Nepali Times
State Of The State
Wages of distortion


When Raghuji Pant went ballistic over UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's report to the Security Council, which mentioned in passing that a government of national unity 'remained desirable' in Nepal, the former journalist deserved and received the benefit of the doubt. English is not Pant's forte, and the difference between banchhniya (desirable) and abashyak (necessary) is not very distinct in Nepali.

But now that the whole phalanx of politicos that make up the anti-Maoist coalition has joined the chorus, it appears there was more to the statement of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's political advisor than what was lost in translation. This was clearly a case of wilful distortion on the part of Pant.

UNMIN is not very popular with the biggies of the 22-party alliance. Ram Chandra Paudel holds former UNMIN chief Ian Martin responsible for his lacklustre stint at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. Rakam Chemjong probably has a similar grouse against Karin Landgren and wants to seek a clarification from her to hide his own ineffectiveness.

The Madhes-based parties appear to be under the impression that the Chinese and the Indians would be happy to see Landgren and her team leave Nepal. When Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood said his government wanted the anti-Maoist league to take the peace process to its logical conclusion, almost a dozen ministers present at the dais didn't feel the statement was a breach of diplomatic protocol.

Perhaps even jealousy explains the resentment of junior ministers in PM Nepal's unwieldy 47-strong cabinet: UNMIN personnel breeze past in fancy SUVs while they have to break the windshields of malfunctioning cars to expend their frustration. But there is more to the current regime's distaste for UN agencies than mere pajeros and politics. The continuing involvement of the UN in Nepal's peace process has begun to hit the front organisations of the UML where it hurts the most - their bank accounts.

With its large bureaucracy and generous compensation packages, the UN system drinks up donor funds like an elephant. Other than a select group of mid-level professionals and suppliers, few locals benefit from the activities of UN agencies. There is a small clique of expatriates that keeps circulating between Cambodia, East Timor and Nepal, depending upon where the world body has more commitment from donors.

The INGOs are not happy at all. Prior to the arrival of UNMIN, INGOs and their local affiliates (NGOs) handled conflict-resolution and the peace-building industry on behalf of bilateral donors. There was a time when the Brits, the Swiss and the Scandinavians vied with each other to send Nepali experts across the world on observation trips. With a large slice of donor funding now being diverted to expensive enterprises like the UNDP-run Centre for Constitutional Dialogue, the INGOs have been left high and dry.

NGOs fronting for the UML now have little income to contribute to the coffers of their mother party. Since they can't demand a ride on the UNMIN gravy train, they never lose an opportunity to deride it in the hope that donors may thus be tempted to throw some more grants their way. From the perspective of NGO-entrepreneurs, it seems cruel that the installments on their Marutis go unpaid while foreign volunteers that worked for them until yesterday speed past them in duty-free White Elephants. If PM Nepal had his way, he would have thrown UNMIN out the day he took over from Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

The problem is the Nepal Army needs the goodwill of UNMIN to keep its lucrative peacekeeping accounts. That's the reason the Kathmandu media did an about turn and lined up behind the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council. UML bigwigs are past masters at eating their words, but this time even they may suffer light indigestion. The Bhadrakali brass knows that there is no fooling Karin Landgren, who may be soft-spoken but certainly doesn't mince her words.

If Rakam Chemjong insists on seeking a clarification, PM Nepal may be forced to reconstitute his cabinet for the ninth time in six months.

My way or the highway - FROM ISSUE #476 (13 NOV 2009 - 19 NOV 2009)
Blame game, by Prashant Jha - FROM ISSUE #476 (13 NOV 2009 - 19 NOV 2009)
United Nations for the nation - FROM ISSUE #475 (06 NOV 2009 - 12 NOV 2009)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)