गोयबल्स जवाफ

मुरारि शर्मा

भगीरथ बस्नेत

पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री बाबुराम भट्टराईले २५ फागुन २०६९ मा आफ्ना सहयोगीमार्फत् १३ बुँदे विज्ञप्ति प्रकाशित गरी जनताबाट ‘गोयबल्स शैलीमा गरिएका १२ वटा कु-प्रचार’ को सार्वजनिक खण्डन गरेका थिए। रमाइलो कुरा त के छ भने ‘गोयबल्स शैलीमा गरिएका १२ वटा कु-प्रचार’ को जवाफ ‘सद्दाम शैलीमा’ दिएका थिए। 

गोयबल्स हिटलरका सूचना (प्रोपगण्डा) मन्त्री थिए। उनी सूचनालाई सत्यको होइन, सफलताको माध्यम मान्थे। उनी भन्थे- जुन सूचनाले सफलता हात लाग्छ, त्यो राम्रो सूचना हो। त्यस्ौले उनी सत्य र असत्यबीच साह्रै भेदभाव गर्दैनथे र हिटलर प्रशासनको सफलतालाई मात्र महŒव दिन्थे। इराकका पूर्व राष्ट्रपति सद्दाम हुसेन पनि सूचना प्रवाहको बारेमा मूर्धन्य पात्र बन्न पुगे। अमेरिकी सेनाले बगदादको ३-४ टोल परसम्म आफ्नो नियन्त्रणमा लिइसक्दा पनि अलिक पर सडकमा उभिएर इराकी जनता र विश्वलाई ‘हामीले अमेरिकी सेनालाई नराम्रोसँग हराइरहेका छौं’ भन्दै थिए।

भट्टराईले उल्लेख गरेका ‘१२ वटा कु-प्रचार’ मा उनीबाट भएको सरकारी राजस्व र स्ाम्पत्तिको दुरुपयोग, भारतप्रतिको आशक्ति, नातावाद, कमिशनखोरी, संविधान सभाको हत्या एवं बाँदरमुढे घटनाका पीडितलाई क्षतिपूर्ति दिने र केशव स्थापितलाई बर्खास्त गरेका विवाद समावेश गरेका थिए। राजा नाङ्गा छन् भनेर पत्रपत्रिकाले लेखेका छन्। दूरदर्शन (टेलिभिजन) ले प्रशारण गरेका छन्। फेसबुक र टि्वटरले बोलेका छन्। अख्तियार दुरुपयोग अनुसन्धान आयोगले भनेको छ। आमजनताले देखेका र कुरा गरेका छन्। एक पाना कागजको विज्ञ्ाप्तिले मुलुकभरि छताछुल्ल भएको भट्टराईको नाङ्गोपन छोपिएला र?

पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री भट्टराईले जनताले तिरेको करबाट जम्मा भएको राजस्व जथाभावी खर्च गरिरहेका थिए भने सरकारी स्वामित्वका जग्गाको दुरुपयोग पनि बेपत्तासँग गरिरहेका थिए। उदाहरणका लागि उनले आफ्ना ससुरा ‘धर्मरत्न यमी’को नाममा खोलिएको प्रतिष्ठानका निमित्त ३० लाख रुपियाँ दिने सरकारी निर्णय गराएको समाचार सार्वजानिक भएको छ। प्रचण्डपुत्र प्रकाशलाई शान्तिका लागि सगरमाथा चढ्न २ करोड रुपियाँ निकासा दिएका थिए। हरेक महिना कुनै व्यक्तिको घरमा एक छाक खाना खान सरकारको ढुकुटीबाट १५-२० लाख रुपियाँ खर्च गरेर हेलिकप्टर मात्र चढेनन्, एउटा गरिब परिवारलाई हजारौं रुपियाँको ऋण पनि बोकाएका थिए। प्रधानमन्त्रीकी धर्मपत्नी हिसिला यमीले बालाजुमा मनेाहर पार्क र साँस्कृतिक थलो मासी सडक निकालेर छेउछाउको जग्गा आफ्ना समर्थकलाई बाँडेकी थिइन्।

