By Shashi Malla
• Nepal’s Communists Disintegrating?
A spectre is haunting Nepal today – the spectre of Communism. Just before the last general elections, the erstwhile Marxists-Leninists [and–Stalinists] managed to amalgamate and present a united front to the impressed electorate. The ‘grand old party’, the Nepali Congress and other parties were completely overwhelmed, and the veteran leader Sher Bahadur Deuba fully befuddled. The united ‘Communist Party of Nepal’ (CPN) received a resounding two-thirds majority and a mandate to bring the country to new heights.
Unfortunately, completely bad governance has been the hallmark of the Communist comrades. Major contradictions between the two constituent elements of the CPN have popped up – but probably these were only papered over and have now emerged triumphant! Most Nepalese now repent having given these utterly corrupt comrades their votes.
There is no accountability, and the political opposition and civil society are also utterly impotent. The press and TV are mostly silent and those courageous journalists who point out rampant evils have to face draconian measures from the state apparatus. The comrades believe that they can really fool all of the people all the time [like the inimitable Trump, and sincere regrets to the great Abe]. It seems only social media can somehow curtail the excesses of the state/CPN.
Then within each segment there are also consequential contradictions.
Within the Maoist wing, Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Prachanda seems to be reigning supreme, but, in fact, he has been reduced to a paper tiger. He doesn’t trust himself to journey abroad, suspecting that he could be nabbed for ‘war crimes’ and placed before the Hague International Criminal Court. For him after all ‘one death is a tragedy, 17 thousand deaths a mere statistic’ [after Stalin].
Even within the country, and in the capital itself he is accompanied by a horde of security personnel to protect him from his former comrade-in-arms and child soldiers whose future he has robbed and cheated of their severance allowances. This is a reckoning still to be made, and a work in progress!
Within the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist camp there is a massive tussle for power and prestige [and of course, the accompanying riches]. This debilitates the organs of state enormously and hampers not only routine administrative measures, but also long-term planning and vision.Besides his other ailments, PM K.P. Sharma Oli also suffers very gravely from ‘delusions of grandeur’ [like the great Trump, who is considering converting the U.S. into a grand monarchy. In the interregnum, he has declared himself “King of Israel” and “The Chosen One”].
The great Karl Marx [he is turning in his grave at the antics of the so-called Communists in Nepal] famously wrote: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” The Nepali Communists seem to have little or no ability to govern the nation, but they seem to have voracious personal needs out of proportion to those of normal Nepalese! For Sri Sri Prime Minister and Supreme Chairman K.P.S. Oli, the very best in Asian medicine – of course only in Singapore – is just good enough.
• Kashmir Conundrum
While critical voices are growing louder in India following PM Narendra Modi’s decision to abolish the autonomous status of the state of Jammu & Kashmir [actually only of Indian administered Kashmir/IAK], Shashi Tharoor, a leading opposition MP has attacked Modi from the intellectual standpoint, saying he is undermining the ‘idea of India’.
Speaking to “Deutsche Welle” [DW, the German TV channel] in the famous university town of Goettingen, Tharoor underlined: “The decision on Kashmir is a violation of the spirit of democracy. The Supreme Court may yet find that it did not violate the law, but it definitely violated the spirit.” He criticized New Delhi’s harsh measures to keep local Kashmiris isolated, as well as the government’s unilateral decision to continue plans without consulting members of the state assembly.
The progressive politician who is a senior member of the opposition Indian National Congress, said New Delhi’s decision “whipped up sentiments of muscle-flexing,” and resulted in a display of “national pride and chauvinism” from the country’s youth. “The moral character of the country is deeply affected by this rampant bigotry spread by the people in power. And this kind of bigotry in secularism is in many ways foreign to the idea of India [envisioned by Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet and Nobel laureate in the early 20th century] that came through in the freedom struggle,” he said.
Tharoor is also of the view that currently, public discourse in India is too centered on issues of Hindu-Muslim relations, national security, terrorism, and history, India’s present economic downturn has largely been ignored. He cited higher rates of unemployment and falling profits in several industries. “There has been never a worse situation for the Indian economy than under PM Modi’s government. Yet, no one talks about it, even if they are personally suffering and enduring it,” he noted.
Referring to the current religious polarization in India, Tharoor warned that the Indian constitution was under attack. “To betray it [the Indian constitution] by reducing India to a Hindu version of Pakistan is for my mind a complete betrayal of our freedom struggle,” he insisted.
In the meantime, Modi was in Biarritz, France prior to the weekend summit of the G-7, as a special guest of French President Emmanuel Macron [in recognition of India as a major world economy, although Russia remained excluded]. Macron stressed the need for India and Pakistan to resolve differences bilaterally and avoid an escalation.
• Amazonia is Burning
Wildfires in the Amazon region have sparked an international uproar. As Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dismisses growing international condemnation, the focus now is on the role of the international community to protect the fragile ecology of the Amazon.
