I have volunteered in Nepal before, so I new in the terai that the work week was Sunday – Friday 10am – 5pm. I knew that in Kathmandu the work week was Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm, maybe they started at 9am since they had two day weekends. Well, COCAP is open Sunday – Friday, offers trainings on the weekend, and though most of the time the staff tries to get out by 5:30pm, they are all in before 10am! Everyone says that they take turns coming in on Sunday’s, but for the past two Sundays everyone came to the office. I have agreed to be at the office M-F, 10am – 5pm, but already I have come into the office the past two weekends for meetings and trainings. I don’t mind because the staff is wonderful to interact with and there is always something to do or someone new to talk to.
This past weekend I took Saturday for myself, but came in on Sunday to attend the Education Journalist Groups discussion on the 7 political party’s agenda in order to bring about democracy in Nepal. The guest speaker was Krishna Karnal, a prominent political analysist in Nepal. I really wish I understood more of what was said, I got the overall ideas, but the details were missing. Bijay filled in the gaps as we returned to the office.
There are still many views on how the political parties are going to be able to bring democracy in Nepal. Everyone recognized that Nepal’s past political parties were corrupt and that they need to change leaders or change their ways. ‘What is the democratic process’ was brought up a lot. It was also noted how democracy in Nepal is only 15 years old and many recognize that there will be bumps in the road to establishing a more stable democracy, but stopping the process is not going to help them get there.
Nepal first obtained democracy in 1950, but ten years later King Mahendra took democracy away from the people, saying that the people of Nepal “were not ready for a democracy”. It is true that in the 1950s communication and infrastructure were limited and many Nepali’s were not receiving an education. All this made distributing information difficult. For some time, when people were leaving the villages and going to Kathmandu they would say, “You are going to Nepal”. This is because Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal were so drastically different in their stages of development it was like going to another country (and still is for some parts of Nepal). But if you don’t give democracy a chance and don’t try to get out the information to the people and educate the people on their choices, then you are also not allowing democracy to grow. Therefore, it would not be the people of Nepal who are not ready for democracy, since they were never given the chance to decide, but it would be those who continue to take back the power that are not ready for democracy – or so it would seem.
Today communication is greater, more students, throughout Nepal, are obtaining an education and the young adults of today only know democracy, no matter how corrupt it may have been. They do not know what it is like to live under an autocracy and they will not stand by and not let their voices be heard. While adhering to the mandates set by the king on public assembly and hearings, many human rights and civil society organizations are keeping a low profile until things ease up and they can hold peaceful demonstrations again. They continue to discuss the current situation and think up ideas and programs, but know that if they act now, there is a chance they will not be able to be heard later.
Currently a bill is going through the current government in order to “legitimize” registered NGOs. Corruption, unfortunately, did not stop with the government and many NGOs, though doing good work, may have pocketed some money along the way. The bill would be calling for transparency and any organization not willing to show their books and prove their legitimate book keeping will be under the threat of being closed.
This should sound good, except that those that will be under threat of being closed will most likely be the ones that have been the most successful in their work. They will be the organizations that have the strongest voice against the current government. Not that making organizations accountable is a bad thing, but again, it is feared the king will abuse another law to quiet those against him.
Posted By Anne Finnan (Nepal)
Posted Jun 14th, 2005