Nepali Times

Convicted, yet elected

Friday, August 11th, 2017
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Npel

Sunkoshi Village Council Chief Asim Rai with CPN (Maoist-Centre) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

From the Nepali Press

Madhav Basnet in Nepal magazine, 6-12 August

Democracy has its own flaws, and that was proved once again by the victory of an absconding ‘fraud’ in the recent local elections.

Asim Rai, the chairman of a cooperative that made off with millions of rupees deposited by its clients, was elected Chief of Sunkoshi Village Council in Solukhumbu district in the second phase of local elections on 28 May.

Unique Group, a saving and loan cooperative established by Rai and six other investors in Gongabu of Kathmandu in 2009, collected about Rs 50 million from over 1,000 clients. But the cooperative failed, and Rai went into hiding.

Police arrested Rai, and he promised in writing to return the money. Some customers then claimed that they did not receive payment and filed a fraud case against him at the Kathmandu district court. The court convicted Rai of defrauding his clients, and ordered him to return Rs 3 million to 7 individuals.

Instead of obeying the court’s order, Rai cozied up to Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and secured a ticket from his party to contest elections in Solukhumbu district. No one filed complaints against his candidacy, and he was elected Chair of the largest local council in Solukhumbu district.

Advocate Rajan Niraula asks: “How can a man convicted by the court deliver development and justice?”

 


Sinking fast

Thursday, August 10th, 2017
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18th day 02

Crusading physician Govinda KC’s fast enters its 19th day on Friday. Even as his health deteriorates, Parliament shows no sign giving in to his demands to clean up the greed and corruption in medical education that keeps Nepal’s health care unaffordable and inaccessible.

Parliament fast tracked the National Medication Education Bill 2016, but not in the way KC has demanded. He had wanted a 10-year moratorium on new private medical colleges, but a Parliament task force formed to revise the bill submitted its draft to the Social Welfare Committee of Parliament to be tabled in the House on Friday.

The taskforce is said to have added a clause to the bill, allowing medical colleges which had already received their Letter of Intent and built infrastructure to go ahead. If the bill is passed, at least five new medical colleges will spring up in Kathmandu Valley alone.

KC has rejected the draft bill and his negotiators have refused to talk with the government delegation. After 18 days without food and water on Thursday, the doctor is sinking fast. Physician Dibya Singh at Teaching Hospital warned: “He may pass out and need medical resuscitation.”

Both the ruling and opposition party MPs reject KC’s demand, saying no one can infringe on the right of the legislature to pass laws. Sociologist Chaitanya Mishra agrees, but adds: “If owners of banks, private schools and private medical colleges  pass bills in the guise of MPs it is not acceptable.”

Indeed, private medical colleges are either owned by politicians or have political protection. Given the scant disregard politicians showed towards another hunger striker, Nanda Prasad Adhikari who died during his fast in 2014, many now fear for Govinda KC’s life.

If the bill is passed, KC says is resolute: his fast will continue. Bhagawan Koirala, vice chair of the committee that drafted the bill, offers a prescription: “Only those colleges that have a 300-bed hospital, have operated for at least three years, built infrastructure and met all new criteria should be allowed, and KC must show flexibility to accept it.”


Simultaneous polls not possible

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017
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Chief Election Commissioner

Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav on BBC Nepali Service, 9 August.

BBC Nepali: Is it possible to hold both parliamentary and provincial polls before the deadline?

Ayodhi Prasad Yadav: We were expecting laws related to parliamentary and provincial elections by mid-July, and the Constituency Delineation Commission’s report by July-end. That did not happen, so the possibility of both elections before 21 January 2018 looks very slim. We are now just pushing for timely parliamentary polls, not for both. And even for that, the government needs to fix a date by no later than mid-August.

What about provincial polls after 21 January?

The Election Commission is in favour of holding parliamentary elections first, then provincial polls. The government has not officially reacted to our proposal.

How can the Electoral College be formed without provincial polls, and how can Parliament get full shape without it?

Parliament will not get full shaped immediately. It will take time.

