Nepali Times

No date for elections

Saturday, February 18th, 2017
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Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was rumoured to be planning to announce a fixed date for local elections during his Democracy Day speech on Saturday. He and other dignitaries released doves, but there was not date.

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All pics: RSS

The 67th National Democracy Day (see pics) was observed in subdued fashion, with Dahal, President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun and Chief Justice Sushila Karki observing a Nepal Army parade at Tundikhel.

 

In his speech, Dahal, repeated his call for elections, but it was obvious that negotiations with the Madhesi Front had not gone well. In fact, at a meeting in Baluwatar on Saturday, the Tarai-centre once more warned that they would launch a stir if elections dates were announced without first amending the constitution.

 

“Elections are mandatory for the implementation of the constitution. The government is well aware that the conclusion of the peace process is the passage of the constitution,” he said.

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Earlier in the day, Dahal had called a meeting between three main political parties and the Madhesi Front as a last minute attempt to forge an agreement. However, the Tarai parties stuck to their demand that the second amendment to be passed before announcing election dates.

 

Stating federalism as the most challenging aspect of the implementation of constitution, Dahal added: “Our main aim is to bring people their rights and resources through federalism. This will make the government system accountable to the people and include neglected communities, while increasing credibility of the government to the people.”

 

He pleaded political parties, civil servants, government agencies and citizens to contribute from their sectors to strengthen national unity and lead country to prosperity.

 

A crowd of people had gathered in Tudikhel to watch the program that included games organised by National Sports Council and group dances from three municipalities.

 

Read also:

Pulling a poll cart , Om Astha Rai

Preparing the field , Om Astha Rai


Who is afraid of RPP?

Friday, February 17th, 2017
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RPP

The unified RPP’s Chair Kamal Thapa (third, from right) with the UML Chair KP Oli (third, from left) at the Hindu royalist party’s general convention in Kathmandu on Friday. Pic: Gopen Rai

Just a decade after Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy was overthrown, the political force that unsuccessfully tried to prevent an erstwhile Hindu kingdom from turning into a secular republic is now making a resurgence.

The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) – which was recently born after the unification of the Hindu royalist RPP Nepal and its mother party RPP that rejected monarchy and voted for republicanism after the 2006 Democracy Movement – began its first general convention in Kathmandu on Friday.

The unified force retained the name of its mother party – RPP, but is headed by Kamal Thapa whose breakaway faction emerged as the fourth largest party – after the NC, the UML and the Maoists – following the 2013 elections.

Thapa has declared that his unified party will beat the Maoists, and emerge as the third largest party in the next elections. He also said that his party, unlike the Maoists, will not be a distant third party. “We will win many more seats than in 2013,” he told journalists before the convention kicked off.

The RPP now has only 37 seats in the 601-seat Parliament, way behind the third largest party CPN (Maoist-Centre) that has 84 seats. However, it is still a key force, and the ruling parties are trying to woo it to pass the second amendment to the constitution bill.

After the unification, the former RPP that voted for republicanism has once again toed the line of monarchy – an agenda that the Thapa-led RPP Nepal singlehandedly carried all these years. And the unified RPP’s ultimate aim is to revert Nepal to a Hindu monarchy.

At the inauguration of what was described as the unity party, UML Chair KP Oli said the RPP could now emerge as a new political force. He asked other parties to be aware of a resurgent RPP. “The RPP could become a new force, and eat into votes gained by other parties in the last elections,” he said.

Oli had said the same thing when he spoke at the launch of the new force led by former Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai. But he said on Friday that Bhattarai’s party has already failed due to its wrong policy.

NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba retorted: “The RPP had won most votes from Jhapa (Oli’s home district) in the last elections. So you must be more cautious than us.”


Election dates, not elections

Thursday, February 16th, 2017
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The three newly-appointed Election Commissioners at their swearing-in ceremony at Shital Niwas on Thursday. With their entry, the Election Commission has finally got a full shape as the country readies for possible polls. Photo: RSS

The three newly-appointed Election Commissioners at their swearing-in ceremony at Shital Niwas on Thursday. With their entry, the Election Commission has finally got a full shape as the country readies for possible polls. Photo: RSS

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is under mounting pressure to announce a date for local elections, but so far he has only promised a date on which he will announce the date: 19 Feburary.

Sunday is the Election Commission’s deadline for polls to be held in two phases on 15 May and 4 June. But voting will only be possible if constitutional amendments are first passed.

Many suspect Dahal is hoping to stay on as PM if he can keep putting off elections. NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba is getting suspicious that Dahal wants to cling on to office despite their agreement to swap the post.

Dahal’s spokesperson Pampha Bhusal told Nepali Times: “It will be difficult to hold elections without first deciding on local bodies and the amendment.”

The Local Body Restructuring Commission’s proposal to create 719 councils has been rejected by Tarai-centric parties. And the second amendment to the constitution is stuck in Parliament due to opposition from the UML. Madhesi parties also want the amendment to be passed before elections dates are announced.

Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav has submitted a three-month schedule for local polls, and Dahal may no longer be able to avoid it.

