Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has had a mixed track record in his first 10 months in office. While he has performed below par on the domestic front—mainly in drafting the new constitution—he scores impressively on the diplomatic front.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in August, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 17 years, resulted in a breakthrough in hydropower cooperation between Nepal and India. The successful hosting of the 18th Saarc Summit and the Chinese Foreign Minister’s recent visit to Nepal are other high points in Koirala’s premiership.
Breaking protocol, he went to receive Modi at the Tribuwan International Airport in August. But his shining moment came at the closing of the 18th Saarc Summit, where his gentle prodding made Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif perform a contrived handshake and brought India and Pakistan together to sign the framework agreement on energy cooperation.
Koirala flew twice to the US, in July and September, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and received treatment there. Even though the cancer is now in remission, his health raised concerns about his leadership. He, however, looked confident throughout the Saarc Summit.
But success eludes Koirala on the domestic turf. Running his office mostly from his official residence at Baluwatar, the Prime Minister is failing to draft the constitution on time and to ensure good governance. While he has managed to cobble together a coalition government despite ups and down with the coalition partner, CPN-UML, the process of constitution drafting has been stuck.
In fact, Koirala is on the verge of missing a historic opportunity of being in a position to take ownership of the all-important task of finishing the constitution. With only 22 days left for the January 22 deadline, whether Koirala will take the leadership on negotiations on key contentious issues in the constitution by maintaining flexible stances remains to be seen.
In August, he came and charmed Nepal with his ‘neighbour first’ approach. And in his second visit in November (to attend the 18th Saarc Summit), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the promise made during his first visit, with the signing of the power trade agreement between Nepal and India.
Turning a new page in Nepal-India relations, Modi demonstrated flexibility when he said he was open to reviewing the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Nepal. He also gave the impression that he wanted to conduct the business of foreign policy at the political level, wresting it from the bureaucrats and security agencies.
The August visit proved effective in getting rid of the resentments against India that had accumulated over the last decade, and in establishing a foundation for greater economic cooperation. In his 45-minute address to Parliament in Hindi (after starting in Nepali), Modi brilliantly used symbolism—the legends of the Buddha, the Ramayana—to connect with the Nepalis. He drew the longest and the loudest applause when he said that the Buddha was born in Nepal, putting to rest the perceived Indian ambivalence on the highly touchy issue. And, his vision for Nepal, or HIT (highway, information ways, transmission ways,) became an instant hit.
During his second visit, major agreements on hydropower, which had been in limbo for years, were realised. These are watershed achievements, given the long history of mutual suspicion between Nepal and India on investment in the hydropower sector.
As promised during his August visit, Modi said he had asked the Indian telecom companies to reduce call tariffs from India to Nepal by 35 percent. And, in a major relief for the Nepalis working in India and Indian tourists coming to Nepal, Modi announced the partial lifting of the ban on the use of Indian currency denominations of 500 and 1000 in Nepal.
For KP Oli, 2014 was a year of reckoning. In February, he became the leader of UML parliamentary party and in July, he took over as UML Chairman. This put him in a position from where he could manoeuvre and dictate national politics—and, he obviously did.
After beating contemporaries—Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal—in the election for the leader of parliamentary party and for the post of UML Chairperson, respectively, Oli became the most powerful person in the party. Be it selecting lawmakers under proportional representation system or selecting ministers in the Sushil Koirala-led coalition government, Oli didn’t give enough space to his rivals.
Now eyeing the post of the Prime Minister, Oli is cleverly handling the political process, mainly the drafting of the constitution. His stance on federalism is well known. The perennial Maoist-baiter and a strong opponent of identity-based federalism, Oli’s is the dominant voice from the ruling alliance, as the parties huddle for negotiation on contentious issues of the constitution. If consensus eludes, Oli is vocal about going for a vote on the contentious issues.
Bringing divided parties—mainly the opposition and the Madhes-centric parties—together on key disputed constitutional issues for the promulgation of the new constitution is the biggest challenge for Oli to get the desired position of the Prime Minister.
Whether the straightforward but inflexible Oli will show statesmanship while taking the ruling Nepali Congress and the opposition Maoists into confidence in a new power-sharing deal and also manage his ambitious fellow colleagues in his party --Nepal and Khanal-- will be seen in 2015.