गरिबका स्वघोषित मसिहा माओेवादी नेताहरुले गरेको राजस्व र सरकारी सम्पत्तिमाथिको मनोमानी देख्दा पूर्व राजपरिवारलाई पनि इर्ष्या लाग्यो होला। माओवादीका जथाभावीअगाडि जहानिया प्रधानमन्त्री र राजाहरुले निजी स्वार्थ र संस्थाका लागि गरेको सरकारी सम्पत्तिको दुरुपयोग फिक्का भएको छ। द्वन्द्वकालमा माओवादीले हडपेका जमिन जनताले अझै फिर्ता पाएका छैनन्। चन्दा आतङ्क अझै कायम छ। प्रधानमन्त्रीकी श्रीमतीले सरकारी कामकाजमा हस्तक्षेप गर्ने परम्परा नेपालमा थिएन तर हिसिला यमीले यो नराम्रो परम्परासमेत बसालिन्।

राष्ट्रिय हितमा कुठाराघात गरी भारतसँग द्विपक्षीय लगानी संरक्षण सम्झौता गरेको, विमानस्थल भारतलाई हस्तान्तरण गर्न खोजेको, भारतसँग गोप्यवार्ता गरेका आदि विषयमा भट्टराईकै दलका उपाध्यक्ष र परराष्ट्र मन्त्री नारायणकाजी श्रेष्ठले उनको सार्वजनिक आलोचना गरेका थिए। नातावादको प्रमाण कार्यमा नै प्रत्यक्ष देखिएको छ भने त्यस्ता विषयमा प्रत्यक्ष जानकारी राख्ने सम्बन्धित संस्थाका अधिकारीहरुले समेत पटकपटक बोलेका थिए। कमिशनखोरीका सन्दर्भमा, भट्टराई आफंैले सम्हालेका मन्त्रायलअन्तर्गतको विद्युत् प्राधिकरणमा मुख्य सचिव अध्यक्ष भएको सञ्चालक समितिले थर्मल प्लाण्ट खरिद गर्ने पूर्व निर्णय नाजायज ठहराई बदर गरेको थियो। पछि फेरि भट्टराईको दबाबमा खरीद गर्ने निर्णय गर्नुपर्‍यो। कमिशनको लोभमा काठमाडौं, भक्तपुरलगायत् विभिन्न जिल्लामा सरकारी जग्गा धमाधम व्यक्तिका नाममा दर्ता गर्न भट्टराईको मन्त्रिपरिषद्ले निर्णय गर्न लागेकाले सो रोक्न अख्तियार दुरुपयोग अनुसन्धान आयोगले निर्देशन नै गर्नुपरेको थियो।

संविधान सभाले २ वर्षमा बनाइसक्ने भनेको संविधान ४ वर्षसम्म्ा बनाउन सकेन। संविधान सभामा भट्टराईकै दल सबभन्दा ठूलो थियो र बढी जिम्मेवार हुनुपर्ने थियो। तर स-साना नानीहरुले आफूले भनेजस्तो गर्न नपाए रुने गरेझैं माओवादी दलहरुलेे आफूले भनेजस्तो गर्न नपाए क्रान्ति गछर्ौं भनेर धम्क्याउनेमात्र काम गरे। संविधान सभाको अवसानका बेला भट्टराई नै प्रधानमन्त्री थिए। त्यसैले त्यसबेला देशलाई निकास दिने मुख्य अभिभारा पनि उनैको थियो। उनले प्रजातन्त्रलाई आगो लगाएर आफूले सत्ताको तातो तापे। यसको दोष भट्टराईलाई नदिएर कसलाई दिने? ढंग नपुगेर मानहानिको मुद्दा ब्यहोर्नुपर्‍यो। हिँड्न नजानेर लडियो भने अरुलाई दोष दिन मिल्दैन। जहाँसम्म गैरजिम्मेवार बोली र व्यवहारको कुरा छ, हालसालै ओखलढुंगामा आयोजना भएको एक कार्यक्रममा पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री भट्टराईले एक पटकमा ‘सामन्तवादको अन्त नभएकाले पटकपटक रटेर सामन्तवाद समाप्त गर्न हलाल क्रान्ति गर्ने’ उद्घोष गरे।

आज यदि नेपालमा कोही सामन्तवादी छन् भने ती माओवादीलगायत् केही नेता, केही व्यापारी र केही कर्मचारी छन्। साधारण पृष्ठभूमिबाट आएका प्रधानमन्त्री भट्टराई आफंै पनि अहिले माथिल्लो स्तरका धनी व्यक्ति बनेका छन्। सर्वसाधारण जनता झन् गरिब हुँदै गएका छन् किनभने नेपालको आर्थिक स्थिति दिन/प्रतिदिन ओरालो लागेको छ। बजारभाउ दिन/प्रतिदिन उकालो लागेको छ। यसले निम्न वर्गलाई बाँच्न धौ/धौ परेको छ। मध्यमवर्गी तल झर्दैछन्। उच्च वर्गमा ठूलो हिस्सा भट्टराईकै दलका व्यक्ति र समर्थक छन्। यस्तो अवस्थामा कसको विरोधमा हलाल क्रान्ति गर्ने? आफ्नै विरोधमा?

