Nepali Times

It’s Deuba once more

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017
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New Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba with ex-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Parliament elected Deuba as Nepal's 10th Prime Minister in 10 years on Tuesday. Bikram Rai

New Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba with ex-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Parliament elected Deuba as Nepal’s 10th Prime Minister in 10 years on Tuesday. Bikram Rai

Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday became Nepal’s 10th Prime Minister in 10 years, and head of government for the fourth time in the past two decades.

Of the 558 MPs present in the House, 388 voted for Deuba while the rest voted against him. There was no rival candidate from other parties, but Parliament still conducted a voice vote.

Addressing the House before being elected, Deuba said he will focus on three issues as new Prime Minister: holding all three elections by January, amending the Constitution and boosting infrastructure.

The CPN (Maoist-Centre) that led the previous coalition with the backing of the NC had proposed Deuba as the new PM last week, but a parliamentary impasse over the Bharatpur mayoral vote-counting row delayed Deuba’s election.

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Pic: RSS

The UML had allowed Parliament to function only after Deuba gave his word to hold the second phase of local elections on 28 June, provincial and parliamentary elections before January 2018, and to wait for a probe on the Bharatpur fracas before re-conducting polls there.

Deuba also won support of the newly-formed Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) and the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSF) by signing a three-point pact with them. Deuba has promised to implement the previous deal that the NC-Maoist coalition signed with Madhesi parties, withdraw cases against those arrested during the Madhes movement and create more municipal and local councils in the Tarai.

By becoming Prime Minister again, Deuba equalled the record of his former NC colleague Girija Prasad Koirala. Only Surya Bahadur Thapa who had been PM five times is still ahead of both.

Deuba’s previous three tenures as Prime Minister were marred by the Maoist war, the royal coup of February 2005, and a stagnant economy. In his first tenure, the Maoists declared war on the state. In his second term, the war escalated and he was removed by King Gyanendra for being “incompetent”. In his third tenure, Gyanendra took over and put Deuba under house arrest for 10 months.

But Deuba has proven that politicians always live to fight another day by patiently biding his time and strengthening his hold over the party. Twelve years later, Deuba has returned to Baluwatar with the help of Prachanda, the same man who once tried to assassinate him and on whose head he had put a price.

Deuba has often been criticised for having brought about a crisis in Nepal’s democracy every time he became prime minister – either by surrendering to the royal palace, or by cancelling local elections in 2002. This time, he has a chance to prove critics wrong if he can hold the second phase of local elections, federal and parliamentary elections in the coming eight months.


Gulf row could hit migrants

Monday, June 5th, 2017
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Nepal changing laws

Nepali migrant workers in Qatar. Pic: Pattabi Raman

There are fears that the diplomatic row between Qatar and five of its Gulf neighbours could affect the flow of Nepali migrant workers there and deal a blow to Nepal’s remittance economy if it escalates.

Remittances from migrant workers provide nearly the equivalent of one-third of Nepal’s GDP and have largely driven poverty-reduction in recent years. That engine of Nepal’s development could start misfiring as the Gulf crisis deepens. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain and Yemen not only withdrew their diplomatic staff from Qatar but also suspended air and sea travel to and from Doha early Monday morning.

qatarmigrant2

Pic: Pattabi Raman

Hours later, Etihad Airways suspended its flights to and from Doha. The UAE flag carrier does not have direct flights to Doha from Kathmandu, but Fly-Dubai has three flights a day and many Nepalis fly that and other budget airlines like Air Arabia to go to Qatar.

Qatar Airways has three direct flights daily from Kathmandu to Doha, but most migrant workers prefer budget airlines that stopover in UAE.

chart 1

This chart in an ILO report 2015 shows how the number of Qatar-bound Nepali migrant has increased since 2010.

“Nepali migrant workers now have limited options to fly to Qatar,” said Bimal Dhakal, President of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA). “They will have to buy more expensive tickets.”

More expensive tickets could be just a minor problem compared to the major, long-term impact on Nepal’s economy, potentially stalling GDP growth and reversing social progress, if the row intensifies.

“If the Gulf crisis results in an Arab war and Nepali migrant workers return from there, it will be a disaster for our economy,” says Kamal Tamang, former General Secretary of the NAFEA. “A gulf war will kill our economy, especially because Malaysia has already stopped taking migrant workers from Nepal.”

Malaysia was the biggest employer of Nepali migrant workers until a decade ago. After Qatar won a bid in 2010 to host the FIFA world cup in 2022, the oil-rich country has surpassed Malaysia. That year, only 25,612 Nepali migrant workers went to Qatar: the number rose to 124,050 in 2015.

