Nepali Times

Failed ‘coup’

Thursday, May 5th, 2016
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oli prachanda deuba

Kunda Dixit   

There were indications on Thursday that a ‘coup’ attempt by the NC to bring down the UML-UCPN(M) coalition, oust Prime Minister K P Oli, and replace him with Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had been foiled.

UML Vice-chairman Bam Dev Gautam went to meet Dahal at his home early Thursday morning and appears to have convinced him that Oli was ready to hand over the premiership to him if he waited till after the budget is presented on 28 May. Later, when a delegation from the NC went to meet Dahal the Maoist leader reportedly thanked them for their offer, but that he’d have to decline for now.

What this means is that the NC’s attempt to register a vote of no confidence this week and form a government with the Maoists and the support of Madhesi parties has not been successful. But it has firmly established the UCPN(M) as a kingmaker party since Dahal would be the next prime minister no matter which side won.

The NC said the Oli-led coalition had been unsuccessful in ensuring earthquake relief delivery, governance, resolving the Madhes crisis and curbing the black market. It proposed Dahal as prime minister in a new coalition that would include the NC. The UML seems to have been successful in convincing Dahal that it would not press for the investigation of wartime atrocities.

As things stand now, the parties in the present coalition will remain the same, but there will be a new prime minister (probably Dahal) and a new ministerial lineup after the budget is passed.

The NC with 207 seats would have had the numbers in the 597-member House to muster the 299 votes to win a no confidence if the Maoists joined in with 83 seats. Dahal had been warning the UML that he was getting offers from the NC to be prime minister if he brought his party to join its coalition.

PM Oli and the UML were sufficiently alarmed to go into damage control mode and sent Bamdev Gautam to try to talk Dahal out of it. Gautam appears to have succeeded in convincing Dahal to let the present government pass the budget, retain the present coalition and let a Dahal-led government implement the budget.

The talk of regime change had stated soon after NC leader retuned from New Delhi last month, but it was clear from the beginning that the NC did not have the numbers by itself to bring down the UML coalition – they would have needed the Maoists on their side.


Deporting @robpenner

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
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Pic: Robert Penner/Twitter

Pic: Robert Penner/Twitter

From the Nepali Press
3 May, setopati.com

Canadian Robert Penner has been a prolific social media user, and showed a keen interest Nepal’s political process. The government on Tuesday gave him two days to leave the country. The Department of Immigration cancelled Penner’s visa citing ‘misuse of his work visa’ and for showing ‘unnecessary interest in Nepal’s internal politics’ and posting ‘posting provocative comments’ on Twitter.

Penner has been associated with Cloud Factory, a Nepal based IT company for the past three years, and was picked up by police from his office in Lalitpur on Monday, 2 May. He broke the news of his own arrest via Twitter.

“If we find him guilty of being involved in suspicious activities that threaten Nepal’s peace, security and interfere in our internal affairs we will cancel his visa,” said Kedar Neupane, the chief of Immigration Department adding, “it’s one thing to show general interest in Nepal’s issues and make common observations, but Penner was found to be doing much more than that.”

The order for Penner’s arrest and investigation was reportedly issued by the Home Ministry because he had violated Immigration Law by ‘participating in political activities’.

“The Police had been tracking his posts on social media for the past few months after his interest and comments came to our attention, and the possibility of deporting him was already discussed at the Home Ministry few days ago,” a government official said.

It is clear to see from his tweets that Penner had a deep interest in Nepal’s political process and regularly commented on it. He not only made comments or participated in discussions on social media, but also debated aggressively about Nepal’s politics. Penner’s father had earlier worked in Nepal at Dadeldhura Hospital operated by United Mission Nepal.

Advocate Dipendra Jha who is representing Penner, says: “Even foreign nationals have freedom of expression which is why the government’s action against Penner is wrong.” He added that it was incorrect to say that Penner was involved in Nepal’s political process.

Constitution expert Bipin Adhikari has a different opinion. “Of course an individual’s freedom of expression should not be curbed, but there’s a difference in the rights granted to a citizen and a foreigner,” he says.

