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Reconstruction of Rani Pokhari halted

Thursday, December 28th, 2017
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Photo: Gopen Rai

Photo: Gopen Rai

The Department of Archaeology(DOA) has directed Kathmandu Metropolitan City(KMC) to halt the reconstruction of Rani Pokhari after a series of controversies surrounding the use of concrete in restoration process.

The decision was made at a meeting attended by Director General of DOA Bhesh Narayan Dahal, KMC Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi and Secretary of National Reconstruction Authority on Thursday.

An 11-member committee has been formed under former Director General of DOA Bishnu Raj Karki to conduct a study on the reconstruction of Rani Pokhari and prepare a report within 15 days. The meeting also decided to halt the ongoing reconstruction till the report is submitted.

The reconstruction of the historic pond has been mired in controversy after the KMC used concrete in building a 10-feet retaining wall on the southern side of the pond. On Tuesday locals and heritage conservationists had padlocked the pond in presence of the deputy mayor, who had promised to use her authority to stop the use of concrete in the reconstruction of heritage site. But a couple of hours later the mayor had unlocked the gates to go on a site visit maintaining that the reconstruction was being carried out as per the designs approved by the DOA.

Read also: On Queen’s Pond

 


Pledges unkept

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017
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naya patrila

From the Nepali Press

Janardan Baral in Naya Patrika, 26 December

Only 6.5% of the total amount of earthquake relief aid promised during an international pledging conference in Kathmandu in July 2015 has been received. Donors pledged a total of Rs410 billion ($4 billion) of which the government has only received Rs 26 billion, says the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

Of the big donors, the government has only received Rs 6.62 billion from the World Bank, Rs 4.9 billion from Japan,  Rs 3.70 billion from International Monetary Fund, Rs 3.28 billion from EU and Rs 2.58 billion from ADB. None of the money promised by 12 countries has come in, although a few of them have signed agreements with the government.

The government is yet to sign an agreement with the Saudi Fund which committed Rs 3 billion, Canada which had pledged Rs 1.5 billion and Sweden which had promised Rs 1 billion. There has not been a followup agreement with Austria and Turkey, which also promised help.

According to the NRA, Nepal has signed agreements worth Rs 306 billion for reconstruction, which is 75% of the total pledged. But many countries included their regular grants as well as relief in the committed amount, which brings the actual pledged amount to Rs 343 billion. To date, only Rs 75 billion has been spent on reconstruction.

“They made announcements of generous pledges after the earthquake, but we never heard from them again, we will have to follow-up with them,” says NRA Chief Yubaraj Bhusal, who acknowledges that there are spending bottlenecks. Even if Nepal receives all the committed money, there will be a shortfall of Rs 4.5 billion. “We may have to call another donor conference next year to cover the shortfall,” adds Bhusal.

Likewise Norway has released only Rs 210 million of the promised Rs 1.59 billion, Korea Rs 570 million of the announced 1 billion and Switzerland Rs 770 million of the Rs 2.50 billion pledged.

 

India

Announced: Rs 140 billion

Committed: Rs 100 billion

Received: Rs 0

China

Announced: Rs 76.69 billion

Committed: Rs 76.69 billion

Received: Rs 1 billion

ADB

Announced: Rs 60 billion

Committed: Rs 21 billion

Disbursed: Rs 2.58 billion

World Bank

Announced: Rs 50 billion

Committed: Rs 30 billion

Disbursed: Rs 6.61 billion

Japan

Announced: Rs 26 billion

Committed: Rs 24.70 billion

Received: Rs 4.9 billion

US

Announced: Rs 13 billion

Committed: Rs 15.97 billion

Received: Rs 1.43 million

European Union

Announced: Rs 11.74 billion

Committed: Rs 11.18 billion

Received: Rs 3.28 billion

UK

Announced: Rs 11 billion

Committed: Rs 16.55 billion

Received: Rs 990 million

International Monetary Fund

Announced: Rs 5 billion

Committed: Rs 5 billion

Received: Rs 3.70 billion

Germany

Announced: Rs 3.35  billion

Committed: Rs 3.40 billion

Received: Rs 0

 

 


Letter to Comrade Oli

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
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kp oli portrait

Pic: Bikram Rai

From the Nepali Press

Ameet Dhakal in www.setopati.com,  19 December

Dear Comrade K P Oli

After the UML emerged as the largest party, you showed magnanimity by saying election bitterness was over and you will treat the NC with respect.

