26 Dec 2014 -1 Jan 2015 #738

Playing the shame game

The same handful of ‘leaders’ are jockeying in the back rooms for political, and personal, gain at the expense of nearly 30 million people
Marty Logan

After nearly 5 years, it feels good to be back in Kathmandu, visiting family. Despite some shiny new buildings and wider roads it doesn’t appear that much has changed: dusty dogs still sprawl in the gutters, sun seekers emerge onto the sidewalks with the rise of the winter morning sun, and the electricity disappears for large chunks of time each day.

All these invoke some sort of twisted nostalgia, admittedly available only to those of us with a return ticket in our pockets. 

What I find irksome though is that the Birendra International Convention Centre (BICC) which was converted into a Constituent Assembly remains home to 601 Nepalis ostensibly at work drafting a new constitution. To an outsider, what really appears to be happening is that the same handful of ‘leaders’ are jockeying in the back rooms for political, and personal, gain at the expense of nearly 30 million people.

I have always marveled at the patience of the Nepali people. And how utterly disappointing it is to think back to April 2006, when I walked with tens of thousands of people on the Ring Road, men, women and children marching purposefully to a bright new future. Today, they are still sitting in the dark for half the day.

Editorials in the Nepali Times are still optimistic that the new constitution will happen, and remove a yoke that has been dragging down the country’s development for six years. I wished I shared that optimism.

However, in the interest of doing something other than naysay, I propose the following: tally up the amount of money that has been spent so far paying the salaries of CA members, start a meter running from that figure and update it every second, like a clock. Place that running total on a sign near the BICC where the party leaders are likely to see it each day. It will remind them, and everyone else passing by, that they are being paid to do nothing, at least based on the lack of a constitution to date. If the leaders are in fact influenced by public opinion, this just might turn up the heat.

If authorities don’t allow a physical sign to be erected, I suggest that an online news site put one on a conspicuous part of its homepage like the ‘Death Clock’ that looks at how tax dollars for federal security spending in the United States could be reallocated through interactive graphics.

I’ve been told that Nepalis no longer care about the millions being spent on constitution-making, or even if a new law of the land emerges by 22 January. While I couldn’t blame them for such apathy and pessimism, part of me would mourn the death of the revolutionary spirit that I witnessed on the Ring Road in 2006.

Marty Logan worked in Nepal from 2005 to 2010, first as a desk editor at Nepali Times and then at the United Nations. He now lives with his family in Canada.

Read also:

Mixed signals, Editorial

One month to go, Editorial

Let’s get back to work, Editorial

Contentious consensus, Anurag Acharya

April 2006