According to Adhikari a citizen who partakes in activities that may affect the public interest can be exempted to a certain degree, but the same does not apply to a foreigner.

But Jha argued: “He didn’t go to Singha Darbar and organise a rally, he only expressed his opinions on Twitter, the world is now a global village. Even we comment about Bangladesh or the US. Is that also illegal now?”

This raises another question on what the term ‘involvement’ means in politics. According to Jha sloganeering and taking part in rallies can be considered a political activity, but not writing or speaking about political issues. Adhikari’s definition of ‘involvement’ is any activity that affects or has the possibility to affect politics.

“That’s why it is accepted globally that no foreign national should take part in any activity that can affect the internal politics of a country,” says Adhikari. “There’s no country in the world that grants a foreigner the freedom to be so actively involved in its internal politics.”

It is an individual’s choice to engage or not engage with another person on social media, but with Penner that wasn’t the case. He regularly hounded people on Twitter, which seems to be why the authorities were alerted about him.

There are many foreigners in Nepal who comment on the politics of the country and engage in discussions on social media. What set Penner apart from the rest were his provocative posts. Penner is the first foreigner to get his visa cancelled for actively debating Nepal’s politics on social media.


Dinner dialogue

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
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pic: Naya Patrika

Pic: Naya Patrika

From the Nepali Press

Naya Patrika, 4 May

After misunderstandings arose within the governing coalition, Prime Minister KP Oli called for a dinner meeting Tuesday night between his own UML party and leaders of the UCPN(M). Present were the UML’s Oli, Madhav Nepal, Jhalnath Khanal, Iswar Pokhrel, Bhim Rawal and Bidhnu Poudel, and from the Maoists there were Prachanda, Naryankaji Shrestha, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Barshaman Pun, Giriraj Mani Pokhrel and Haribol Gajurel. Even though the dinner spread included chicken, fish and mutton, the conversation didn’t go very well. Here is what they said:

Prime Minister Oli: “We crafted this coalition at a very difficult time, but it gave the nation a new constitution and government. When we join in a coalition, there will be some achievements and some difficulties. Let’s have a constructive discussion, I am prepared for any new alternative.”

Prachanda: “There was danger that the differences between the parties would prevent a new constitution, but even in the aftermath of the earthquake we were able to get a new constitution and government. the challenge now is to implement the constitution, and this work hasn’t proceeded as expected. Our coalition has not been adequate for this task. It i.e. now necessary to bring in the NC which is outside the government and the Madhesi Front which has rejected the constitution. Let’s be ready to go forward together.”

Madhav Nepal: “A coalition forged at a difficult time should be looking after the people’s welfare, not its own. In this, it must be said that the government has failed. The government’s reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts after the quake have not been satisfactory. The people have not experienced good governance either. The government should take this into consideration and reform itself, but this is not the time or place to talk about an alternative to the coalition.”

Prachanda: “The peace process isn’t over yet, we have to bring the Madhesi parties into the mainstream. There are delays in boundary demarcation that is affecting the implementation of federalism. Delays in reconstruction has prolonged the people’s misery. the NC has asked me to take charge and bring all parties together. So what do we do now? We expect a conclusion from the prime minister to have a common solution.”

Oli: “You have already given the conclusion. Let’s eat.”


Meaning of CIAA verdict

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
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Photo: Kunda Dixit

Photo: Kunda Dixit

After ten days of detention by the Commission to Investigate the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) journalist and Himalmedia co-publisher Kanak Mani Dixit was ordered to be released by the Supreme Court on Monday. Acting on a habeas corpus writ, Chief Justice Sushila Karki and Justice Jagadish Sharma Poudel in their decision termed the detention illegal and warned the CIAA not to detain anyone into custody without furnishing sufficient reason.

The Bench ruled that the CIAA couldn’t provide adequate basis for Dixit’s detention for 10 days, and has further determined that this process of using the ruse of corruption allegations to put individuals behind bars is itself wrong. This sets the precedent now for the CIAA to follow proper legal procedures in future.

