A Sad Article By Laba Karki


Undercurrents Of A Counter-Revolution

This article below by Laba Karki is rather sad. Karki I guess is one of those who spend time in the west only to learn to look down upon the country they came from. They learn to think of their own people as lesser people. White guys in America can handle democracy, Nepalis can't. That is the premise of their supposition.

This article comes not long after a widely circulated petition that argues against a constituent assembly, which reads like the manifesto of some kind of a counter revolution. The question I ask of many Nepalis in America is how can you be in America and so miss the point of democracy!

Democracies have elections, but elections are not democracy, human rights are democracy. The seven party alliance in Nepal understands that. That is whey they boycotted the king's municipal polls. Remember?

Karki seems to think as long as you can drop names like Zakaria and Newsweek and Plato, the gullible Nepalis will just throng behind you. Anything western is cool. Time magazine said it, don't look at me.

I will be one of the first to admit a country like Nepal can learn a lot from a country like America. But democracy is not an American export. Freedom rings in every heart, every soul. It comes from inside. On the other hand there are things Nepal could teach America. On democracy.

I believe the April Revolution has given Nepal an opportunity to shoot for a cutting edge democracy such that the April Revolution can stand in the same league as the October Revolution in Russia, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Indian Struggle For Independence. But whether or not we will qualify will depend on if or not we can give an original twist to the concept of democracy in our next constitution. I think we should shoot for a democracy where parties do not get to raise funds, instead they get state funds in direct proportion to the number of votes they earn, and they keep all their book keeping online.

It has not happened yet, and the seven party alliance might still end up squandering the opportunity, but Nepal might as well end up teaching America democracy.

Laba Karki obviously has not read the 12 point agreement. The eight parties have made a very clear commitment to human rights, rule of law, and all the fundamentals that make a democracy. The constituent assembly might or might not make the country a republic, it might or might not give the country federalism, but there is no doubt human rights and rule of law will be protected.

It is staus quoists who fear the constituent assembly. Dalits might end up in the parliament: that is one scary thought. Some Madhesi might become President. Women might get full fledged property rights. The status quoists fear such possibilities. No amount of education seems to cure them of that fear. Some of those status quoists are Thapas, Ranas, Shahas, Mandales, some are Congressi, some are communist. Many are Pahadi. They fear social justice, they fear true equality. The promise of equality makes them lose their center of gravity. They find themselves gasping for air.

Heck, I have seen that happen in New York. Pahadis who have to deny my political work, and describe me as "a journalist." Pahadis who are dripping with anti-Madhesi prejudice. That is the only thing that binds them together. No wonder they hold on to it so strong, and look so foolish in the American context. Political power is about numbers, and the only way Pahadis are going to earn voting rights in America is by claiming their Desi identity, and when you do that, Pahadis are only mabye one out of 100 people in the room, likely less. On the other hand, some of them seriously might not be understanding how Hamro Nepal is the "world's first digital democracy organization," and I invented it, I am its founding president. Howard Dean organized an entire presidential campaign around a blog. But the Pahadis mean disrespect.

A constituent assembly is the only meeting point. That is the political reality in Nepal. How can you not see it? How can you deny it? What's wrong with you?

There is still the danger that the DaMaJaMa might not wake up in time to make the most of the constituent assembly. But a constituent assembly is the only way to channel the genuine DaMaJaMa grievances in a peaceful manner. Madhesis do not earn their rights at the expense of the Pahadis. DaMaJaMa attaining equality is a way to expand the pie for everybody. Segregation in America was bad for both blacks and whites. It was a social disease that affected all society.

The Pahadis in America are like the Madhesis in Nepal: they face utter powerlessness. You combine that with their strong anti-Madhesi prejudice and they just look so stupid. They need to overcome their anti-Madhesi prejudice or they stay powerless in America. That is what it boils down to.

In Laba Karki's case, what a waste of intellect.

War is not a possibility because the king gave up power. War was happening while he was in power. Where were you? How did you miss the action?

Democracy is not mob rule. A democratic constitution is designed to protect the individual from the state. No super majority could take away your right to free speech, for example. But those who say democracy is mob rule mean to suggest kingship is better because it is not the mob but one special person who is in charge. If we are arguing monarchy versus democracy, I thought we were already past that.

I take personal offense at Karki's disrespectful mention of the Indian democracy. Maybe he is one of those Pahadis for whom disliking India is what defines them as Nepali in their minds. It is called false nationalism. A healthy identity is a positive identity. These Pahadis lack it.

