Twenty years ago this week, it is almost as if we all had a premonition of the disaster that awaited the country later in 2001. There was a sense of foreboding at the intensifying insurgency, the political disarray in the democratic process, and dysfunctional governance. In fact, there are a lot of aspects of 2001 that are familiar to us here in 2021.
Our Editorial in Nepali Times #26 of 19-25 January 2001 looked at the Nepali Congress party convention in Pokhara where Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was facing a mutiny by supporters of Sher Bahadur Deuba. Very similar to the power struggle that is going on now within the nearly-split Nepal Communist Party.
This excerpt from the Editorial will show readers that in Nepal history repeats itself as a farce:
The Congress’ Kumbha Mela in Pokhara this weekend promises some pyrotechnics, but nothing major—just another boring bout between Girija Koirala and the mentors of Sher Bahadur Deuba.
No one expects a real resolution of the crisis of leadership and governance in this country post-Pokhara. And even though the Prime Minister, who is also party supremo, seems to have got his electoral sums right and will probably keep both posts, this is unlikely to do anything to placate the Deuba squad. Koirala sits on two chairs, and the rebels will continue trying to pull both chairs from under him.
So nothing has really changed, except this feeling of free fall. The government is getting ready to arm a paramilitary force, and international arms dealers are circling like vultures. The ruling party had better sort out its power struggle for this country’s sake, if not their own. Just look at the alternative. Trapped by the irreversible slogans of their own revolution, the ultra-left is inviting a crisis that could one day even cost us our independence. Those on the far right are set on a course of democratic reversal. And what does the government do? It plays petty games by blocking news and current affairs on FM, forgetting that rumours like the ones that fanned the flames last month can only be countered by open, transparent and responsible media.
Scapegoating selected media, and blaming the messenger is not going to mask the incompetence of a government that demanded an apology from a foreign actor for something he never said. Banning news on FM is the kind of decision we have come to expect from officials so insecure that they are afraid of their own shadow.
From the archives of Nepali Times of the past 20 years, site search: www.nepalitimes.com