Nepali Times

Turkish resumes US flights

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Pic: Turkish Airlines

Pic: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines announced on Tuesday that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has removed a recent order to all carriers, regardless of country of registry, prohibiting them from flying into the United States from Turkey either directly or via third country.

The ban followed the attack on Istanbul airport earlier this month and the coup attempt this week. All scheduled Turkish Airlines flights to the US will resume on 19 July with Turkish Airlines Istanbul – NYC flight at 06:45 AM

Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee İlker Aycı stated that: “Earlier today I had stated that we saw no reason for the ban as all precautions were in line with the norms.”

Parliamentary committee visits KC

Monday, July 18th, 2016
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A team of 10 Members of Parliament, led by Chair of the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee Sushil Kumar Shrestha , visits Govinda KC at TUTH on Monday. Pic: RSS

A team from the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of the Parliament met Govinda KC on the ninth day of his fast unto death, and gave its assurance that it would direct the government to implement KC’s demand. The committee members even vowed to discuss KC’s demand in the Parliament.

The group of lawmakers, led by Chairman of the Committee Sushil Kumar Shrestha, went to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) on Monday and stated that it will ask the government to address the demand of KC without delay.

“We will direct the government to address Dr KC’s demand immediately and discuss this issue in Parliament as well,” Shrestha told Nepali Times.

Ten out of the 44 committee members, including lawmakers from Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist-Centre) and Madhesi Forum, went to meet KC who is on his eighth fast unto death. None of the CPN-UML legislators was in the team.

Secretary of CPN-UML Yogesh Bhattarai told Kantipur Daily: “There is a health department in my party to look after this issue and there is no need for me to talk about it. Also this is not the right time for a hunger strike.”

This time, KC — a campaigner for reform of Nepal’s medical sector — has called for the impeachment of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Chief Lokman Singh Karki, accusing him of meddling in Kathmandu University’s medical entrance exams in May and also protecting the corrupt.

The medical students and resident doctors chanted, “It’s been nine days, why is the government quiet?” when the parliamentary team reached the hospital.


Citizens in seventies

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

CDO Kiran Thapa hands over citizenship certificate to 77-year-old Harka Sambahamphe as his 75-year-old brother Lattey Sambahamphe looks on. All photos: Laxmi Gautam

Laxmi Gautam in Himal Khabarpatrika (17-23 July)

Two blind and deaf brothers in their mid-70s, who have no family to look after them, have received citizenship certificates.

77-year-old Harka Sambahamphe had a citizenship certificate, but with an inaccurate date of birth, which meant he was not entitled to social security allowances intended for elderly citizens. His 75-year-old brother Lattey Sambahamphe had never obtained a citizenship certificate, and was thus also deprived of the benefit.


Harka used to bring fuel wood from the forest, and sell it in the nearby town to make a living.

Harka is deaf and has poor eyesight, and Lattey is both deaf and blind. Harka used to bring fuel wood from the forest to sell in the nearby market. Lattey used to make namlo (woven rope used to carry loads) and exchange it for food grains from neighbours. Although they have sufficient land, they are physically too weak and lack the necessary support to cultivate it.

In Ranigaun village of Panchthar district in the far-eastern hills, the Sambahamphe brothers were struggling hard to make ends meet. After Himal Khabarpatrika — Nepali Times’s sister publication  — published a story about their everyday struggle in its 3-10 July issue, Panchathar’s Chief District Officer Kiran Thapa reached their village and gave them not only the citizenship certificates but also identity cards to receive the allowances.


Lattey Sambahamphe used to make namlo (woven rope used to carry loads) and exchange it for food grains from neighbours.

The government had declared Ranigaun as a drought-hit village a few years ago, but the Sambahamphe brothers had nowhere to go. Harka used to walk three hours to fetch a pot of water, which they would ration for a whole week.

Siddhapokhari Sewa Sadan, a social organisation in Panchthar, has also arranged a house for the Sambahamphe brothers. After receiving his citizenship certificate, Harka said: “I had heard that there was a government in Nepal, and now I understand what it means.”