"He argued that “democracy” could not work as a reasonable, just political system, possibly in the context of Nepal where the people are backward and the party leaders ill-educated and corrupt."

Read: the Nepalis are a lesser people. If it were Moriarty and not Karki saying this, I would accuse that white male of racism. But funny I have never heard Moriarty suggest the Nepali people are not good enough for democracy. Maybe Karki knows a thing or two about America Moriarty does not. And what does Moriarty know about Nepal!

Kamal Thapa is nowhere to be seen. But now we have Laba Karki repeat the mantra that it is the Maoists who were behind the April Revolution.

"Reports indicate that the mass was driven not just by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) but more so by the threats of extremist elements. And, with the Maoists’ call for constituent assembly, and its subsequent ratification by the restored Parliament, we are now faced with the stark prospect of a much more ominous dilemma-will the free elections transform Nepal into a Maoist republic with an illiberal, barbaric, and totalitarian constitution?"

The people came out in the streets because they so feared the Maoists. Wow. I am not even going to respond to that line of thinking. That is oh so Mandale.

"Clearly, the real winners of the SPA movement appear to be the Maoists who are now at the helm of Nepali politics ready to radically alter the constitution of Nepal (1990)."

Karki seems to suffer from the illusion that the idea is to amend the 1990 constitution. That the constituent assembly is not. The idea is to scrap it and begin afresh.

"The textual meaning of the1990 constitution of Nepal incorporates the principles of a “liberal democracy” and it reflects the spirit of our nation, people, and glorious history. And, the articles provide for the separation of powers: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branch of government with appropriate checks and balances."

This Inadequate, Improper, Insufficient 1990 Constitution (April 4, 2005)

It must be a Bahun thing to like the 1990 constitution, because it so thoroughly marginalizes all the others.

"The Western world should be aware that the King has historically, traditionally and religiously been a symbol of unity and peace for the vast silent majority of various multi-ethnic and multi-lingual groups of people in Nepal."

That is why I have argued we should export the king to India. India is a larger, more diverse country. (King Of India)

".....and the rise of Maoist totalitarianism that may ultimately lead Nepal to becoming a satellite state of our southern neighbour."

There you go. Fear Maoists, fear India. That is oh so Mandale.


The Dilemma of Constituent Assembly:
Rise of Illiberal Democracy and Maoist Socialism

By Laba Karki, Ph. D.

It should be forewarned that the dilemma of free elections for constituent assembly (the process of electing a body for drafting a new constitution) in Nepal is that it will potentially lead to victory by anti-liberal forces, and thereby give rise to “illiberal democracy” and Maoist socialism-that is, a freely elected government, which however fails to safeguard basic liberties and individual freedom of Nepali citizens.

Fareed Zakaria (editor of Newsweek International) cautions that we are witnessing a disturbing phenomenon of so-called democratically elected regimes, even those that have been re-elected or re-affirmed through referendum, especially in the Third World countries from Peru to Philippines. He calls this phenomenon the “rise of illiberal democracies,” states that hold free elections but ignore constitutional limits on their power, deprive their citizens of basic rights, and do not honor the rule of the law.

Zakaria argues that democracy without constitutional liberalism produces centralized regimes with erosion of liberty, ethnic competition, conflict, and war- a looming possibility for Nepal following King Gyanendra’s recent relinquishment of executive power to the ex-parliamentary leaders. “Illiberal democracy” perhaps owes its roots to ancient Greece (where democracy originated). Plato, one of the greatest minds in Western philosophy, in his book “The Republic” warned civilization 2,400 years ago that “democracy” leads inexorably to “mob-rule” or “dictatorship of the proletariat” by stupid (sophists), who while they may have fine rhetorical skills (that can exert some control over the masses) have no true knowledge itself.

Examples of these mob-ruled democracies are rife in our own backyard, India. Plato, therefore, believed in some form of monarchial hierarchy. He argued that “democracy” could not work as a reasonable, just political system, possibly in the context of Nepal where the people are backward and the party leaders ill-educated and corrupt.

In Nepal’s context, the irony of the recent victory for peoples’ movement for democracy is the likelihood of formation of a Maoist republic-a virulent form of “illiberal democracy.” The young Nepali masses chanted slogans demanding “lok-tantra” or “people-power” during past April’s movement calling an end to King Gyanendra’s direct rule.

