Dec 27, 2012

The great Maoist game


The ever-shifting Maoist goalposts hint at their insincerity to the democratic process.

In 2006, after a decade of bloody violence that cost 18,000 lives, the Maoists realized the futility of their course and abandoned arms. But that came not before the conflict had devastated infrastructure, broken many Nepali homes and torn the fabric of the society. A year earlier in Chunwang, the Maoists had decided to give up the path of armed struggle against the existing state power and taken ‘concrete steps’ towards accepting multiparty democracy. This paved the way for the much hyped 12-point understanding with the parliamentary parties in November 2005.

The 12-point understanding is often cited as the start of the journey to peace through restructuring of the state, with the goal of resolving the problems of exclusion of underprivileged groups. The Maoists made a common cause with the mainstream parties and identified monarchy as the main hurdle to democracy, peace, prosperity and social advancement. The agreement secured Maoist commitments on “democratic norms and values, including competitive multiparty system of governance, civil liberties, fundamental rights, human rights and rule of law.” All these points have been repeated in subsequent agreements the Maoists have signed.

Parliamentary parties, for their part, moved away from their founding principles and accommodated Maoist demands in all these accords. But the Maoists have kept changing their positions. Shifting the goal posts, changing positions at every meeting and springing surprises at the last moment have left their negotiating partners scratching their heads. There is no dearth of evidence on how the Maoists have deviated from their promise to deliver. It is perplexing that a government which came through constitutional path has completely sidelined the democratic path. This is exemplified in the proliferation of confounding issues in the six years of peace process; the absolute number is greater than the number of problems that arose during the entire period of insurgency.

Six years on, frequent changing of positions by the Maoists threatens the very essence of the peace process. Their actions demonstrate that they have not only changed goal posts, but are thinking about shifting the whole stadium, where commitments to peace, democracy and human rights are sorely missing. They have flip-flopped consistently. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, which was the only deterrent to Maoist goal of totalitarianism, put an end to the existence of the most representative institution in the nation’s history, achieved after six decades of struggle. This has weakened state authority and paralyzed constitutional bodies to the advantage of those who want to push the country to the brink. Madheshi leaders, who had strong democratic credentials, have undermined themselves by typing up with their ideological rivals in the Maoists. Analysts describe the alliance as a cynical strategy to achieve their long-term goal of absolute power; and as playing with fire over the dry tinder of identity politics. This has begun to raise serious questions about the intention and commitment of the Madhesi parties towards democratic norms.

At this critical juncture, one of the signatories to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, has marred the atmosphere of trust by trying to be everything to everyone. He has been proven to be a man of words, but no action. Also, going by his speeches, Prime Minister Babubam Bhattarai appears to be a conceited and arrogant person. What was needed at this difficult juncture was a leader of exceptional courage who could stand honorably and carry out bold actions in favor of the country.

National life remains poisoned and polluted. Nepotism is at an all-time high. There is a great moral contamination in the country. The prime minister pretends to be greatly concerned about growing corruption, nepotism and embezzlement of billions of rupees (even by his own party), but seems helpless when it comes to taking action against the guilty. This has led to a stagnant economy, stifled development and erosion in Nepal’s commitment and credibility on the external front. For the Maoists, promises, in the famous words of Lenin, are “piecrusts made to be broken.” Chaos, confusion, disorder, deception, unpredictability and subversion, they are all tools for the Maoists to nurture the plant of authoritarianism.

There can be no politics as usual any more. Never has there been a moment in the history of Nepal, when so much is happening at the same time. Leaders are squabbling without fully realizing the far-reaching consequences of continued deadlock. Hard times call for political dexterity. Nepal is located in a dynamic region and leaders need to realize its importance in the emerging world order. Given the gravity of the situation in the country, it is time for the political leaders to rise to the occasion, overcome the political gridlock and make tough decisions for the sake of the country.

A well functioning democracy is an antidote to protracted transition and political fluidity. Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset has observed, “Democratic norms require a willingness to accept political defeat; to leave office upon losing an election, to follow rules even when they work against one’s interests.” Will the Maoists with the fire in the belly be ready to accept these democratic norms? It seems unlikely.

They started their armed conflict with the functioning democratic system at its target. The Maoists consider democratic principles, norms and values a serious threat to their beliefs. The present distraction created by constantly changing goal posts is a part of their effort at distorting the core message of the peace process, premised on the fundamentals of democracy, republic and federalism. Democratic values are the basis of Nepali society. After seven decades of arduous sacrifices for democracy, what could be more ironic than a total absence of democratic institutions in the country?

It is most unfortunate to see neither peace nor a viable political process more than six years after the end of the insurgency. Government leadership has sabotaged constitution writing through CA, and put the goal of making the people sovereign and institutionalization of democratic achievements in deep freeze. It seems the country is back at the starting point. It is a national tragedy to have to live with prolonged deadlock at a time when the country could have immensely benefited from the economic dynamism in the neighborhood.

The crux of the problem is that leaders in Nepal have failed to lead by example. There has been a total failure of leadership in managing changes. Once again, the vital engine for successful change is non-partisan, visionary, effective, courageous and transformational leadership. A functioning democracy alone can handle the growing contests of foreign powers in the country. There is no alternative to democracy as a safeguard from a future pandemonium. Towards this end, fresh mandate at the earliest in a free and fair manner is the only way out of the current deadlock.

The author is a former ambassador of Nepal to the United Nations

Courtesy: My Republica

Nepal is Iraq



Dec 24, 2012

Accept that Ballot and Bullet can't go together

By Deepak Gajurel

An analysis of the fundamental reasons behind the current political imbroglio, and most promising solutions for a stable and democratic Nepal.

Please click on the following link to listen or download the MP3 audio file, which was broadcast by British Force Broadcasting Service (BFBS - 105.7 FM in Kathmandu) on December 20, 2012 (Paush05, 2069).

The link:

Dec 20, 2012

The Only Way Out of the Current Political Mess

By Deepak Gajurel

An analysis on the solution to the current political mess.

Please click on the following link to listen or download an analysis which was broadcast live by Gorkha FM on December 18, 2012.