सरकारको नेतृत्व गरिरहेकै समयमा प्रधानमन्त्री भएर क्रान्ति गर्ने बहादुर क्याम्बोडियाका खमेररुज नेता पोलपोट पनि थिए। उनले सामन्तवादविरुद्धको क्रान्ति भनी करिब २० लाख जनता मारे। देश तहसनहस भयो र अन्ततः उनको दल तथा उनको आफ्नै पतन भयो। आज २१ औं शताब्दीमा धम्क्याएर शासन चलाउन सकिन्न भन्ने भट्टराईले बुझ्नुपर्ने थियो। तर माओवादी नेताहरु भने अरुलाई धम्क्याएर वा झुट बोल्ोर सरकारमा टिकिरहन प्रयास गरे । एनेकपा (माओवादी) र मधेसी मोर्चाको ९ महिनादेखि कामचलाउ सरकारको एकमात्र उद्देश्य आफ्नो आयु लम्ब्याउनु रहेको थियो। 

माओवादी सशस्त्र द्वन्द्वकालमा बाँदरमुढेमा २०६२ मा माओवादीद्वारा गरिएको आक्रमणबाट ३८ व्यक्तिको मृत्यु भएको थियो भने कतिपय घाइते भएका थिए। सो घटनाबाट पीडित र पीडितका परिवारलाई क्षतिपूर्तिबापत ६० लाख रुपियाँ सरकारले उपलब्ध नगराए आफ्नै दलले दिने वचनबद्धता एनेकपा (माओवादी) का अध्यक्ष प्रचण्डले गरेका छन् भने पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री बाबुराम भट्टराईको सरकारले उक्त रकम निकासा भइसकेको उल्लेख गरे। बाँदरमुढे घटना सरकारले गराएको होइन, माओवादीले हो। त्यसैले उक्त घटनाको क्षतिपूर्ति पनि माओवादीले नै दिनुपर्ने हो। अर्कोतिर सो रकम सरकारबाट नमागी दलकै कोषबाट दिए एनेकपा माओवादीको उदारता र आफूले गरेको गल्तीको आत्मालोचना पनि हुन्थ्यो। तर प्रचण्ड भने उक्त रकम सरकारबाट दिलाउने सुरमा छन्। कतै यो दोहोरो क्षतिपूर्ति दिने नाटकको पूर्व तयारीको अग्रिम दृष्य त होइन?

पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री भट्टराईले केशव स्थापितलाई पदबाट बर्खास्त गरेकामा सर्वाेच्च अदालतले अदालतको अन्तिम निर्णय नभएसम्म निजलाई नहटाउनू भनी निषेधाज्ञ्ाा गरेपछि न्यायालयको विचाराधीन मुद्दामा पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्रीले वक्तव्यबाजी नगर्नुपर्ने हो। तर डेकेन्द्र थापाको ज्यान मारेको भनेर आफूखुसी सकार गर्ने अभियुक्तलाई त नपक्डनू, कारबाही नगर्नू भनी आदेश दिने र अदालतमा निवेदन दिने पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्रीबाट न्यायसम्मत व्यवहारको अपेक्षा गर्नु ढुंगाबाट तेल निकाल्ने आशा गर्नुजस्तै हो।

समग्ररूपमा हेर्ने हो भने बाबुराम भट्टराई सरकारको एउटै मात्र राम्रो काम सडक विस्तार देखिएको छ। परिणाम राम्रो भए पनि यसको प्रक्रिया गलत थियो। एकाएक घर भत्काइए। कतिको घरबास उठ्यो। कतिले मुआब्जा पाएनन्। विस्तारित सडक बनाउने काममा ढिला भएको छ भने निकै भ्रष्टाचार भयो भन्ने चर्चा पनि चलेको छ।

सत्ता र राजस्वको दुरुपयोग भट्टराईअगाडिका पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्रीले पनि नगरेका होइनन् तर भट्टराईले राजनीतिक तरलताको दोहन गरेर यी दुवैलाई नयाँ उचाइमा पुर्‍याए। सबभन्दा आश्चर्यको कुरा त हैसियत सिद्धिएको कामचलाउ सरकारबाट समेत यस्ता काम भटाभट भए। त्यसैले आक्रोशित जनता भन्ने गर्छन्- १०/१० वर्ष क्रान्ति गरेर दुःख पाएपछि यति पनि मनोमानी नगरे केका लागि क्रान्ति गर्नु?

