Saturday, May 25, 2013

Deuba faction miffed with Koirala over party appointments

KATHMANDU, May 21: The seemingly cordial relation between Nepali Congress (NC) President Sushil Koirala and the party’s senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba has witnessed a serious rift yet again following Koirala’s decision to give full shape to various 42 departments of the party. The Deuba faction has said the decision is in violation of the principle of ‘balance’ and ‘consensus’.

Deuba faction has expressed serious reservations over Koirala’s nomination of members in the party’s various departments without paying due heed to the concerns raised by it. “We are surprised to see the list of nominations made for the party’s departments. The appointments made are not only unbalanced but also against consensus,” said NC CWC member Bimalendra Nidhi, a close confidant of Deuba.

Nidhi said they had submitted a list of about 1,000 possible candidates from their faction for appointments after Koirala’s request. “He [Koirala] had assured us that he would make the appointments in a balanced manner. But as we read the list of nominations made, we were astonished,” Nidhi further said.

Koirala announced nomination of 21 members each in 42 departments of the party on Sunday. Leaders close to Deuba alleged that Koirala has not picked even 200 names nominated by the faction while appointing 882 members.

“Koirala has failed to show his magnanimity. We are receiving phone calls from leaders in various districts who doubt whether Koirala will short-change our faction while distributing election tickets,” said another Deuba-aligned leader, asking to be unnamed.

The leader further said they have accepted that Koirala as the elected president should be allowed to make the majority of appointments within all the party’s organizations. “Koirala could have spread a positive message among the party rank and file that the party is moving ahead unitedly if he had ensured proportionate representation from both sides. But he doesn’t seem to be willing to do that,” the CWC member commented. “We are demanding a fair representation, not a lion’s share.”

In a meeting with Koirala in the second week of May, Deuba and Nidhi had asked Koirala to address the issue of en masse resignation by Deuba-aligned leaders from their respective departments after Koirala announced 12 more departments other than those provisioned in the party’s statute. They had also cautioned that the decision to pass the party’s regulations through majority votes was against the provisions of the party’s statute.

Not only did he ignore these concerns raised by the Deuba faction, Koirala also rejected Deuba’s suggestion to form the departments with 10 members each. Deuba faction leaders said they had submitted a list of about 1,000 prospective candidates for appointments as Koirala did not specify as to how many members he planned to appoint in each of the departments. “The appointments are neither balanced nor made through consensus,” Nidhi told Republica.

However, Koirala faction has maintained that the appointments were balanced and were made in consensus with Deuba faction. “Party president made the appointments after holding discussions with Deuba faction. Whatever he has done is based on consensus with Deuba. It is not justifiable to raise any objections now,” said CWC member Dil Bahadur Gharti, who is close to Koirala.

Gharti said the delay by Deuba faction to sit for discussions on the issue had deferred the appointments. “It is always better late than never. The appointments have been made finally,” he further said.

UK climber heads home as Nepal probes 'illegal' video call

KATHMANDU, May 25: Even as the government starts investigating the ´illegal´ video call that British climber Daniel Thomas Hughes made from the top of Mount Everest, it has come to light that he already left Nepal on Wednesday.

Officials at Summit Nepal Trekking Pvt Ltd, a local partner of the UK-based Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013, said Hughes, along with two colleagues, left for home after arriving in Kathmandu from Base Camp via helicopter, Wednesday. Shortly after landing at the Domestic Terminal at about 4 p.m., they went directly to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to catch their flight home.

The first ever live video from atop Mount Everest, made by the 33-year old climber on Sunday morning, caused controversy as he made the video call via smartphone without prior approval of the government the video call was broadcast live on BBC television. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) subsequently sought written clarifications from Summit Nepal Trekking.

But according to Ram Sharan Maharjan of Summit Nepal Trekking, they submitted clarifications to MoCTCA stating that Hughes had not informed them about wanting to make the video call from the Everest summit. “We have also passed this information on to the UK-based company that sent Hughes on the Everest expedition,” he said. “We would have acquired all necessary permission from the government had we been informed on time about this [video call].”

