushil Gyewali of delaying earthquake relief and threatened to sack him. But his removal was itself delayed for months.

Finally on Wednesday the Cabinet fired Gyewali, and decided to bring back Govinda Pokharel.

Two weeks ago, the government had instructed Gyewali to clarify why he failed to expedite post-earthquake reconstruction work. Not satisfied with the combatant Gyewali who accused the prime minister of not cooperating with him, the government last week asked him again to defend his case.

In his both clarification letters, Gyewali claimed that he did not receive support from the government to expedite post-earthquake recovery. Gyewali was hand-picked by K P Oli and the Maoists-NC government had never seen eye-to-eye with him.


Sushil Gyewali

Govinda Pokharel was the first CEO of the NRA, and was himself unceremoniously removed when Oli became Prime Minister in October. Earthquake relief is a political hot potato and rival parties wanting to take credit for effective relief have cancelled each other out.

After the 25 April 2015 earthquake, Pokharel, as the National Planning Commission (NPC) Vice Chair led a team that prepared the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report – the blueprint of the post-earthquake recovery.

Since Pokharel, the German-trained engineer, was involved in the formation of the NRA, he is expected to hit the ground running, and is perceived by many as a much more efficient senior bureaucrat.

He will enjoy political support for at least two years, as his Nepali Congress mentors are poised to lead the next government. But Gyewali’s dismissal has further irked the UML, and the main opposition will be looking for an opportunity to strike back.

As political parties continue to bicker over who should lead the NRA, nearly 500,000 families are still forced to live under tarps almost two years after the earthquake. So far, only 452,887 families have received just the first Rs 50,000 instalment of the Rs 300,000 reconstruction grants.



“Respect Prithvi Narayan Shah”

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

dffkis1From the Nepali Press

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi interviewed by Vijay Kumar Pandey, YouTube 8 December

Vijay Kumar Pandey: What is your take on the debate over whether Prithvi Narayan Shah’s birth anniversary should be celebrated as National Unity Day?

Bimalendra Nidhi: Prithvi Narayan Shah should not be dragged into controversy. The Nepal we live in today was his construct. That is a fact and we should never ignore it. I leave it up to scholars to conclude whether he expanded his Gorkha kingdom or annexed other principalities into it. But he unified Nepal at least geographically. Whether his birth anniversary should be marked as National Unity Day is a political issue. One school of thought argues that multiple nations may exist within one country, on the other hand whether Nepal’s unification was an act of nation building at all can be a matter of debate. Even today, ideologists are divided over whether Shah should be remembered as a symbol of unity. But modern Nepal exists because of him, and we should not belittle his contributions. We should all respect him.

So should we respect or loathe him?

If royalists want to revive the monarchy by celebrating Shah’s birth anniversary, it will be short-sightedness. But if republicans like me belittle his contribution only because he was a king, it is also our narrow mindedness. These are both extremist views. Shah could have unified Nepal to rule it as an authoritarian leader, but what matters more is the country that he has left behind for us. His act of unification should not be judged by modern standards. And republicans should not fear being labeled as royalists for respecting a king who contributed to our nation building process.


Historical verdict

Monday, January 9th, 2017

newspaperEditorial in Kantipur, 9 January

The Supreme Court (SC)’s ruling on Sunday that Lokman Singh Karki was not qualified to be appointed as head of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is courageous and historic. It has restored people’s faith in the judiciary. It is also a reminder that the Constitutional Council and the Office of President, which recommended and appointed Karki as the CIAA Chief respectively, should not have disregarded the spirit of the constitution.

Karki was found guilty of suppressing the 2006 Democracy movement. His career as a bureaucrat was marred by scandals, most notoriously in a case involving gold smuggling. He was previously investigated by the CIAA itself in a corruption case. Why the four major parties – the Maoists, the NC, the UML and the Madhesi Front – unanimously recommended such a tainted person as the head of the anti-corruption watchdog remains a mystery. By appointing him to the CIAA in 2013, the political parties and the caretaker government headed by Chief Justice Khila Raj Regmi and the President had not only insulted a constitutional body, but also the Constitution. Better late than never, the unpardonable blunder and unconstitutional move has been corrected by the SC verdict.

Now, the leaders of the four political forces and Regmi must apologise to the public, and express commitment that they will not repeat this mistake if they want to respect the Supreme Court verdict and regain the people’s trust.

The CIAA is only mandated to investigate corruption and the abuse of authority by public office holders. But Karki overstepped his constitutional bounds, and arm-twisted other government offices to make illegal decisions for his personal gain. So his exit from the CIAA is not enough, he needs to be investigated and punished for the abuse of power. He eroded the people’s faith in the CIAA, and to regain public trust the CIAA needs to thoroughly investigate his abuse of authority and file a case against him at the Special Court.