The Prime Minister has asked you to hold parliamentary and provincial polls simultaneously.

It would be very difficult to do that, not just technically but also in terms of management and voter education. Both polls have mixed systems which means we will have to print four types of ballot papers, 700 million of them. It is a frightening prospect.

Does the EC want to introduce electronic voting systems for these polls?

The government, political parties and the EC need to sit together to discuss this issue.

You have also proposed the use of the same ballot papers for both First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) systems. How does that help?

That was just one idea.

The army, police and government employees were allowed in the past to cast votes under the PR, but not under the FPTP. This time?

We can introduce pre-voting for them. But if they vote prior to other voters, their ballots will just be counted as PR votes. We can arrange that even for voters who are flying abroad on election day.

 


Fix a Date

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017
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Deuba

Rameshwor Bohara

After trailing badly in the first two phases of local elections, the Nepali Congress and Maoists are trying their best to make up in the third phase on 18 September in Province 2. However, in doing so they are both vying for votes from the Tarai-based RJP-N, and they also have to contend with the UML which is trying to build on its gains elsewhere. Both Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Oli are campaigning in the plains, and the UML is suddenly raising the problems of the Tarai in parliament.

The recently united RJP-N, however, is already on the verge of a split as the party is pushed into a corner in Province 2. It is having a public spat about how strongly to push for constitutional amendments before agreeing to contest polls. The Indian Ambassador in Kathmandu has reportedly met RJP-N leaders and urged them to take part, and he also drove over to Balkot last week to invite Oli to the Indian Republic Day ceremony. Oli is said to have expressed his doubts to him about whether the NC and Maoists were serious about provincial and parliamentary polls.

There is a constitutional deadline to hold those elections by 21 January 2018. There are signs that sections of both the NC and Maoists (still smarting from their poor showing in local polls) want to put off voting. Four-time prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s record on holding elections is also not very good. In 2002, he postponed local polls at the last moment, and they were not held again for 15 years. He was later sacked by King Gyanendra in 2005 for his inability to hold parliamentary elections he himself had precipitated by dissolving the House.

Despite reports that the Indian ambassador is pushing for elections, there is talk that New Delhi doesn’t want elections under a constitution that it still dislikes. Deuba is scheduled to visit New Delhi this month, and there is concern that he may have to take orders there that he cannot refuse.

To be sure, the bills in parliament about elections are ready to be passed. The Elections Commission says it is ready, but may not be able to hold parliamentary and provincial polls together. If it gets really difficult, parliamentary elections can take place and the provincial one put off. Senior NC and Maoists admit the government has run out of excuses to postpone elections. That bodes well, but as long as Deuba is PM there will always be doubts.


Building Budi Gandaki

Sunday, August 6th, 2017
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budhigandaki_2

Mukesh Pokharel in www.himalkhabar.com , 6-12 August

In June, a week after bagging the controversial contract to build the 1,200 MW Budi Gandaki Hydropower Project, the China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) team reached the field site for a survey. CGGC’s Nepal Country Director Yuan Zhixiong told the locals: “We need one chance to prove ourselves.”

Budi Gandaki is Nepal’s second reservoir-type hydroelectricity project, and it is far bigger than Kulekhani. For years, Nepal viewed Budi Gandaki as one of its national pride projects, and just before it stepped down the Maoist-led government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal decided to sign an agreement with the Chinese company to develop the project.

The decision was made a day before Dahal resigned in May, and the MoU was signed a day before Parliament elected Sher Bahadur Deuba as the new Prime Minister in June. The move raised suspicions about Budi Gandaki’s future because of the CGGC’s poor track road because it had earlier failed to build the 60 MW Trisuli 3A, inflated the project cost of Chameliya, and was back-listed for its failure in Upper Sanjen.

But things have changed now. CGGC seems desperate to rebrand its image in Nepal, and there is hope in some quarters that the company  will deliver this time because the Chinese government is also keen to see this project completed in eight years. Congress MP Radheshyam Adhikari says: “No matter which Chinese company is building Budi Gandaki, it is now Beijing’s responsibility.”