Hughes made it to the top of Everest as a member of the Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013 for raising £1 million for Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty. The charity aims at driving positive change through the power of entertainment.

MoIC permission is a must for filming or making any audio-visual material for public broadcast, as per the existing law of Nepal. Anyone filming or broadcasting live from the Everest region without prior permission from the government is subject to action by both MoIC and the Sagarmatha National Park.

Meanwhile, MoCTCA has formed a three-member committee to investigate the ´illegal´ video call from the top of Everest and recommend necessary action under existing law.

While MoIC and Sagarmatha National Park can initiate separate legal action against the ´illegal´ act, Hughes may be banned from entering Nepal for five years and from setting foot on Everest for 10 years.

The committee comprising official from the Ministry of Law, MoCTCA and a person who has scaled Everest will also probe the brawl that occured between Sherpas and climbers in early May.

"We hope the recommendations of the probe committee will help avoid such unpleasant situations in future," said an official at the Tourism Industry Division under MoCTCA.

Govt to probe 'illegal' video call from Everest summit

KATHMANDU, May 20: The government has initiated investigation into the incident involving a British national who made a live video call from the top of the Mount Everest without taking prior approval from the authorities.

Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) on Monday sought a written clarification from the local agency-- Summit Nepal Trekking Private Limited -- that coordinated the expedition of British climber Daniel Thomas Hughes over the incident involving live video call with BBC television from the Everest summit without taking due permission from the concerned government agency.

"We have also asked liaison officer of the expedition team to furnish details," said Chief of Tourism Industry Division under the MoCTCA Purna Chandra Bhattarai. Bhattarai said legal action will be taken against Hughes and his expedition team for involving in the activities other than those permitted by the government.

"The expedition team had permissions only to take three walkie-talkies and set up a base camp," he said.

A member of the Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013, Hughes made it to the top of the Mount Everest Sunday morning. Not only did he make a live video call to the BBC Television, Hughes, upon the request by the TV anchor, had even briefly panned his smartphone from the top of the Everest, showing BBC audience across the globe a spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains.

MoCTCA officials said the expedition team leader has signed in the agreement that reads, "All news regarding the expedition must be conveyed first to the MoCTCA and only then can be sent to others." Not only did Hughes broadcast live from the top of the Everest, but he did so without due permission from the government. The 33-year old British national is also found to have breached the agreement that clearly states that the information relating to the ascent be first made available to the government, officials said.

Likewise, the agreement signed also clearly states that satellite, VHC, UGV, wireless set and any other communication equipment are strictly prohibited without the permission from concerned authorities and must not be used for commercial purpose. "Failure to do so may result in confiscation of equipment, cancellation of the expedition permit and additional penalty according to the law," the agreement states further.
As per the provisions in the Tourism Act 2035 BS, Hughes is likely to face charges on grounds of ´immoral´ activities and flouting existing laws of Nepal.

While Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) and Sagarmatha National Park can initiate separate legal actions against his ´illegal´ acts, Hughes may be banned from entering Nepal for five years and from setting foot on Mount Everest for 10 years as per the Tourism Act 2035 BS.
The MoIC permission is a must for filming or making any audio visual materials for public broadcasts. While it costs $10,000 for acquiring permit for filming or producing audio/visual materials, any climber who wishes to take satellite phone has to pay Rs 120,000 to acquire government permission for each of its terminal.

Live video call from Everest summit causes controversy

KATHMANDU, May 20: "It´s a very proud moment to be here. It´s been two-and-a-half-years in the making," said a British explorer Daniel Thomas Hughes in the first ever video call from the top of the Mount Everest, Sunday morning.

The video call made via smartphone from the highest peak in the world was aired live by BBC World. As per the request made by the TV anchor, Hughes had briefly panned around his smartphone from the top of the Everest, showing BBC audience across the globe a spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains.

In the video call that lasted 2 minutes and 45 seconds, Hughes said, "This is the world´s highest live video, never had been this before."
Taking a pause to breathe in enough oxygen, he added, "It´s windy here. They are Sherpas aroud me. I can see big holes around here. This is the highest peak I had ever been to."