हालको राजनीतिक अन्यौलमा चुनावमा जानुको विकल्प छँदै छैन। तर चुनावमा जाँदा विसंगतिको बाटो अपनायो भने फल पनि गलत आउँछ। बहालवाला प्रधान न्यायाधीश नेतृत्वको चुनावी सरकार बनाएर न्यायालयको निष्पक्षता मात्र धरापमा परेको छैन, न्यायालयको राजनीतिकरण पनि भएको छ। हावाका भरमा अरु मुलुकमा प्रधान न्यायाधीशको सरकारले चुनाव गराएका उदाहरण दिएर गलत काम भएको छ। ती मुलुकका संविधानले के बोलेका छन्, सो पनि हेर्नुपर्थ्याे। यो व्यक्तिको होइन, विधिको कुरा हो।

त्यसमा पनि उच्चस्तरीय राजनीतिक संयन्त्रबाट परिचालन हुनेगरी बनेको प्रधान न्यायाधीश नेतृत्वको चुनावी सरकार सो संयन्त्रको कठपुतली मात्र हुने स्पष्ट छ। चुनावी सरकारलाई किन राजनीतिक संयन्त्रसँग जोडनुपर्‍यो? राजनीतिक दलले चुनाव गराउन सकेको भए गैरराजनीतिक व्यक्तिको नेतृत्वमा चुनावी सरकार किन चाहिन्थ्यो? निष्पक्ष, स्वतन्त्र र भयरहित चुनावका निमित्त चुनावी सरकारलाई राजनीतिक संयन्त्रबाट अलग राख्नु आवश्यक छ।

तर अर्काे संविधान सभाले पनि संविधान देला भन्ने विश्वास जनतामा छैन। संघीयताको प्रश्नमा धेरै विमति र विवाद छ। नेपालजस्तो बहुभाषा, जाति र सँस्कृति भएको सानो मुलुकमा जातजातिको कुरा गर्नुभन्दा सबैलाई हाम्रो राष्ट्रिय गानले परिभाषित गरेअनुसार एउटै मालामा गाँसेर बलियो बनाउने प्रयास गर्नाले नै हाम्रो अस्तित्व र स्थिरता कायम हुने र बुद्धिमानीपूर्ण हुनेछ। याद गर्नुपर्ने कुरा के छ भने हामी नेपाली गरिब त छौं नै, अरुको नजरमा हामी सबै पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री भट्टराईजस्तै नाङ्गा पनि भइसकेका छौं। त्यसैले भट्टराईको सद्दाम शैलीको एक पाने वक्तव्यले होइन, एक ढिक्का नेपालीको मेहनतले यो नाङ्गो ढाक्नुपर्ने भएको छ।

Published in Nagarik Daily: http://nagariknews.com/opinions/98-opinion/55729-2013-03-28-12-06-35.html

28 March 2013

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Policing the Police

MURARI SHARMA

The police have been very much in the news—good, bad and ridiculous—in the past few weeks. On the good side, they arrested the murderers who buried Dekendra Thapa, a journalist, alive in 2004, despite strong protest from the prime minister. They have clamped down on drunk-driving to prevent accidents and save lives. 
On the bad side, an SSP drew a pistol when the traffic police stopped him for drunk-driving. Another SSP allegedly smuggled foreign currencies. Some senior police officers were seen enjoying a wedding party with a fugitive. A policeman raped a girl in detention and another policeman married a new woman wherever he was posted. Yet another policeman forced a rape victim to withdraw her complaint for a bribe from the perpetrator. 

And on the ridiculous side, the police arrested young people enjoying consensual sex in small hotels and restaurants in several places and asked the resorts to keep their guestroom doors unbolted to prevent “social crimes” in the police jargon. They have also decided to crack down on those young men who wear a pony tail or earrings.

These headlines demonstrate that policing the police to prevent the bad and the ridiculous is as important as policing the public. Prussian philosopher and founder of the University of Berlin Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt (1767-1835) has said, “If it were possible to make an accurate calculation of the evils which police regulations occasion, and of those which they prevent, the number of the former would, in all cases, exceed that of the latter.” 