The gist of the ruling is: The CIAA and the Special Court do not have the right to detain or extend the detention of anyone it likes without sufficient reason and proof in the name of investigating them. It has concluded that the CIAA has not been acting within the legal framework, and has raised serious questions about the watchdog’s activities over the past.

Before Dixit, the CIAA had filed cases against lawyers Sambhu Thapa and Jyoti Baniya. CIAA chief Lok Man Singh Karki sought revenge against all three for their opposition to his appointment in 2013. Karki had been named by the Rayamajhi Commission for embezzlement and masterminding the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters as the Chief Secretary in the Gyanendra regime in 2006.

The CIAA got the Internal Revenue Service to raid Sambhu Thapa’s law firm and seize computers. Even then, the Supreme Court had warned the CIAA that its behaviour wasn’t legal. The Special Court had also dismissed the case against Baniya.

With Sunday’s verdict on Dixit, the Supreme Court has for the third time found the CIAA’s actions illegal. It is therefore time for Parliament to take action against another constitutional body that has been acting in an arbitrary and unlawful manner.

The Constitution gives Parliament the ultimate responsibility to monitor the activities of all constitutional organs, except the National Human Rights Commission. And if found to be behaving in a manner that is illegal, Parliament has the mandate to start impeachment proceedings.

When it convenes on Monday, Parliament may have to start deliberating on what to do about the the wayward CIAA.

Kiran Nepal

 


SC orders release of Dixit

Monday, May 2nd, 2016
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KMD

Dixit at the court premises after the SC ordered his release. Photo: Kapil Bhatta

The Supreme Court has ordered the release of Himalmedia’s co-publisher Kanak Mani Dixit who had been detained by Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

The order for release was given by a joint bench consisting of acting Chief Justice Sushila Karki and Justice Jagdish Sharma Poudel on 2 May at the hearing of the habeas corpus writ filed by Dixit’s wife Shanta Dixit. 

Dixit was taken into custody on 22 April on the charges of ‘amassing disproportionate wealth’ as the Chair of Sajha Yatayat, a public transport company. 

Dixit’s arrest has been condemned by the national and international community and the anti graft body has been criticised for its unconstitutional move. 


Filmmakers demand Dixit’s release

Friday, April 29th, 2016
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free_kanak_poster(1)More than 100 film makers, academics, journalists and artists from India have demanded the immediate release of Himalmedia co-publisher Kanak Mani Dixit.

In a petition to Prime Minister KP Oli on Friday, they said ‘they had looked at the background to Dixit’s arrest’ and ‘the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Chief Lok Man Singh Karki has been running a personal vendetta because Dixit had protested his appointment in 2013 on the grounds that Karki had been indicted by the Rayamajhi  Commission for suppressing the people’s movement’.

The petition stated: ‘Nepal should be proud of Dixit instead of putting him in jail’.

Dixit was arrested by the anti-graft body on last Friday on the charge of ‘amassing disproportionate wealth’ by ‘abusing his power as the Chair of Sajha Yatayat’.

But the Himalmedia chapter of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) has said that Dixit is clean and his arrest is ‘an act of vengeance’ by the CIAA. The Supreme Court has already ordered the CIAA to explain in writing why he was detained.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) have already condemned Dixit’s arrest. In Nepal, the FNJ and the Nepal Press Union have also demanded Dixit’s release.

Here is the full text of petition signed by 112 film makers, academics, journalists and artists from India for Dixit’s release

To

Shri Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli
Prime Minister, Nepal
Subject: Petition for the Immediate Release of Kanak Mani Dixit

Dear Sir,

We, film makers, writers, academics and artists from India, are shocked and dismayed at the news of Shri. Kanak Mani Dixit’s arrest in Kathmandu. Kanak Mani Dixit is a much loved and admired figure in media and cultural spheres across South Asia. At a time when conflict and nationalist rhetoric is tearing apart the myriad ways in which we share a cultural past and present, he has tirelessly strived to forge bonds of friendship and peace in South Asia. Through his writings and other initiatives like HIMAL and Film South Asia, Kanak Mani Dixit has enthused people from across the region to imagine and work towards a peaceful, safe and ecologically sane South Asia. Today this man who Nepal and other South Asians should be proud of is being treated as a common criminal, put under detention as punishment.

