Nepali Times

Double dealers

Friday, February 24th, 2017
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Aasha-lama-and-Sarmila-parajuli-768x460

Asha Lama (left) and Sharmila Parajuli Budhathoki

From the Nepali Press

Rabindra Ghimire in www.onlinekhabar.com , 23 February

If Nepali migrant workers face any problems while working overseas, they cannot go anywhere for help but their embassies. But two of these embassies in the Gulf will soon be headed by women who own recruitment companies and face charges of swindling Nepali workers, and have been found guilty in several cases.

This week, the government appointed Asha Lama and Sharmila Parajuli Dhakal as ambassadors to the UAE and Oman respectively. Once the Parliamentary Hearing Committee approves their appointments, they will be representing Nepal in the Gulf countries that rely on cheap Nepali labour for construction, manufacturing and other jobs.

job-track-768x459Asha Lama runs Job Track Recruiting Pvt Ltd, a Kathmandu-based recruitment agency that sends Nepali migrant workers to West Asian countries, including the UAE.

Krishna Prasad Adhikari is one of the many migrant workers cheated by Lama’s agency. Adhikari was sent to the UAE, but he did not get the promised job and salary and returned home empty-handed three years ago. He filed a case against Lama’s agency at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE). After an investigation, the DoFE made her agency pay Rs 440,000 to Adhikari.

FloridAs many as 23 migrant workers have filed complaints against Lama’s company, but only four of them have received compensation. Others continue to wait for justice, and their hopes are fading as the person against whom they filed cases is now poised to become an envoy to the country where they were cheated.

Sharmila Parajuli Dhakal runs Florid Human Resources, which also faces dozens of complaints at the DoFE. Six migrant workers cheated by her company have received compensation, others continue to wait for justice.

Read the original story in Nepali


The year of elections

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
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election

Pic: Bikram Rai

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, after waffling for months, has finally decided to bite the bullet on elections. He stretched it for as long as he could because once local elections are held in May, he has to vacate the prime ministership to Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC.

Madhesi parties are not on board yet, and have threatened to disrupt elections in Province 2. But Dahal is in no mood to back off now, he too needs elections to boldter his party’s numbers in Parliament.

2017 may turn out to be The Year of Elections. After two decades, there will finally be elections for 34,203 representatives in 719 local councils and municipalities.

Following a Supreme Court ruling that Parliament’s term cannot be extended beyond 21 January 2018, the government ran out of excuses to postpone polls. After local elections on 14 May, there have to be polls for provincial councils and federal parliament by the end of 2017.

Dahal faces hurdles all the way. He has to get Parliament to debate the Second Amendment to appease the Tarai-based parties who are still balking. He has succeeded in defanging the transitional justice commissions but faces criticism from the international community.

UML Chair K P Oli has finally allowed Parliament to discuss the amendment bill from Thursday as a compromise for elections to go ahead. But Chief Whip Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal told Nepali Times: “We will do everything to foil this amendment.”

The UML had obstructed the House for two months, but has concluded that the ruling parties will fail to secure a two-thirds majority and is therefore ready to put the amendments to a vote.

Dahal’s previous strategy was to win the vote by giving ministerial berths to Kamal Thapa’s RPP, Bijaya Gachhadar’s MJF (D) and other fringe parties. But these parties backed off because they knew Dahal’s days were numbered.

Outgoing Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae visited the Election Commission on Thursday, and reportedly told officials India was ready to support elections if they are held. The UML is now asking Madhesi parties to accept the verdict of the vote on the amendment, but they are not in a mood to.

Mahendra Raya Yadav of Tarai Madhes Sadbhavna Party told us: “The amendment bill has to be passed. If it fails, the constitution will fail.”

Om Astha Rai

 


Gridlock again

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017
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After the main opposition UML decided to obstruct parliament proceedings, the House was put off without discussing the second amendment to the constitution bill on Wednesday.