Tanka Karki, Nepal’s former ambassador to China, agrees, he says: “Beijing clearly has an interest in Nepal. It wants strong diplomatic ties with a stable and prosperous Kathmandu, and this very Chinese interest will help make Budi Gandaki happen.”

During his visit to China in March, Prime Minister Dahal sought Beijing’s support in building Budi Gandaki. Sources say Chinese leaders have promised their full support to the project. But the Budi Gandaki contract with the Chinese company is facing stiff criticism from Baburam Bhattarai’s New Force Party. The main opposition UML is also pressing the government to reveal details of the agreement.

UML MP Rabindra Adhikari says: “Did the government award the Budi Gandaki contract to CGGC, concluding that it cannot do it on its own? Why was there no open competition? If Beijing was interested, why not a government-to-government deal?”

A petition has also been filed at the Supreme Court seeking termination of the contract. Dinesh Ghimire, spokesperson of the Ministry of Energy, says CGGC is waiting for the court verdict before starting the project.

 

 


Pheri Bhetaunla, Stewart

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
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main photo

RUPA JOSHI

The one memory that sticks to my mind of Stewart McNab is of him climbing uphill to meet a group of women in Bharatpokhari village in Kaski, stopping to chat with every child and woman he met on the way with genuine interest, concern and empathy.

The Nepal representative of UNICEF died at age of 70 in Scotland last week, and it is in the outpouring of love and loss from those who knew, admired, and were inspired by him that I rediscovered Stewart. They remember a  former colleague, mentor, friend, his wit, good humour and a can do approach to almost everything.

Stewart approached issues with clarity and a human touch, they remember. He was a fair, honourable, generous, caring, courageous, helpful, approachable, incredibly generous and a fun-loving man who was great, not through grand gestures, soaring rhetoric, or a lofty position on the organisation, but through his warm humanity, hard work, and unswerving commitment to getting things done for children.

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Stewart McNab with King Birendra during an event in Kathmandu in 2000.

He got the best out of people, tapping into every individual’s knowledge, experience, creativity and sensitivity and getting everyone to work together.  The ultimate leader who worked for the upliftment of children and women in all countries he served in, but most so in Nepal.

Stewart first came to Nepal in 1975, three years after UNICEF had set up a proper office in Kathmandu, as a Nutrition Officer. He then went on to head the Health and Nutrition section, and after leading the Bhutan office in the early 90s, was appointed Representative in Nepal in 1998. He spent a total of 14 years in Nepal, turning him into a Nepalophile. This was where he started his family with his wife Di, where he had one of his two daughters, and where he also found a Nepali son. Even after leaving UNICEF, he continued to work through The Nepal Trust as adviser.

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A photo from UNICEF staff from early 1980s. Stewart McNab is at extreme right.

Stewart wrote in a commemorative booklet in 2009 about Nepal in the 80s and 90s: UNICEF was the biggest supplier of vegetable seeds in the country; delivered textbooks to primary schools in remote districts via a UN aircraft; supplied Royal Drugs Ltd with the first packaging  machines, as well as packaging foil,  for the production of Jeevan Jal; distributed top-bar African beehives to rural families; used helicopters to supply HDP pipes for water  supply systems in inaccessible areas; operated two vegetable and seed-processing units in Khumaltar Farm; provided trusses and red roofing materials for hundreds of primary schools; provided six salt iodination plants in the terai; supported a pilot project to immunise young children against childhood disease initially in six districts; operated a printing press in the basement of its office building; popularised the home preparation of the infant feeding mix called Sarbottam pitho; and supported village electrification using water mills (ghatta) which resulted in the national consultant being awarded the Rolex International Award for Innovation.

Stewart was instrumental in jumpstarting many innovative programmes that focussed on empowering women, and giving voice to the children, and ears to the adults. He helped plant the seed of decentralisation and local governance through community-based programs, believing that working with local governments would bring positive changes for Nepali children.  Decentralised Planning for Children (DPCP) became the bedrock of what has now evolved into the Child Friendly Local Governance (CFLG) adopted as a national Strategy by the Government in July 2011.  The investment in human capital at the local level is paying off as village facilitators, community mobilisers, child club members, and members of women’s groups have been empowered, and have now become deputy mayors, parliamentarians, child rights activists and champions.

