25-31 December 2015 #788

Nothing left to say

Excerpts of selected editorials from 2015

Diwakar Chettri

JANUARY

In previous Himalmedia Public Opinion Surveys conducted annually for the past 12 years, respondents used to be hopeful about the future. This time, let down once more, they were uncharacteristically apathetic and despondent. Never has there been such a wide gap between what the politicians say they want and what the people are interested in. In fact, more than 40% of the people couldn’t care less what kind of constitution is passed. More shockingly, an overwhelming 80% reject federalism based on ethnicity. 

16-22 January 2015 #741

FEBRUARY

There were all kinds of predictions that if the deadline of 22 January for a new constitution was not met the country was doomed. Two weeks later we are still chugging along. Negotiations have come to a halt, the political discourse has got more belligerent, and each side is waiting for the other to blink first — but no one seems particularly bothered by it. The people, who didn’t have much faith left in the leaders anyway, are struggling to survive amidst much more immediate concerns of shortages of gas, electricity, water, petrol. There is almost a sense of relief that a looming confrontation over a constitution that will satisfy nobody has once more been put off.

6-12 February 2015 #744

MARCH

Just like it took four days to get an Airbus out of the mud at Kathmandu airport last week, Nepal’s constitution is also proving to be a difficult one to get unstuck. And just as the jet averted a bigger disaster, perhaps by holding back a fatally flawed constitution we may actually have avoided a major upheaval. After nearly two months of not being in speaking terms, the various political formations in the country are holding preliminary talks about resuming talks. All sides have now vented off steam, there has been a lot of chest-thumping, sabre-rattling and name-calling. All have been suitably chastised by public disgust, and our impatient southern neighbour also seems to be twisting some tails.

13-19 March 2015 #749

APRIL

The effort to complete the peace process by passing a new constitution and giving the country’s economic development new balance and momentum is faltering. Some of the earlier goals of the revolution for a more inclusive democracy through ‘ethnic liberation’ have turned out to be empty slogans. It’s plain old vote-bank politics masquerading as ethnic and regional autonomy.

Most Nepalis have seen through this, but there are still some in the international community who hold on to the misconception that this is really a struggle for inclusion, identity and autonomy. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we can’t wake up someone who is pretending to sleep. However, both our big neighbours seem to be perfectly aware of the prospect of Nepal becoming unstable and affecting their national interest if we adopt the current formula of federalism in the new constitution.

3-9 April 2015 #752

MAY

What undermined our ability to deal promptly and adequately with post-earthquake search, rescue and relief was first and foremost a failure of politics. Earthquakes have tectonic origins and we call them ‘natural disasters’, but the devastation and loss of life they cause are often man-made. And the primary reason for such lethal negligence lies in politics – too much of it, or too little. When you have too much politics, it means elected officials spend so much time clawing at each other to get to power and plunder resources. When there is too little politics in a democracy, it erodes the accountability of elected officials. Nepal currently suffers from both: too much politics at the national level, and too little politics at the grassroots where we haven’t had local elections for 18 years.

1-7 May 2015 #756

JUNE

Like Krishna Mandir, Nepal is standing but needs more support. After speaking to officials and donors, we get the feeling money is not a problem as long as the government demonstrates the capacity for equitable, impartial and effective disbursement of housing grants and subsidies. Unfortunately, the government’s track record on compensation for conflict victims doesn’t bode well for post-quake reconstruction. Since perception is reality, and since trust in government’s transparency and accountability is so low, it is all the more urgent and important that the reconstruction agency be headed by a credible team that is apolitical, competent and (above all) honest. 

19-25 June 2015 #763

JULY

This was never a government that could multi-task. Now, three months on after the earthquake and one month after the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction, attention has shifted to getting a constitution over and done with. The reason for the rush is that the top four parties are in a hurry to get into government so (we presume) they can have their hands in the honeypot of the reconstruction budget. Earthquake relief has dropped off the media radar. Hundreds of thousands of people will require emergency food aid, medical attention and cash to rebuild in the coming months. All the government gives them now is assurances. The message seems to be: “Don’t bother us, we have to get the constitution done.”

24-30 July 2015 #768

AUGUST

The lesson from the Kailali killings on 24 August is never to leave maps in the hands of politicians. Never mix politics with boundaries. Demarcation is a technical subject with implications for viability that is best left to experts. Politicians just mess it up with vote-bank politics and short-term time horizons. For immediate firefighting, top leaders from all parties and groups must find a way that doesn’t involve more bloodshed.

28 Aug - 3 Sep 2015 #773

SEPTEMBER

Writing an inclusive, democratic constitution was supposed to be the final chapter in the country’s peace process, which has now lasted nearly as long as the conflict. In the past decade, Nepal has gone from war to peace, from a monarchy to republic, the former guerrillas have been disarmed and demobilised and some integrated into the national army to serve in UN peacekeeping. Under fire for delayed earthquake relief, politicians in Kathmandu tried to redeem themselves by putting constitution-writing on a “fast track” to show voters that they were not completely feckless. However, the draft they rushed to the Assembly had major flaws: clauses treated women as second class citizens, it left loopholes to muzzle the media, and didn’t satisfy the demands for greater autonomy from the leaders of the Madhesi and other marginalised ethnicities. 

11-17 September 2015 #775

OCTOBER

It is surprising that the world’s largest democracy and the United Nations have been so grudging in accepting this as a document that, while flawed, ended years of deadlock and can be the basis of an inclusive and durable constitution. To express its misgivings about the constitution, India has obstructed the flow of food, fuel and goods entering Nepal, hoping that the hardships the Nepali people are forced to suffer will compel Nepal’s rulers to buckle. What is hard to understand is why all the needless lies and deception? How does a thinly veiled border blockade help India’s national interest anyway? The move is foolish on so many levels that even sections of the international community, which had in recent years sub-contracted their Nepal policy to New Delhi, are aghast.

2-8 October 2015 #778

NOVEMBER

India expects us to wave the white flag. Our leaders are waving the national flag. Neither is a way out. Sooner or later (the sooner, the better) this blockade will come to an end. It must. It is aberrant, illegal, destabilising and detrimental to the longterm national interests of both India and Nepal. Of more immediate humanitarian concern is the effect that the blockade is having on the delivery of relief and construction material to nearly 2 million survivors of the earthquake so they can rebuild before a harsh Himalayan winter. This is an unfolding and ongoing disaster, and unlike the earthquake is completely human induced.

6-12 November 2015 #782

DECEMBER

One aspect of the 18-week-long Indian blockade of Nepal that has always baffled us is why New Delhi would want to inflict such harm on a little neighbour, and to a lesser degree, on itself. There are many theories about what ‘India’ really hopes to achieve with this siege, and it is unclear if India itself knows what India wants. Or maybe, as some have suggested, India is unwilling to divulge what it really wants. But we don’t need India to wreck our country, Nepal’s politicians are doing it just fine.

18-24 December 2015 #787

Read Also:

Worst year ever, Bidushi Dhungel

Years of living dangerously, Anurag Acharya

Deciding to de-escalating, Kanak Mani Dixit

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