Two days after the government decided to hold local elections on 14 May, the ruling parties wanted to move forward the amendment bill in an attempt to persuade Madhesi parties to participate in the polls.

But nine opposition partied led by the UML decided to obstruction the House if the amendment bill was discussed. And the Parliament secretariat postponed Parliament until Thursday afternoon.

Asked if the UML will disrupt the House on Thursday as well, the party’s Chief Whip Gokul Gharti told Nepali Times: “I cannot tell it now, but I can tell is we are against this amendment, and will do everything to foil it.”

UML’s decision might force Madhesi parties to harden their stance. They have already decided to boycott elections nationwide, and disrupt polls in the Tarai. Asked about the success of local elections without Madhesi parties, Gharti said: “Elections and constitution amendment are two different issues, let us not mix them.”

Madhesi parties had supported the Pushpa Kamal Dahal government in the hope that the Maosit-NC ruling coalition would amend the Constitution. But the UML wanted elections, not the amendment.

Stuck between the UML and Madhesi parties at a time when the Election Commission was running out of time, the government announced the poll date, and then tried to appease Madhesi parties by moving forward the amendment bill.

But UML’s new decision has widened its rift with Madhesi parties, which called a strike on Wednesday in the Tarai against the poll announcement. Madhesi cadres pelted stones at the house of UML leader Raghubir Mahaseth in Janakpur, resulting in a clash between them and UML activists. Two were injured in the clash.


Registering disappearances

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017
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CIEDP

The transitional justice body formed by the government to investigate cases of enforced disappearances during the Maoist war has decided to give families of disappeared one more chance to register complaints.

The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) is planning to publish a notice next week, asking those who failed to register complaints last year to do so now.

“Even though we extended the deadline twice last year, many were still unable to register their cases,” CIEDP spokesperson Bishnu Pathak told Nepali Times on Tuesday. “We are giving them one more month to inform us about enforced disappearances of their family members.”

The CIEDP had received more than 3,000 cases of alleged disappearances last year, and after filtering out over 5,000 cases of duplication it is now preparing for preliminary investigation of the remaining 2,800 cases.

“After preliminary investigation, the number of cases that actually needs to be investigated will decrease further,” said Pathak.

The latest report by the International Committee of Red Cross shows only 1,334 people made disappeared by the state forces and the Maoists remain missing till now. Although cases of enforced disappearances were reported as early as in 1997, the problem had worsened after the government declared a state of emergency in 2002 and the Royal Nepal Army entered the war.

After the end of the conflict in 2006, the government and ex-rebels agreed to form a transitional body to investigate enforced disappearances.

But the CIEDP was formed nearly a decade after the ceasefire, and its first two-year tenure was extended by one more year early this month. But it is unlikely to finish its job even in the extended period.

Even if the CIEDP finishes investigations into all cases before its extended term expires, it cannot punish perpetrators due to the lack of a law that criminalises enforced disappearances.

The international community has been pressing Nepal to revise the Enforced Disappearances, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014 so torture and disappearances can be criminalised.

Om Astha Rai


Rhino deaths

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017
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rhino

From the Nepali Press

Shiva Puri in Kantipur, 21 February

Recently, the Chitwan National Park invited Forest Minister Shankar Bhandari for a function to mark 1,000 days with zero-poaching of the endangered one-horned rhino. A billboard was erected to commemorate the achievement.

However, on that very day a rhino had been found dead in Gaidakot of Nawalparasi. It’s horn was intact, which meant it wasn’t poached, but officials believe it had been killed by electrified fences put up by farmers to protect their crops.

Rhinos may not be poached nay more, but many have been electrocuted, or have been poisoned by farmers. Out of the 25 wildlife fatalities last year, 15 were rhinos, 14 of which died in the last 6 months alone. Three of them were killed either due to poisoning or electrocution, and two more were killed this year due to the same reason. Others died of natural causes like being gored by other rhinos, while giving birth, or in tiger attacks.