Stewart was a team builder, coach and motivator, and got people fired up, excited to do their very best for children. He never had to impose his ideas on the people, office or country – they came to fruition as he rallied his team and cut through the hierarchy.

In the UN’s Country Team he helped agency heads to function as a team, taking them all to Achham in 2000 to understand the local situation and improve coordination. The trip resulted in a single MoU signed by the various UN agencies with the Achham DDC.

It was not an easy time to be Representative, Nepal was in the throes of an armed conflict. For Stewart there was only one side to take — that of the disadvantaged children and their families.  Talking to Nepali Times in April 2002, Stewart had said:”Children and women suffer the most in conflicts … when a water supply system is blown up, it is again women who have to fetch it from somewhere up the hill.”

At the height of the conflict, when Mangalsen was under siege, Stewart arranged to send  a helicopter to rescue a UNICEF staff and other development workers stationed there. Staff security, safety and dignity were Stewart’s top priorities. A highlander, Stewart loved travelling to the field which always helped him to get his focus back on the children that he cared so much about.

Stewart’s legacy lives on in Nepal not just in the programs and memories of his friends and colleagues, but also in the smiles of hundreds of children with cleft palates, and club feet fixed through the Human Touch Fund. Initiated by Stewart, the Fund was made up by contribution of  time and money from UNICEF Nepal staff.

Pheri bhetaunla, Stewart.

Rupa Joshi is Chief of Communications at UNICEF Nepal and collated this tribute with help from friends of Stewart across the world. 

 

 


Deuba’s Delhi date 

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
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1Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s India visit date has been finalized, but not his agenda.

Baluwatar sources said PM Deuba, accompanied by wife Arzoo Rana, will leave for New Delhi on 23 August for a five-day India visit. Deuba will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 August before flying further south to observe an Indian state-run Information Technology Institute in Hyderabad.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) officials on Tuesday briefed PM Deuba about the mutually-agreed date and tentative schedule for his tour. However, the main agenda for his visit are still being worked out.

Some big ticket projects like the Pancheshwor dam, Arun III and Upper Karnali which date back to the 1990s are likely to top the list of discussion points. India’s pledge for post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal, cross-border railway and construction of a Nepal Police academy are other possible agreements.

Ministry of Energy (MoE) officials are also trying to insert an agenda on cross-border power trade in that list. Last year, India issued guidelines allowing the import of hydroelectricity generated from only those projects that have at least 51% share of the Indian government or companies. This move was clearly aimed at discouraging other countries, particularly China, from investing in Nepal’s mega hydro-power projects.

MoE authorities say the Indian guidelines on cross-border power trade are in violation of the Nepal-India power trade agreement in 2013, which was signed before Modi’s BJP came to power. However, within India the trade guidelines have been hailed as one of Modi’s master strokes aimed at protecting the national interest. But that was a huge blow to Nepal’s plan to attract foreign investment, and generate 10,000 MW electricity by 2020.

It is yet to see if MoE authorities will succeed in having this issue as one of the talking points between the two prime ministers. PM Deuba will have his own political agenda as well and is expected to seek India’s support in persuading the Madhes-based Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) to participate in the final phase of local elections on 18 September in Province 2.

Even without the RJP, there will be local elections in Province 2, but it may lack moral mandate. In August 2015, Deuba had ganged up with Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to topple the UML government, with a promise to implement the Constitution by securing ‘broader consensus’.

Two of the three major Madhes-based parties have already participated in the previous two rounds of local elections, but the RJP is not on the board yet. Getting the RJP agree to elections will be seen as a brownie point for Deuba which could be why he has been desperate to push through the Delhi visit ahead of the Province 2 elections.

Foreign affairs experts had suggested it was not a wise idea for Nepal’s PM to visit India when it is facing off with China over the Doklam issue.

Om Astha Rai

 


 

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