Kickbacks from the poor

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Health Minister Ram Janam Chaudhari

From the Nepali Press

Bhagwati Timilsina in Nepal Samacharpatra, 15 July

Even as the no-confidence motion was being registered against the government led by Prime Minister KP Oli, his Health Minister Ram Janam Chaudhari and State Minister of Health and Population (MoHP) Mohammad Mustak Alam have been trying to extort kickbacks from hospitals serving the rural poor.

Some 23 community hospitals are supposed to get government grants of up to Rs 500 million each after presenting proposals to the Planning Division of the MoHP. However, sources say Health Minister Chaudhari and State Minister Alam are demanding up to 50 per cent in personal kickbacks in return for approving the grants.

One representative of a community hospital said: “How can we keep up the quality of health in our district if the ministers take nearly half the money away?”


State Minister of Health Mohammad Mustak Alam

The representatives of other hospitals, who reached the ministry on Wednesday to sign their agreements, requested Acting Secretary Padam Bahadur Chand and State Minister Alam to make the procedure clean and short.

Before formulation of the directive to provide such grants to community hospitals, the ministry used to distribute grants arbitrarily to political cronies. However, the 23 hospitals outside Kathmandu were supposed to receive their budget support after the provision was clearly mentioned in the Community Hospital Grants Directive 2016.

One of the high-level officials at the ministry informed that Rs 10 million has already been released to Tikapur Hospital in Kailali, hometown of Health Minister Chaudhari, however other hospitals are facing delays. Some of the hospitals that received the grants are said to be close to chief of the Planning Division, former secretary at the ministry Shanta Bahadur Shrestha and incumbent ministers.

Hospital representatives have been given the runaround for a whole week, and their expenses are rising while they go to the Ministry every day to get the grants they are entitled to. Officials tell them the money has not been transferred, or to wait fruitlessly until 4 pm every day. The ministers could not be reached for comments.


No more confidence

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal enters Parliament on Wednesday to register a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister KP Oli’s government. Photo: Bikram Rai

The two political leaders once bayed for each other’s blood. They waged a decade-long war in which 17,000 Nepalis were killed. This week, they joined hands to form a new government.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal suddenly switched sides, abandoning Prime Minister KP Oli for Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress. They also agreed to take turns to lead the government for the next 18 months. The new-found friendship between these former foes could prove costly. The first casualty will be the Constitution that all three leaders pushed through last year.

Deuba was prime minister when the Maoists submitted a list of 40 demands before launching the war in February 1996. In 2002, Deuba was prime minister for the second time when he put a price on Dahal’s head. Dahal in turn ordered his guerrillas to kill Deuba, who narrowly escaped a Maoist attack in Kailali. A lot can change in 20 years, and politics makes for strange bedfellows, but who could have predicted that Dahal and Deuba would one day be best buddies?

Oli foiled an earlier attempt to unseat him two months ago by charming Dahal out of an alliance with Deuba. But this time the Maoists and the NC agreed to topple the Oli government, and forge a new ruling coalition. Under the deal, Dahal will be prime minister first, to be replaced by Deuba after local elections in December and until provincial and parliamentary polls.

The Maoists registered a no-confidence motion in Parliament against the government on Wednesday, but Oli has refused to step down, preparing instead to face a vote in Parliament this weekend. But the arithmetic is against Oli: he is short of 50 votes. Madhesi and other fringe parties are backing the NC-Maoist alliance, so Dahal is on course to be the next prime minister.

Seven years after his resignation following the epic failure to sack the Army chief, Dahal may be Nepal’s 24th prime minister in 26 years. Deuba and Oli, one can be sure, will be ready to pull the rug out from under him at any time

Hours after CPN (Maoist-Centre) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba registered a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister KP Oli’s government in Parliament on Wednesday, NC legislator Amresh Kumar Singh warned in an interview that federalism will not work in Nepal.

Coming from a fervent proponent of ethnicity-based federalism in the new Constitution, his comments on BBC Nepali Service on Wednesday night set off a firestorm. Singh is an obscure NC MP who wields mysterious clout in Nepal’s politics, and is given to outlandish rhetoric.