That is true in Nepal. Article 15 of the Police Act 2012 says the police should prevent and detect crimes, maintain public order, and assist the needy. This is consistent with the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The police often go beyond their core duties because they are used to doing so. 

Under the Panchayat system and Hindu kingdom, this unformed force had a broad remit. It was an instrument to maintain political control and enforce Hindu moral code. It has no political or faith-related role under the democratic system and secular republic. Yet it continues to work as the ruling elite’s political tool and to act like a cousin of the Saudi mutaween—morality police—even though there is no such role in the new arrangements. 

The police have not changed their behavior either. They remain predatory in their attitude in taking things away from ordinary people, though now they are more inclusive, educated, trained, and exposed to international norms of policing through UN peacekeeping operations than before. They still arbitrarily arrest and brutally exploit the people with no political connections and use double standard: One for the powerful and the other for the powerless. 

Men are free to wear earrings or a pony tail, because there is no public indecency. Nepali laws do not prohibit two adults from having sex by mutual consent in private. Though barred, prostitution is difficult to prove and incest is difficult to detect. It is, therefore, illegal for the police to arrest men wearing earrings or a pony tail or to raid lodges, small hotels and restaurants and nab adults for “social crimes.” 

In the flagrant display of double standard, the police raid small hotels but not the big ones and publicly pillory ordinary people for “social crimes” but protect the big guys from public exposure. You may recall the incident some time ago in which the police hid information about a tipsy minister who visited a prostitute in Maharajganj while his police bodyguard waited outside. 

Arresting pony tailed men and apprehending adults having consensual sex in private are frivolous stunts that come at a high cost of the police time and resources that should have been applied to their core duties—preventing serious crimes like murder, rape, robbery, theft and fraud and resolving the thousands of unsolved cases for years. Nepal, for example, is the sixth worst among countries that have failed to solve the murder cases of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Public approval, voyeurism, and systemic weaknesses encourage such stunts. Public approval lures the police into such stunts for instant popularity. Although voyeurism is common in society, police officials often misuse their power to spy on young men and women and repeatedly blackmail and exploit the women caught in their dragnet. And police leadership allows such stunts to deflect public attention from their chronic systemic problems and failings. 

As the first two reasons require no further explanation, let me focus on the systemic problems and weaknesses. I find four major problems, which the Khil Raj Regmi government should start addressing. 

First, criminalization of politics has made the police impotent and demotivated. Powerful politicians protect and use criminals to promote their interest. For instance, the former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his attorney-general ordered to stop investigation into the murder of a journalist to protect the killers. Ministers pressure the police to release their supporter-criminals the moment they are nabbed. Why catch criminals if you have to release them immediately? 

Second, the police have been too much politicized. Ministers frequently sold promotions and lucrative positions to the highest bidder. They rewarded and punished police personnel based, not on performance, but on political allegiance, personal connection, and promise to fill their coffers. For example, SP Ramesh Kharel was prematurely transferred from the Hanuman Dhoka police office because he did not toe the political line. 

Third, the police have a shortage of capacity, and what is available is often misused. They have insufficient training, expertise and equipment to effectively prevent crimes, investigate criminal cases, and bring criminals to justice. While there are not enough police on the beat, more than 10,000 junior officials have been deployed as slaves to till senior officials’ farms and do their dishes. 

Fourth, protecting criminals has proved more rewarding than punishing them. The police can extract money and favors from criminals and fugitives by not arresting them and not bringing them to justice. So the enforcers of the law rather hobnob with criminals than arrest them. 

Government, police leadership and the public will have to work together to remove such systemic problems. We can learn from other countries. 

In the United Kingdom, for instance, if a politician intervenes in a particular criminal case, he or she would land in jail. A similar provision and its effective execution are necessary in Nepal to end political protection to criminals and criminalization of politics.

Countries like the United States and United Kingdom have confined politicians to policy-making and taken them out of the police’s personnel and operational matters to depoliticize the police. We need to do the same in Nepal. The Public Service Commission should handle police recruitment and promotions and a committee made of senior Home Ministry and Police Headquarters officials should decide transfers of police officers. 

 

Government should provide more resources for training and equipment for the police to do their core functions effectively. The Police Headquarters should end the culture of slavery—deploying junior personnel as senior officers’ unpaid private servants—and redeploy these personnel to policing tasks. Police performance should be evaluated based on the core functions, not on cheap stunts.

