I have fundamental differences with my fellow democrats in the seven party coalition as to what really happened on October 2, 2002. And Dinesh Wagle has just written a great piece at his blog.
I have tried very hard to look at facts objectively. I am in New York City. I have no plans to launch a political career in Nepal, although I am never going to be able to detach myself from the country: my contributions will be made. I am vastly interested in seeing Nepal become rich. I think that gives me an objectivity that people in Nepal, in Kathmandu, might not have. My first commitment is to peace. Then to democracy and social progress. It is just that I think all have to go together if any one is to be realized.
I think it is very important to stay away from conspiracy theories.
Let me first tackle the royal palace massacre. I was fresh out of college. And it hit the world headlines. Suddenly I became a guy from that country. For years since, I have introduced myself to people all over America, and when I mention Nepal, they mention the massacre. And I add, "I went to school with the guy." And they are like, "Really? Was something wrong with him?"
"No. He was perfectly normal. He was above average smart. He was greagarious. He was mischievous. But I had not met him in years."
BBC News | SOUTH ASIA | Nepal royal family massacred
Photo and description of the scene of the Royal Palace massacre in ...
I have always believed the official story. The story is too bizarre to have been engineered. When King G first heard of it, he put out an explanation saying a gun misfired. Why? Because Dipendra was still alive, and was the next king. The uncle was going to protect the new king and the throne. But Dipendra died, and King G became king. An uncle who put out a false story to protect his murdering nephew is not someone who could have killed his own brothers to take the throne for himself. King G has termed such stories "cruel" and I feel for him. Not only do you live the pain of having lost most of your family. You also have people rub salt into your deep wounds by spreading such "cruel" theories.
You can not blame King G for what he inherited. You can disapprove of it. The Maoists are very analytical about that criticism, and all the glory to them. And I so strongly disapproved of the February 1 move, I immediately became a republican and was the first democrat to reach out to the Maoists requesting a common minimum program of a democratic republic. Just look at the web address of this blog.
I am a democrat. That is where my loyalties lie. Democracy is my ideology. But it is that same democracy that makes me say if the Nepali people want to keep the monarchy, they may have it. Why do the Nepali people want to keep the monarchy in some form? Don't ask me. I am not giving them reasons why they should have it. I am saying, if they want it, they can have it. That same democracy makes me say, Gagan Thapa can be as republican as he wants to be. That is his human right.
When President Kennedy's son John died at a very young age, he was not holding any office, and other presidents have had sons who died, but this John was mourned by the entire nation for a week and more. Why? I don't know precisely why. And I have major sociological, psychological curiosities about such things. Why do people vote for one candidate and not another? So I am vastly curious as to the bond between a people and something like a monarchy. What is the bond? The bond is real where it exists. In Britain, in Japan. What is the bond? I think that is a perennial question.
It is important to bring the royal massacre up, because if you believe this king did it, this king is some kind of an evil genius, and I mean genius, not smart, but genius, or you are out of your mind, and are not helping the situation. And if you believe the conspiracy theory, I would not be surprised if you find it hard to do business with this king.
Even kings have feelings. Even when I have taken a republican line in the past, or still keep such options open for the future, for me it is political. It is not about King G the human being. I am only concerned with his public acts, with his exercise of power. And where I disapprove, I disapprove of in the strongest words of anyone I know.
It is important for the democrats to not get wishywashy on the royal massacre. It was a tragedy. Let's leave it at that. If I can't feel King G's pain, at least I should stay out of it. And let him heal on his own.
That brings me to October 2, 2002.
I can not be as hard on the Maoists and the Monarchists because I am not one of them. I don't have any say in what they will or they will not do. But I can be hard on my fellow democrats. Because I am a democrat. I deserve to have a say in what we will do.
I feel the triangular tussle in the country has reached such a point that understanding October 2, 2002 might hold the key to peace.
No, Deuba did not dissolve the parliament because the king asked him to. That is yet another conspiracy theory that hurts us. And if Girija is behind that story, he shoud backpeddle and earn himself some credibility. If it was the king's doing, Deuba would have said as much, at least before he got sent to prison. He can say it now. But he won't. Because it is not true. Deuba did it on his own. He did it because Girija cornered him inside the party. Girija was Prime Minister when he was Prime Minister. And he was Prime Minister even when he was not, or at least he felt that way when Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Sher Bahadur Deuba were Prime Minister.