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Europe-bound Qatar Airways planes overflying Iran this morning. They cannot overfly Saudi Arabia and UAE airspace from Tuesday. Source: flightradar24.com

Qatar has nearly finished building the World Cup infrastructure, but it is still the second biggest recipient of Nepali migrant workers. Currently, more than 600,000 Nepalis migrant workers are in Qatar. Saudi Arabia now attracts more migrant workers than Qatar, but it is also directly involved in the current crisis. Another 500,000 Nepalis work in Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Kuwait.

Says Tamang: “If the crisis escalates in the Gulf, and the workers have to return, what will they do in Nepal?”

Om Astha Rai

 


Losing the Bagmati, and ourselves

Monday, June 5th, 2017
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bagmati

Rajani Maharjan

The Bagmati River holds huge cultural significance for the Kathmandu Valley because our civilisation started along the river. There are many cultural rites and rituals, festivals and jatras that involve the river and its tributaries. An important part of visiting the temple at Pashupati, for example, is doing ablutions in the Bagmati before worshiping at the temple.

But with river becoming increasingly polluted with raw sewage and garbage it is not just the riverine environment that has changed, but the desecrated river is no longer the site for festivals and rituals. If we’re losing respect for the Bagmati, then we are also on the verge of losing our self-respect and identity.

The transformation of the Bagmati is clear to anyone, but from speaking to elders it is clear that there is accelerated change on the river. The river used to be wide and shallow, its braids meandering across a clean and sandy floodplain. The river changed its course annually depending on the level of flooding. This allowed it to cleanse itself. As development and sand mining have restricted and confined its flow, we have lost the wetlands along the banks, and the natural regeneration of the river and recharging of ground water no longer occurs.

The weekly clean-up campaigns have cleaned up some sections of solid waste dumped along the river, but it is like treating the symptoms but not the disease itself.  The main component of river pollution is the that untreated sewage and industrial effluent as well as solid waste is being dumped into it. Just going to the river banks every Saturday to pick up the garbage is not going to clean up the river.

To revive the Bagmati we have to restore its natural flow, including the river bed, allowing it to shift depending on the water flow. By doing this we will revive the micro habitats required by the various plants, insects, birds and animals to return. There isn’t much sand left to mine at least along the urban stretches of the river, but the damage it did to the riverine environment persists.

Encroachment of the river banks is also strangling the river. Aside from the visible squatter settlements, the government is actively encroaching by building feeder roads on both sides of the river. The river is now a canal, stripped of its natural and spiritual value.

The Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited actually diverts a huge amount of water at the source of the Bagmati so there is very little clean water flowing in it, which is one reason why the volume is so low. Some clean water must be left to flow into the river at Sundarijal. Waste water treatment plants are planned, but it is anyone’s guess when that will happen. If the surface water is polluted, it is also going to contaminate the groundwater that all of us in the Valley rely on.

We own the river and we must clean it collectively. We need to take ownership of our rivers and not leave the cleaning to government. If we use it during our rituals and festivals it is up to us to clean it as well.

Rajani Maharjan is an environmental anthropologist

 


CJ exposes PM

Monday, June 5th, 2017
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 From the Nepali Press

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Chief Justice Sushila Karki in an interview with Nepal magazine

4 – 11 June

Nepal: How do you evaluate your term as Chief Justice?

Sushila Karki: I could not complete all the work that I set out to do. There were too many obstacles along the way.

Did you anticipate the extent of political pressure you faced in the Supreme Court?

I never thought the political leaders would go that far. Was it necessary for them to suddenly file an impeachment motion against me when I was in the middle of hearing a case? If they really needed to impeach me, was it not necessary for them to first have a public debate about my mis-doings?

They said you refused to meet their emissary, Maoist leader Barshaman Pun.

Why should I need to meet politicians? It is just not ethical for a judge to meet and consult politicians before hearing a case. Can Pun instruct me to do his bidding? Should I listen to him? If I do, what will society say?

How did you react when you heard about the charges against you?

They accused me of lacking good conduct. How? There is no explanation. They accused me of not allocating cases to some justices. But I never excluded any justices from the case lists.

Could it be possible that some justices were interested in some particular cases, and you did not assign such cases to them?

Cases are assigned to justices depending on their seniority, capacity and expertise. To decide which justices should which cases is within the jurisdiction of a Chief Justice. I just exercised my right. And none of the justices complained about it with me, so I don’t know where the politicians got the idea.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal publicly claimed several times that he had ‘a deal’ with Chief Justice. What really transpired during your meetings with him?

He called me over three times. I did not spend more than five minutes on any occasion. I saw it as a courtesy meeting between the heads of two state organs. But every time I met him, he told the media that he had a deal with me. During a chance meeting at a party organised by the Army, he raised the issue of the case against Balkrishna Dhugel and sought my help. I told him straight to his face that I would not want to see him again. I was cautious about meeting him. This is why I refused to meet him the last time. (Just days before the impeachment motion in Parliament.)