But if Dahal fixes election dates on Sunday, the Madhesi parties that have lent their support to the NC-Maoist government will pull out. This will not topple the government, but will make it difficult to conduct polls. Rajendra Shrestha of the Federal Alliance warns: “We will go for a fresh stir if local polls are announced without amending the constitution.”

So, why would the NC and the UML want local polls, however unlikely? “It is all about power, not about implementing the constitution,” says Manish Suman of the Sadbhavana Party. “They just want election dates, not real elections.”

Dahal needs to show he wants elections, otherwise the NC and UML could gang up against him. But he cannot go ahead with polls as long as the Tarai parties want the amendment first. He is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Om Astha Rai


Erina Tamrakar returns

Monday, February 13th, 2017
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Pics: Smriti Basnet

Pics: Smriti Basnet

Artist Erina Tamrakar’s exhibition In Between the Third Eye opens out the world of women, their feelings and emotions to Kathmandu visitors exposed to the daily grind of a squalid urban life.

Painted in hues of vibrant reds, blues, greens, the audience is compelled to connect with Tamrakar at two levels: sensual portraits that dazzle us and at the same time force us to think deeply about female empowerment and awareness.

“When I paint, I don’t paint with a concept beforehand,” said Tamrakar, who has returned to the exhibition circuit after two years.  “It’s like the canvas and I have a conversation. I create as I paint.”

The exhibition contain her works from 2010 right up to some recent paintings, including some from the popular series Third Eye and Mustang which are inspired by her travels (pic, below).

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On entering the Park Gallery, the visitor confronts the canvas titled ‘Third Eye’ (pic, top) which is washed in red, and depicts a group of women with their eyes closed, but on each of their forehead the artist has painted the third eye.

“When we have to introspect, we close our eyes,” said Tamrakar for whom the third eye stands for awareness, the ability to know right from wrong. Disheartened by the growing number of cases reported for violence against women, the artist aims to inform her public about the importance of empowering women.

IMG_20170212_135444As in her previous works, none of the subjects directly look at the viewer. For Tamrakar, it is her way of making the audience engage with the emotions of her subjects rather than establishing direct contact.

The entire two floor of Park Gallery is filled with Tamrakar’s work, each carries its own message. In some women are on an equal footing with nature, in others the emotions of women are captured in a single artwork.

Tamrakar’s recent works also use monochromes, which portray an evolving society: paintings of women alongside safa tempos that they drive (pic, below). “It’s a step forward for the society,” said the artist. She believes it is only with financial independence that women can fully be independent.

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Apart from the theme, what sets Tamrakar’s art apart from her other paintings is her use of black and white. The artist hopes to sum up the torture that Nepalis went through during the five-month blockade with the use of sombre hues. “I didn’t feel like using any other colour at that time,” said Tamrakar, who has an entire series on the blockade, but is keeping it to exhibit them in her future exhibitions.

Smriti Basnet

In Between the Third Eye, Till 19 March, 10.30 am to 6 pm, Park Gallery, Pulchok, (01) 5522307

 


Tears of joy and sorrow in Kalikot

Monday, February 13th, 2017
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Man Bahadur Bista of Kotbada of Kalikot never thought he would live to see the day when a plane would land on the ground where 35 civilian workers who build the airfield still lie buried.

Tara Air flight carrying 14 passengers lands at Suntharali airfield on Sunday. The airfield which was under-construction from 1985 was a Maoist battlefield during the war. Photo: Yeti Airlines.

Tara Air flight carrying 14 passengers lands at Suntharali airfield on Sunday. The airfield which was under-construction from 1985 was a Maoist battlefield during the war. Photo: Yeti Airlines.

On Saturday, when a Tara Air flight carrying 14 passengers landed at Suntharali airfield, Bista couldn’t hold back his tears. “We had lost hope that this cemetery would ever become an airfield, but today it really has.”

The construction of the airfield commenced in 1985 with an investment of Rs 100,000 but the massacre of the workers stopped all work. “During the war this was a battlefield, and remained a graveyard for those who were killed here,” said Bista, who himself was injured in an aerial attack by the Army in November 2001.

On 22 February, 2002, a week after the Maoist attack on Mangalsen of Achham, soldiers in hot pursuit of the attackers killed 35 civilian workers, mistaking them for Maoists. Seventeen of them were from the village of Jogimara of Dhading.

Many of the thousands who thronged the airfield on Saturday were witnesses of that massacre. The first flight brought tears of joy and sorrow to the people of Kalikot, who survived a brutal war to see the airfield become operational.

Work on the airfield was expedited only after Humla MP Jiwan Bahadur Shahi became the Minister of Tourism. “It is because of his commitment that the airport was completed,” said Raj Kumar Chettri of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Shahi visited the site thrice after becoming the minister and took personal interest in its completion.

Kalikot was one of the few districts in Nepal still to connected by road. But now the Karnali Highway has reached the town, the airfield will have to prove its worth.

“It is important that all the infrastructure is in place to ensure smooth operation of daily flights,” says Bhanu Pandey of Raku. “It will not be easy for the airfield to compete with the road.”

With the new airport now operational, locals want the state to honour those buried here. “We can’t really be happy until the blood and sweat sacrificed by those who worked on this airfield is remembered,” said health worker Govinda Giri who treated many of the injured during the massacre 17 years ago.