Hughes scaled Mt Everest in an attempt to raise £1 million to Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty. The charity aims at driving positive change through the power of entertainment.

The Comic Relief together with its sister project Sports Relief alternatively host Red Nose Day telethon biennially to raise fund for charity in the UK.
May is the most popular month for Everest climbs because of more favorable weather. Hughes along with 140 other climbers made it to the top of the Mount Everest a day after 64 climbers, including a Saudi Arabian woman, successfully scaled the 8,848 meter high peak.

When Hughes reached to the top he put on his red nose, a symbol of charity in UK, and made the first ever live video phone call from the summit. During the final part of the climb he had to walk uphill for 12 hours straight.

Hughes, 33, made it to the top of the Mount Everest as a member of member of the Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013. A local company named Summit Nepal Trekking Private Limited had coordinated the expedition team that included Hughes.

Meanwhile, government officials in Kathmandu said Jagged Globe Everest Expedition 2013, which took Hughes to the top of the Mount Everest, is found to have not taken due government permission to film Mount Everest. "It is found that the company concerned is found to have taken permission only for taking walkie-talkie for communication," said a senior official at the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), which issues permits for filming and taking other means of communications.

Officials said the permission of the MoIC is a must for filming or making any audio visual materials for public broadcasts. While it cost $10,000 for acquiring permit for filming or producing audio/visual materials, any climber, who wishes to take satellite phone with him/her has to pay Rs 120,000 to acquire government permission for each of its terminal.

Chief of Tourism Industry Division under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) Purna Chandra Bhattarai said the live video call from the top of Mt Everest without due permission from the government agencies concerned has drawn their serious attention. "We will inquire with its local agency first about the incident and recommend to the concerned authorities for necessary action after further investigation," said Bhattarai.

As per the existing government legislation, both the Ministry of Information and Communications and Sagarmatha National Park are authorized to take legal action against any climber taking such equipment to the mountain without prior approval. "The successful ascent of Hughes to Mount Everest summit may itself be questionable as he is found to be engaged in the activities other than those permitted to him," said another senior official at MoIC.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Back home, ex-Qatar Academy teacher plans to devote life to charity

KATHMANDU, May 15:  His recent arrest in Qatar over alleged insult to Islam has brought a turning point in the life of a former Qatar Academy chemistry teacher Dorje Gurung.

The 42-year old high school teacher with 16 years of teaching experiences in various nine countries abroad, including the US and the UK, has now decided to devote the rest of his life contributing to the education sector in Nepal.

“I don´t want to remember the past. I will now work toward making a difference in the lives of Nepali children,” said Gurung, who arrived home Monday evening after the authorities in Doha set him free.

Gurung says he plans to set up science labs and libraries in public schools across the country. Apart from financing the studies of poor children, he also plans to contribute to the society through social work. “I have decided not to go abroad for employment. I will now work for the cause of educating the poor children,” said Gurung.


The Qatar Academy had relieved Gurung of his duty last week over a derogatory comment on Islam-- something Gurung denies. He says all this could have occurred due to misinterpretation of what he actually said during an argument with a group of his students on April 16. “I never made remarks against Islam. I do not know what exactly the 7th grade students accused me of saying. But I was told by the police that I insulted Islam,” he said.

The school management had called a meeting with him on April 17 and he was asked to submit a written clarification over the issue. “As the school management decided to relieve me of my duty on April 21, I had made all necessary plans to return home on May 3,” said Gurung. “But I was stunned when police arrested me on May 1.”

Gurung´s friends and former students from both within Nepal and abroad had launched a facebook campaign to secure his release. “I still can not find words to thank you -- words that would sufficiently express my gratitude to you all. The gift of freedom! (Ask any of my friends and colleagues at Qatar Academy who received me upon my release yesterday afternoon- I was just a wreck. All I could do was cry and bawl),” he said in a facebook comment after landing in Kathmandu late Monday evening.