Karki is also facing an impeachment motion in Parliament and if found guilty can be declared unfit for public service in future. But the Legislature has lagged behind the Judiciary in this case. Nevertheless, the Legislature can still do its part by ordering an investigation into Karki’s wrong-doings.

Truth triumphs
Editorial in Nagarik, 9 January

The Supreme Court ruling that nullified Lokman Singh Karki’s appointment as the CIAA Chief has reinforced our belief that the truth eventually prevails. The SC verdict has not only questioned the Constitutional Council’s decision to appoint Karki as CIAA Chief in 2013, but also reversed its own decision to quash advocate Om Aryal’s writ which argued that Karki lacked requisite experience and moral character for this job.

After being appointed CIAA Chief, Karki ran a parallel government, and doggedly persecuted those who questioned his credentials to lead a constitutional body. Actual investigation of abuse of authority was not his priority. He went after ‘small fish’, hobnobbed with the ‘big fish’. It was an open secret that he was paid off by those involved in major corruption and investigated those suspected to be involved in petty irregularities. He constantly undermined elected institutions and representations, amassing wealth and resources potentially to emerge as a future ruler of the country. His shenanigans tarnished the image of the CIAA itself.

Karki is now gone, but the mistake that political parties made to appoint him should not be repeated. The ruling by justices Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha has not directly questioned the political parties’ decision to appoint Karki. But the leadership should feel morally responsible for this fiasco, and vow to resist external pressure or temptation of money in future. If they refuse to correct their mistakes, people must vote them out in future elections.


Lokman disqualified

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

lokman-in-artha-samitiLokman Singh Karki is no longer the Head of Nepal’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

The Supreme Court on Sunday nullified Karki’s appointment, ruling that he lacked requisite experience and moral character to head a constitutional body like the CIAA.

After the SC verdict, advocate Om Aryal who had challenged Karki’s appointment told Nepali Times: “The rule of law has been re-established. His appointment was against good governance, and its cancellation is a big step towards good governance.”

Karki was unanimously recommended by the Nepali Congress, the UML, the Maoists and the MJF (D) as the CIAA Chief in 2013. Former Chief Justice and Chairman of the Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi strongly backed his appointment. Despite protests within these parties, and from civil society members, President Ram Baran Yadav endorsed Karki’s appointment.

Advocate Aryal had filed a writ petition against Karki’s appointment, arguing that he had not served as a public servant for 20 years and was implicated by the Rayamajhi Commission in suppressing the 2006 Democracy Movement.

The SC immediately quashed Aryal’s writ, but he moved the court again to review it. After Sushila Karki became Chief Justice, the SC had decided to review Aryal’s writ.

The SC had resumed hearings on the writ on Thursday. After days of hearings, the SC finally annulled Karki’s appointment.

Read also:

Who will bell the cat?, Binita Dahal

A man of conscience, Om Astha Rai

2nd amendment tabled 

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Law Minister Ajaya Shankar Nayak (right) walks to the rostrum to table the second amendment to the constitution bill in Parliament on Sunday.

The government has tabled in the Parliament the bill to amend the  Constitution for the second time despite protests from opposition parties.

As Law Minister Ajaya Shankar Nayak tabled the bill in the House on Sunday, the MPs of the UML and other fringe parties rose from their seats and shouted slogans against the constitution amendment.

However, the opposition MPs did not obstruct the House proceedings. And Law Minister Nayak also tabled the local government body elections bill. Parliament also forwarded the impeachment motion against the suspended CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki to its Impeachment Recommendation Committee.

The opposition parties had been obstructing the House ever since the NC-Maoists coalition registered the constitution amendment bill in the Parliament secretariat in November.

After the Supreme Court refused to issue an interim order against the amendment bill last week, the UML had hinted that it would allow Parliament to convene.

Ahead of the Parliament session on Sunday, Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar held a meeting in which Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal asked the UML Chair KP Oli to not obstruct the House.

Oli said the UML would allow Parliament to convene so the government could table the local elections bill and forward the impeachment motion. Political analysts say it was a hint by the UML that the government could table the amendment bill when Parliament convenes for
other businesses.

After the SC verdict, the UML was under pressure to allow Parliament to convene. But it needed a face-saver, and did not obstruct the House for the first time since November to allow the government to table the local elections bill and forward the impeachment motion.

UML Vice Chair Bamdev Gautam told journalist that the government forcibly tabled the bill, and all the opposition parties will vote against it. Parliament has been adjourned until Monday.