Posted tagged ‘Nepal’

ASIA & PACIFIC UPDATES

August 12, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

Let’s see what we got across Asia and the Pacific recently, concerning development engagements, relief and humanitarian activities. Below are news captions about Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

[31 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Asia & Pacific

 

 

Australia

A draft blueprint of Australia’s emissions trading scheme will include fuel, but is unlikely to recommend what the country’s key emissions cap should be. The blueprint’s government-backed architect, economist Ross Garnaut, is due July 4 to release a plan for how emissions trading could operate, likely suggesting that government force companies to bid for emissions permits at auction, a perceived failing of the EU scheme. But inflating already record-high petrol prices could fuel a backlash against the government’s pledge to cut emissions with a trading system by 2010. (Reuters)

Bangladesh

Obtaining food remains the biggest priority for Bangladeshi families living in areas still devastated by Cyclone Sidr last year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said July 1, announcing it will continue its aid operations to the affected region. The next major harvest in the delta country is not due until November or December, and many households lack sufficient food reserves to last until then, according to a press release issued by WFP. (UN News Service)

Burma (Myanmar)

At least 7,000 cyclone survivors sheltering in three temporary camps in Laputta town, in the Irrawaddy delta, are under renewed pressure from the local authorities to return home, according to sources there. About 10,000 refugees are still living in Laputta’s five refugee camps, supported by local authorities and nongovernmental organizations. The 7,000 now urged to return to their home villages have been warned that unless they leave the camps they can expect no aid next month, said one local source. (ReliefWeb)

China

The UN expects China to be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as the global food crisis, climate change and the quest to slash poverty, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said July 1, calling on the Asian nation to step up its contribution in international affairs. Addressing students at the Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, at the start of the second leg of his East Asian tour, Ban said China is already playing an important role as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a growing contributor to peacekeeping and the UN budget. (UN News Service)

India

The Jammu and Kashmir state government should protect Parvez Imroz, an award-winning human rights lawyer who survived an armed attack on June 30 in Srinagar by alleged security forces members, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said July 1. The state government and Human Rights Commission should launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the attack and take criminal action against those responsible. “All members of the security forces found responsible, no matter how far up the chain of command, should be prosecuted,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. (HRW)

Indonesia

Indonesia’s anti-terrorism police unit has found assembled bombs and detained suspects during a raid on a house in Palembang in South Sumatra province, the national police spokesman said on June 2. The detentions came as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was visiting the area in the west of Indonesia on Sumatra Island. Earlier, Metro Television reported that seven suspects had been detained, but a police source involved in the raids told Reuters that more than seven were being held. (Reuters)

Mongolia

The president of Mongolia has declared a four-day state of emergency in the capital amid violent protests over claims the general election was rigged. Crowds torched the HQ of Mongolia’s governing party – the former Communists – and attacked a police station. Over 60 people were hurt – around half of them police – as officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against stone-throwing protesters. The unrest went on into the night, with reports of bank robberies and looting. Rioters set fire to the Cultural Palace, home to a theater, museum and national art gallery in the capital, Ulan Bator. (BBC)

Nepal

Nepalese police have detained more than 40 Tibetan monks and nuns near the country’s border with Tibet. The group was planning to protest at China’s policies in their homeland. The demonstrators were halted several kilometers from the frontier after marching through the mountains from the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Tibetan exiles in Nepal have protested almost daily since China suppressed violent anti-government demonstrations in Tibet that broke out in March. (BBC)

North Korea (DPRK)

A new agreement between the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) paves the way for the agency to step up its food assistance to more than five million hungry people in the country. The agreement, which was signed on June 27, was hailed by WFP as a significant breakthrough in its long-standing efforts to ensure that all those in need of food aid in the DPRK are able to receive it. (UN News Service)

Japan

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Japanese leaders in Tokyo on June 30 and praised the “immense contribution” Japan has made to the work of the United Nations. Speaking to the press after meeting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Ban said that “Japan should be proud of being ‘a peace-fostering nation’ and its commitment to multilateralism,” Ban added. “The Japanese people should know how much Japan’s global role is appreciated in the United Nations and worldwide.” (UN News Service)

