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Playing with Sovereignty of Nepalese People

Issue 43, Ocotber 28, 2007

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

The Seven-party alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) have been holding the sovereignty of the Nepalese people that Nepalese people gave them after the People’s Movement in April 2006. It was not the first time that Nepalese people gave the sovereignty to the political parties. In 1950s, they gave it to the Nepali Congress (NC) but return it back to the then-King Tribhuvan. Then, in 1990s, Nepalis again gave it to the NC and the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML); they again lost it to freak King Gyanendra in 2005.

In 1991, Nepalis voted for the NC giving a clear majority to it to turn Nepal into a prosperous and democratic country. The NC won 110 seats in the 205-seat House of Representatives. Girija Prasad Koirala became the second elected Prime Minister of the democratic Nepal. The CPN-UML won 78 seats and became the opposition party. It failed to act as a responsible opposition in the House of Representatives as desired by the Nepalese people, and resorted to street rallies, and violence in the House and in the streets, weakening the position of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minster also did not fully use the mandate given by the Nepalese people, and lost the partial sovereignty of the Nepalese people to the then-King Birendra and the former ministers and army men and police, as he did not implement the Mallik Commission’s report on the perpetrators of political crimes. He needed to share the people’s mandate with the people in the palace, and had to do many things following the wishes of the then-king Birendra. The palace became again the political force.

If Prime Minister Koirala had enforced the rule of law and bring the perpetrators of criminal acts to justice following the Mallik report most of the former ministers, high-ranking army men and police would have been either retired and even behind bars then considerably weakening the position of the king and the palace people. The king and his henchmen would have a less chance to resurrect. The NC Prime Minister would have been powerful.

Not only the Prime Minister lost the sovereignty of the Nepalese people to the king and his henchmen but also to the corrupt politicians of his own party. The materially poor politicians using the mandate given by the Nepalese people to their party indulged in moneymaking activities unscrupulously. The ministers directly made money seeking rents for any decisions they made. Other politicians indirectly charged the fees for any political and administrative decisions their ministers made. Thus, the common Nepalese people needed to pay high prices for voting for the NC.

In 1990s, Nepalese people were disgusted with the ruling NC as the Prime Minister sold the aircrafts belonging to the state-run airlines, stopped running the state-run trolley bus, dissolved the cooperative called Sajha and laid off thousands of people. In the name of restructuring the administration, the Koirala government fired thousands of experienced civil servants opening the positions to the bogus-certificate holders mainly sponsored by the NC cadres to fill in the vacant positions.

The Prime Minister became weaker by every day. He had lost the power to the king and his henchmen, and to the unprincipled politicians of his party. He went on losing power and ultimately lost the vote of confidence in the House of Representatives. He needed to resign from the position giving a chance to another leader of his party to form a government but did not do so, but opted to go for snap polls. In 1994, Prime Minister Koirala called for a mind-term election.

This time, Nepalese people did not give clear mandate to one political party. The CPN-UML polled the majority votes, and had a largest number of seats in the House of Representatives but not sufficient to form a majority government. The NC won the second largest seats and the political party called Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) formed by the former Panchas won 20 seats thus became the third largest party in the House of Representatives just after five years of losing power to the democratic forces. The Nepalese people’s clear mandate was to form a grand coalition of the CPN-UML and the NC. The alternative was to form the coalition of the CPN-UML or the NC with the RPP.

The largest political parties either did not understand or did not want to understand the Nepalese people’s aspiration for a coalition government. The NC did not want to form a coalition government of the NC and the CPN-UML or of the NC and the RPP. The CPN-UML leaders thought that the Nepalese people gave them the mandate to run the country. So, they demanded to form a CPN-UML government.

The king appointed the leader of the CPN-UML, Man Mohan Adhikari the Prime Minister. Mr. Adhikari in turn appointed Madhav Kumar Nepal the Deputy Prime Minister, and other members of the CPN-UML to various positions of ministers in his cabinet. They did not believed in the partial mandate they had received from the Nepalese people. So, they started acting as if they had the full power.

The NC leaders and the palace people did not like the CPN-UML leaders in power. So, they encouraged the parliamentary leaders of the NC and the RPP to form a coalition government. So, they submitted a no-confidence vote against the CPN-UML government. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Adhikari recommended the king to dissolve the House of Representatives and hold a snap poll after nine months in power in 1995. The king happily followed whatever the Prime Minister recommended him.