When the NC agreed with the UML, the Maoists and the MJF (D) to fast-track the new Constitution after last year’s earthquake without the Madhesi parties on board, Singh nearly revolted. He allied with Madhesi leaders to foil the Constitution-drafting process led by his own party, and was even in the group that went down to Kailali to incite the Tharus to rise up in August 2015. The very next day, eight policemen and a child were lynched in protests. Protests ignited across the Tarai and lasted six months, leading to a border blockade supported by India. Nearly 50 more persons were killed in police action against the protests.

Although he is just one of the 206 NC legislators, and not even a Central Committee member of the party, Singh’s remarks often create ripples across the political spectrum because he regularly boasts about his closeness to New Delhi. When his party fought against Gyanendra Shah’s authoritarian regime, he was nowhere to be seen on the streets. Nevertheless, he rose dramatically as a key player in the post-April Uprising negotiations between the NC-UML coalition and the Maoists.

It is widely believed that New Delhi uses Singh to extract information straight out of political negotiations in Kathmandu, and continues to use him to facilitate negotiations among Nepali political forces. He doesn’t seem to mind that the public perceives him as speaking the Indian line during times of turmoil in Nepal, which is why he is often referred to as the ‘Octopus’ — referring to the smart cephalopod that once predicted the result of the Football World Cup.

Singh quickly retracted his statement through Facebook, accusing the BBC’s Rabindra Mishra of editing out crucial parts of his answers. He said he was still ‘committed to federalism’ and clarified that he thinks ‘this constitution should be more federal’. But his remarks have been podcast and hardly anyone believes his clarification. The question everyone is asking on social media is: Was New Delhi using Singh to float a trial balloon about scrapping federalism?

Singh was also involved in the back-room deal between Dahal and Deuba to unseat Prime Minister Oli and take turns to lead the government until local, provincial and federal elections are held in the next two years. Madhesi parties have vowed to vote against Oli when he faces no-confidence motion in Parliament this weekend.

The political course looks clear now: Dahal as the new PM, followed by Deuba next year, with Madhesis probably in the government and the UML as the opposition. But Oli’s ouster has cast shadow over the implementation of the Constitution. Political analyst Shyam Shrestha believes that the Constitution is now in crisis, and addressing the issues raised by Madhesi, Janajati and other dissenters by amending the Charter is not possible.

“We will now face a new political deadlock, and the UML will not help break it,” Shrestha, who is a Maoist MP, told us.

Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha is said to have been against toppling the Oli government at the present time. He calls the Dahal-Deuba friendship “unfortunate” because Nepal was moving in the right direction to reduce its over-dependence on India for trade by reaching out to China. “People had begun to see our party as a nationalist force,” he said, “how will we redeem that image now?”

Political analyst Puranjan Acharya is convinced this week’s political games were orchestrated by an “outside force” to foil the Constitution. “It wanted to break the Maoist-UML coalition, and restrict the UML to the opposition bench, and if it becomes a strong opposition the same power will try to split the UML.”

Madhesi parities, meanwhile, welcomed Oli’s ouster. They are even ready to join the new government by signing a deal with the NC and the Maoists, but that will not help resolve the Madhes crisis. Says Acharya:  “Without the UML, the Constitution will not be amended, and the radical separatists will be more powerful in the Tarai.”

Meanwhile, inside a narrow room at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, anti-corruption crusader Govinda KC is growing weaker by the day. The political crisis has diluted his demand for the impeachment of the Chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki, because that would not be possible without partnership between the NC and UML.

Om Astha Rai and Rameshwar Bohara









































































































































































































































Rameshwar Bohara


Deuba backs Dahal

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
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NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba informs journalists about his party’s decision to support Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal as new Prime Minister. Photo: RSS

UCPN (Maoist-Centre) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal is set to become Nepal’s Prime Minister for the second time.

After the main opposition NC endorsed a seven-point agreement between its President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Dahal on Wednesday, the Maoist leader’s re-entry into Singha Darbar as the country’s executive chief is a mere formality.

