Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Diplomatic missions without ambassadors

The following report was aired on BBC Nepali Service on June 16, 09. Continuing political instability and frequent changes in government at home is affecting the timely appointment of ambassadors in Nepal's diplomatic missions abroad. In the case of France the Nepali embassy has been without ambassador for 4 years.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A modest solution

A powerful crisis resolution body at the centre is what we need to jumpstart the process of governance

In Britain the outrage over the Member of Parliaments' (MPs') expenses have generated enormous public pressure on the politicians to come clean. It has already cost the speaker his job, and many more heads are likely to roll with the proposed reshuffling of the cabinet. In Nepal, where we have religiously tried to copy the Westminster system in the past, the emphasis on personal integrity and morality of the British system are not biggest selling points for the politicians here.
Like Britain, we have many of the similar problems in closet of our parliaments. Unlike Britain, the cleansing rarely happens, perhaps a reason why we need frequent revolutions. There are complaints about MPs not attending the parliamentary and respective committee meetings, underpaying their staffs and horse-trading. I do not intend to paint everyone with the same brush, nevertheless these incidents are taking place on a regular basis.
Staffs of Constituent Assembly (CA) members have written anonymous letters to newspapers and radio stations about their bosses not paying them their allocated salaries. But those are smaller problems; larger problems lie in the eroding institutional capacity of the executive, so much so that an executive order barely seems able to move the garbage dumpsters to the dumping site.
One of the frequent attacking points against the Maoist government, for their hyperactivity in the use of the executive power - which in most cases generated more heat than light - was this refrain from Nepali Congress and Tarai-Madhes Democratic Party, among others: This is an interim government and its only mandate is to write the constitution. I found there remarks from very senior leaders eerily unrealistic and doubly naive. Perhaps this is where things have gone awry in this transition period. The executive branch is expected to consolidate its authority (especially following a civil war), fill the void left by the years of retreat, secure law and order, and tackle the basic problems that confront the public on a daily basis. Resolving problems like garbage disposal, ending strikes, and controlling inflation are a basic starting point for the government and political parties collectively to provide people some relief.
As they say the morning shows the day, failure to address even the most basic housekeeping issues raises serious questions about the ability of political parties to govern. Producing a fine constitution will not magically instill that capacity in the future, if they fail to do it now. For that and other reasons, the governing coalition needs to make a sincere effort and take initiative to restore a semblance of governance. Others will fall in line if they see enough merit. No politician, I hope, wishes the state to fail and they can all be reasoned with. The first step is really taking a keen interest in addressing the root cause. A patchwork solution for every banda and grievances will only exhaust the government and the country. There has to be a common framework. The next step is formulating that framework or mechanism that allows resolution of disputes without resorting to rough tactics that have tragically become a fad in Nepal.
One suggestion: The government should constitute a high-level conflict resolution body that has the participation of political parties, and civil society at the central and regional levels to listen to the disagreements and disputes that groups have against the state. Armed with a broad political mandate, the body would be able to address most problems within the current legal framework. Those beyond their mandate would be forwarded to the conference of government political parties and civil society at the centre to hammer out a solution or a compromise formula. With the formation of this body, the parties have to agree to outlaw strikes and bandh for the period of two year. This will give the much-needed breathing space to the government, people, politics, and economy.
Initially, the political parties had agreed to continue the civil society-led National Monitoring Committee (NMC) to continue its work. But the disagreement over the Terms of Reference (TOR) led to abandonment of an important institution that could have played a crucial role in defusing the current crisis.
Instead of protesting against the president's decision which is sub judice in Supreme Court, the civil society should look at institutional ways of addressing the problems. They should turn their attention towards pressuring the government and the parties to constitute a body with broad participation and political mandate to work as a conflict resolution institution for the interim period.
If the Brits think that their expenses scandal is serious enough to warrant a constitutional reform, ours is far too grave to leave it to the politicians alone. Time is running out.
The Kathmandu Post

Friday, June 5, 2009

Eu elections

The following report on EU elections was aired on BBC Nepali service on June 5, 09