The NC went to the Supreme Court of Nepal pleading that the CPN-UML Prime Minister had no rights to dissolve the House as he did not commanded the simple majority in the House. The then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal, Biswonath Upadhaya without having even a least concern for the prerogative of the Prime Minister and for the political future of the country and for the independence of judiciary ruled the reinstatement of the House.

NC parliamentary leader Sher Bahadur Deuba formed a coalition government of the NC and the RPP, as after his defeat in the poll in 1994, former Prime Minister Koirala had conceded the leadership of the NC parliamentary to the second-generation leader of the NC, Sher Bahadur Deuba. Thus, the sovereignty of the Nepalese people sold back to the former Panchas just after five years from removing them from power. The same corrupt ministers reappeared in the political arena of Nepal.

In 1997, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba lost no-confidence vote in the House of Representatives due to the conspiracy of his mentor Girija Prasad Koirala, then, one former Panchas after another became the Prime Minister; ultimately Girija Prasad Koirala emerged as the Prime Minister again in 1998. After the fall of Deuba, the CPN-UML carried the former Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand of the former discredited regime called Panchayat on its shoulder and made him the Prime Minister and Bamdev Gautam of the CPN-UML became the Deputy Prime Minster. Then, the NC pulled this government down and formed a government of the NC and RPP making Surya Bahadur Thapa another Pancha politician the Prime Minister. However, Girija Prasad Koirala did not let him be the Prime Minister for long and took over the rein. Thus, the Nepalese politics have taken the full turn of events from the fall of Deuba in 1997 to reemergence of Koirala as the Prime Minister in 1998. Unscrupulous politician Koirala had successfully practiced the medieval politics of deceit and treachery to get back the lost power.

In 1999, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala held fresh elections projecting his colleague Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as the leader and the would-be Prime Minister to win the votes of the Nepalese people as Koirala had been so badly tarnished he could hardly dare to come out as the contender for the people’s power. However, he did not let Bhattarai to be in power for more than a year and took the power in his hands again in 2000 as usual using his deceptive political technique to get the power back.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala surrendered the Nepalese people’s sovereignty to the palace after the slaughter of King Birendra and his family members on June 01, 2001. He did not do anything on the death of the king and his family saying that it was the business of the palace. He became the mute spectator of the self-proclamation of Gyanendra Shah as the king of Nepal on June 04, 2001. So, Koirala was weakened considerably and conceded the residual power to his lieutenant Sher Bahadur Deuba in July 2001 again. Koirala repeatedly told the public he knew who killed those palace people and would tell the public when the time would come.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba dissolved the House of Representatives in May 2002 and called the elections for the House in November 2002 and formed a breakaway party of his own after Girija Prasad Koirala sacked him even from the membership of the NC party. However, in October 2002, he went to the self-proclaimed king with the recommendation for rescheduling the election schedule for November 2002.

The king shamelessly declared Deuba an incompetent person for holding elections and took over the power from him over stepping the Constitution of Nepal of 1990, and appointed the handpicked Lokendra Bahadur Chand to the Prime Minister. Thus, the freak king became really the king with the absolute power throwing democracy to a trashcan.

The king forced Chand to quit his position and appointed Surya Bahadur Thapa the Prime Minister in May 2003, and then forced Surya Bahadur Thapa to resign and appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba again to the Prime Minister in 2004 following the quick political development. Thus, Deuba became the Prime Minister for the third time, this time, as the king’s handpicked.

Mr. Deuba was supposed to form a coalition government of all parties and to stop the street protests against the king and his regressive forces. However, he could form the coalition government of his party NC-D and the CPN-UML, and could not stop the street protests. The king was irritated by the inability of the coalition government of the NC-D and the CPN-UML to stop the street protests of other political parities and the Maoists’ rebellion.

On February 01, 2005, the king dismissed the coalition government of the NC-D and the CPN-UML, and formed a cabinet appointing himself as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. He snapped all sorts of telecommunication network for a week and then intermittently for six months causing loss of the billions of rupees worth of business, controlled the media, and put human rights activists, civil society leaders and political leaders behind bars. He took the country to the state of one hundred year ago. Thus, the king became a criminal in the eyes of the people of the world.

On November 22, 2005, the SPA leaders joined hands with the leaders of the CPN-Maoist reaching 12-point understanding with them. Their understanding was to take back the people’s sovereignty from the self-proclaimed king and to end the monarchy forever, as the monarchy and democracy could not coexist.

