Nepali Times Asian Paints
State Of The State
An April uprising


In a bid to propitiate the stars, ensure better feng shui and prevent US attacks, the Burmeli junta shifted its capital from Rangoon to Pyinmana last year. It is 320 km away in the middle of nowhere.

To lure bureaucrats away from their lucrative moonlighting assignments and profitable gasoline ration coupons in the old capital, Gen Than Shwe is offering them a hefty salary hike. SLORC, as the junta previously called itself in classic Orwellian doublespeak, has announced up to 1000 percent pay raise for senior bureaucrats. The surname of 'Royal City' has been added to Pyinmana to make it sound less like the boondocks, but Rangoon-based dips have refused to relocate. After all, there is no salary hike for them. Dictatorial regimes everywhere after a while start becoming irrational and start doing silly things.

Given the similarities in the isolationist trajectories of their junta and ours, it is quite possible that jarsabs here may also decide one fine day that the capital should be shifted to Gorkha. As the cradle of the dynasty that ruled a never-colonised land it would also be removed from the foreigner-infested Valley. For all intents and purposes, by relocating to Pokhara for the past month the chairman of the council of ministers has already shifted the capital. It's the security chiefs, cabinet ministers and administrators who commute.

Running the kingdom from a temporary retreat must be costing the exchequer quite a bundle but no one is counting. When the king was stationed at Itahari barracks of the RNA, ministers were regularly ferried by air. Military and chartered choppers now frequent the Pokhara-Kathmandu air route. US emissary Donald Camp flew in last month and flew out immediately to Pokhara, although the king came to Kathmandu to receive the Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan. The to-and-fros will probably continue for a while longer as even cabinet ministers are 'granted audiences' at Lakeside. The Kathmandu grapevine has it that even when he is in town, the king prefers to reside on Nagarjun rather than the repainted Narayanhiti.

Strongmen like to add their own qualifiers to the word 'democracy'. Gen Than Shwe says he's erecting a 'disciplined democracy'. King Gyanendra's roadmap is supposed to usher in 'meaningful democracy'. Both defy logic. And just as there is no reason to keep Aung San Suu Kyi under detention, the continued imprisonment of Madhab Nepal, Narahari Acharya and Ram Chandra Poudel is equally arbitrary. Peace activists Krishna Pahari, journalist Shyam Shrestha, civil society motivator Devendra Raj Panday are still behind bars for supporting non-violent struggle. Juntas are terrified of peaceniks.

To build a town deep in the forest doesn't make much sense. Just as daft is to spend over Rs 60 million rupees to hand over a pair of rhinos to a European zoo. When wielders of power aren't accountable to anyone excesses are the norm. Despite seeing how generals in Islamabad and Rangoon thumb their noses, the international community hasn't yet seen that dictators don't care much for the sanctimonious sermons of self-declared do-gooders. Burma is a pariah state but the outside world hasn't even been able to free a Nobel peace laureate from the clutches of her ruthless captors.

Nepal's foreign friends must accept that no amount of diplomatic pressure will make a dent here. Our guys are as determined to safeguard 'national interests' as the Burmese junta. Juntas cloak themselves as the self-appointed guardians of the people and they can't be dislodged with good intentions and platitudes. And how do you reason with people who believe in a divine mission and in supernatural powers?

Nepal's seven party alliance must insist that diplomatic manipulators advocating unity between 'constitutional forces' must either deliver or keep quiet. Will an April uprising created by the renewed 12-point understanding allow the Maoists to gain an upper hand? If they do, we know who to blame.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)