But, who were the people to whom the power belonged? Was it all the duly qualified citizens? Or, was it only some of the people-the leaders of the 'mob'? Reports indicate that the mass was driven not just by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) but more so by the threats of extremist elements. And, with the Maoists’ call for constituent assembly, and its subsequent ratification by the restored Parliament, we are now faced with the stark prospect of a much more ominous dilemma-will the free elections transform Nepal into a Maoist republic with an illiberal, barbaric, and totalitarian constitution?

“The Maoists are seeking a secular, socialistic republic with radical land distribution and removal of the monarchy. However, few realize the dire consequences of electing a constituent assembly.”

Clearly, the real winners of the SPA movement appear to be the Maoists who are now at the helm of Nepali politics ready to radically alter the constitution of Nepal (1990). The Maoists are seeking a secular, socialistic republic with radical land distribution and removal of the monarchy. However, few realize the dire consequences of electing a constituent assembly.

Basically, the Maoist-dictated and drafted constitution will trample on individual liberty and freedom, lead to mass migration of Nepalis, extinguish the nationalistic spirit of Nepal, and negatively impact the fledgling capitalistic economy. Hegel (1770-1831)-- one of the greatest “idealist” philosophers-- said, “A constitution is the dwelling spirit of the history of the nation.” Hegel argues that a constitution is neither something manufactured, nor just papers like the many constitutions written and torn up during the French revolution.

A constitution, he says, is a work of centuries that represents the historical development of the spirit of the people. Accordingly, Hegel argues that it is impossible for the cultivation or imposition of a constitution from an external source to succeed at all. Thus, it follows that any attempt to radically impose extremist philosophy into the already living, breathing document of the constitution of Nepal 1990, is doomed to fail because it will be devoid of the spirit of the Nepali people and the nation. The textual meaning of the1990 constitution of Nepal incorporates the principles of a “liberal democracy” and it reflects the spirit of our nation, people, and glorious history. And, the articles provide for the separation of powers: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branch of government with appropriate checks and balances.

The Nepali constitution 1990 incorporates the “fundamental rights” of citizens just like the American “Bill of Rights”. A bicameral system with His Majesty’s Raj Parishad with emergency powers on the one hand, and the executive branch headed by the parliamentary Prime Minister on the other, functions as twin pillars of democracy with proper checks and balances. Anything less than the bicameral powers in the new constitution would be a denial of the history and spirit of our nation.

The Western world should be aware that the King has historically, traditionally and religiously been a symbol of unity and peace for the vast silent majority of various multi-ethnic and multi-lingual groups of people in Nepal. The constitution is the framework for the law of the land and defines how we as people want ourselves to be and what rights we ascribe to ourselves. The constitution, however, must give adequate powers to the monarch to provide checks and balances on the authority of parliament-the abuse of which was not uncommon in the past. (One should note that the American constitution was adopted in 1787, after more than a decade since Independence in 1776, and there has never been a time when a constituent assembly convened to change it; rather the constitution contains 27 amendments.)

Finally, we should be cautious and informed about the consequences of going for constituent assembly in Nepal. Democracy without constitutional liberalism and constitution without democratic liberalism is dangerous and should be discouraged. Else, we are faced with the reality of a republic without proper checks and balances, without a national identity, without the rule of law, without individual freedom of life, liberty and property--a classic scenario of “illiberal democracy” and the rise of Maoist totalitarianism that may ultimately lead Nepal to becoming a satellite state of our southern neighbour.

Laba Karki, Ph.D., J.D. is a practicing Attorney in Virginia, the USA, and has contributed extensively in the scientific and legal fields. Please send your comments to lkarki@law.gwu.edu



Date: Sun, 7 May 2006 07:16:54 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Prakash Gnyawali" pgnyawali@yahoo.com
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: People's movement for democracy in Nepal and Thailand highlighted
To: "Prakash Gnyawali"

THAI SOLIDARITY GROUP FOR DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT IN NEPAL

7 May 2006
PRESS RELEASE

People's movement for democracy in Nepal and Thailand highlighted

(Bangkok, 7 May 2006) Political leaders and civil society representatives stressed the regular monitoring of the situation in Nepal and sought strong solidarity for democratic movement in both the countries in Bangkok, Thailand.

Speaking at a brainstorming and seminar on 'Fighting for Democracy: Experiences of People's Movement in Nepal and Thailand', organised by the Thai Solidarity Group for Democratic Movement in Nepal, Sulak Sivarak, senior civil society member and democratic activist in Thailand, highlighted the role of monarchy and democracy in various countries. "Institutions are for the people, but neither for the constitution nor the sake of continuation of royal governance. The future of Nepal has to be determined along with the spirit of the people's movement", he said.