In the West, aiding, abetting, or protecting criminals or seeking benefits from them is treated as a serious crime, and the police’s involvement in them is taken even more seriously. Police officers have lost their jobs and some are waiting to be punished with even graver penalties for simply sharing information for favors with the News of the World journalists in the United Kingdom. In Nepal too, such complaints should be investigated quickly, and the guilty brought to justice swiftly.

For this purpose, Nepal should set up an independent and permanent board, as in advanced countries, to investigate complaints about police misdeeds and abuse of power and take robust departmental action against deviant officials based on the board’s findings. Serious police crimes should be referred to other competent bodies.

Admittedly, it is difficult to prevent crimes and bring criminals to justice. Public trust and support will make the job easier. To earn it, the police must not only devote their time and resources to their core duties, stay away from bad and ridiculous headlines and stop being obsequious to the powerful and obnoxious to the powerless, but also must police themselves better. 

murarisharma@gmail.com

 
 Published in Republica: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=51991  
Published on 2013-03-24 01:15:18

Drastic and Dangerous

MURARI SHARMA

BORDER REFERENDUM PROPOSAL

Leaders could do unimaginable things to acquire or retain power. For example, Ugandan President Dada Idi Amin used to kill his enemies and allegedly cook and eat their livers in order to frighten his opponents. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah partitioned India because both wanted to lead their country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto prompted the military to partition Pakistan to deny Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the undivided country’s premiership. The Kims of North Korea spend billions on nuclear bombs while their people continue to starve. Lhendup Dorje merged Sikkim with India. 

The Maoist leaders of Nepal have followed suit in some way. They participated in the first two general elections after 1990 and lost. Then they took to the bullet, killed more than 15,000 innocent people (though the security forces killed some of them, the Maoists are guiltier for starting the violence), and destroyed vital infrastructure. Failed to capture the country with guerilla war, they joined the peace process. When they became the largest party in the Constituent Assembly vote in 2008 and headed the government, they tried every trick in the book to perpetuate their grip on power. 

One of those tricks has been to appease India. Failing to recapture Baluwatar, Pushpkamal Dahal, the Maoist chairman, is competing with his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, the most pro-Indian prime minister since 1955, for India’s favor. For instance, Bhattarai’s silence on the revision of the Nepal-India treaty of 1950 has been deafeningly loud. He signed the controversial extradition treaty and mutual investment protection agreement—BIPPA—as well as tried to handover the management of sensitive airports and other vital installations through the backdoor, despite objections from his foreign minister. 


NEODEMOS.COM

That brings me to the issue of border referendum. Dahal proposed in his political paper presented to his party’s national convention held in Hetauda a few weeks back that border disputes with India should be put to a referendum. He has the proposal “shelved for now,” as reported by the Indian Express on February 5, 2013, in the face of fierce criticism from the breakaway Maoist party. Dahal deflated the issue by saying that he meant the provincial borders of federal Nepal that was misprinted, and the media took it at face value and let it go lightly. 

However, it is hard to believe that the proposal was an inadvertent slip, for it was so specific and the difference between the Nepal-India border and provincial borders is so great. 

There are several theories—property, justice, national and choice—to settle border issues. Referendums, which grant citizens the right to decide the border, are a tool of the choice theory. Even staunch supporters of the choice theory like Harry Beran, an Australian professor, concede that referendums are not the best means to resolve border issues. So they are infrequent. According to Gary Sussman, a British professor, only 11 of them have taken place so far between states. That number goes to 171 if you include referendums to join regional bodies as well.

You ideally go for a border referendum either when a part of your country demands to secede from you, or when another country or part of it wants to join you. For instance, Quebec has held at least three referendums asking the French speaking Quebecois if they want to separate from the Anglo-phone Canada. Scotland is holding a referendum in 2014 asking people whether they wanted to secede from the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Nazi Germany held referendums to justify the annexation of Austria and occupation of Rhineland. Egypt and Syria came under a union after the referendum of 1958, though it was short-lived. Several European countries have held such referendums to join the European Union. 

There is no such demand for a referendum in Nepal. No part of the country has fought for secession. Neither has any neighboring country or its part expressed its desire to join Nepal. Of course, Nepal and India do not agree on some places of the border, such as Susta and Kalapani, but neither the people of those places nor the Nepali people in general have demanded a referendum. Besides, these disputes could be settled through negotiations. 