How did the PM want you to deal with the Lokman Singh Karki case?

Now that I am stepping down from the Supreme Court, I must tell people about it. A day after his return from India, the PM called me over. During his stay in New Delhi, I had ordered a review of the Supreme Court verdict on the writ against Karki’s appointment as the CIAA Chief. He told me: “You created problems by ordering a review of this case. Lokman has threatened me. I am in the PM’s seat only for seven more months now. Why don’t you postpone this case and deliver your verdict once I step down?”  I told him that the case was already set in motion, and it was not in my hands to stop it.

Did Lokman himself pressure you?

Those who knew me did not have the guts to be Lokman’s mediators. But lots of my own relatives tried to talk me out of this case. Some of them even wept in front of me.

Why do you think political leaders tried to impeach you?

I was not the first justice to face impeachment. Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai had also faced it because he was an honest and competent justice. Why did they try to impeach him? To intimidate him. Our politicians think they are all powerful and everyone should fall in line. Just like the king. They accused me of overstepping my jurisdiction and interfering in the workings of the executive. But that is what the justice system is supposed to do – the Constitution mandates an independent judiciary.

Is the Supreme Court delaying its final verdict on the IGP appointment case because of the impeachment motion you faced?

This is one of the cases in which the Office of Attorney General has an interest. Government attorneys come and tell us that the bench should include this justice or should not include that justice. Justices are generally averse to hearing such controversial cases. This is also delaying the case.

What is your retirement plan?

Instead of being surrounded by corrupt and greedy people, I would rather spend the rest of my life feeding birds, in gardening and talking to flowers.

What if the state gives you a responsibility?

I will not accept any government appointment.

Any plan for social service?

I wish I could serve the society with my own money. I see no point in collecting donations and  distributing it. I would rather stay home, and read and write.

 Read More

Unimpeachable evidence, Binita Dahal

Exit, the crusader, Kanak Mani Dixit


Bharatpur repoll condemned

Sunday, June 4th, 2017
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Milestone: Bharatpur Repolling Sidecar: Election Commission Rabin Sayami in Nagarik, 4 June

Milestone: Bharatpur Repolling
Sidecar: Election Commission
Rabin Sayami in Nagarik, 4 June

The Election Commission’s decision on Saturday to conduct fresh elections in a part of Bharatpur city has been greeted with widespread condemnation from media, civil society and the legal fraternity.

Bharatpur is one of the last constituencies from the 14 May local elections in three provinces to be counted, and is hotly contested because the Nepali Congress withdrew its sure-to-win mayor candidate to allow Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s daughter, Renu, a chance.

However, the UML’s Devi Gyawali had been leading in the counting till last week  by a narrow margin. When it looked like the ballots from Ward 19 were also going in   favour, Maoist cadre disrupted the counting on the night of 28 May, tearing up ballot papers. Ony Ward 19 and 20 of the 30 wards in Bharatpur were remaining to be counted.

Counting was suspended, two Maoist part members were arrested for vandalism and later released. The Election Commission sent an inquiry team, which interviewed eye witnesses, and it sent a second team which found out that only 90 ballot papers had been torn.

However, one week later, the Election Commission said “in accordance with the law” it would conduct a repoll in Ward 19. There was bitter debate within the Commission itself between Chief Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav and one of his colleagues Narendra Dahal.

Narendra Dahal had maintained that the decision to repoll would set a dangerous precedent for the losing side in future elections to tear up some ballot papers during counting to force fresh elections. However, Yadav is said to have rejected the dissenting note. The Commissioners were mostly in favour of continuing the count, but changed their minds overnight.

The UML’s K P Oli, whose candidate was leading in the Bharatpur count said the EC’s decision was “unacceptable” and threatened unspecified “political response”. He accused the EC of being under political duress and hinted that the UML may challenge the decision in the court.

On Saturday, the UML’s youth wing burnt effigies of Commisioner Yadav and student leaders said the repolling decision had “rewarded criminals”.

Constitutional lawyer Bhimarjun Acharya told the media that the EC had openly admitted to being swayed by political pressure and had lost its independence. “The act looks like a deliberate attempt to change the outcome of an election by forcing a recount, and is proof to others that they can do the same in the next phase and in future elections,” Acharya added.

Former Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Upreti tweeted: ‘Quarantining 90, ballots Vote should have been counted.’ He also said that flaws in electoral laws could be corrected by a court verdict as is done in other countries.

The social media was swept with mostly negative comments about the EC decision, most users ridiculing the EC. Sunday morning newspapers also had scathing editorials and critical page 1 coverage of the decision.

Meanwhile, UML member Gunjaman BK and advocate Tulsiram Pandey filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court on Sunday against the EC’s decision to re-conduct elections in Ward 19 of Bharatpur. The court is likely to give its verdict on the writ on Monday itself.