“This year remained really fruitful in [Oli’s] long political career, as he succeeded in getting the much desired positions at both the party and parliamentary fronts. He has presented himself as one of most probable candidates for the next prime minister,” says UML leader Agni Kharel.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai
Their party was reduced to the third largest party in the second Constituent Assembly (CA), and yet Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai remained at the core of the new constitution drafting process. And their relationship to each other, which even at the best of times is termed an ‘uneasy alliance’, continued as usual in 2014 as well.
As in the past years, there were ups and downs in Dahal-Bhattarai relationship, which sometimes took the party on the verge of split, but were carefully handled. For them, the year started on a sour note but as 2014 ends, both are on cordial terms.
At the beginning of the year, Bhattarai publicly questioned Dahal’s leadership after the UCPN (Maoist) party’s debacle in the second CA elections. The relationship further soured after Bhattarai brought the concept of a new political force, which for many meant a preparation for a split from the party. Dahal publicly expressed his dissatisfaction over Bhattarai’s ideological foundation of the new political force.
To manage the growing crisis in the party, Dahal held party’s general convention in May but failed to keep the party united. Despite some reservations, Vice-Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha sided with Dahal, while Bhattarai boycotted the convention, which re-elected Dahal as the party chairman.
The relationship between the two started to improve after Dahal agreed to handover the leadership of CA’s Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC) to Bhattarai. Though Dahal himself was willing to take that position, he conceded it to maintain unity within the party.
As 2014 ends, the relationship has turned cordial after Dahal agreed to hold the party’s general convention in early 2016 and hand over the leadership to Bhattarai for one term.
Still, the party is yet to come up with a timeline and a political blueprint about when and how the transfer of leadership would be handled. Dahal has led the party for more than two decades.
Though Bhattarai has harboured leadership ambitions for a long time, he spoke about it for the first time this year—a point not lost on Dahal. It will not be an easy road for Bhattarai, however. Dahal has a strong grip on the party structure, and his loyalists are likely to object to the proposal to elevate Bhattarai. “Our understanding of late is that after Prachanda relinquishes his position, I will take up the leadership while also developing a new leadership structure for the handover of power,” Bhattarai said in an interview with the Post at the end of 2014.
Dr Govinda KC
Govinda KC was a lone crusader fighting against the country’s medical system, which is marred by corruption, political meddling, and commercialisation. Twice in 2014, he went on a hunger strike, demanding a purge of the system which has rendered medical education expensive and prone to political intervention.
With his protest, the orthopaedic surgeon at the Institute of Medicine (IoM), premier health institution in the country, had those pulling the strings to get affiliations for their medical colleges running. As two leading universities --Tribhuwan University and Kathmandu University—struggled to regulate the existing medical colleges, KC asked for a separate medical university which would grant affiliations to medical colleges. He also stood firm against medical mafias, which are bent on using their political nexus to get affiliations to their medical colleges. Until his protest, few were aware of the corrupt connection between the political establishment and the medical fraternity which had been threatening the quality of medical education in the country.
Although his demand for a new medical university is yet to be materialised, KC extracted a commitment from the government to grant more autonomy to the IoM and to stop allowing medical colleges to open without a proper review.
Nanda Prasad Adhikari
After a decade of legal battle for justice for his murdered son, Nanda Prasad Adhikari of Phujel, Gorkha district, breathed his last on September while still on hunger strike. The 56-year-old survived without eating food for 11 months.
Adhikari started his fast-onto-death protest with his wife Ganga Maya to demand that the murderers of his 18-year-old son, Krishna Prasad, be brought to justice. Krishna was murdered after abduction by the-then rebel Maoists from his home in 2004.
The couple spent a few years going to courts, rights organisations and the National Human Rights Commission, seeking justice. When they ran out of options, the couple resorted to hunger strike in the Capital.
Rights defenders say the incident epitomises the rights situation in the country. The government has been selective in addressing the conflict-era cases, they say. “This shows utter negligence on part of the government,” says Ram Bhandari, whose father was disappeared by security forces during the conflict. “Nanda Prasad lost his life in vain. The government is not willing to address the war-era cases just yet.”
Nanda Prasad’s case did not get enough attention because there were two schools of thought regarding the best way to deal with transitional justice cases. One insisted that all conflict-era cases should be dealt by the not-yet-formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); the other argued that these cases should be persecuted in regular courts, as well.
