Wednesday, February 02, 2005

NEPAL:Situation Report 01-02FEB [ 6 NEWS CLIPPINGS ]


01. Nepal King Names New Cabinet After Sacking Govt
02. Nepal king's actions deeply troubling: US:
03. King does a Musharraf in Nepal
04. King Gyanendra to participate in SAARC summit:
05. Immediate intervention needed to save human lives in Nepal - Asian Human Rights Commission
06. Bangladesh says its watching developments in Nepal:


01. Nepal King Names New Cabinet After Sacking Govt
By Terry Friel

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's King Gyanendra unveiled a 10-member cabinet under his leadership on Wednesday, a day after he sacked the prime minister for failing to hold elections or end an escalating civil war with Maoist rebels.

Life carried on as normal on the streets of Kathmandu, but the rebellion-racked country remained virtually cut off from the rest of the world a day after the king assumed power in place of sacked prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Indian television said the king had placed many politicians under house arrest. All phone lines in and out of Nepal remained cut, and air links were still disrupted after several flights were turned back the previous day.

The king's decision to take power for the next three years has drawn condemnation from the United States and from neighboring India. But many Nepalis seemed happy to see the back of politicians widely regarded as corrupt and incompetent.

"We're very happy," said Simon, a bystander in the center of town. "This will help restore order. He's a good man, but the politicians are corrupt. We have more chance of peace."

On a clear and sunny day in Kathmandu, life was much as before, with children in uniforms going to school and no sign of increased security, apart from the usual army patrols.

Soldiers in blue fatigues and carrying automatic weapons seemed relaxed, and there was no sign of reinforcements outside the royal palace, which is hidden away behind high walls and metal grill gates, or at the white parliament complex.

Newspaper seller Meena Gajurel sat amid piles of papers on a cobblestone pavement in the Thamel tourist area, a red shawl protecting her against the chill winter air.

"I'm selling twice as many papers today," she said. "In their happiness, people are buying more. After the announcement, people are very happy."

Among those appointed to the new cabinet were Dan Bahadur Shahi as home minister and Ramesh Nath Pandey as foreign minister, New Delhi Television (NDTV) network said.

The Nepalese Embassy in Delhi said the king would supervise the cabinet, and no prime minister had been appointed. Continued ...

The king, who came to power after a palace massacre in 2001, has declared a state of emergency, Indian media reported.


The Maoist rebels, who have been fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy since 1996, called for a three-day general strike from Wednesday to protest against the king's actions, PTI said.

The rebel leader, Prachanda, who uses one name, said the king's action smacked of "medieval feudal autocracy."

Nepal is locked in a bitter three-way struggle between the king, the rebels and political parties which are themselves bitterly divided.

Sacked prime minister Deuba was Nepal's 13th premier in 14 turbulent years as a constitutional monarchy. The country has had no parliament since 2002.

New Delhi, which has been watching with concern the bloody Maoist revolt in its landlocked neighbor, had tried to dissuade Gyanendra from a "power grab" a few weeks ago, the Indian Express newspaper reported on Wednesday.

"Clearly, King Gyanendra has calculated when it comes to a choice between the monarchy and Maoists, India and the international community would have no option but to side with him," the newspaper said.

Human rights groups, which accuse the army and rebels of major abuses, condemned the king's move.

"This action plunges the country deeper into crisis and puts the Nepalese people at even greater risk of gross human rights abuses," Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said.

Around 11,000 people have been killed in the Maoist revolt, which erupted in 1996.

The king and his wife will attend a summit of South Asian leaders in Dhaka on Sunday, Bangladesh Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan said on Tuesday.

Many people in Nepal still view the king as a reincarnation of the god Vishnu.

But the monarchy's reputation dived in 2001 when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father, the popular King Birendra, and other royal family members before turning the gun on himself.

Gyanendra, Birendra's brother, was crowned king afterwards, but is frequently accused of overstepping his powers.

The king had reappointed Deuba last June, two years after sacking him for the same reasons he cited this time -- inability to tackle the Maoist revolt and failure to call an election.

In January, Deuba had promised to go ahead with the election despite the civil war and the Maoists' refusal to come to peace talks by a Jan. 13 deadline.

Many cabinet members believed the poll plan was unrealistic in a country where the rebels control much of the countryside.