Filmmaker Mohan Mainali who made a documentary on the 17 Jogimara workers also says the state needs to respect the dead: “People need to know how the workers were killed and a memorial should be built for them.”

Kalendra Sejuwal in Nagarik

 

Read also:

Copying Kalikot

One country, two systems, Mohan Mainali

Unfriendly fire, Mohan Mainali


Mahabir’s dream coming true

Sunday, February 12th, 2017
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MP photo

Photo: Saurav Dhakal

Mahabir Pun (pictured above) used to pen love letters during his school days. Now he rewrites a verse from Bhupi Sherchan’s poem: ‘A country can’t move ahead unless some men die for their motherland.’

Now, Nepalis from around the world are helping to make telecommunication expert Mahabir Pun’s dream of a donation-based National Innovation Centre.

“Sacrificing life for one’s country isn’t relevant anymore. We need donations for development, not martyrdom,” says Pun.

After waiting three years for the government’s help to build National Innovation Centre (NIC) in 2013, he has now turned to the people for donation and is happy with the response it’s getting. “Let’s not talk about the government anymore. With the help of the people, the innovation centre will start working from this year.”

With the target of collecting Rs 500 million to build the centre, he started the donation campaign five and a half months ago but also faces challenge of producing 10MW hydropower to supply energy to the centre.

There are hundreds of experts working at the Ministry of Science and Technology, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Nepal Agriculture Research Council and universities which were formed solely to work in the field of innovation and carry out scientific studies. So why do we need another similar organisation?

“The government has neither provided fund nor motivation for scientific innovation,” replied Pun who chairs the centre’s executive committee. “Scientists are being treated as civil servants with 10-5 office hours. That is also why we need innovation centre.”

An innovation centre is crucial to employ the human resource within the country for its technological advancement, Pun says, a country will not prosper unless the field of science and technology isn’t developed.

According to the World Bank, developed countries spend 2-4 per cent of their GDP for scientific innovation and technological advancement and developing countries expend at least 2 per cent.”We have been asking government to separate at least one per cent but no one listens,” Pun adds.

Registered as non-profit organisation, the centre’s  executive committee also includes economist Rameshwor Khanal, hydropower expert Dambar Nepali, scientists Parmod Dhakal and Dinesh Bhuju and chartered accountant Hari Silwal. The centre aims to help Nepali researchers in product development to advance the country’s economic development.

The centre’s temporary office is at the Nepal Connection Café in Thamel and 20 out of 700 internationally well-placed Nepali scientists are involved.

The donation campaign for the innovation centre was the most challenging task in life for Pun, who himself is the recipient of the Magsaysay Award for his work in proving wireless internet in remote areas of Nepal.

“I had never asked anyone for money in my entire life but for the innovation centre, I couldn’t do without asking for donation,” said Pun.

In five and half months since the donation campaign, Rs 50 million has been collected from Nepalis around the world who have given amounts from Rs 100 to Rs 5.7 million each.  Pun himself donated 27 ropanis of his ancestral land located in Pokhara worth Rs 30 million.

Pun hasn’t been able to invest as much of his time for the campaign as he has been working to connect Gorkha and other areas destroyed in the earthquake with wireless internet but is planning to tour the country in two weeks for the donation campaign.

Under the campaign, Nepalis in Nepal and outside the country can donate at least Rs 50 and $50 respectively. Eservice has agreed to transfer the money without commission and Deerwalk Foundation will add as much money donated through gofundme.com.

The 10 MW hydropower necessary to run the centre has been estimated to cost Rs 1.5 million of which 70 per cent will be a loan. The project which is said to take 5 years to complete will make an annual income of Rs 330 million. Pun also has an alternative model of Public Private Partnership (PPP), in which case 70 per cent of the shares will be owned by the centre.

Said Pun:“The innovation centre won’t be centralised in Kathmandu, we will expand its operation to all the provinces according to the need.”

Bacchu BK in Himal Khabarpatrika 12-18 February

 

Read also:

Innovating a new Nepal, Kunda Dixit

Web pioneer, Mallika Aryal


TRC extended

Thursday, February 9th, 2017
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The government has extended the deadlines of two transitional justice bodies by one year each.

An ’emergency’ cabinet meeting on Thursday extended the deadlines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP).

In February 2015, nearly a decade after the end of the Maoist war, the government had set up these two transitional justice bodies. While the TRC is responsible to deliver justice to the conflict victims, the CIEDP has a mandate to find out the whereabouts of the 1,334 people made disappeared during the war.

But the TRC and the CIEDP could not finish their job in two years, and sought a one-year extension early this week. Their tenures nearly expired on Thursday as dispute over who will be the next police chief delayed the cabinet meeting.

Eventually, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal called what he said was an ’emergency’ cabinet meeting to extend the TRC-CIEDP deadlines, skipping the agenda of appointment of the new police chief.

However, conflict victims are not hopeful that the TRC-CIEDP will finish their job even in the extended year. The biggest achievements made by these two transitional justice bodies to collect complaints from conflict victims

 


 

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