While the Brazilian president comes under increasing pressure as European leaders criticize his environmental policies, wildfires continue to rage in the Amazon rainforest. Previously, Bolsonaro had claimed that he was helpless to do anything, but last Friday he promised to send in 43,000 troops to fight the wildfires, blaming dry weather for this year’s increase in outbreaks. Fires are a regular occurrence during the yearly dry season but environmentalists blamed this year’s surge on farmers increasingly clearing land for pasture.
Bolsonaro now said his government was very aware of the situation and would fight “environmental crime” the same way it combats other types of crime, amid accusations that he had turned a blind eye to illegal deforestation by farmers and land-grabbers in the region. The military will “act strongly” to control the blazes, the president promised, as he signed the presidential decree ordering the armed forces to collaborate with public security and environmental protection agencies.
Bolsonaro’s initiative came as international criticism mounted over his failure to protect the Amazon, nicknamed “the lungs of the planet earth”. The 64-year-old had previously described rainforest protections as an obstacle to Brazil’s economic development.
On the eve of the G-7 summit in Biarritz in southern France, world leaders had agreed that the environmental crisis must take precedence on the agenda, with Bolsonaro’s government coming under increasing critique. Germany, France and Ireland threatened to suspend a European Union trade deal with the South American “Mercosur” group of countries [known as the Southern Common Market, with full members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela (suspended)] because of Brazil’s policies with regard to the Amazon.
World leaders were not alone in reacting to Bolsonaro’s approach to the wildfires – unable or unwilling to stop ranchers and loggers responsible for starting fires to clear land for cattle. There was also outrage from indigenous people of Amazonia. RaoniMetukire, who has long been outspoken on environmental issues and sustainable development and is chief of the ‘Kayapo volk’ condemned the Brazilian president for the deforestation in the Amazon.
• Hong Kong Crisis
Riot police in Hong Kong fired tear gas and baton-charged pro-democracy protesters on Saturday, raising concerns that more violent clashes could occur in the streets of the semi-autonomous city-state. These clashes broke a fragile peace between authorities and demonstrators that had lasted for several days.
Thousands of people had marched through an industrial district on a government-sanctioned route before stopping near a police station, where they built up a barricade of construction barriers. Then there was a renewed flare of violence with some protesters throwing bricks at officers. This prompted the riot police to rush in and fire rounds of tear gas.
However, the majority of the crowds stood behind the barricades and chanted at the police, accusing them of conspiring with the local secret gangs, the “Triads”. Hong Kong’s government said in a statement that officers used minimum force to disperse the protesters after repeated warnings “went futile”. There have been repeated calls for police accountability.
After increasingly violent encounters, clashes between protesters and police had cooled off in the last ten days. Protests began 12 weeks ago in opposition to a bill that would allow the territory’s Beijing-friendly government to extradite people facing criminal charges to mainland China. Meanwhile, the bill has been ‘suspended’ but not totally ‘withdrawn’ – which continues to anger both protesters and the general public alike.
The movement has further expanded to include wider calls for democracy and an enquiry into police brutality. The use of force by police has become a growing issue with protesters, who are outraged by the heavy-handed response from authorities. Police have used rubber bullets, tear gas and baton charges against what they describe as more hardened protesters, but are also accused of beating peaceful demonstrators.
On Sunday, after hoisting warning flags, police used tear gas to try to disperse the protesting crowds. Protesters responded by throwing bricks and ‘Molotov cocktails’ (petrol bombs) toward the police. Police also drew their guns for the first time (firing only a warning shot), and brought out water cannon trucks, also using them directly on protesters for the first time. The result was a surreal scene of small fires and scattered paving bricks, rising clouds of tear gas and green and blue laser lights.
For the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, black has been chosen for its association with mourning and sorrow. Counter-protesters aligning with the territory’s pro-Beijing chief executive chose white – the colour of purity and innocence – to distinguish themselves.
• Sri Lanka on the Upswing
The new commander of the Sri Lanka army, Lt. General Shavendra Silva, in a message to the troops and to the general public as the 23rd Commander of the Army [after Sri Lanka achieved independence from British colonialism] has vowed as his
• “prioritized and prime duty to give leadership to the Army…[and] to defend our motherland’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unitary status.
• Secondly, it is my duty to ensure security to all the people in the country with all necessary security measures intact, and…
• intend to improve your welfare and [that of] family members of all War Heroes.” [“Daily News”, Colombo]
Lt. Gen. Silva emphasized that just like any army in the world, the Sri Lankan army protected the inalienable rights of the country’s citizens and created a conducive atmosphere for a democratic way of life while being alert to adopt any measures against internal or external threats with determination.
He also added that he would re-organize military intelligence units and raise them to an elevated level in keeping with strategies of international armies.
His statement is of great significance after the intelligence and political failure resulted in death and destruction by extremist, militant elements allied to the Islamic State during Easter.He is also seen as taking a holistic approach to the duties of the army.
In the meantime, incumbent PM Ranil Wickremesinghe said the time is ripe for his United National Party (UNP) to move away from traditional party politics and embark on a new political journey. He said the UNP would field a common presidential candidate and contest the election as part of a new political alliance.
The writer can be reached at: [email protected]