Born in Chusang VDC of Mustang 42 years ago, Gurung studied up to grade III at a local school in Pokhara and then was admitted to St Xavier School in Godavari, Kathmandu. After passing School Leaving Certificate (SLC) level in 1987, he went to Italy to pursue a two-year IB Diploma. A Chemistry graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, USA, Gurung started his teaching career in Italy (1994-1995) and then moved to Hong Kong, where he had another one year of teaching experience.

He came back to Kathmandu after spending a year in Norway (1996-1997) as a teacher. Gurung then worked as teacher in various local schools in Kathmandu till February 1999 before he flew to Australia to pursue a one-year Diploma in Education degree.

Gurung again started teaching career abroad since 2001 with first two years in the USA and following three years in the African country of Malawi. Gurung then taught at an international school in Azerbaijan (2007 to 2010) and Vietnam (2010 to 2011) before joining the Qatar Academy in August 2011. “As a teacher working in different parts of the world, I always had a desire to work in an Islamic country. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Qatar,” he said while cautiously avoiding the bitter experience he had for the remarks he says he did not make.

Living martyr finds solace in music

(A story  I wrote back in 2009)
KATHMANDU, April 24: He fought to restore the rights of the Nepali people. But that battle for freedom on behalf of the people cost Rabin Shrestha his own rights, the inalienable right to see. The 28-year-old lost both his eyes to a tear gas shell during the democratic movement in April, 2006.
And for almost three years now, Shrestha has been confined to a small room in his house, in the suburb of Bhainsepati, Lalitpur.
Getting to listen to the FM radio and playing the guitar is what freedom means to him now. Today, he has to live with composing music from within the four walls of his room, but he´s happy about some of the things that Jana Andolan II has brought about. “I am happy that I get to listen to the news as it happens, since there is no censoring of radios and televisions now,” says Shrestha.
Shrestha was one among the sea of youth who actively took part in the democratic movement spearheaded by the then Seven Party Alliance (SPA). “I had an opportunity to watch the interview of youth leader Gagan Thapa that was aired on a local TV show,” he says. “Though I did not know him personally, I was really inspired by his statement that youth should take to the streets to restore civil liberties.”
On April 6, 2006, the first day the of the street movement-in spite of the government"s prohibitory orders on street protests-Shrestha did just what Gagan Thapa had asked of people like him. Shrestha, along with his friends, reached New Baneshwor Chowk, to stage a demonstration against the totalitarian regime.
It was about 4:30 pm. A fierce clash ensued between the protestors and police personnel. And Shrestha got hit by a teargas shell. “All I can remember is that everyone else managed to flee the scene and that I had collapsed after being hit on my face by a teargas shell. I was then thrashed by the armed police personnel deployed there,” says Shrestha.
The next thing he knew, he was on his way to Bir Hospital in a police van.
Three years on, democracy has been restored and the 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA) has already been elected to draft a new constitution. But the dreams that drove Shrestha during the democratic movement have not materialized. “I am dismayed to hear that the people have not been able to live the independent lives that they thought they would live, due to the strikes and protests organized every other day,” he says.
What hurts Shrestha the most, however, is the apathy that the government has shown towards the cause Shrestha fought for. “The government that was formed with the sole mandate to draft a new constitution and build a New Nepal is now engaging in trivial issues like dismissing the army chief. It"s only looking out for its own partisan interests,” he says.
“People like me didn"t participate in the protests to further our own narrow interests,” he says, offering a point of contrast between the people on the street and the people now in government.
And Shrestha has a message for the people in government: He wants the leaders to put the country and its people first. “This is the last chance for you leaders to build a New Nepal. Do not misuse this opportunity,” he says.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A tale of a sovereign nation dictated by foreigners

"Chakrabyuhama Chandra Surya"

The debates on foreign interference in Nepal’s internal affairs are so deep and intense that there are hardly any sectors left untouched by it in Nepal. However, no one, including the political leaders who keep harping on the issues of patriotism and nationality, has dared speak out in public the kind of interferences and unwarranted foreign interventions Nepal faces from foreign elements.