At the political front, the parties in power during the conflict are sympathetic towards security forces, while the former rebel party UCPN (Maoist) wants to protect its cadre members. The transitional justice act, which was endorsed after a delay of six years, was also a compromise document, which includes a provision of amnesty in cases of serious crimes, between the ruling and the opposition parties.
The delayed formation of the TRC and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances has made the conflict victims uncertain about justice. Nanda Prasad’s widow, Ganga Maya, who is undergoing treatment at Bir Hospital, is still on protest. She has been refusing to perform the last rites of her deceased husband, whose body is still lying at the Tribhuwan University Teaching hospital. She wants the murders to be brought to justice first.
The death of Nanda Prasad has been viewed as an indication of the failure of the rule of law and of the impunity rampant in the country.
Netra Bikram Chand
He wants to take forward the “Peoples’ War” from where his seniors, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Mohan Baidya, left. To that end, Chand wants to revive the war-era set-up by forming parallel local bodies and paramilitary setup.
When Netra Bikram Chand announced his split from Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist, his move surprised few. Even before the split of UCPN (Maoist), Chand was in a ‘permanent opposition’ within the party. It didn’t change with the formation of CPN-Maoist. Chand continued to be critical of the party leadership. After his demand for a more aggressive strategy was not heard by the party leadership, Chand announced his divorce from the CPN-Maoist in November.
Before moving away from the party, Chand remained busy throughout the year with a factional campaign to challenge both the leadership and its political strategy of ‘people’s revolution on the foundation of people’s war’. Ignoring the party’s warning of disciplinary actions, Chand even organised a secret national gathering of his supporters.
His document on ‘unified rebellion’ proposes a launch of another revolution, with the support of rural farmers and the urban middle-class. The new party claims to be more radical than the ‘New People’s Revolution’ declared by the CPN-Maoist and the ‘socialist revolution’ of the UCPN (Maoist).
How Chand and his party will move forward will be clear after the CPN Maoist’s first general convention, which is scheduled from January 7-10.
Nepal has been gifted with the raw pace of Sompal Kami, a 19-year-old right-hand medium pacer, who cemented his place in the senior national team when he made his debut at the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand in January.
It is remarkable that the 5 ft 5” bowler consistently generates an average bowling speed of 140km/h, and that has helped him spearhead the Nepali bowling unit. Many say his unique physique contributes to his bowling at such an unlikely speed. “His unusually long limbs probably help him generate such pace,” says umpire Devendra Subedi, who watched him bowl closely while officiating domestic and international matches.
Kami’s meteoric rise is all the more remarkable because the teenager only moved to Nepal from Patilyala, Punjab, a year ago to play cricket. He was actually born in Gulmi but moved to India with his partents when he was three years old.
He appeared on the national radar, when as an 18-year-old he took 17 wickets while playing for Region 3 (Kathmandu) in the U-19 National Cricket tournament. The organisers of the “Journey to the World Cup”--a four-team invitational friendly cricket tournament--promptly snapped him up and included him in the Nepali team. The teenager duly repaid the trust placed in him by taking 10 wickets for Nepal.
Even during his brief early spell with the squad, his talent did not go unnoticed, and coach Pubudu Dassanayake picked him for the all-important ICC World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand. While Nepal finished a disappointing ninth in the 10-team qualifier, Kami burnished his credentials by picking eight wickets.
Kami spearheaded the Nepali bowling attack in Nepal’s maiden Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh in March, where Nepal almost qualified for the main draw in the world’s top eight nations awaited them. Despite a stunning victory over Afghanistan and Hong Kong, Nepali were pipped by host Bangladesh for a place in the next stages. But in the earlier matches, Kami claimed two wickets each in Nepal’s victory over both Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
The right-hand medium pacer was also at the heart of Nepal ‘s triumphant ICC Div 3 campaign in October, taking 11 wickets in seven matches, only three wickets short of compatriot left-arm spinner Basanta Regmi .
Only recently in November, Kami starred with the ball in Three-Day matches against local Sri Lankan teams. Nepal lost the ACC-recognised first List A match against Kurenegala XI and drew the second one against Sri Lanka Cricket Combine (SLC) XI. But Kami was the standout performer, earning himself the man-of-the-match accolade in both matches. He finished with eight wickets against Kurunegala and 10 against SLC Combine.