(Additional reporting by Kamil Zaheer in NEW DELHI)



02. Nepal king's actions deeply troubling: US:

Washington, Feb 2 : The US has said it is deeply troubled by developments in Nepal where King Gyanendra has suspended democratic institutions and declared an emergency.

The State Department said it had called for a return to democracy and multiparty rule but the US embassy in Kathmandu had not yet been able to contact the ruling authorities.

"We've been following these developments closely and I would say we are deeply troubled by the apparent step back from democracy in Nepal," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Gyanendra Tuesday dismissed the multiparty government, declared a state of emergency and suspended fundamental constitutional rights.

"In addition to undercutting Nepal's democratic institutions, the actions, we feel, undermine the Nepali struggle with the Maoist insurgency, which is a very serious challenge to a peaceful and prosperous future for Nepal," Boucher emphasised.

Washington, he said, has repeatedly expressed support for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Nepal.

"The protection of civil and human rights and strengthening of multiparty democracy are key components of Nepal's progressing down this path. So we are urging an immediate move towards the restoration of multiparty democratic institutions under a constitutional monarchy," Boucher said.

"We are continuing to urge the Maoists to abandon their struggle and to join the political mainstream through dialogue."

Boucher said Washington is in close touch with the US embassy there about the situation and about how Americans in Nepal were faring. A travel warning had been issued for Nepal.

"At this point there are no reports of problems for the Americans. But, beyond that, in terms of the embassy, them not being able to make the representations and get in touch with the government, because of the situation in town, it's difficult for them to communicate directly with people right now and to make diplomatic approaches," Boucher said.

"So, frankly, that's a long way of saying that we will be addressing these concerns directly with members of the government, with the council of ministers when it's been appointed, and directly with the king once our ambassador is able to go see him," he added.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged calm and restraint in Nepal, expressing grave concern at the actions of the constitutional monarchy of King Gyanendra.

"The secretary general views these actions as a serious setback for the country. He does not believe that they will bring lasting peace and stability to Nepal. Steps should be taken immediately to restore democratic freedoms and institutions," said Annan through his spokesman Fred Eckhard.

Annan is also anxious about the well-being of the Nepalese people and their political leaders, humanitarian workers and journalists, the spokesman said in New York.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour also expressed her serious concern and said when she met the king during her visit last week to the Himalayan kingdom, he reaffirmed his unequivocal commitment to human rights, democracy and multiparty rule.

Arbour said she expected him to live up to his stated commitment and ensure that the democratic institutions of the state were reinstalled without delay.

In comments made at the end of that trip, Arbour had said the people were being subjected to violence and brutality on a staggering scale as a result of the armed conflict between the government and the Maoist rebels. But she had stressed that only "lawful and legitimate" means should be used to deal with the rebellion.



03. King does a Musharraf in Nepal:

New Delhi, Feb 1 : King Gyanendra has taken Nepal on a dangerous course by sacking Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and taking over all executive powers, officials and analysts here said, with some likening his action to "doing a Musharraf."

The king's action is contrary to New Delhi's considered advice for a consensus between the monarchy and the political parties to deal with the Maoist problem, they said.

Although the developments were not completely unexpected here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the situation in the Himalayan kingdom with External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.

The developments in the Nepal came a day after a senior Indian official expressed concern about the security situation in that country and emphasised that there had to be a political solution to the Maoist problem.

India, which has been providing military assistance to Kathmandu to deal with the Maoist problem, has been pressing political parties to come together on a common platform.

New Delhi's position had been backed by both Washington and London whose governments had been taking keen interest in the developments there and urging the king to exercise caution and to do deal politically with the Maoists.

"There is need for a clear understanding between the monarchy and political parties to fashion a strategy to deal with the Maoist problem," the official said.

"There has to be a combination of military and political measures to meet the situation," he added.

Former Foreign Secretary Salman Haider described the king's action as a setback to the democratic process in the kingdom.

"It is a very difficult situation there. It is a setback to the democratic process in the country. In the last few years we have seen a progressive deterioration in the process," he said and noted that the politicians had not been able to come together to challenge the king's actions.

"In taking the step, the king has put himself on a very dangerous course," C. Raja Mohan of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University here said.

"But it was expected for some time that the king will do a Musharraf in Nepal," Raja Mohan said, referring to bloodless coup by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, then army chief, against the elected civilian government in 1999.