But your action soon went as cold as a Kathmandu winter.

You accused Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of trying to stay put for a few more months, and you also warned that your men will not take their oaths of office under provincial chiefs appointed by this government. Organising a press meet at a five-star hotel, you and Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal also accused Deuba of violating the Constitution.

Charged up by your fiery words, UML-Maoist cadres threatened to oust Deuba if he did not resign. But your allegation that Deuba is reluctant to vacate Baluwatar even after suffering a humiliating defeat is not substantiated. Deuba is just a caretaker Prime Minister, and he cannot cling on to power even if he wants to.

Everything rests on the Election Commission publishing the official final results of elections. Even after that, Deuba will not have a say in the formation of the new government. The President will initiate and oversee this process.

Deuba will have only one role in handing over power: he will have to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new PM, congratulate him/her and then head home. So, what is the point in accusing Deuba of trying to prolong his tenure?

Dear Comrade Chairman, it seems you are miffed at Deuba for passing an ordinance on the formation of the Upper House (National Assembly) and sending it to the President for formal ratification. You have also accused Deuba of exerting pressure on the President to act against the Constitution.

It is a pity that Parliament was allowed to be dissolved without passing this bill on the formation of the NA, and the Deuba government had to do it through an ordinance.

Major parties failed to forge a consensus on the NA formation law, and you and your own UML were behind not allowing the government to pass it through a majority vote.

Dear Chairman Comrade, tell us what would you have done if you were Prime Minister instead of Deuba? You argue this ordinance is against the Constitution because it proposes a Single Transferrable Voting (STV) system to elect the A. But STV is a type of Proportional Representation (PR) system, which is recognised by the Constitution.

Lawyers close to your party are now defending you saying that the Constitution does not recognise the term STV. This is hilarious. It is like two brothers who agreed to buy a dog, and one of them bought a puppy, so the other one protested saying the deal was to buy a dog, not a puppy.

Since the NA is the Upper House, it should be as inclusive as possible. In 1990, the NC had agreed to form the Upper House through the STV system despite having a majority in the Lower House. Else, the UML would have no presence at all in the Upper House. The UML should learn from what the NC did back then.

The charges that you leveled on Deuba are now directed against you and the President. You also indirectly put pressure on the EC to publish the final results within a week so you could become the next PM. The EC has made it clear it can publish the final results only when the Upper House is formed. Otherwise, it will not be able to ensure 33% representation of women in the Lower House. You will have to shoulder the blame if the EC succumbs to pressure, and Parliament does not have 33% women as mandated by the Constitution.

Dear Comrade, there is no shortcut for you to become the next PM. You will have to wait until Chiefs of Provinces are appointed, Members of State Assemblies take their oaths and the National Assembly is formed.

You are set to rule the country for the next five years. You are faced with tremendous challenges and opportunities. At a time when you need to be a magnanimous and unifying figure, you are behaving like an arrogant politico.


Why is the Burmese general here?

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
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Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 8.17.59 PM

BBC Nepali, 12 December

The Burmese Army Chief who is accused of masterminding ethnic cleansing on his country’s Rohingya people is in Kathmandu on a four-day visit. The Nepal Army said he was here to study Nepal’s peace process, especially the demobilisation of the rebel fighters.

Several human rights activists have criticised the visit of someone accused to gross human rights violations, and said the timing was not right. However, Nepali officials maintain that the Rohingya issue is Burma’s internal affair and had nothing to do with Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s visit to Nepal.