Nepal will rely heavily rely on Kami when they embark of their ICC WCL Div 2 tournament, which has been slated for January 17-24 in Namibia. The six-team event includes Kenya, hosts Namibia, the Netherlands, Canada and Uganda. The stakes are high because Div 2 success opens opportunities to high-profile ICC tournaments. The teams claiming the top two positions will qualify to play the World Cricket League Championship and Intercontinental Cup. And Nepal will probably only get there if Kami has a stellar outing.
Lokman Singh Karki
First, as head of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Lokman Singh Karki cancelled the licences of 14 hydropower projects—an act which his critics say was out of the Commission’s jurisdiction. And then, Singh refused to turn up to a parliamentary hearing summoned by a House panel. The CIAA chief was never out of controversy in 2014.
Initially, Karki defied the calls to appear before the Agriculture and Water Resource Committee, saying that he would only show up if he gets summoned by the Good Governance Committee; he, however, sent CIAA officials to the committee as his representatives.
Although the anti-graft body earns brownie points for taking action against corruption in education, health and public welfare sectors, Karki is yet to start high-profile corruption inquiries into cases concerning influential politicians.
So far, the CIAA has fried small fishes, like non-gazetted officers involved in bribery and fake certificate holding teachers, throughout the years. A CIAA probe revealed that 770 fake schools in eight districts in central Tarai were raking in at least Rs 1 billion from the state annually. Teachers and school management committees involved in such malpractices were booked.
The CIAA also took the vice-chancellors of the Purbanchal, Mid-western and Pokhara universities to court on charges of corruption. Senior health officials involved in pocketing funds allotted to the distribution of free medicine and local officials embezzling social security funds have also been dragged to the court.
However, the case of cantonment corruption, in which billions of rupees were siphoned off from the allowances of Maoist People’s Liberation Army, and the cases concerning disproportionate amount of properties in the name of politicians remain largely unaddressed, despite Karki’s repeated public commitment to deal with them.
“Over 1000 cases of amassing disproportionate amount of property are being secretly investigated from our side. We are seriously looking into them,” said Karki at a function to mark the International Anti-corruption Day on December 9.
In a secular Nepal, Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) Chairman Kamal Thapa remained busy throughout the year with his Hindu state agenda. As the year 2014 ends, Thapa is on a ‘Mechi-Mahakali Chariot Procession’, launched with an objective to revive Nepal as a Hindu state.
When secular forces are struggling to find a common ground on drafting the new constitution, Thapa is upping the ante with a demand for referendum on Nepal as a Hindu state in the same constitution.
With an impressive performance in the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, where RPP-N emerged as the fourth largest party, Thapa is leading the conservative argument, which calls for the revival of monarchy and Nepal as a Hindu state. Joining him are Nepali Congress leaders, Khum Bahadur Khadka and Chirnajivi Wagle, both of whom were once jailed for corruption.
Thapa has had his share of controversy, as well—be it the sacking of the RPP-N founding member Padma Sundar Lawati or the promotion of his own brother Ganesh, who is currently facing charge of embezzling millions of rupees during his two-decade-long leadership in All Nepal Football Association. As a CA member, Kamal is charged of being autocratic and nepotistic.
This year, Kamal was involved in altercations with the Speaker of the Parliament, Subash Nembang, for not allocating him enough time for his deliberation. Nembang had allocated 10 minutes for his address on August 10. When Kamal ignored the Speaker’s warning and spent more than 12 minutes addressing the House, his mike was turned off. Enraged, Thapa left the rostrum and accused Nembang of demonstrating dictatorial attitudes and chanted slogans against him. Later, Thapa apologised for disrupting the House.
Despite having won a number of national awards for excellent academic achievements, Chandra Kant Raut was little known to the public until he was arrested on charges of being involved in a secessionist campaign.
Raut left everything behind to join politics. He set up an organisation, the Alliance for Independence of Madhes, to work towards ending “Nepali colonialism and racism to establish an independent republican Madhes’.
In September, police arrested Raut from Morang while he was on his way home after delivering a speech at a local fair in Rangeli. Initially, he was booked under the Public Offence Act but the charge was later converted into an offence of secession. He has since been out on bail, but the government has not withdrawn the case.
His arrests drew national and international attention, with some arguing that the arrest infringed upon his right to speech. Rights organisations, like Amnesty International and Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, were quick to conclude that it was unfair to arrest Raut for his political expression.
As evidence to prove Raut’s involvement in secessionist activities, the government used his agenda to free Madhes from hill colonisation, drawings of a new flag and boundaries, and his composition of a new national anthem for the proposed country.
