By Shashi Malla
‘Progressive Patriarchy’ or How Communists Discriminate Against Women
For months now, the so-called leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) are refusing outright to appoint the Deputy Speaker Dr Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe as the Speaker of the Nepalese parliament. As is well known, the speaker’s post fell vacant after the previous speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara was forced to resign and was arrested after being accused of raping a junior colleague in very mysterious circumstances. Many analysts suspect that Mahara was a victim of power play among the top CPN leaders and was sidelined for political motives.
In the case of Dr Tumbahangphe the case is quite clear cut. She is eminently suited for the job because of her education, experience, service to the party and strong support among lower echelon cadres. She has risen in the ranks starting as a student activist and party worker at the lowest level. Still, the party bigwigs are denying her the well-deserved status.
There are several reasons why Dr Tumbahangphe is being denied the promotion. First, she is being used as a ping-pong ball between the dueling top honchos PM K.P. Sharma Oli and the erstwhile Supreme Revolutionary Maoist Leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal [who used to style himself as “Prachanda” or the Fearful One].
Second, underscoring this primary love-hate relationship, is the indubitable chasm between the two wings of the CPN – the more ‘democratic socialist’ UML (Unified Marxist-Leninists) and the pseudo-revolutionary Nepali Maoists. The faux unification was done for election process, and the unified party has remained an electoral alliance. There is intense competition between the two wings for the benefits of state power for their respective cadres.
Third, there is no denying the intense discrimination against women in all the levels of Nepalese society [societies, considering the various ethnic groups], in education and the work place. It is indeed painful for all Nepalese, and also for Nepal’s international reputation that such a qualified person is being denied her rightful place in Nepali politics. The CPN leaders should be ashamed of themselves.
Fourth, there is also no denying the fact that as far as educational qualifications go, most Communist leaders’ education levels are not that impressive. In fact, they leave much to be desired. After, Comrade Baburam Bhattarai, the former Maoist, Ms. Tumbahangphe is the only Communist with a doctorate. CPN-leaders with bloated egos definitely have an inferiority complex.
Fifth, in Nepal’s caste- and class-ridden societies [which pervades even the so-called Communist political parties], no one can doubt that the CPN is dominated by the would-be high-caste Brahmins [immensely learned not only in the Sanskrit, but also Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist-Castroist scriptures]. How could they tolerate an upstart like Ms. Tumbahangphe, who is not even a high-caste Hindu [if not a Brahmin], but from an obscure ethnic group [previously marginalized and of no import in affairs of state]?
As Lenin famously said: What is to be done?
First, the Ms. Tumbahangphe affair has become one of national concern. The ideological and party political hurdles should be overcome and concerted action undertaken to establish Ms. Tumbahangphe as the Speaker of parliament.
Second, state President Bidhya Bhandari who is said to be friends with the Deputy Speaker, should speak out solidly for her candidature. This would also enhance her own stature, which has taken some knocks recently.
Third, civil society should organize demonstrations in favor of Ms. Tumbahangphe, for instance in front of the CPN party office and Baluwatar. Circling Singha Durbar with a human chain would highlight the problem.
Fourth, the main opposition Nepali Congress should come out of the doldrums, shed its lethargy and champion this worthy cause. They would also gain in prestige!
REGION WEST ASIA/MIDDLE EAST
Iran Shoots Down Civilian Ukrainian Plane
After many days of denial, Iran finally admitted to the ‘unforgivable mistake’ of shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet. The plane crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran airport, killing all 167 passengers and 9 crew members from several countries, including 82Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians. Iran maintained the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” amid heightened tensions with the US.
Amid mounting international pressure, Iran on Saturday said its military “unintentionally” fired a missile at a Ukrainian passenger plane because of “human error.” The Ukraine International Airlines plane had flown close to a sensitive military site when it was brought down. Iranian authorities had initially denied shooting down the aircraft. The retraction came after several Western leaders said early evidence suggested a missile was behind the crash.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad JavadZarif also expressed his sorrow over the downed jet, but added that the US shared blame for the catastrophe with its “adventurism.”
US Also to Blame
There is currently a virulent debate in America whether the 176 lives in the Ukrainian jet was the price of killing Iranian General QassimSoleimani in Baghdad.
Last Saturday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Iran’s capital, Tehran, to vent anger at the highest state officials, calling them liars for having denied shooting down the Ukrainian passenger plane. Protests took place outside at least two universities, with tear gas reportedly being fired. US President Trump tweeted support for the “inspiring” protests. (BBC)
The students called for those responsible for the downing the plane and those they said had covered up the action, to be prosecuted.
They also chanted “commander-in-chief resign”, referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and “death to liars.”
A Watershed Moment
The demands for accountability, the persecution of those responsible, as well as the adoption of all steps needed to ensure this does not happen again, will be added to previous grievances over the state of the economy and the limitations on social freedoms. The critical mass will also closely observe how the victims of the missile shooting are treated by the establishment.
How they handle the broader repercussions of this unprecedented downing could be a watershed moment for Iran: “The choices it makes are likely to reverberate throughout Iranian politics and society for months, or even years, to come” (Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi/Royal United Services Institute, London/BBC).
REGION EAST ASIA
Taiwan’s President Wins Second Term
Taiwan’s incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen won a second term in last Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in the self-ruled island nation in the Eastern Pacific. She defeated two challengers – Han Kuo-yu of the rival Nationalist [Kuomintang] Party and James Soong of the smaller People’s First Party (AP/Associated Press).
