Nepali Times
Guest Column
The silent majority


There was an erudite piece in a national daily the other day exhorting Nepal's so-called intellectual class to come out in support of the restore-the-democracy movement.

I'm afraid I'm not going to exactly follow that advice. Rather, here is a counter-question: why are those intellectuals and indeed the rest of the population, silent?

At a time when the present setup is beginning to resemble a runaway train, the need to restore sane governance is urgent. Here is my perception of what the people are looking to happen before any solid support to the political parties becomes possible or even desirable:

Girija Prasad Koirala must stop making a mockery of public credibility and let others take over when his second term as president of the Nepali Congress expires. A great deal of sniggering has already been heard in the media and the public is cynical about the whole process.

Is someone going to raise a hand if Koirala, in his dotage, insists on manipulating the rules to engineer a third term for himself? Unfortunately, the public postures of the rest of the NC leadership in this matter are suspiciously supine.

The UML must show unity of purpose among its own leadership, tone down its rhetorical arrogance and demonstrate real political clarity and consistency. All parties great and small must start demonstrating transparency in financial affairs. Corruption is common in all poor countries and they remain poor because of it. We must see some signs that the leaders we voted to power will be more accountable in future even
if they weren't in the past.

The rule of law is paramount and no one is above it. Every time there is some legal investigation into financial irregularity, every time leaders are subjected to scrutiny, the response from the senior party leadership is that of pique and defiance even to the extent of fomenting riots by underlings. This may be acceptable for the party cadre but the silent majority knows the score and is watching disapprovingly.

And when will all politicians accept that their parties exist to create public opinion for constitutionally mandated elections in spite of the dangers the country faces. The people did not create the terrorism associated with the insurgency and they have the right to expect the leaders that they supported in the past to face down the same dangers.

Boycotting future elections is not an option for a democratic party since such elections are the only way to safeguard the interest of the people by ensuring representation.

Their argument is that it is too dangerous to have elections. Let's not forget that the silent majority has been living in the middle of these dangers now for nine years. If some are unwilling, let others in the rank who care more for the rights of the people take the lead. In fact that may be the test by fire which will finally forge a new inspiring leadership the people are looking for.

If it is political power the party leadership wants reinstated, let's see the leaders do some good old fashioned hard work for a change. Even out of power, it is possible to demonstrate true grit, hard work and commitment to the people and not the self-serving, reckless and politically expedient utterances we have heard so far.

Where am I in all this? I am a member of the silent majority working hard at the profession I was trained for. I have no political expertise and no such advice to dole out. But as a member of the silent majority, I have the right to expect the individuals we elect speak for us and take heed of what we think of their behaviour in and out of power.

This is how democracy works. Lack of support for the present movement is ample indication that the people are looking for real and accountable leadership and empty words alone will not do. Wise up and stop taking the people for fools.

Dr Narayan Bahadur Thapa is a paediatric surgeon.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)