Did the king dissolve the House? No. It is important to take this stepwise. Logically.
So after Deuba recommends a House dissolution, the constitutional monarch does not have the option to say, let me think about it. He has to go by the recommendation automatically.
"He did was palace instructed him to do. Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala is the major advocate of this theory. And by now, Koirala has been proved true."
How has it been proven true?
"Barely a month ahead of the election schedule, Prime Minister Deuba suddenly realized that election was not possible in Kartik."
That is not true. He knew all along he will not be able to hold elections.
"He hold a meeting with political parties in his official residence on Asoj 14 and, strangely, with their approval he went to the king in the morning of Asoj 18 with a proposal. Use the article 127 of the constitution and move the election date by extra 13 months."
So all the parties at that point agreed the king should use Article 127. So the parties are saying it is okay to use Article 127. It is important to note that. It is also important to note that Article 127 is not for use by the parties in the parliament. It is for use by the king.
"He appointed Lokendra Bahadur Chand Prime Minister on Asoj 25 telling him to start the election within 6 months. Within weeks, political parties started a movement against regression. Nepali Congress demanded the restoration of parliament and CPN UML demanded the formation of an all party government."
Something happened before Chand. The king gave the parties a few days to come up with a consensus choice for Prime Minister who would lead an all-party government. If the parties so loved Deuba, they had the option to say that. And Deuba would have been reappointed.
This is where the parties messed up. Big time.
Baburam Bhattarai is not Lenin, Prachanda is no Pol Pot, and Gyanendra is not Mahendra. Especially people who got jailed by Mahendra must be feeling the pain that I don't. But a king who is active has to be judged by his public acts.
After this messup, then it was the king's turn to mess up. And he has been messing up ever since. But that is a whole different chapter.
When the king invited an all party government at that time, the parties should have seized the moment. After all, it was them who came up with the great idea of use of Article 127.
If the parties wanted Deuba to continue, they should have said as much. The parties missed their chance.
I think the bigger story though is that at that point in time the parties were not for a constituent assembly. So the 13-month extension they asked of the king was pie in the sky. 13 more months, and the country would still not have had elections.
The parties were either lazy, not doing their homework, or evil, or bizarre, or all of the above. I don't believe Girija still is for a constituent assembly.
This is bizarre. The king is for a constituent assembly, but Pashupati Shamsher Rana is in news saying the 1990 constitution has to be preserved. The king is for a constituent assembly, but Girija might not be. This is really, really strange.
The parties will not do what it will take to launch a revolution, will not even do what it will take to launch a movement. Which leaves the option of a negotiated process that leads to a constituent assembly. But if you refuse also that, then where are you? What exactly is your road map?
The parties messed up on October 2, 2002 and they will not admit to it. The best option right now is to rectify that.
Girija was not for a constituent assembly. He was only for House revival. The UML was not for a constituent assembly. After 2/1, the parties incorporated the Maoist demand for a constituent assembly. The king afer 2/1 said he was okay with the idea of a constituent assembly. Do I believe him? I do, with some reservations on process.
So the three factions agree on the need to hold elections to a constituent assembly. The only question is how.
This is how.
Step 1: Work it out between the palace and the parties. The king uses Article 127 to invite the formation of an all party government. De ja vu. All parties get together, the seven parties, and the three not part of the coalition, RPP, RJP, and the Mandal Sadbhavana. They decide on a consensus candidate for Prime Minister. I think the choice is obvious: Madhav Nepal. And if the parties can not agree on one consensus choice for Prime Minister, how will they come around to more complicated issues like federalism?
Step 2: The all-party government holds unconditional peace talks with the Maoists. They disarm, either totally or by getting partial integration into the RNA. They are invited into the government. If the government can not do it on their own, it is okay to invite the UN. And, no, you don't need Indian permission before you can pick up the phone and call Kofi Annan. Annan has consistently been at the ready. If he thought his involvement was against international norms, do you think he would have suggested it in the first place?
Step 3: That government takes the country through a constituent assembly.
