Friday, June 01, 2012

"Nepal Falls into Political Turmoil" - (But I'm Alive!)


The Wall Street Journal May 29, 2012
KATMANDU, Nepal—Nepal sank into political turmoil Monday after lawmakers failed to agree on a new constitution, leaving the country with no legal government. The premier called new elections, but critics said he lacked the power to do so.
Security forces went on high alert and riot police patrolled the streets after several political parties called for rallies to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and protest his unilateral decision to call elections for November. Only a few peaceful protests were reported."The country has plunged into a serious crisis," said Ram Sharan Mahat, a senior leader of the country's second-largest party, the Nepali Congress, who said that six months would not be enough time to prepare for new polling."This government has no legitimate grounds to continue," he said.The squabbling political parties in Nepal's Constituent Assembly had failed to agree on a new blueprint for the Himalayan nation by their own deadline of midnight Sunday, despite repeated extensions of the due date over the past four years.A key sticking point was whether the country's states should be drawn to give regional power bases to ethnic minorities.Writing the new constitution was supposed to cap an interim period aimed at solidifying details of Nepal's democracy after the country turned the page on centuries of royal rule and resolved a decadelong Maoist insurgency by bringing the former combatants into the political mainstream.Mr. Bhattarai, from the party of the former Maoists, said the previous constitutional assembly, elected four years ago, had failed and must be dissolved, and that he would head a caretaker government until the Nov. 22 elections."We have no other option but to go back to the people and elect a new assembly to write the constitution," Mr. Bhattarai said in his announcement.However, his plan immediately drew criticism from legal experts, who said any plans for new polling should be made in consultation with the country's other political parties."It was politically, legally and morally incorrect of the prime minister to announce fresh elections," said constitutional and legal expert Bhimarjun Acharya.Police spokesman Binod Singh said thousands of police officers had been deployed in the capital, Katmandu, and major cities across the country to stop any violence in the coming days.At a rally Monday in Katmandu, small groups of college students burned effigies of Mr. Bhattarai and demanded his resignation. Police quickly put out the flames.Separately, a group supporting the abolished monarchy also demanded the prime minister's resignation, blaming him for the country's political crisis. Police allowed the demonstrators to march through the center of Katmandu.On Sunday, police had clashed briefly with protesters outside the Constituent Assembly, where political leaders from the country's four main parties had been meeting in a last-minute attempt to agree on a new constitution before the deadline.Much of the debate was over whether to draw state boundaries in a way to boost the political power of the country's ethnic minorities.Nepal's minority ethnic groups and low-caste communities were overshadowed for centuries by the country's elite. In the past couple of years, as Nepal has struggled to create a new government, those divisions have given rise to caste- and ethnic-based politicians, who insist their long-marginalized communities deserve to live in states that maximize their influence.The Constituent Assembly was elected to a two-year term in 2008 to draft a new constitution but has been unable to finish the task. Its tenure has been extended four times, but the Supreme Court rejected any further extensions.—Copyright 2012, the Associated Press

Though there is certainly some turmoil in the capital, I am fortunate to be in the high Himalayas, beyond the reach of its influence.  Pema Choling is perhaps the safest place I could be in Nepal during a time like this.  I'm thankful that we flew out early in the morning on the very day the constitution was supposed to be completed, and that we actually made it to Lukla, as we are officially the only flight which the clouds permitted to land here in the past two weeks!

Life in the Himalayas revolves around tourism, and as long as the trekkers keep coming and eating, the Sherpa people are happy. As far as I know, the Sherpas are not very politically active beyond their isolated communities, have not declared any strikes, and are not included in the minority ethnic groups which seek to maximize their political privileges and influence.  In fact, I don't believe the political situation in the country is even a hot topic of discussion up here.

I'm just glad that I won't be flying back to Kathmandu until August; hopefully in the next three months things will die down. And if it is still unpredictable, I'll simply book my ticket home and, upon arriving at the KTM airport from Lukla, stay there until boarding my connecting flight.

In other news, seemingly unrelated to the constitution business, but equally tragic...

"Nepal Supreme Court Judge Killed"The Wall Street Journal May 31, 2012
KATMANDU, Nepal – Motorcycle-riding assailants shot and killed a Supreme Court judge under investigation for allegedly taking bribes as he headed to work in the Nepalese capital Thursday, police said.Rana Bahadur Bam's bodyguard and another passenger in his car were also wounded in the attack as the judge was driven to work after worshipping at a Hindu temple.Mr. Bam was being investigated by the Judiciary Council for allegedly taking bribes from suspects charged with abduction in 2010 in exchange for releasing them with light sentences and fines.Police official Rabindra Shah said two masked men on a black motorcycle drove by the judge's car and opened fire. Mr. Bam, his bodyguard and another person identified as the judge's friend were hit but the driver managed to escape. The attackers fled the scene after the shooting and the injured men were rushed to the hospital in a taxi.Mr. Bam, shot several times, died at the local Norvic Hospital as he was being treated for internal bleeding, said hospital doctor Bharat Rawat.The other two men were undergoing surgery and their condition was unknown.Police set up checkpoints in Katmandu and were searching for the motorcycle and culprits.
Again, I'm not able to follow the happenings in Kathmandu very closely, but I'm not in the least bit concerned for my own safety during my time here at Pema Choling and along the trail to Base Camp.

1 comments:

  1. I'm glad you aren't worried... but know I am keeping you in my prayers and thoughts. I'm sure this is not easy on your family! Aside from that, you are in the most spectacular place as far as mountain vistas and scenery. Those little children on the side of the road broke my heart. Such a difference in cultures and concern. HUGS to you Shirah! xo

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