Some 600,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since August, which the United Nations has characterised as a ‘textbook case of ethnic cleansing’. This has brought widespread international criticism of Burma’s democracy warrior and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The visit exposes Nepal’s lack of adherence to its responsibility to uphold international law, and shows support for gross violations of human rights,” said activist Govinda Bandi. Other activists say Nepal should have been much more sensitive to the fact that it has just been voted into the UN Human Rights Council.

Nepal Army spokesman Nainraj Dahal said: “This visit was solely intended to improve bilateral relations, and there has been no discussion at the level of the Nepal government or Nepal Army about the international reaction.”

Former Nepal Army General Balananda Sharma who has worked on the Burmese peace process agreed that Gen Haing’s visit should not be seen from the perspective of Burma’s internal affairs.

Gen Sharma was in charge of the secretariat managing the integration of Maoist fighters into the Nepal Army and added: “They also need to end their 70-year-old insurgencies, it is good he is here to hear about our experience in the peace process.” Of the insurgent groups in Burma, the government has a peace agreement with eight and efforts are on to bring 13 others into a truce.

This is not the first time that senior Burmese officials and political leaders have visited Nepal to meet the prime minister and politicians.

Nepali activists say officials here should alert Burmese military personnel about the need to investigate war crimes. But others also say that the process of Burma’s efforts to ensure transitional justice should not be derailed by its Rohingya crisis.


The rise of the red

Saturday, December 9th, 2017
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Photo: Bikram Rai

Photo: Bikram Rai

The Left Alliance between the UML and the Maoists was expected to win parliamentary and provincial elections, but not so thunderously.

After two nights and one day of vote counting, it looks like the Left Alliance will not only win an absolute majority, but could also secure a two-thirds.

As of Saturday morning, the UML and the Maoists have altogether won 28 and are leading in 77 constituencies – nearly two thirds of 165 parliamentary seats under the First Past the Post (FPTP) system.

The Left Alliance may fall short of winning a two-third under the FPTP system, but it could make up for it by winning most of the 110 seats under the Proportional Representation (PR) system. If that happens, the Communists will not only rule Nepal for the next five years but could also amend any clauses of the Constitution.

The UML alone has already won 23 seats and is leading 49 constituencies. The Maoists have won 5 seats and are leading in 27 seats. These early results show that they will also win an overwhelming number of PR votes.

The ruling Nepali Congress is trailing behind the Maoists, and not the UML. It has won just 4 seats so far and is leading in 20 constituencies – a number just slightly better than the combined performance of two Madhes-based parties. The Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and the Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal are leading in 9 and 8 constituencies respectively.

While most NC candidates bit the dust at the hands of UML-Maoist candidates in the hills, it was the Madhesi parties that pushed them to a corner in the Tarai. Even in the elections for provincial assemblies, the so-called Democratic Alliance between the NC, the Madhesis and the royalist RPPs is lagging far behind the Left Alliance.

The rise of the Communists and the fall of the NC means that people have voted for political stability and economic prosperity – a promise the UML-Maoists made ahead of elections. It also shows that the people did not believe the NC’s warnings that the UML-Maoists would hijack democracy and impose authoritarian rule.

Analysts say the main reasons for the NC’s decline were its role during the Indian blockade, support for corrupt leaders, lack of an appealing slogan, anti-incumbency factor and weak party organisation.

On the other hand, the Left Alliance understood what the people wanted after decades of turbulent transition. UML Chair KP Oli’s nationalist image also worked in their favour. Most importantly, the UML’s party organisation was much stronger than the NC’s, and it was consolidated when it forged an alliance with the Maoists.

Many NC heavyweights have already bitten the dust and are lagging far behind UML-Maoist candidates. Although NC President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is on his way to seal another victory in Dadeldhura, other NC leaders like Ram Chandra Poudel, Bimalendra Nidhi, Shekhar Koirala, Ram Saran Mahat, Prakash Sharan Mahat, Nabindra Raj Joshi and Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar have already lost or are losing.

