End of the Road for SPAM in Nepal

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By Shashi P.B.B. Malla & Chandra Bahadur Parbate

The road taken by SPAM (the infamous Seven Party Alliance and Maoists, also known as ‘the Gang of Eight’) or maybe the government (d)alliance has now ended in a cul-de-sac. The deliberations on Sunday in the so-called interim parliament regarding the proclamation of a republic and the introduction of a proportional electoral system were a complete farce. The “interim legislature” was in no way authorized to pass such resolutions, and such momentous decisions cannot but be null and void without the peoples’ verdict and mandate.

Hence, although the special session of “parliament” has asked the government to immediately determine the process of declaring Nepal a republic and adopt a fully proportional electoral system instead of the current ‘first past the winning-post’, legal and constitutional experts are overwhelming of the opinion that these resolutions were just ‘urgent proposals of public importance’ to draw the attention of the government, but in no way legally binding, i.e. the government is not and will not be obliged to ensure actual implementation. That being the case what was the point of this exercise? It seems that the current political establishment of SPAM just want to hoodwink the people and deflect criticism from their abject failure to hold elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) on time or only setting a binding date for them.

Wise Monkeys

This is indeed the cardinal point, and not determining a concrete date for declaring the country a republic, which should have been the business of the CA in the first place. Thus, the so-called resolutions of the so-called “parliament” have been a travesty of the parliamentary and democratic process: The Communists (the CPN-United Marxists-Leninists) and the Maoists were involved in horse-trading, scheming and secret dealing in pushing through the “resolutions” in the 326-member hand-picked “parliament”. However, although a majority was a foregone conclusion, both resolutions did not reach a two-thirds majority to have the required morally binding effect. In both cases, it was the Nepali Congress (NC) which played spoilsport, dismissing them as not being congruent with the legal process (sic). The NC Vice-President and Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Ram Chandra Paudel had the effrontery to term them just pressure tactics on the part of the Communists/Maoists. He also made the Delphic remark that the issue must be settled by a two-thirds majority in parliamentary due process. Then what was all the commotion about? It would appear that our pseudo-democratic politicians are struggling to think beyond the level of 4-year olds. We have seen children playing in a kindergarten make more sense and acting in a more responsible manner.

Another ‘highlight’ in this sitcom turned parliamentary session was PM Koirala’s nonsensical performance, which is diametrically opposite to that of Paudel and the NC. He abstained from voting, or as he put it, remained neutral as he was chosen by SPAM and wanted to preserve SPAM unity in spite of the division of votes. While the antics observed above certainly do add a whole new subtext to the concept of unity, it is doubtful whether that unity is really worth preserving. He went on to defend the Maoists for entering the parliamentary mainstream for participating in the parliamentary exercise, as major decisions should be initiated in parliament. Little does he realize that he and his party have been taken for a ride. Although the immediate declaration of a republic was forestalled, the NC was isolated. For the Maoists (and all Communists) the “interim parliament” is just the means to reach the end result of a communist republic and the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry (V.I.Lenin). Thanks to Koirala’s craven stance and the NC’s appeasement policy towards the Maoists, they are indeed making great strides in this direction.

It is highly far-fetched and weird to argue (as The Himalayan Times has done) that the so-called “interim parliament” has been “reestablished as the centre of democratic processes” and that it is now “the venue to sort out political differences”. Tell that to the man in the street. In the face of violent happenings in the country at large, we cannot only see the Maoists’ peaceful behaviour in parliament and their attempt to use it to resolve contentious issues. The Maoist movement remains a hydra-headed monster. Suffice to state that the Maoists previously saw the same “parliament” as “the place that hangs a goat’s head and sells dog-meat”! To give the devil his due, the Maoists are not far from the truth. This so-called “interim parliament” has outlived his usefulness (it had no right to exist in the first place), and should be abolished at the first opportunity.