Rhinos entering farms in the buffer zone has prompted farmers to set up traps, electric fences and even poison baits. While the national park is now safe from poachers, the lack of water and grasslands are driving rhinos outside the park where they come in conflict with humans.

The Chitwan National park spends Rs 120 million for public awareness about wildlife conservation. Traffickers are fined up to Rs 50 thousand or jailed for up to 15 years, however poachers are rarely caught.


Local elections on 14 May

Monday, February 20th, 2017
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Information and Communications Minister informs journalists about the decisions made by the first cabinet meting of the day Monday morning. Another cabinet meeting late Monday decided that elections to local government bodies will be held on 14 May 2017. Pic: RSS

After two decades, Nepalis finally have a date with the ballot box in local elections. After a rare third meeting of the day, the cabinet decided late Monday that elections to local and municipal councils will be held on 14 May despite opposition from Madhesi parties who want the Constitution to be amended first.

Immediately after the government announced the poll date, Madhesi parties announced a series of protest programs, including a one-day strike in the Tarai on Wednesday. They said they will disrupt elections in the Tarai, and boycott elections nationwide.

As the Constitution requires the government to elect local bodies, provincial councils and the new federal parliament before the term of the current parliament ends in January 2018, the ruling Maoist-NC coalition had been preparing for it for the last few weeks.

Madhesi parties that supported the Maoist-NC government were pressing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to announce elections only after amending the Constitution, but the Election Commission had warned the government that it was running out of time.

After weeks of inconclusive negotiations with Madhesi parties, the first cabinet meeting of the day decided to move forward the Constitution amendment bill right after announcing the date. The meeting held on Monday morning also decided to increase the number of local government structures in Province 2 – the stronghold of Madhesi parties.

It was an attempt by the government to woo Madhesi parties, but they were still miffed at the government announcing election dates without the amendment. As PM Dahal met the EC officials to discuss the poll date, Madhesi parties called an emergency meeting to chart out its future strategy.

Madhesi parties are now expected to withdraw their support to the Maoist-NC government. That will not topple the government, but they could try to disrupt elections.

Nepal has not held local elections since 1997, and the local government bodies elected that year had expired back in 2002 at the height of the Maoist war. Since then, a political cartel of unelected leaders has been making decisions on local budgets and resources.

Experts blame the lack of local elections for the corruption, under-development and the accountability deficit.

 


US envoy critical of CSO Act

Monday, February 20th, 2017
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US ambassador to Nepal Alaina B Teplitz in Mustang last year.

The United States ambassador to Nepal, Alaina B Teplitz in an op-ed published in Nepali and English in Kathmandu dailies on Monday has strongly criticised a new draft law making it difficult for civil society organisations to register and operate in Nepal.

The draft Social Welfare and Development Act requires civil society organizations (CSOs) to get multiple approvals from different agencies despite the constitutional provisions for streamlined registration and operation.

‘The new Social Welfare and Development Act currently being drafted … appears to run counter to the constitution’s call for a single-door system requiring CSOs to obtain multiple approvals from different agencies in order to operate,’ Teplitz writes. ‘The draft Act also restricts CSO access to foreign funding by requiring CSOs to obtain permission from the Social Welfare Council to implement projects using foreign aid and support.’

The US government through its agencies and contractors supports NGOs in health, education and gender as well as provide grants to civil society groups working on human rights and democracy.  Teplitz said the US engaged with CSOs in Nepal so they had the tools and skills to advocate on behalf of the people they serve.

She warned that the restrictions on foreign funding in the draft ‘besides being an unnecessary burden on these institutions … would be a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’.

‘While civil society, including our friends in the media, can,. At times, be difficult or a challenge to the government, that is precisely why our democracy needs them, and why we work with other democratic governments to enhance civil society,” she adds.

Civil society organisations include NGOs, the media, community-based groups, think tanks, academia and professional institutions. Teplitz writes: ‘It is imperative that during the democratic transitioncivic space remain open to support an active civil society.”

 

 


 

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