In his books, A History of Madhes (Madhes Kaa Itihaas) and Madhes Self-rule (Madhes Swaraj), Raut has argued why Madhes should be a separate country. His radical thoughts portrayed him as a separatist, but opinions are still divided over whether Raut’s expressions were acts of treason. What has not yet been discussed is what forced him to take up such a secessionist move. Neither has been there talks on why he relinquished his enviable career and pursued politics, inviting state to watch over his activities.
Dinesh Adhikari “Chari”
Dinesh Adhikari, aka Chari, was the first don whose death enraged the parliamentarians, mainly from the CPN-UML, and
threatened to bring Parliament to a halt. In the House, UML leaders from Dhading, Adhikari’s home district, demanded an independent enquiry into the incident.
After he was shot dead on August 6 in Bhimdhunga, Kathmandu, police said that it was an “encounter killing”. His family members and friends, however, refused to believe the police’s story. They claimed that Chari was killed in an act of revenge. His girlfriend, Khusbu Oli, said that the Police Inspector, Kumud Dhungel, who failed to woo her, had shot the crime lord in retaliation.
After the incident, over 200 UML supporters went to the UML headquarters in Balkhu to draw the party’s attention to the shooting. UML Chairperson KP Oli rubbished media reports of the “encounter killing”, calling it an extra-judicial case of killing.
Nicknamed ‘Chari’ or ‘bird’ for his ability to evade arrest, police had been in search of Adhikari for chargers of attempted murder, a string of extortion, assault, possession of arms and running illegal business.
Considered close to the UML party, Adhikari was also believed to have been involved in the shoot-out of Nepali Congress (NC) member Min Krishna Maharjan in Lalitpur earlier this year.
Chari’s rise and fall is the epitome of intricate but blatant links between politicians and criminals.
The All Nepal Football Association (Anfa) hogged the limelight in 2014 for all the wrong reasons, with its now-suspended President Ganesh Thapa at the centre of it all. For the first time in almost two decades of his Anfa rule—since he assumed the office in 1995—the “all-powerful” Thapa was forced to step down from his office temporarily in October last year. The move came after Thapa was accused of misappropriation of funds at the football governing body.
Two things brought about the so-called downfall of Thapa: a series of “The Sunday Times”—a British newspaper—reports linking his “unexplained financial dealings” with the now-suspended President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Fifa executive member, Mohammed bin Hammam; and Thapa’s dictatorial nature.
In June the Times reported that Thapa had received £115,000 from two separate Kemco (bin Hammam’s private company) accounts in March and August 2010. The revelation came in less than two years after the Associated Press’s reports that the AFC Vice-President Thapa had received an unexplained $100,000 from bin Hammam. Thapa has accepted that bin Hamman had deposited $100,000 in his son’s (Gaurav) bank account, who used to be an employee at the AFC then. Thapa claimed that he had borrowed the money for personal use.
The news about Thapa’s involvement in unexplained dealings with AFC came at a time when some top-tier domestic teams, including Himalayan Sherpa and Friends Club, were at loggerheads with Thapa. The clubs had been protesting about the ways Anfa and its leadership worked. Armed with the Times’s report, the clubs knocked on the doors of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and asked for an investigation into the misappropriation of funds by Thapa.
Following media reports and complaints filed by Anfa vice-presidents, Karma Tshering Sherpa and Bijay Narayan Manandhar, by Anfa member Pankaj Bikram Nembang and by former players, Arjun Lama and Deepak Khati, PAC directed then-President Thapa to submit the five-year Anfa audit reports in July last year.
At the time Thapa said that he would comply with the PAC directives. Anfa, however, took the matter lightly and did not bother to submit the reports to PAC. PAC then summoned the Youth and Sports minister, Purushottam Paudel, to probe into the Anfa corruption and report back.
The ministry, after investigating the matter, submitted a report to PAC, in which questions over Anfa’s financial dealings amounting to Rs 58 million were raised. Consequently, PAC in October directed the ministry to suspend Thapa and three other Anfa office-bearers, who were linked in the alleged corruption. Thapa remained defiant initially, saying that Anfa was not obliged to follow the directive as it was against “Fifa and AFC ethics.”
Later, however, Thapa stepped down for two months to, as he put it, “save Nepal from being suspended from world and regional football governing bodies”. In reality, it appeared that Thapa had lost the trust of Fifa and AFC.