Then there is the issue of mutuality. You cannot settle a border dispute without having referendums in all countries concerned. I have not heard of any demand on the Indian side for a plebiscite on the issue. Even if both countries held a vote on the border, the outcome could be conflicting: The people on both sides may decide to keep the territories in question as part of their country. That solves nothing.

Despite all this, Dahal proposed a referendum on the border that could dismember the country—without advancing a full explanation. It begs the question: Why did he do so? 

There could be three possible reasons. First, Dahal might have made the proposal without understanding the border dispute and the complications and implications associated with a referendum. Second, he should have been under quiet but heavy pressure from closet separatists to make that proposal. Third, he should have proposed it as part of the commitment which he and his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, had made with the intelligence agencies of the neighboring country to secure their support during the armed insurgency in Nepal. 

It would be an insult to Dahal’s fabled shrewdness to suggest that he proposed the border referendum without understanding its complications and implications. Even if he did so in a fudgy state of mind due to sleeplessness the previous night, someone else in his party would have alerted him about it. And Dahal would have dropped the proposal well before the political report was presented to the party convention. 

If Dahal made the proposal under pressure from closet separatists, he did not tell the convention whether such pressure existed or who compelled him to do so. Neither has he told the Nepali people who and where they are. Dahal, who once aspired to lead a world revolution against imperialists, could not be a coward to cave in to such separatists quietly. 

That leaves the third possible reason on the table. As SD Muni, an Indian professor, has divulged, Dahal and Bhattarai had, during the insurgency, secretly met with Indian intelligence officials several times and made commitments to safeguard the Indian interest in Nepal in lieu of their freedom to live and move in India and plan attacks against Nepal. Dahal might have proposed the referendum in compliance with that commitment. The Maoists have not revealed what commitments they have made to the intelligence agencies of the neighboring country. 

Secrecy breeds suspicion. So, it is but natural for the Nepali people, who are haunted by the ghost of Sikkim’s merger with India following a referendum, to suspect that the Maoists could have made the Faustian bargain. Surely Sikkim and Nepal enjoyed different status when the British ruled much of South Asia. The British recognized Nepal’s independence in the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, whereas Sikkim remained under British suzerainty. Yet India’s ongoing security concerns and interest in water resources north of its borders are well known. If any major Nepali political player commits to serve its interest, India should be more than happy to help it. To paraphrase former American President Bill Clinton’s slogan, it is the national interest, stupid!

Evidence suggests that leaders could do anything to gain and keep power and Maoist leaders have been no exceptions. Since Dahal and Bhattarai have not told the Nepali people about the deal they have made with the Indian intelligence agencies, there is ground to suspect that the proposal on border referendum could be part of their commitment to those agencies. If the Indian Express report is correct, the drastic and dangerous proposal that can break Nepal might come back again

 

 
   
Published on 2013-03-10 01:15:36

Maoist Grand Design?

MURARI SHARMA/BHAGIRATH BASNET

The proposed appointment of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi as prime minister to head the election government has torn us into three conflicting sentiments. First, we are deeply pained that Nepal has discarded the fundamental principles of democracy. Second, despite that pain, we hope that this arrangement will enable Nepal to hold the polls and come out of the dark clouds of uncertainty occasioned by the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. Third, we cannot escape the riveting suspicion that there could be something quite sinister behind what meets the eyes.

It is unfortunate that major political parties have decided to appoint Regmi as head of the election government, without resigning from his post at the Supreme Court. Flouting the democratic principle of separation of powers, Regmi will embody legislative, executive and judicial powers. He will amend the constitution and laws and implement them. He will also directly and indirectly influence the Court’s decisions in which his government is a party.

Regmi will be a defendant, for instance, in the case filed by Bharat Mani Jangam questioning the constitutionality of his appointment as prime minister. The end-justifies-means crowd may argue that Regmi would not be working as chief justice while heading the government. But justices will think twice before they issue a verdict against Regmi, who will come back as their boss in the next few months. So justice will be compromised.


PHOTO: REPUBLICA FILE PHOTO

No sane democratic country allows such a concentration of powers in one individual, even for a short time. It is worth noting that US Chief Justice John Lay had refused to even provide an advisory opinion to President George Washington arguing that the court, respecting the separation of powers, only decides legal cases submitted to it. The same is true in Australia. In Great Britain, the justices who are members of the upper house express their views and preside over various commissions and committees. In Germany, justices might furnish advisory opinions. But none of these countries goes as far as Nepal has chosen now.