We have looked at the background to his arrest and it seems fairly clear that the intention is to harass and intimidate rather than investigate alleged corruption charges. It is ironical that the arrest has been made at the behest of an agency called – Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Mr. Lokman Singh Karki as Chairman of this Authority has been running a personal vendetta because Mr. Dixit had protested his appointment in 2013 on the grounds that Mr. Karki had been indicted by the Rayamajhi Commission for suppressing the people’s movement, which led to the end of monarchy in Nepal. If at all, it is Mr. Karki himself who should be under investigation for abuse of authority now and during the people’s movement.

We demand the immediate release of Kanak Mani Dixit.

Yours Sincerely,
1. Aditya Seth | Film maker
2. Amar Kanwar | Film maker
3. Amit Mahanti | Film maker
4. Ammu Joseph | Journalist/Author
5. Amudhan R P. | Film maker
6. Anand Patwardhan | Film maker
7. Ananya Chakraborti | Film maker
8. Anjali Monteiro | Film Maker & Academic
9. Anjum Rajabali | Screenwriter & Professor
10. Ann Ninan | Journalist
11. Anupama Srinivasan | Filmmaker
12. Arvind Sinha. Film Maker.
13. Ashavari Majumdar | Performer
14. Avijit Mukul Kishore | Filmmaker
15. Benny Benedict | Film Activist
16. Biju Toppo | Filmmaker
17. Bina Sarkar Ellias | Editor/Publisher/Poet/Curator
18. Bishakha Datta Filmmaker
19. Chandita Mukherjee | Filmmaker
20. Chayanika Shah |Researcher and Visiting Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Science
21. Darryl D’Monte | Journalist
22. Deepa Dhanraj | Film maker
23. Deepak Mehta | Professor in Sociology, Shiv Nadar University
24. Faiza | Film maker
25. Farhana Ibrahim | Associate Professor of Sociology, IIT Delhi.
26. G. Arunima | Professor and Chair Centre for Women's Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University
27. Gautam Sonti | Filmmaker
28. Geeta Kapur | Critic and curator
29. Hartman de Souza | Theatre activist, writer, teacher
30. Iffat Fatima | Film maker
31. Ilina Sen | Academic
32. Inder Salim | Performance artist
33. Iram Ghufran| Filmmaker
34. Irene Dhar Malik | Film Editor
35. Jabeen Merchant | Film Editor
36. Janaki Abraham | Associate Professor, Delhi University
37. Janaky Sreedharan I Academic
38. Jatin Desai, Journalist
39. Jayasankar K P | Film Maker & Academic
40. Jerry Pinto | Writer
41. K.P. Sasi | Film Maker
42. Kavita Bahl | Film Maker
43. Kavita Joshi | Filmmaker and Media Trainer
44. Lalit Vachani | Filmmaker and Research Scholar, University of Göttingen, Germany
45. Lawrence Liang | Lawyer and legal researcher
46. Madhusree Dutta | Film Maker
47. Mahadeb Shi | Film Maker
48. Meena Menon | Journalist
49. Meghnath | Film Maker
50. Merajur Rahman Baruah | Film Maker
51. Miriam Chandy Menacherry | Film Maker
52. Mohan Rao | Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
53. Meenakshi Shedde | Journalist
54. Mukul Mangalik | Associate Professor of History, Ramjas College, University of Delhi
55. Nakul Singh Sawhney | Film Maker
56. Nandan Saxena | Film Maker
57. Nandita Das | Actor, film Maker
58. Navroze Contractor | Cinematographer
59. Neelima Sharma | Theatre person
60. Nikhil Titus | Film Maker & Academic
61. Nishtha Jain | Film Maker
62. Nivedita Menon, Professor, JNU, India
63. Padmini Ray Murray | Academic
64. Pamela Philipose I Journalist
65. Pankaj Butalia | Film Maker
66. Paromita Vohra | Film Maker
67. Parvez Imam | Arts practitioner / Filmmaker
68. Prabhu Mohapatra | Associate Professor , Department of History, Delhi University
69. Probal Dasgupta | Academic
70. Rahul Roy | Film Maker
71. Rafeeq Elias | Film Maker
72. Rakhi Sehgal | Researcher
73. Ram Puniyani | Writer
74. Ranjani Mazumdar | Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University
75. Ranu Ghosh | Film Maker, Cinematographer
76. Reena Mohan | Film Maker
77. Ruchika Negi | Film maker
78. Rustom Bharucha | Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
79. S.B. Upadhyay |Professor, Indira Gandhi National Open University
80. Saba Dewan | Film Maker
81. Saba Hasan | Artist
82. Sabeena Gadihoke | Associate Professor, AJK, MCRC, Jamia Millia, Islamia, New Delhi
83. Sameera Jain | Film maker, editor
84. Sameera Khan | Journalist; Writer
85. Samina Mishra | Film Maker
86. Shamsul Islam | Author
87. Sania Farooqui | Journalist
88. Sanjay Kak | Film maker
89. Sheba Chhachhi I Photographer
90. Sherna Dastur | Graphic Designer, Film Maker
91. Shikha Jhingan | Associate Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
92. Shikha Sen | Film editor
93. Shilpa Phadke | Academic, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
94. Shohini Ghosh | Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia
95. Shoma A Chatterji | Journalist and Author
96. Shriprakash | Film Maker
97. Stalin K. | Film Maker
98. Subasri Krishnan | Film Maker
99. Subha Das Mollick | Film Maker, academic
100. Sukumar Muralidharan | Journalist
101. Supriyo Sen | Film Maker
102. Surabhi Sharma | Film Maker
103. Sushma Veerappa | Film Maker
104. Swati Dandekar | Film Maker
105. Teena Gill | Film Maker
106. Uma Chakravarti | Feminist historian and filmmaker.
107. Vani Subramanian | Film Maker
108. Venkatesh Chakravarthy | Filmmaker & Academic
109. Vijaya Mulay | Film Maker
110. Vipin Vijay | Filmmaker
111. Vivan Sundaram I Artist
112. Yousuf Saeed | Film Maker