North Korea (DPRK)

The UN World Food Program, which has warned of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea due to a food shortage, said on June 30 it reached a deal with Pyongyang to rapidly expand aid, and that a US ship carrying wheat had arrived. Flooding last year, higher commodity prices and political wrangling with major donor South Korea have pushed North Korea to a food shortfall similar to ones it faced about a decade ago when famine killed an estimated 1 million people. The WFP said the agreement it reached with the North will allow it to expand its operation, previously aimed at feeding 1.2 million people, to feed more than 5 million in the country of about 23 million. (Financial Times, UK)

Sri Lanka

For thousands of Sri Lankans without easy access to potable water, a low-tech filter has provided them with a convenient source of safe water, saving on fuel costs and cutting disease. The water filter was first mass-produced in Nicaragua and used in emergency relief operations. It is essentially a clay pot fortified with ground paddy husk and coated with colloidal silver that strains out virtually all harmful bacteria and parasites. The American Red Cross (ARC) began production of the clay filter in Sri Lanka in January 2007 and has distributed some 10,000 units so far. (IRIN)

 

NEPAL’S NATIONALISTS BETTER NOT SQUANDER SCARCE OPPORTUNITY

June 6, 2008

Erle Frayne  Argonza

Nationalists are in power today in Nepal. Being a Filipino nationalist, I’d honestly say there is much cause to celebrate the Nepalese nationalist’s victory.

Here in my country, we Filipino nationalists have always been in the margins. No matter what efforts we do to create a modern nation-state, our efforts get stalled by the forces of the ancien regime (landlord-clergy classes) that dominate power in the economic, political and cultural domains in my country.

Nepal is in a very privileged position than the Philippines for that matter. The forces of the ancien regime, typified by the Monarch, were overthrown from power, by way of a parliamentary fiat that abolished the Kingship. Before that, a bloody war was waged by Maoists to forge a modern, secular society. 

All the major parties in power today—Congress, Marxists, Maoists—are harbingers of the Enlightenment principles of reason, liberty, brotherhood, and progress. Much like those liberal revolutionists of France and the USA in the 18th century, the Nepalese nationalists have smashed the old order and now have to face the formidable challenges ahead as they forge a modern nation-state with a modern economy and scientific culture.

The only competing forces in Nepal now are the nationalists themselves—the three parties concerned. True, ideological differences may be a barrier to their attainment of certain unities or consensus, but they are all united by a common cause of building a modern nation-state,  a cause that began with the demolition of the old order.

Sure, the challenges are very colossal, the tasks formidable. But what nation on Earth started  nationhood with its national life already served unto it like a lake of gold? Every nation started from down below, from rock bottom. From Cromwell’s modern England to Nepal’s post-monarchic states, the same narrative is the glaring truth: start from rock bottom, a nationalist revolution is no ‘tea party’.  

My country started in 1946 as an independent nation with a totally devastated economy. Manila, the jewel of the orient, was leveled back to the Stone Age by ceaseless carpet bombing to flash out the Japanese imperial forces in 1945. Agriculture, manufacturing and retail/wholesale trade were all flat on the ground. A communist insurgency was also brewing as the Cold War was starting.

And so the new Philippine nation had to start from the very scratch. It had to undertake an ambitious 3-year recovery to bring back the normal vibrance of the pre-war economy. Then, in 1948, it began the long road to industrialization, with the implementation of the new Economic Development Program. The Master Plan for Greater Manila Area (50-year plan) began implementation in 1949, which saw Manila’s recovery and expansion to the suburban areas where industries, residences, government offices, new universities, and new commercial centers were to rise and mark the dynamism of the new country.

It was so tough surmounting the gargantuan problems. There was the corruption that was seen in the implementation of the wartime recovery funds ($200 aid from the USA), squatting in Manila, communist insurgency arising, and the lack of technocrats (manpower) to undertake development planning to name a few. And there was landlordism that barred an effective land reform program to take off.