In Kathmandu, the victories of Prakash Man Singh, Gagan Thapa and Rajan KC have spared the NC’s blushes. After securing a thrilling victory over his closest rival UML’s Rajan Bhattarai, Thapa said: “The NC will see even worse days if we do not reform the party.”

On the other hand, UML Chair KP Oli is winning by a huge margin. So are Madhav Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Subash Nembang and Yogesh Bhattarai. Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Barsaman Pun and others are also winning comfortably.

The poor performance of the pro-Hindu, royalist RPPs mean that people are against the idea of mixing politics with religion. Bibeksheel Sajha Party, an alternative force promising political reforms, has not won a single seat. But some of its candidates, especially journalist-turned-politician Rabindra Mishra, have given tough fights to NC and UML heavyweights. This shows that it may win a respectable total of PR votes.

In Gorkha-2, after initially lagging behind Maoist candidate Narayan Kaji Shrestha, NC-backed Naya Shakti party Chair Baburam Bhattarai is leading. But he may be the only candidate to win from Naya Shakti.

Om Astha Rai


Kathmandu hosts global animal conference

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
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(Right to left) Andrew Rowan, executive director of the Humane Society; Alex Mayers, the Donkey Sanctuary; and Chu Tseng-Hung, Taiwanese activist during the conference on Tuesday.

(Right to left) Andrew Rowan, executive director of the Humane Society; Alex Mayers, the Donkey Sanctuary; and Chu Tseng-Hung, Taiwanese activist. All photos: Ryan Chang

RYAN CHANG

Hundreds of experts from the world’s leading animal welfare organisations concluded the three-day Asia for Animals Conference in Kathmandu on Tuesday. Held for the first time in Nepal, it drew participants from over 45 countries.

Hosted by the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal, renowned animal scholars and advocates such as Grace Ge Grabriel, Andrew Rowan, Suzanne Rogers and Chu Tseng-Hung spoke about saving endangered wildlife, preventing cruelty to animals and ways to manage urban fauna.

Hemanta Mishra RYAN CHANG

Hemanta Raj Mishra delivers a keynote speech at the Asia for Animals Conference, speaking about his decades-worth of experiences in Nepalese animal conservation.

Nepal’s own pioneering conservationist and founder of the Chitwan National Park, Hemanta Raj Mishra, opened the conference with a retrospective look at how the country’s nature conservation program survived a decade of civil strife.

“Despite political differences, and there really are too many political parties out there today, local communities wholly supported wildlife and displayed courage and competency in crisis,” he said. “It is encouraging to see that tiger poaching has gone down in recent years, while rhino numbers are increasing by the hundreds.”

Heartbreaking footage of dogs, cats, and donkeys being mistreated were shown during the sessions, alongside success stories and case studies of community involvement around the world to improve animal welfare.

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Changing Human Behaviour’, and indeed that was seen as the key to caring for animals in a meaningful way. Experts emphasised educating local communities across Asia on scientific and humane methods to interact with animals.

Indian environmentalist and historian Nanditha Krishna said: “You cannot succeed by just issuing laws. The only way we can change human behaviour is by going to village by village and talking.”

Animal Nepal president Pramada Shah introduces the concept of “community dogs” in Nepal to an international audience.

Animal Nepal president Pramada Shah introduces the concept of “community dogs” in Nepal to an international audience.

Pramada Shah of Animal Nepal highlighted how Lalitpur and Kathmandu municipalities in Nepal have slowly changed their attitude towards what they used to see as ‘stray’ dogs. Municipalities that used to poison dogs are now supporting campaigns to splay and treat street canines.

Indeed, Kathmandu has made dramatic strides in reducing the population of its street dogs and also in their mistreatment. Volunteer groups have established ‘mobile vet’ hotlines and involved local communities to monitor the situation, and fewer injured animals are coming in from road accidents and infections.