 


CIAA vs Dixit

Thursday, April 28th, 2016
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Pic: BBC Nepali

Pic: BBC Nepali

From the Nepali press

Constitutional law expert Bipin Adhikari in BBC Nepali Service, 27 April

BBC: Many have accused the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) of overstepping its jurisdiction in Kanak Mani Dixit’s detention. Is it so?

Bipin Adhikari: If a person holding public office abuses his power, the CIAA can investigate the corruption charges against him. It is within its jurisdiction.

If so, why is the CIAA being criticised?

The CIAA is not a court, it is just an institution with a mandate to investigate corruption cases. It has to follow a due process, and there is concern that it failed to do so in Dixit’s case.

The CIAA is still investigating, but it has already made public the complaints against him. Is it legal?

If the unproved complaints are made public and the accused is later absolved of all charges, the damage done to his reputation cannot be compensated.

The CIAA has said it had to arrest Dixit because the latter did not cooperate.

The CIAA can arrest a person who does not cooperate. But Dixit had moved the Supreme Court, claiming that the CIAA’s charge against him was an act of vengeance. And the court had ordered the anti-graft body to take action against Dixit only after collecting sufficient evidence. But the CIAA detained Dixit disregarding the apex court’s order. As a lawyer, I find Dixit’s stand logical.

As a constitution expert, do you find flaws in the two statements that the CIAA issued?

The second statement in English, in particular, is crude and ruthless. It exposes the CIAA’s negativity towards Dixit.

Dixit fought for democracy. But political leaders are silent even when he is not being allowed to meet his lawyers despite a Special Court order.

Perhaps they hadn’t seen the media reports. It is a person’s fundamental right to meet his lawyers and family members while in custody.

But his fundamental rights are being violated…

We have National Human Rights Commission and rights groups. We also have the Office of Attorney General. They should act if fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution are violated.

But there are also fears that the CIAA is being weakened.

The CIAA should not be weakened, it is a very important institution. The Dixit case is very big, if the CIAA fails to prove its accusations against him its reputation will be severely damaged.


 

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