Amid the marginal state of nationalists’ influence and power, the new nation moved on and achieved results gradually. Much like the slow-moving carabao (water buffalo), the economy moved so slowly across the decades, yet it delivered the goods just the same. Because we nationalists are marginal here, it’s taking us a tough time to let the ‘rule of law’ permeate daily life, strengthen our institutions, construct definitive policy environments, and solve poverty.

Because the oligarchic/pro-colonial forces have been the ones in power since the start of the new Philippine republic, they kept on deterring change. Even our political parties here are no modern parties that are founded on solid ideology, but rather are platforms to advance the vested interests of leading political personalities.

Yes, the problems of nationhood are so gargantuan like what we’re going through in my country. But they can be solved. And many sympathetic forces around the world are there who can lend their support when necessary.

So, to our brother and sister Nepalese, most especially the modernist-nationalists, your chance to move up has come. Good luck to your efforts! You shall overcome!

[Writ 02 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

DON’T COUNT OUT NEPAL’S ROYALISTS, THEY’LL COUNTER-ATTACK!

June 6, 2008

Erle Frayne  Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

The recent turn of events that saw the catastrophic devastation of the old order in Nepal should not be equated to the complete eradication of kingship. Any adroit observer of political dynamics knows that, in the founding of any modern nation-state, the forces of the deposed ancien regime will counter-attack sooner or later, with the option of a royal revival or equivalent being the top agenda.

Nation-building takes so much time to galvanize, more so for a new nation with a diversity of ethnic communities. Look at Canada, after so many decades of existence as a sovereign nation-state, there are still forces within it that want to separate from the republic. The Canadian nation is still being constructed till these days, this is the clear message of the Quebec separatist movement.

A century may not even suffice a time to build a new nation from out of formerly diverse ethnic communities, or after gaining independence from a colonial master. In the case of the USA, the southern landlords-slave owners represented the ancien regime that refused to go by the wave of the north’s modernist, anti-slavery, pro-industrialization path. The landlords opted to make war against the Union, and had they won, they could have gone back to the old days of bondage to the British Empire.

Till these days, the clash between the Unionists (nationalists) and Confederates (pro-British Empire & oligarchy) continues in the USA. Amid the galvanization there of a federation-wide American identity, the clash continues in the terrains of public policy and foreign affairs. Fact is, the victory of the neo-conservatives and realists in America—who kowtow to the whims of the Anglo-Dutch oligarchy—point out to a subtle victory of the Confederate forces right inside Washington DC.  

In my own country, the landlord-clergy classes comprise the representatives of the ancien regime .Even before America left Manila in 1946, the landlords-clergy already pre-positioned themselves in society. The landlords eventually controlled both the Establishment political parties, thus effectively undercutting the possibility of a revolutionary agrarian program that could have jettisoned the country to mature industrialization as early as the late 1970s.

Till these days, patron-client relations remain strong in all spheres of Philippine life. Not even if the post-industrial society had already made inroads into Manila’s cultural and economic domains. The landlords are themselves the big capitalists, while the Church remains the biggest landlord oligarch of all, praise the Lords of the oligarchic houses!

Thus, in the Philippine case, the nationalists who represent the modernizing, Enlightenment-inspired trend remain in the margins. During the Cold War, the nationalists were demonized as Soviet agents and were chased out of state organs, chased in the hills as insurgents, locked up behind bars, tortured and killed. Till these days nationalists are marginalized here, this is the real situation in Manila.

So, fellows, please don’t count out the royalists of Nepal just yet. Even long after the present monarch (Gyanendra) is gone, pro-royalist fanatics will raise up arms against the prevailing regime, expect this to happen. It’s like the recycle of the Stuart revival in England, Bourbon revival in France, and the long struggle for a Bonapartist revival in the whole of Europe.

The modernists of Nepal (Congress, Marxists, Maoists) look like the Atuturk prototypes of Turkey of the nationalist halcyon days of post-Ottoman era. The problem for Nepal is that it has too many nationalist voices with nary  clear consensus on the compass of nationhood, while Ataturk forces were homogenous in mindset, vision, and agenda of economic development and governance for Turkey.