Journalist Saroj Raj Adhikari deserves special appreciation for meticulously analyzing and documenting numerous instances of foreign interventions in Nepali politics and other internal affairs in recent years in his book, “Chakrabyuhama Chandra Surya.”

Not only has the book exposed how our country’s political leadership on various occasions is dictated by foreign forces, many of the incidents the book deals with make one to painfully apprehend that the very existence of sovereign Nepal may fall into jeopardy should foreigner forces continue maneuvering all developments that take place in Nepal, and we Nepalis fail to work unitedly against such unwarranted interferences.

Adhikari combines the highest standards of his research works with his experience as a journalist covering issues relating to security and politics in Nepal for the past several years. He begins by giving examples of a series of ‘sponsored killings’ of businessmen, politicians, media owner and goes on to describe various issues of security challenges that Nepal faces mainly after the political changes that occurred in Nepal in 2006.

While the first two portions that deal with the cases of sponsored murders and issues of security challenges during the transition period set as background to its overall conclusion that Nepal’s national security and sovereignty are under a serious threat, the concluding portion that includes three separate chapters acutely show how Indian security as well as other interests that are at play in Nepal are shaping our national politics and how we have fallen into difficult situation due to our geostrategic location between two giant neighbors—India and China.

Although the book is a pure non-fiction evidenced by facts so rare for the public, one gets an impression of reading a racy thriller while reading the 323-page long book published by Sangrila Book, Kathmandu. While the first chapter deals with threats that former crown prince Parash Shah faces from underground criminal elements, eight succeeding chapters deal with the sponsored killings of Mirja Dilsad Beg, Kamal Singh, Majid Manihar, Shaukat Beg, Jamim Shah, Phaijan Ahmed and the murder attempt on Yunus Ansariat in the central jail in Kathmandu.

Adhikari has made painstaking efforts in depicting how these seemingly usual cases of murders were linked to critical interests of foreign state and non-state criminal elements and exposing how they pose serious threats to Nepal’s national security and sovereignty. He merits due appreciation for digging deeper into the causes and consequences of each of the murder case and analyzing the interests foreign powers have in Nepal.

Of course, the strategic location of Nepal between two emerging economic superpowers, India and China, presents it a great opportunity. But Nepal finds itself trapped over the Tibet issue as western countries, including the US, continue to exert pressure on Nepal to provide ‘safe passage’ to Tibetans who flee their homeland to make their way to India and elsewhere, and China mounts diplomatic pressure to stop giving any such privilege to Tibetans.

Besides analyzing how the interests of westerners on Tibet has added security challenges, the book also meticulously examines the maneuvering of external elements in Nepal’s security issues –something very critical against Nepal’s national interests.

The book also deals with other critical issues pertaining to Nepal’s national interests, such as citizenship distribution by birth, the President’s move to revoke the decision of the Maoist-led government to sack the then army chief Rookmangud Katawal under the title “Security in Transition Period.”

While serving various instances where our political leadership has made blunders, the book stresses on the need to have clear policies and commitments by Nepal on issues related to national security.

“We never became subservient to anyone. This is a matter of pride. But we could never become independent, either. We are exercising controlled sovereignty. In practice, we are still in a semi-colonial state.” T he author has thus summed up Nepal’s situation after giving so many instances of foreign interventions, mainly from India, in Nepal’s internal affairs.

Though Adhikari accomplishes a lot in the book and makes his message clear with his convincing skills and ability to make connections between a particular event and its consequences, readers at times feel that the author would have done much better had he devoted a little more effort in linking each of the incident mentioned in the book to national politics and how those incidents shaped political courses ahead.

Nevertheless, for those who would prefer informed action over foreign interference and other aspects in Nepal, this book by a journalist who has so closely observed Nepal’s politics and security for the past several years is no doubt a blessing. The book is especially valuable for Adhikari’s insights, contacts, and ability to get confidential documents and get concerned officials and analysts to speak honestly in both on- and off-the-record interviews, and his objective analysis of the events.