Nepali Times
Here And There
Lak leaving


It's sad to leave a place after nearly four years. Sadder still, things are so gloomy, hope so distant. It's frightening that this country has yet to figure out how it wants to be governed. My own firmly held conviction is that most Nepalis would like what they were promised after the Jana Andolan in 1990-democracy, democracy and more democracy. But increasingly, they're lapsing into sullen silence about the choices on offer, and who can blame them.

It's simply not true that democracy has failed here. The mutterings of those who prospered under the old Panchayat system are hollow and unhelpful. And it's been clear for months now that there can be no return to authoritarian monarchy. The country is worse off than it was before 4 October 2002. The king's recent interview to Time magazine just added to the air of gloom. The monarchy is in real trouble in Nepal, and those in favour of the institution must do more than hold public felicitation ceremonies and ban republican student meetings.

Those who agitate on the streets against the monarchy aren't exactly harbingers of hope either. Is it really enough just to chant slogans, fight with the police and organise discussions about republicanism? No, it's not. A republican state is a tricky thing. Moving from one form of government to another takes patience, compromise and a clear sense of where one is going. There must be a plan that has the overwhelming support of the people whose lives and certainties you wish to change. That isn't the case right now.
Another reason for gloom is the unforgivable behaviour of most mainstream media outlets at the moment.

Happily, this newspaper and its sister publications are excluded. The agitation against The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post is a risky game that can backfire against those who play it. If the two newspapers are indeed in breach of the law, they should be prosecuted. But this is up to the courts, not the publishers of rival papers, who risk trampling on hard won press freedoms because they're worried about losing money in a circulation battle. Shame on you all.

The Maoists also depress me. They have little new to say and only repeat old nostrums that haven't captured the popular imagination in the past. They have influence, even control, over large areas of the countryside but they seem more concerned with petty authority there than with demonstrating their ability to govern fairly or ably.

Last and least, our dire development sector. Nepal's two most influential donors, Britain and America, now do more to support civil war than stop it. Others are content to let projects stutter or stop completely while writing ever more convoluted and pointless reports. Hats off at least to the European Union for threatening to pull out if things don't improve here soon. The best we can hope for is generational change. The young people of today are going to do a better job, I just know it. Never trust anyone over 30.

Daniel Lak is moving to Miami, Florida and will be writing for the Nepali Times from America.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)