So no matter what overthrow plots the Caliphate’s loyalists want to mount in Turkey, they will fail. They have to ride by the modernist rules there, abide by the ‘rule of law’ of the Atuturk mindset. It’s been a century hence since the Caliphate’s overthrow,  so the chances for the Caliph’s fundamentalists to return Turkey to the superstitious ancien regime is too late a dream.

Again, to re-echo, please don’t count out Nepal’s royalists. They are watching closely the fractiousness of the Enlightenment parties (secular, modernist, socialistic) in Nepal. They will bide their time. They will regroup, silently organize and expand, build their logistical bases both within and outside of Nepal.

And then they will strike with sweeping zeal, like thousands of angry Himalayan tigers coming down upon their enemies. Whether they win or not is another question. They will come back for sure.

[Writ 02 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

 

 

 

NEPAL’S ‘LATE NATIONALIST’ REVOLUTION: THORNY ROAD AHEAD

June 5, 2008

Erle Frayne  Argonza

Nepal is going through a ‘late nationalist’ revolution. Just like those states that experienced the birth pangs of nationhood, Nepal is expected to pass through the same thorny road.

For a long time in their lives, the Nepalese were accustomed to regarding their King as the sovereign of the land. The King was the unifying symbol of all aspects of life in the Kingdom, and this was already a step ahead of its former state.

To recall, Nepal for a very long time was an adjunct of the Bharata Empire. Bharata, the ancient name for India, held sway in both southern and central Asia for probably 3-4 thousands of years, beginning with the Rama Empire of the halcyon days of ancient civilization.

The Bharata Empire broke up later into two (2) sections, the north that comprised of the Yellow-skinned peoples, and the south that comprised of the Dark-skinned ones. Civil war, of a scale probably larger than the USA’s own civil war, broke out there in antiquity, the narrative told us in the texts of the Mahabharata or Great Bharata.

Later on the southern portion, which was to be the  Bharata proper, saw the migration of Aryans who added their imprint to life there. On the northeastern section of the re-carved empire was the prinzep of Nepal, which was home to spiritual masters who embodied there.

The same Nepal was later very much transformed from prinzep to Kingdom, which was already a step higher in the ladder of political institutionalization. Amid its integration into the British India, it stood its ground as a political unit, the precursor of a future nation.

Long as the gestation for nationhood may seem, one must appreciate the painstaking efforts of the Nepalese for creating their reality drawn from out of their own experience. Nationhood was never an external imposition, as it resulted from the political dynamics of emerging political forces there in the last four (4) decades or so.

Today, there is the challenge of transferring loyalty from the King to Nation. This is no easy step at all. The King is a living reality, felt and seen, while the Nation is too abstract a cultural being. It will take time for the 50+ ethnic groups in Nepal to realize that they together, to go by the logic of the Enlightenment, comprise the Nation.

So drastic were the changes that happened in Nepal, so revolutionary in fact. Political innovations are being instituted though not without an interim phase. That interim phase was the constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately, the monarch squandered that chance—for being a constitutive part of the modern nation—in the eyes of the modern political forces or parties and constituencies.

Having lost that chance, the monarch had to go, while the parties have to draft a new constitution and plan the economic development agenda of the nation. Note that all of the parties are socialist-leaning, an indication that Nepal is very impatient to try the secular path of political order by voting political leaders whose agenda seem to represent the audacity and will to go that way.

Nation-building takes a very long time to gestate. Nepalese and outside observers should expect maelstroms to burst forth during the next 100 years of the nation’s unfolding history. In the case of the USA, a clear 100 years from its birthing, the south seceded and a catastrophic continental war ensued to decide whether the Union should proceed to exist. The denouement was for the Union to stay.

In my own country, the Philippines, we’re still within our first 100 years after independence was gained in 1946. Look at all the political turbulence we’re going through as part of the dynamics of nationhood. We’re still well located in the context that breeds civil wars and rebellions.  

So let the discourse hold true for Nepal. The new nation must be given the chance to grow, the Nepalese handle their affairs and gain experiences and mature along the way.

[Writ 02 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]