Professor Surat Horachaikul, Director of South Asia Institute, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, emphasized people to people contact to make sure that their issues would reflect at the new constitution in Nepal. However, the sustainable democracy cannot be guaranteed merely by the constitution. There are many issues such as civic education and reflection of people's agenda in the state systems to lay people to develop free will, he said.

Professor Jaran Dita-apichai, Member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Thailand said that the new political scenario in Nepal should reflect people's demands in its reality and the international community have to be constant vigilance. "Thai democracy could be meaningful if we look at the general willingness of the people", he said while illustrating the people's movement for democracy in Thailand.

Speaking at the programme, Surapong Jayanama, Former Ambassador of Thailand, pointed out the geo-political position of Nepal and the importance of international concern in determining the status of democratic system. "People's movement and the international concern have forced the king to give up the power and accept the agenda of the political parties", he added. People's movement in both the country is directed towards democracy, where the people are struggling against the king in Nepal, and against the government of Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, Surapong compared the movement in two countries.

Somsak Kosaisuk, Leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Thailand said, "People’s understanding has to be reflected in the process and they should not be left behind. Speaking at the programme, Ekraj Sabur, of Youth Coordination Centre International stressed the importance of continued effective monitoring of the situation for true benefit of the Nepalese people.

Sarba Khadka, Ph D student at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand presented a paper on the political situation and people's movement for democracy in Nepal. Similarly, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Lecturer, Rajapat Nahorn Ratchasima University, explained about the political situation, and formation and strategies of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Thailand.

Other speakers of the programme include Rawai Pu-paka, of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM)-Thailand, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, of the Alliance of Democratic Trade Unions (ADTU), Thailand, Supawadee Petcharat, of 1000 Women for Nobel Peace Prize 2005, and Chalida Tajaroensuk, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). Nearly one hundred and eighty participants attended at the seminar.

Thai Solidarity Group for Democratic Movement in Nepal is a network of trade unions, human rights organisations and women's labour organisations in Thailand, dedicated to support the democratic movement of Nepalese people.

For further information, please contact:
Parat (APWSL): +66 (0) 951 72087 (Mobile)
Somyot (ADTU): +66 (0) 182 29477 (Mobile)
Altaf or Prakash (FORUM-ASIA): +66 (0)2 391 8801 (Tel.), +66 (0)2 391 8764 (Fax)
Deepa (CAW): +66 (0) 914 26233 (Mobile) 1

Comments

Anonymous said…
I disagree. I think that Dr. Karki's article is the most optimistic and realistic view on democracy in NEPAL- a third world least developed country. Democracy does NOT work properly if the general populace are not educated and the leaders are corrupt mobsters. Dr. Karki has painted a realistic portrait of the Nepali political scene and has cautioned against Maoist socialism. Thus, there is a strong likelihood of further instability in Nepal following the Maoist takeover and people should be alert and informed about that possibility. Great article on the issues of Nepal.
Dr. Kishor Banskota said…
I also disagree that this is a sad article by Laba Karki. All this article says is that Nepal is not ready for constituent assembly and that one should be aware of what the people are getting into-perhaps by threat of the Maoists. Thus, there is a need for people to discuss and debate the consequences of electing a constituent assembly. This was a Maoist proposition and the Maoist will use threat to elect their leaders and likely turn Nepal into another Taliban state. Now, would people accept that scenario?
Dr. Amrit Sharma said…
Mr. Bhagat,

You seem to be staying in USA and taking a lot of interest in a country which is not your country of birth. It would be better if a person like you took the courage to speak against the american govt. because this is your "karmachhetra" ie a place where you are here for "karma" OR Indian govt. - your country of birth. You seem to have a lot of wrath for people who are nationalistic. Are you funded by your birth country??? In your blog your academic qualification appears nowhere although you have even mentioned about you being ditched by the vice captain from becoming a head boy in your high school. Lastly but not the least, this article by Mr. Karki is very thoughtful, enlightening and timely. Nepal is going through "illebral democracy". I fully agree with that. Constituent Assemby is not the need of the day. There should first be a ligitimate govt. and they should keep the things they want in their election as agenda and people should vote for them to make any amendments. They cannot pass any proclamation without even informing and getting consent from the people to do so. What kind of democracy is this? Mr. Karki is very right in forewarning that it is the rise of "illibral democracy".

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