Gyanendra: To Hell With the Bloody Crown, No More Sarcasms Please!
Author: DR.ABDUL RUFF Colachal
Nepal looks set for a new historical phase in its existence as a Himalayan nation, an under-developed country sandwiched between China and India. Ahead of the scheduled first national Assembly meet on 28 May, Nepalese authorities have banned rallies and mass meetings in strategic areas in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Venues covered by the ban include the Nepal palace King Gyanendra, the Crown Prince’s house, the hall where the assembly will sit, and the residence of the prime minister. The aim is to frustrate protests, rallies and mass meetings planned by political and civil society activists before the vote in the Assembly.The strict prohibition comes into force two days before the newly-elected Constitution Assembly is expected to meet to declare the country a republic.
Despite all this, there is a general belief that a republic will be declared on Wednesday when the assembly first sits. Historic change is approaching in Nepa lRoyal Palace into one of the other residences, as being proposed by the new emerging dispensation, but with surprisingly little fanfare. The assembly elected last month is empowered under the constitution to implement a republic, spelling the end of the centuries-old monarchy. But the mechanism has not been determined. Nor has a new government been formed, which many here say will have to happen before any motion on a republic can be drawn up. Up to now there has been no indication of whether King Gyanendra will finally lose his efforts to remain the king or move out of the palace.
As it stands, the top priorities of the Maoists include: To abolish the monarchy and proclaim Nepal as a Republic with a Presidential style of Government; To abrogate all existing unequal agreements (and treaties) with India and re-negotiate those of them, which are considered to be in Nepal’s interest; To merge the armed cadres of the Maoists (20,000-strong People’s Liberation Army) into the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) which will convert the royalist (Gurkha-dominated) army into a people’s army. And to stop the export of Gurkha mercenaries (currently numbering about 45, 000) to the Indian Army’s Gurkha Regiments. Obviously, the Maoist leader Prachanda would assume office as the President of Nepal. But a coalition government formation remains the bottle neck for the time being.
New Power Equations
The Maoists had emerged as the largest party in last month’s constitutional assembly polls, defying all predictions before the elections, but has been rustling with finding partners for a government formation. The unexpected victory of the Maoist rebels in Nepal The general expectation was that the rebels would trail behind the country’s two largest political parties, the Nepali Congress, and the mainstream-left, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist. But both the parties were left far behind the Maoists who won half the seats chosen by the first-past-the-post system and gained about 30% of the votes for seats given by proportional representation. The polls were to form an assembly to re-write the country’s constitution and act as an interim parliament. The “outlawed” Maoists fought a decade-long brutal insurgency which left 13,000 people dead and caused massive damage to the economy before committing themselves to mainstream politics two years ago. The elections have surprised the former rebels themselves, baffled political observers and stunned the international community.
The Maoists claim that the people would take to the streets if the Maoists are denied a chance to form the government. They were contemplating joining hands with arch rival Madhesi parties to form a coalition government, after both the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML refused support. Since the Maoists and Madhesi parties have a clear mandate from the people through the Constituent Assembly, they still hope to form the new government. Nepal-Maoist accused the NC and UML of holding on to power under some pretext or the other even after their defeat in the polls. “They are making attempts to remain in power against the people’s verdict but they are sure to fail,” the Maoist leader Dr. Bhattarai said.
Maoist leader Prachanda, whose labor wing has been solely blamed for leading to the closure of a number of industries, however, has pledged that there will be complete industrial security after Maoists come to power. He appealed to the business community to invest more in commerce and industry. Bhattarai left no stone unturned to woo the business community’s support for Maoists and complained that the latter have not yet fully won them over despite sincere efforts.
Nepal and India
The Maoists, elected to head a new government in the Himalayan country plan to scrap the 58-year-old Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty and have a fresh pact reflecting new realities. During the poll campaign, the Maoists headed by the 54-year-old former school teacher, Prachanda, had said the treaty was “unequal” which needed to be abrogated, a demand which was also made in the Himalayan nation eight years back. Under the treaty, people living in both countries could freely travel across the border for employment and reside in either place.
There has been a resentment in India. India has been trying to derail the government by engineering a coup. Bhattarai claimed that the Maoist government to come would further consolidate ties with India. “India’s minor assistance in this context would be a great boost for us. India’s economy is an ocean and ours is a well,” he said.
India, infested with huge weapons arsenals piled up over decades on common men’s resources, thinks it has legitimate right to keep Nepal under full control as it has already done with Kashmir.
US Opposes While UN supports
Although the former US president Cater who was among the international observers appreciated the conduct of poll and the outcome, the official USA has said that there was ‘no change’ in the status of Nepal’s Maoists, who currently figure in its list of terrorists despite their recent victory in the Constituent Assembly polls. “I don’t think there’s any change. There’s no change in their status,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, commenting on May 07 on the issue in the backdrop of a meeting between a top American envoy in Kathmandu Nancy Powell and Maoist leader Prachanda. “There’s a particular listing. And I don’t have in front of me what exactly what it is, but at this point there’s no change,” he said. The Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist was added by the US in its Terror Watch List in 2004. Since then, US has refused to change the status or remove the Maoist Party from the list. However, the views expressed now show that the decision may be revised in due course.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the UN is prepared to offer continued support for the conclusion of the peace process and for the country’s lasting development. Additionally, both his Special Representative and Resident Coordinator will provide whatever the new government, once formed, may request. “These are critical times for long-term stability in Nepal. United Nations will remain by the side of the people and leaders of Nepal in the historic tasks of political and social transformation on which they have embarked. Short-term differences should not distract them from governing by consensus and from cooperating in the vital task of constitution-making,” he said. But he warned that “the election is only a milestone in the peace process,” noting that “the real work of addressing the nation’s deeper socio-economic difficulties and drafting a constitution that reflects the will of the entire nation only begins now.” The Secretary-General wrote that he is encouraged by the commitment and cooperation that the Maoists, who performed well at the elections, and called on the other political parties to remain focused on the task of constitution building.
Does, then, the UN compensate for the USA’s anti-Nepal feelings espoused and supported by Israel? However, more than the USA it is India that Nepalese new leadership should be beware of.