In April 2006, the SPA jointly with the CPN-Maoist launched a protest against the king, and pulled him down after 19 days. On April 24, 2006, the king surrendered the sovereignty of the Nepalese people to the SPA while the CPN-Maoist remained behind the scene.

In May 2006, the revitalized House of Representatives elected senior leader of the CPN-UML, Subhas Chandra Nemwang the Speaker of the House. On May 18, 2006, the House of Representatives declared it a sovereign authority, and changed the old name of the government and replaced it with the Government of Nepal. On January 15, 2007, it promulgated an Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 suspending the monarchy, and set up a 330-member Interim Legislature including 83 members of the CPN-Maoist in the place of the House of Representatives pursuant to the Interim Constitution.

The Interim Constitution was not acceptable to the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis, as it failed in making the proportional representation of all Nepalis in a constituent assembly (CA) to be elected in May 2007. Since then, the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis have been protesting the mixed-electoral system for the election for a CA. Later on, the election for a CA was shifted to November 2007. It was again postponed for an indefinite period on October 05, 2007.

The CPN-Maoist leaders had anticipated that the SPA government would move fast and involve them in the governance soon. It took the SPA one year from the date of the successful launching of the people’s movement to bring the Maoist leaders into the cabinet. Thus, they formed a coalition government of the SPA and the CPN-Maoist on April 01, 2007. On September 18, 2007, four CPN-Maoist members of the coalition government tendered their resignation to Prime Minister Koirala on the pretext of the government not considering the 22-point demand submitted by the CPN-Maoist.

On September 28, 2007, the CPN-Maoist legislators jointly with the legislators of the CPN-Unified, and the CPN-United-Left-Front filed a petition to the Prime Minister for calling a special session of the Interim Legislature to discuss the issues such as declaring Nepal a republic and a proportional electoral system for the election for a CA. The Prime Minister called the special session on October 11, 2007. CPN-Maoist spokesperson, Krishna Bahadur Mahara delivered a strong speech at the opening session of the special session of the Interim Legislature pleading for passing the proposal unanimously. The Speaker set October 14 and 15 for discussing the two issues but postponed to October 16 and 17 at the request of the CPN-UML, and ultimately postponed to October 29, 2007, as the largest Hindu festival was around, and leaders of the SPA and the CPN-Maoist needed more time to discuss the issues and reach a consensus on the issues.

The NC, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist were the main contenders for the sovereignty of the Nepalese people. Currently, the three parties jointly have been holding the Nepalese people’s sovereignty. The NC was not in a mood to return the people’s sovereignty to the Nepalese people as it had been rejecting the proportional representation of all Nepalis in a CA on the pretext of losing the personal rights. It rather has been conspiring for returning it to the king as it did in 1950s and in 1990s.

Retaining the kingship had been the prime objective of the NC ignoring the historical lessons of how the monarchy reemerged in the past. The monarchy remained suspended during the 104-year of the hereditary Rana regime. The NC taking the power from the Ranas by the people’s force gave it back to the king in 1950s. By the power of the Nepalese people, again the NC and the CPN-UML jointly taking the people’s sovereignty did not keep it but turned it over to the king in 1990s.

In 2006, the SPA government did form a High-Level Probe Commission under the former justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal, Krishna Jung Rayamajhi to probe the perpetrators of human rights abuses, and criminal acts during the king’s absolute rule. The Rayamajhi Commission was similar to the Mallik Commission in 1990.

However, as in 1990s, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala did not implement the report of the Rayamajhi Commission under the pressure of the Nepali Army and the palace people. Thus, Prime Minister Koirala had been giving much needed strength to the regressive forces and the palace people weakening his own party and the Nepalese people. The Prime Minister did not want to go with the people’s forces and declare Nepal a republic as the Nepalis aspired for it.

The trend of the NC was again to give the Nepalese people’s sovereignty to the king. So, it had been deadly against declaring Nepal a republic. Everybody knew that the suspended monarchy might reemerge. That was why the NC had been strongly holding back the declaration of Nepal a republic and using its all strength to keep the monarchy suspended paving the way for its reemergence as a powerful monarchy.

However, the NC would not be successful in its third attempt to save the monarchy. Nepalese people had been far ahead of understanding the deeds of the monarchists and the neo-monarchists such as the NC cadres and leaders. Nepalese people would never let the monarchy reemerge even at the risk of total political chaos for some time to come. The civil society leaders, human rights activists not affiliated to any political parties, and the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis would continue to fight against anybody that came on the way to declaring Nepal a republic and making proportional representation in a CA.

Friday, October 26, 2007

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