It is easy to see why the CPN-UML were in favor of a fully proportional system of elections. In the general elections of 1999 for the 205-member parliament, it won 30.74 % of the popular votes, but secured only 68 seats. Similarly, the right-of-centre Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (which also voted for the current resolution on proportional representation) garnered 10.14 % percent of the popular votes, but this also translated into only 12 seats. It is all a question of conjecture how all the political parties, including the Maoists, will actually fare in the real world of electoral politics, for “peace in our time” has not at all been achieved. In really “free and fair” elections, it is anybody’s guess how the electoral arithmetic will actually turn out. There is no doubt that SPAM, and especially the Maoists are playing for time. The mood in the country has definitely swung against them. The time is ripe for regime change.

Ganga Thapa, professor of politics at Tribhuwan University, has eloquently described the current political scenario: “(the) Maoist demand for republic through the interim legislature smacks of fascism, an illegitimate usurpation of power.” As regards the proportional electoral vote, “the choices could bring in popular disillusionment, be reduced to empty formalism, and would diminish citizens’ equitable and active participation in politics.” He is of the opinion that the presence of “political dinosaurs” is crippling the political machinery, and that there is no indication that the political parties will transform themselves in the near future. He considers the Maoists to be more sophisticated.

It is symptomatic that the government and SPAM are desperately attempting to draw away attention from domestic woes. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has condemned the government for failing to uphold human rights. The nation-wide protests of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists have been brutally suppressed. Doesn’t all of this sound familiar? The only difference to the situation during the Royal regime is that foreign powers that were criticizing and denouncing it and actively agitating for regime change are this time around, strangely silent. This is even in the face of stepped up atrocities of the Maoists and their Young Communist (Criminal) League (YCL) country-wide. Senior Journalist Shyam K.C. has highlighted the impotence of the government regarding their atrocious and illegal activities and the impunity they enjoy. It now seems certain that the journalist Birendra Kumar Sah was abducted (and murdered on the same day) by the Maoists. Such is the state of anarchy, lawlessness and impunity in our country. As Siddhartha Thapa has written succinctly (in newsfront): “While Prachanda lounges in a fortified residence, his men go around abducting, intimidating, and in some cases killing unarmed civilians and political opponents.” Home minister Sitaula and the government at large are not at all concerned. Like the legendary wise monkeys, they hear, speak and see no evil around them!

It is, therefore, astounding that this spineless government with an absolutely poor record in democratic governance had the audacity and hypocrisy to censure President Pervez Musharraf for declaring a state of emergency in Pakistan. The PM’s office issued a strong statement expressing great concern for the whole region and regretting that “the ray of hope for democracy had been eclipsed”. Now these wise guys should have realized that both lunar and solar eclipses are only of short duration, and that the emergency will be lifted, once the domestic situation cools down. It is also not the same as promulgating the more draconian martial law. Moreover, former PM Benazir Bhutto who is currently negotiating with the president (and who was nearly assassinated on her return home after exile) has herself stated that “there is a real threat of a takeover by radical Islamist elements who have grown in strength and stature in the last five years.” The Nepalese government and the political parties that have issued such disparaging statements should have waited before jumping to conclusions. After all, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. It would have been edifying if this government had also expressed an opinion on the recent protests by monks in Myanmar.

For this unwarranted and gross interference in its internal affairs, and to set an example, we would suggest that the government of Pakistan lodge a strong protest at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and (temporarily) withdraw its ambassador from Kathmandu as a sign of displeasure.

The writers can be reached at: [email protected]

Shashi P.B.B. Malla writes incisive political opinion about the politics and politicians of Nepal. He sometimes writes with fellow contributor, Chandra Bahadur Parbate.

Educated in Darjeeling, India, with a certificate from Cambridge University, he went to College and university in Calcutta: I. Sc./St. Xavier’s, B.A. (Hons.)/ Presidency, M.A. (International Relations)/Jadavpur, India. He was Assistant Editor: The Rising Nepal, Kathmandu.

He is or was the Country Representative, DAV Summit Club, Munich (Germany’s leading adventure tour operators in mountaineering and trekking)

He is a Senior Lecturer, Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Tribhuwan University, Kathmandu