Ms. Tsai, 63, a former law professor, romped to victory with 57.2 percent, totaling more than 8 million votes. Han trailed behind with 38.6 percent and 5.5 million ballots cast in his favor. Tsai had positioned herself as protector of democracy and sovereignty on the self-governing island, where 19 million people are registered to vote.
Han, a 62-year-old populist mayor in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, ran on a platform of improving the Taiwanese economy by building a better relationship with mainland China.
After losing to Mao Zedong’s Communists in the civil war, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang supporters retreated to the island of Taiwan [Formosa] in 1949 and established an autonomous republic. Beijing considers Taiwan an integral part of its own territory and has vowed to retake the island, even by force if it deems necessary. It has increased pressure for re-unification since Tsai took power the first time in 2016.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized that the “one country, two systems” doctrine used in China’s relations with semi-autonomous Hong Kong is also the best modus operandi for Taiwan. However, the Hong Kong leadership’s approach and China’s response to pro-democracy protests in the nearby former British colony has only increased anti-China sentiment and had given Tsai a significant boost in support.
China was eager to see Tsai defeated and provided campaign funds and mobilized support on social media for Han and the Kuomintang party. Just days before the election, Taiwan passed legislation designed to limit Chinese influence in the election.
Prior to Saturday’s vote, the DPP held a parliamentary majority for the first time. It is expected to maintain its upper hand.
Taiwan-US Ties Crucial
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was effusive in his praise of Tsai Ing-wen upon winning a second and final term, while thwarting Chinese advances:“We congratulate Taiwan for once again demonstrating the strength of its robust democratic system which – coupled with a free market economy and a vibrant civil society – makes it a model for the Indo-Pacific region and a force for good in the world.”
At the same time, Pompeo noted that Washington approves of Tsai’s commitment to maintaining stability in Taiwan’s relations with China “in the face of unrelenting pressure.” (DW/Deutsche Welle)
China’s Foreign Ministry said as a matter of principle: “No matter what changes there are to the internal situation in Taiwan, the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change,” and furthermore: “The universal consensus of the international community adhering to the ‘one China’ principle will not change either.” (Reuters)
Australia Going Up in Smoke!
Protests are growing in Australia over the government’s handling of the bushfire crisis. But leaders are refusing to reverse their climate policies. It seems that the politicians are blinded, not by the ever spreading red haze, but fortunes to be made by coal mining (DW/Deutsche Welle).
Of course, coal has fueled close to three decades of continuous economic growth in Australia. The world’s biggest exporter of the black substance has also powered China’s meteoric rise. But at the same time, the enormous amount of coal consumption has also created a mammoth amount of climate influencing gas emissions. Very sadly and ironically, it seems to be now payback time, with Australia enduring unprecedented record high temperatures, extended drought and spreading wildfires.
The fires, in turn, are generating increasingly more carbon dioxide. Since the fires started last autumn, this had already made up two-thirds of Australia’s annual man-made emissions. But the politicians are not impressed and still maintain a lackadaisical attitude to climate change, even with the capital Canberra choking in smoke. Prime Minister Scott Morrison even went so far as to reject calls for “reckless” and “job-destroying” cuts to coal production.
The coal industry is a big employer and has huge political sway in killing off climate action. It “ran sophisticated operations” according to former PM Kevin Rudd [who himself was ousted] against all those who stood in its way with the help of a vast lobbying network and a goading media [dominated by the Murdoch network, which also owns Fox News in America].
The world in general is turning its back on fossil fuels, but Australia is persisting. Climate activists in Australia are demanding that Morrison follow this example or resign. They also accuse him of bungling the bushfire crisis, by playing down one of Australia’s worst natural disasters. The government is still not convinced that dramatic action needs to be taken immediately, because the coal industry is funding political power.
There is an urgent need for Australia –as for the entire world — to prepare for and adapt to climate change. Some economists say the bushfires could wipe out 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The wild fires could also cripple Australia’s consumer confidence and damage the economy through increased air pollution and harm to farming and tourism [which accounts for 3 percent of GDP].
Already, there has been irreparable damage to the natural environment. A billion animals – including the iconic kangaroos and koalas – have perished.
Morrison’s government insists in portraying this unfolding calamity as business as usual, saying Australia has always had bushfires! Others think, with coal mining, Australia is digging its own grave.
Trump Lacks a Grand Strategy
The reason why Trump is failing on multiple fronts of U.S. foreign policy can be traced back to his lack of a coherent grand strategy. In his latest Washington Post column, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria elucidates Trump’s haphazard, idiosyncratic and whimsical approach to U.S. foreign policy: “Trump disparaged [US] Middle East involvement then killed Iran’s top general [Maj. Gen. Qassam Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guards], withdrew from Syria only to keep troops there to guard oil, and alternated “fire and fury” with overtures to Kim Jong Un.
The U.S. was previously known for reliability and careful planning. Now that hard-won reputation has been squandered in arena after arena around the globe, and lies in tatters.
Zakaria writes: “Trump does not have a foreign policy. He has a series of impulses – isolationism, unilateralism, bellicosity – some of them contradictory.” He elaborates further: “One [impulse] might surge at any particular moment, triggered usually by Trump’s sense that he might look weak or foolish. They are often unleashed without any consultation, and then his yes men line up to defend him, supporting the president’s every move with North Korean-style enthusiasm, no matter how incoherent.”
The writer can be reached at: [email protected]