He said if the king succeeded in bringing the Maoists to the negotiation table, he might be able to assuage the unease in India and the international community to some extent.

"He is betting that once there is an accord the world will accept him. But going by the record it is unlikely that the king will show such wisdom at this stage," he added.

Said Arvind Deo, a former ambassador to Nepal: "Whether the king can find a solution to the country's problems is very, very doubtful. The tide is against him because of various problems - economic, political and the Maoists."

Deo said New Delhi should help Nepal address its problems because instability there could lead to an exodus to India.

"The king is risking not only the stability and security of Nepal, he is risking the integrity of the country which he is trying to save," he said.



04. King Gyanendra to participate in SAARC summit:

New Delhi, Feb 1 : Nepal King Gyanendra will participate in the February six SAARC Summit to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh High Commission spokesman said here tonight.

The King conveyed the massege to Bangladesh Foreign Minister Morshed Khan through thecountry's ambassador in Dhaka late tonight, Anwarul Haq told PTI.

The Nepal King along with his wife will arrive in Dhaka on February six morning, the spokesman said.

The confirmation of Nepal King's participation in SAARC summit comes in the midst of uncertainty over the summit taking place on schedule.

Earlier in the day the king seized power dismissing the elected government of Sher Bahadur Deuba in the Himalayan Kindom and imposing a state of emergency. PTI



05. Immediate intervention needed to save human lives in Nepal - Asian Human Rights Commission

The situation in Katmandu and the rest of Nepal at the moment since the formal dismissal of the government on February 1, 2005, by King Gyanendra and his takeover through the declaration of a state of emergency and the use of the military should be a matter of extreme concern for the international community, particularly the dangers that members of the former government and other democratic parties, all organisations and societies and human rights defenders face requires immediate intervention from all members of the international community. The United Nations should immediately intervene with the king to prevent any use of violence, extrajudicial killings, illegal detention and arrest and torture. It is also the duty of all governments to intervene similarly in order to ensure the safety and security of all individuals in the country.
At the moment, all telephone lines to Katmandu have been cut. By this move, harm could be done to many people before the world will know anything about them. As a preliminary protection measure, it is essential to get the king to restore communication within the country and outside of it so that basic security and the well-being of the population can be guaranteed.

Without a doubt, what has taken place is a coup and a bid to take absolute power by the king, power which was lost in 1990 when the royalty gave in to popular demands for democracy through a constitution which guaranteed an elected Parliament and some additional limited democratic reforms. Since the first dismissal of the government two years ago, there has been a crisis of legitimacy in the government. Last June the dismissed prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, was reappointed to guarantee some form of legitimacy, a decision that was made through international pressure. Now this government has been dismissed, and the army has surrounded the prime minister's house, all political leaders have been placed under house arrest and the military has taken control of the capital's streets. The ensuing situation could be extremely grave for the protection of Nepal's citizens. If no serious intervention is made at this stage by the United Nations, the powerful countries in the West and India and China to stop the
escalation of violence, a bloodbath could easily take place while the movement of the people and news is restricted.

In a report issued on January 18 entitled "The Mathematics of Barbarity and Zero Rule of Law in Nepal," the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) drew the attention of the world to the extremely bleak situation in Nepal, particularly pointing to large-scale disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture in which innocent people have become targets and victims. On the same day, Amnesty International (AI) also issued a report pointing to the extremely dangerous situation in Nepal. With the present coup, the situation will escalate, and the extent of violence to be expected is high.

The United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Louise Arbour, who was in Nepal last week and was able to observe the situation for herself, should take the initiative to call an international human rights alert in order to save lives in Nepal. In particular, she should take the initiative to provide security for all human rights defenders who, despite the extremely dark situation in recent years, have been working to defend the rights of the people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, should also take the initiative to use his office in order to save lives in the country.

About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984


06. Bangladesh says its watching developments in Nepal:

Dhaka, Feb 1 : Bangladesh today said it was watching the developments in Nepal in the wake of the dismissal of the Sher Bahadur Deuba government and would take a decision with regard to going ahead with the SAARC Summit here next week by February five.

"We will be able to assess the situation (in Nepal) and take a decision by February five," Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhry rpt Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhry told reporters here adding that the country was looking forward to host the Summit.

He did not rule out the participation of Nepalese King Gyanendra who earlier in the day sacked the Deuba government and imposed a state of emergency in the Himalayan Kingdom.