On Tuesday, the Maoists had decided to withdraw support from the UML-led government. Prior to that, however, they had signed the seven-point agreement with the NC. As per this agreement, the NC will support Dahal’s prime-ministership for nine months, after which Dahal will resign for Deuba to assume the post of PM for the next nine months.

As Prime Minister KP Oli refused to step down even after the withdrawal of support by his party’s major coalition partner, the Maoists registered a no-confidence motion in Parliament on Wednesday. With backing from the NC, Madhesi and other fringe parties, the Maoists can now easily unseat Oli who only has support from 252 legislators as against the opposition’s 342 legislators.

Dahal first became Prime Minister in 2009 after his party secured a landslide victory in the first Constituent Assembly elections in 2008. But his tenure was short-lived, as he had to bow out after failing to sack the then-army chief Rookmangud Katwal.







Oli coalition unravels  

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara and spokesperson Pampha Bhusal at a press conference in Kathmandu on Tuesday. Photo: Gopen Rai

Two months after foiling an NC-Maoist coup that nearly ousted him from power, Prime Minister KP Oli’s government is in trouble yet again.

The ruling coalition led by Oli’s UML party has unravelled, with the Maoists suddenly pulling the rug out from under it. The government will survive only if Oli can persuade the CPN (Maoist-Centre) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to withdraw his decision — just as Oli did two months ago. However, the probability of Oli being able to succeed again is slim. It will also be difficult for him to forge a new coalition with other parties.

At a hastily-called press conference in Kathmandu on Tuesday just hours after Dahal sent a letter to PM Oli saying his party is no longer in the government, Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara claimed that the main opposition NC has agreed to support Dahal as the new Prime Minister.

“Our party Chair will be the new Prime Minister, and he will pave the way for the NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba to lead the government in the second phase of the Constitution-implementation process,” Mahara said. 

 We asked Balkrishna Khand, one of NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s confidantes, to verify Mahara’s claim. He said the NC has not decided anything yet, but is open to allow Dahal to lead the government for a certain period.

Nepal’s politics has been thrown into turmoil ever since Oli announced local, provincial and national elections by January 2018 as stipulated in the Constitution. His statement set off an intense power struggle between parties to try to be in government when elections are held, so as to benefit from the incumbent advantage of having control over state resources and apparatus during voting.

In the first week of May, the NC and the Maoists were about to sign a pact to unseat Oli and form their own government. But Oli astutely saved his government by signing a nine-point agreement with the Maoists.

The CPN (Maoist-Centre) says it had also reached a gentlemen’s agreement with the UML, requiring Oli to step down and support Dahal as new Prime Minister after the budget. But Oli and his lieutenants denied having any such agreement with the Maoists. In the letter to PM Oli on Tuesday, Dahal justified his party’s decision blaming Oli for failing to implement the nine-point agreement and the gentlemen’s agreement.

The first of the nine points of the UML-Maoist agreement is about forming an all-party government. However, even afterTuesday’s political drama, forming a government that includes all the major parties is not possible. The UML might try to outsmart the Maoists by forming an alliance with the NC. But that is unlikely because one of the reasons presented by the NC to unseat Oli is that his government has failed to address Madhesi issues, and Madhesi leaders are presently averse to joining any coalition that includes the UML.

Oli has refused to step down, and says he will face a no-confidence motion in Parliament. His departure will have ripple effects across the political spectrum. Madhesi parties that have been staging a relay hunger strike at Khula Manch for the past two months will use the fall of the Oli government as an excuse to end their prolonged agitation. They might also join the Maoist-NC government if there is an agreement to amend the Constitution.

However, orthopaedic surgeon Govinda KC’s indefinite hunger strike demanding reforms in the medical sector is now in deep trouble, as the interim government will not be able to meet his demands, one of which seeks to impeach the chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki for overstepping his mandate by interfering in medical exams. With the political parties now more focused on forming the new government, Karki might not have to face even a parliamentary probe, let alone impeachment.