The first step is tricky. It is entirely possible the king is not up for it. And if he is not up for it, it is good for the movement to expose him. The seven party coalition should seek a joint meeting with him. If he refuses to meet, he is exposed. If he meets and says he does not like the idea, he is exposed. Then the movement is further energized. Either way we win.
The part that I find utterly mysterious is the not wanting to talk part. Why not talk? You don't have to change your positions. If you don't want to. And the parties should be the one taking intitiaves for such a dialogue. Why? Because are we not the people who do not wish to see an active monarchy? So why wait for an initiative from his side? That would be too "active."
How Nepal plunged into this mess and why Parliament should be restored to rescue the country from further damages
A few dates are never forgotten. They always make headlines. Magh 19 (Feb 1) is the latest example. And Asoj 18, 2059 (Oct 2, 2002) is another such fateful day when the constitutional monarch dramatically appeared on the TV to declared that he has just fired a democratically elected Prime Minister for being unable to hold elections on promised date. Sher Bahadur Deuba was infamously termed incompetent by king Gyanendra. I was in my sister’s house in Min Bhavan when at around 11 PM I heard a familiar voice coming out from a TV set in a neighboring house. I instantly turned on the idiot box and there he was, a king reading out one of the biggest breaking news of the decade. That was a bloodless and mild coup staged largely on the silver screen of Nepal Television.
Here is the background. A furious Prime Minister Sher Bahdur Deuba dissolved the parliament earlier that year, on Jestha 8 promising to hold elections in the month of Kartik because political parties did not allow him to extend the emergency period. He was leading a majority in the parliament but his party Nepali Congress was against extending the emergency. The party kicked him out the day after he dissolved the parliament. Conspiracy theorists believe that Deuba was used by the royal palace. He did was palace instructed him to do. Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala is the major advocate of this theory. And by now, Koirala has been proved true.
Barely a month ahead of the election schedule, Prime Minister Deuba suddenly realized that election was not possible in Kartik. He hold a meeting with political parties in his official residence on Asoj 14 and, strangely, with their approval he went to the king in the morning of Asoj 18 with a proposal. Use the article 127 of the constitution and move the election date by extra 13 months. For a king waiting for a wonderful opportunity like that, the time had come. PM Deuba was an incompetent fellow. He finally fall in the trap meticulously build by the palace. King confiscated the sovereign power from people and assumed the executive authority with just a TV lecture.
Now, it was the turn of the monarch to be incompetent. He appointed Lokendra Bahadur Chand Prime Minister on Asoj 25 telling him to start the election within 6 months. Within weeks, political parties started a movement against regression. Nepali Congress demanded the restoration of parliament and CPN UML demanded the formation of an all party government. Parties hold a mass rally in Basantapur on Mangshir 10. Chand could not start the election process and resigned.
Surya Bahadur Thapa, another face of the coin, became Prime Minister. This time around, the palace issued a notice stating that the king had transferred the executive power to the Prime Minister. Thapa too could not stick to the power for more than a year because of the increasing intensity of the movement against regression (Pratigaman Birodhi Andolan).
Then came the Great Game of tender. Royal Palace issued, what many call, a tender notice inviting eligible candidates for the post of Prime Minister. He hold talks with political leader. All talks failed.
Then happened a historical came back of Sher Bahadur Deuba as the Prime Minister. He who was publicly declared and branded incompetent was suddenly competent. That was the height of the saying, politics makes strangers bedfellow. King Gyanendra and Deuba were friends again. Not for long, though. Deuba was fired yet again on Magh 19 (Feb 1) with civil liberties suspended and the king forming a council of ministers for the first time in decades in his own leadership.
Oh… what a long three-year-period that was. Now that we have seen eight complete months of king’s direct rule, people of this country are very much missing the absence of parliament. Parliament was the lifeline of the country. All the problems started after that body, people’s representative, was dissolved. In the absence of parliament, Nepal has become a lifeless society. Political situation has worsened.
Yes, there were a few problems but in the presence of parliament, we were heading toward progress. King should abandon the haughty stand and restore the parliament. The parliament will decide the actions to be taken. That body will handle the Maoist problem. That will hold talks with the rebels. There is no other way except Nepal heading toward republican democracy. Is king read for that? He has two options but he has very little time to chose. Act quickly.
(Thanks to journalist Dhruba Simkhada for his contribution to this piece.)