NEPAL: DIVIDED LIKE WHEN THEY WERE NEVER BEFORE
[The international community, that supported Regmi's appointment, apparently is losing its faith, given those many compromises the head of the executive has already made on issues vital for democracy and social justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed her dissatisfaction with a recent ordinance supporting amnesty for those guilty of gross human rights violations during the decade-long conflict that ended in 2006. Similar grievances were expressed by Jeffrey Feltman, UN under-secretary for political affairs.]
By Yubaraj Ghimire
* Are there any chances for the new legislative assembly delivering a constitution?
Things have seemingly changed in Nepal. Official programmes of ministers and the prime minister hardly draw any politicians here. The Supreme Court chief justice's takeover as the chairman of the council of ministers, with his cabinet packed with retired civil servants, has apparently altered the composition of the crowd. Leaders, especially of the four major parties, however, are apparently wrestling from outside to control the cabinet. So far, Khil Raj Regmi has tolerated the four-party dictate. But will the extra-constitutional status of the four-party machinery be a lasting phenomenon?
The central committee of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) still insist that Regmi must quit as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal to ensure judicial independence. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M), the breakaway group from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), goes a step further and says, "Regmi must be dismissed as Prime Minister and power handed over to the political parties" — something the parties demanded when former King Gyanendra took over in February 2005.
The international community, that supported Regmi's appointment, apparently is losing its faith, given the many compromises the head of the executive has already made on issues vital for democracy and social justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed her dissatisfaction with a recent ordinance supporting amnesty for those guilty of gross human rights violations during the decade-long conflict that ended in 2006. Similar grievances were expressed by by Jeffrey Feltman, UN under-secretary for political affairs.
Feltman was in Nepal to encourage more political parties, including the CPN-M, to participate in the proposed June general election. But the response was negative. The UN in particular and the diplomatic bureaucracy in general seem to be gathering only the positive responses on the basis of their regular contacts with the four parties. There is a huge gap between the claim of the four parties' top leaders — that the country is ready for polls — and the visible public mood of indifference as well as the disapproval of most political parties about the polls being "thrust upon" them.
Yet, Nepali political parties, including the big four, in shrill rhetoric defend their move to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal presiding as the head of government. In their kind of wailing cry they tell: "We took the decision under compelling circumstances." Regmi, who understands the parties' plummeting popularity and 'authority', now appeals to the bureaucracy to cooperate with the government holding the elections. On the other hand, the international community and donors, despite their reservations about the proposed 'general amnesty' clause in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's founding ordinance, have promised full support for conducting the elections.
"What is the guarantee that the soon-to-be elected 'New Constituent Assembly' delivering or in other words producing a constitution when the political spectrum is divided so badly?" asks Shekhar Koirala of the Nepali Congress party. But bureaucrats-turned-ministers promise they will do their best and return respectability to politics — something people would hardly pay any heed to. The CJ is now an object of public criticism, for having "sold the independence of the judiciary" for an elective post. It is now understandable that people's perception and those of the international community and the four-party "syndicate" are now at collision course.