Who will be the new Chief Sec?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017
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Shanta Lal Subedi

Shanta Lal Subedi

From the Nepali Press

Ram Bahadur Rawal in Nepal magazine, 28 May-3 June

As Chief Secretary Somlal Subedi prepares to move to the Philippines to join Asian Development Bank (ADB) as its Alternate Executive Director, there is considerable speculation about who will succeed him?

If Subedi resigns a week before joining the ADB on 16 July, Secretary Dhan Bahadur Tamang will be the senior-most bureaucrat to replace him. If not, Tamang’s five-year tenure as Secretary will be over, and he will have to retire without the ultimate promotion of a bureaucrat. But even if gets promoted to Chief Secretary, he will have to retire due to the 58-year age limit in less than four months.

If Subedi delays his move to Manila by one week, Tamang will have retired by then, and Secretary Rajendra Kishor Chhetri will be senior-most. But he, too, will have to retire due to the age limit in less than six months.

Shanta Bahadur Shrestha

Shanta Bahadur Shrestha

Next in line are Narayan Malego, Shanta Bahadur Shrestha and Shanta Raj Subedi who were all promoted to secretaries the same day, so have equal rankings. But Malego is turning 58 in two months, and the government is unlikely to pick a new Chief Secretary for such a short period. Tamang and Chhetri may also have little chance for the same reason.

So the race to the highest post in the bureaucracy boils down to just two candidates: Shanta Raj Subedi and Shanta Bahadur Shrestha. The two are not just namesakes, but are also backed by the same Maoist party but with the blessings from different leaders. While Subedi is closer to Maoist-Centre Vice President Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Shrestha is supported by party secretary Barshaman Pun.

But there is going to be a new prime minister from another party just as their appointment date nears. They will have to win confidence of the NC’s Sher Bahadur Deuba who seems to have his own favourite: the much more junior Lok Darshan Regmi.

The current Home Secretary Regmi is known for being in the good books of all politicians, and sources say he has already begun lobbying. If Deuba wants to give him the job, he will have to delay the appointment of the new Chief Secretary until both Subedi and Shrestha retire due to their age limits.

Administration expert Bhim Dev Bhatta says: “The ability to please the Prime Minister should not be a qualification. We need a Chief Secretary who is active, has leadership skills, can coordinate with all ministries and is nationally and internationally influential.”


Teaching Nepali in China

Sunday, May 28th, 2017
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From the Nepali Press

Tufan Neupane in Beijing, Himal Khabarpatrika, 28 May – 3 June

As China’s influence and investment grows internationally, there is growing interest in learning English among the Chinese. However, while the rest of the China is learning English, Sing Yung has found herself drawn to the Nepali language.

Nepal China

Sin arrived in Santong Province 15 years ago to start college at the Communication University of China (CUC) in Beijing and decided to take up an additional foreign language as well. Her parents had learnt about a small Himalayan country that bordered China and Nepali seemed like an exotic thing to do.

“I found Devnagari script quite different from English letters and Chinese characters that I was used to, and I was drawn to learn the language,” says Sin, who is now a PhD student of Nepali language at Tribhuvan University under the supervision of Prof Madhav Pokhrel, who has given her the the Nepali name ‘Indira’.

Sin isn’t only passionate about learning Nepali language, but is equally interested to understand Nepali history, culture, society, journalism and religion. One of the papers for her Master in Journalism degree from CUC in 2012 was titled ‘Analysis of Chinese news in the Nepali media’. In 2013 she studied Nepali at the Campus of International Languages in Kathmandu under a Chinese government scholarship.

Sin has visited Nepal 16 times, and plays a role in the collaboration of CUC with Tribhuvan University and the Campus of International Languages. Seeing the rise in number of Chinese visiting Nepal for trade, tourism, volunteering and education, she is happy her efforts have paid off.

She became the head of the Nepali Language Department at CUC in Beijing from where 44 Chinese students have graduated under her tutelage. Her students are either working in Chinese Radio International or at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. The others have themselves gone on to teach Nepali at various Chinese universities.

Currently affiliated with Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), Sin recently had its Nepal Study Centre inaugurated by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during his China visit. She now wants Tribhuvan University and BFSU to collaborate in educational exchange programs.

Yung is also actively involved in translating Nepali books, and is in the final stages of completing the Mandarin edition of Diamon Sumshere Rana’s historical novel, Seto Bagh. Her teacher has also translated Muna Madan, the Nepali classic by Laxmi Prasad Devkota of a Nepali trader who dies in Tibet, leaving behind a young wife in Kathmandu.

Says Sin: “Muna Madan carries historic significance for Nepal-China relations, and we need more government support for the translation and research of such books.”

Read also:

The Chinese are coming, Claire Li Yingxue


 

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