Nepali Times
To whom it may concern


Since my first visit to Nepal in 1991 I have not seen a level of discontent with the current political and social environment as I am seeing in the last year and especially the last six months. In the last month alone I have seen bandhs which closed traffic and the entire city, and attacks on schools, individuals and police. There appears to be an overwhelming need, often competitive, to demonstrate and consolidate power among political groups in a negative and destructive way. Obviously, there is overwhelming anger and frustration, but these are negative ways of dealing with this: strikes and bandhs which demonstrate no positive vision, no effort, and result in. nothing.

Attacks which are violent and destructive prove that the acting parties are frustrated and have gained some power, but that is all. Strikes affect all people, but considering that the communist groups' greatest support comes from rural areas and the poor who live hand to mouth as it is, these actions have a profound effect on those they are intended to help. Being unable to work for one day brings them one day closer to disaster. Crippling the economy is not a viable method of bringing the current administration to its knees. Members of the government are the least likely to be affected while members of the police force, for example, who are not rich or powerful and likely have taken a dangerous job to support their families, will be affected greatly.

A viable political movement must act according to their values and in a manner which demonstrates something about their ability to use power. It is about character. It is about "walking your talk", brothers and sisters. Imagine a political group calling a new kind of bandh as an act of positive change: cleaning up Kathmandu's streets, a music concert in which the proceeds benefit some worthy group or area, repainting schools, planting gardens, a bicycle repair workshop, a day of repairing auto rickshaws and motorcycles to make them less polluting. Such actions are not concessions to the government, they are acts of leadership and civic mindedness. A true leader is one who sees what needs to be done and does it, one who does not wait for conditions to be perfect or expects it to be easy, or waits for others to begin first.

It may be true that agents of meaningful change must necessarily begin with demonstrations of discontent and expressions of frustration. But such things are merely an early stage. After that, organisations must move ahead with the far harder work of creating something new. The power achieved is far more solid and profound. Anger is a deep yet fleeting emotion, but the forces that drive positive change are vision, willpower and tenacity, elements of character, not temporal emotions like anger or frustration. There has never been a better opportunity for political parties to demonstrate positive political will and leadership. No one wants Nepal to become a blank spot on the tourist map like Kashmir, or be like Bangladesh where too-frequent bandhs have become a barrier to foreign investment. But that may be the future. I have no interest in which movements gain power and lead this country; only in that whoever does so leads Nepal down a positive path in accordance with their values and with the legitimate support of their constituents. We need leadership based on a persuasive vision for the future, not on fear, violence, coercion, destruction and short-term thinking.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)