“What we want is a cruelty free society. It’s innate in our culture.” said Shah. “I’m positive, in this day and age that Nepalis are a progressive people. ”

Nepal’s animal rights movement scored a major victory just days before the Conference with the Supreme Court of Nepal putting a ban last week on culling of street dogs, as well as the use of poison to control dog populations.

Department of Livestock Services Secretary Bala Ram Thapa asks the panel on how the government can support more humane slaughter of buffaloes and cross-collaboration between organisations.

Department of Livestock Services Secretary Bala Ram Thapa asks the panel on how the government can support more humane slaughter of buffaloes and cross-collaboration between organisations.

Efforts to stop illegal wildlife trafficking were mentioned, as Dr Bala Ram Thapa from the Government of Nepal brought up an arrest in October of six persons smuggling chimpanzees and exotic birds through Tribhuvan International Airport.

“Make no mistake,” Thapa said of the incident, “the criminals will be in jail for 20 years.”

Andrew Rowan, executive director of the Humane Society of the United States, said that although animal welfare in Nepal has improved there is still much more work to be done.  He says that animal groups in Nepal should be working more closely together, and under the backing of standardised government law.

“There are many drafts of laws being made today, but the next step is to pass them.” said Rowan.

The conference ends with a trip on Wednesday to Chitwan National Park, where endangered mammals such as Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinoceros are kept.

 


Future imperfect

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
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Photo: Gopen Rai

Photo: Gopen Rai

The future of more than 200 Nepali medical students in Bangladesh hangs in the balance as their colleges are either unregistered or black-listed.

In the first week of October, Nepal’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Chop Lal Bhusal, sent a memo to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), along with the list of 37 black-listed Bangladeshi colleges where Nepali students have been enrolled.

Nearly two months later, despite receiving the letter from the MoFA, neither the Ministry of Education (MoE) nor the Nepal Medical Council (NMC) has initiated any efforts to ‘rescue’ them. If not transferred to other colleges, these students will be barred from applying for internship, and will not become doctors.

That ambassador Bhusal’s memo from Dhaka has not prodded Nepali authorities is not surprising. What is surprising is that they allowed Nepali students to be duped by unscrupulous education consultancies even after being informed that the Bangladesh government has black-listed dozens of medical colleges. 

Last year, Nepal’s then ambassador to Bangladesh, Dhan Bahadur Oli, had sent a memo about four black-listed Bangladeshi medical colleges. He had also warned that more medical colleges were likely to be either shut down or black-listed for not complying with regulations and taking more foreign students than their actual quotas. 

After Oli’s memo from Dhaka, the MoE was mulling a moratorium on Nepali students’ entry into Bangladesh for medical education. But education consultancies, protected by politicians, forced the MoE to back off. 

NMC Chair Dharma Kanta Banskota says: “We initially barred students from going to Bangladesh for medical education, but then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal himself put pressure on us to not stop them. So we had to relent.” 

Since then, as many as 328 Nepali students have gone to study MBBS and BDS in Bangladesh, after obtaining No Objection Certificates from the MoE and Eligibility Certificate from the NMC. And more than 200 of them have landed in colleges not recognised by the Bangladesh government. 

Ambassador Bhusal accuses the MoE and the NMC of being influenced by education consultancies and risking the future of Nepali students. “Everyone is interested in the kickback, and no one cares for students,” he says.

Last year, the Nepal Embassy advised the MoE and the NMC to allow Nepali students to come to Bangladesh only after monitoring all Bangladeshi medical colleges. Neither the MoE nor the NMC heeded the embassy’s advice.

NMC member Bishwa Dawadi says: “It is practically not possible to monitor each and every medical college in Bangladesh, and monitoring will not guarantee that no student faces risks there.”

Around 3,500 Nepali students are currently studying in 74 medical colleges in Bangladesh. They spend anything between Rs 3.5 million to Rs 6 million to be doctor, and they have to pay at least Rs 500,000 to consultancies.

Ramu Sapkota


 

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