In addition, Regmi’s appointment as prime minister is also inconsistent with another democratic principle—due process. The Interim Constitution has no provision for the chief justice’s appointment as prime minister. The court Regmi heads had used the Constitution to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. If the chief justice himself tramples due process, what can we expect from others? It will, therefore, be morally wrong for Regmi to accept this appointment without a constitutional basis, but ambition often gets the better of moral imperative of human beings.

That said, in a fait accompli we take solace that the acrimonious see-saw that has persisted for far too long between the Maoist-Madheshi coalition and opposition parties to lead the election government has hopefully ended. It will be great if Regmi could hold elections to the Constituent Assembly-Legislature cum Parliament by mid-June 2013, as envisaged. But it looks like a mission impossible in a country riddled with chaos, insecurity, economic disaster and a bevy of other problems.
The CPN-Maoist has already called Nepal Bandh and is preparing for further protests. Various dissatisfied leaders, intellectuals, legal experts and human rights activists have expressed their opposition to the decision imposed by the four major parties. In this toxic environment, we sincerely hope that the upcoming elections would not be a rehash of the discredited local elections held by King Gyanendra in 2005.

Even in the best of circumstances, much ground will have to be covered between the appointment of Regmi as prime minister and actual polls. The devil lies in the details. Technically, it will be nearly impossible to organize the vote within four months. The Interim Constitution and relevant laws must be amended. Election commissioners will have to be appointed. Madheshi parties’ demand that citizenship certificates be issued to those who do not have them yet will have to be accommodated. Election districts must be redrawn based on the 2011 census and election symbols must be awarded. The voters’ list will have to be updated.

Thousands of documents will have to be printed, transported, and distributed across the country. Security arrangements will have to be made in a chronically chaotic country marred by widespread insecurity.

At every step of the way, Regmi will face hurdles. Major parties will put pressure on him to appoint their supporters as ministers. They will remote-control him through the high-level political committee. They will haggle forever on the constitutional and legal amendments, election symbols, election districts, and so on. Some of these cases could go to court for a final decision. The parties will not give up or compromise their pet positions simply because the chief justice heads the government. Free of any accountability, they will squabble forever on all political and technical issues.

In the midst of perennial discord, the parties will send conflicting signals to Regmi. The question is when conflicting messages come, who will Regmi heed? History might offer a clue. After Dilip Paudel retired as chief justice in 2007, then-Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had floated Khil Raj Regmi’s name to succeed Paudel, bypassing four senior judges—Kedar Prasad Giri, Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Anup Raj Sharma and Ram Prasad Shrestha. In the last few days, the Maoists flatly rejected the proposal of the opposition parties to appoint a former chief justice as head of the election government.

The Maoists have repeatedly said that their grand design to capture power by all means has not changed. Maoist supremo Dahal has complained that other parties have fenced his party in. His deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, has called civilian bureaucracy, army, and courts old institutions that have blocked progress during his stint as prime minister. The Maoists want to break these institutions to achieve their ultimate objective. They tried to unravel the army in 2009 by removing Army Chief Rukmangad Katuwal and replacing him with Kul Bahadur Khadka, superseding Chhatra Man Gurung. They might have endeavored to break the Supreme Court this time by having Regmi, their favored candidate for chief justice in 2007, as prime minister.

Amazingly, political leaders never tried to persuade the President to lead the election government, even though he was the most natural candidate and responsible official. This is something to consider in the future. For now, we hope Regmi has evolved since 2008 and if given the opportunity, will work independently as prime minister, without the burden of gratitude to Dahal, and conduct free and fair elections.

We need free, fair and timely elections to end the ongoing instability and ensure freedom, liberty, growth and prosperity. We want our children educated well, our sisters and mothers empowered, good health care for all, dignity as citizens, and corruption-free government. These objectives can be achieved only by creating an environment in which every Nepali citizen feels free and secure to unleash their energy and creative potentials, not by relying on foreigners and blaming them for our misery. Eleanor Roosevelt has said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Do not give them permission.”

In democracies, both means and end have to be right. Only in dictatorship, end justifies means. So we have principled disagreement with the choice of leadership for the election government. However, in a political culture where politicians routinely flout due process, we take the emerging arrangements as a fait accompli for once and hope that we will be able to build a better democratic future on this imperfect foundation while avoiding a descent to dictatorship

Published in Republica, 24 February 2013.

http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=50444

 

Published on 2013-02-24 01:15:16