Govt acknowledges Koirala Nobel nomination

KATHMANDU: The government on Thursday decided to recommend the name of former prime minister and Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the country’s peace process.

The government will formally send Koirala’s name to the Norwegian Nobel Committee by February 1, when the deadline for submitting nominations ends.

Minister for Communications and Information Shankar Pokharel said the government decided to nominate Koirala for his peace initiatives. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sujata Koirala said the country was upbeat at the decision to send GPK’s name for the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, as the government took the decision to nominate Koirala as the first ‘Nepali peace prize aspirant’, there ought to be a broader discussion on Koirala’s contribution to peace and his qualification for the coveted prize.

It is widely believed that 86-year-old Koirala played an important role

in bringing the CPN-Maoist (now Unified CPN-Maoist) to the peace

process, thus ending a decade-long bloody civil war. From the 12-point

New Delhi agreement to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Koirala has been on the fore front of the country’s peace process. His initiatives were successful in coaxing the former rebels to quit their armed conflict.

Koirala also led a 19-day-long peaceful movement in April 2006 that abolished 240 years of monarchy. It was under Koirala’s leadership that the historic Constituent Assembly elections were held successfully.

Koirala, however, has had his share of controversies during his 60-year-long political career. The Lauda air scandal badly dented his political career, as he was allegedly involved in corruption while leasing Lauda Air in early 2001.

He again faced criticism after 2006 when he repeatedly changed his stance on the status of monarchy. His statements on ceremonial monarchy and baby king had landed him into controversy. A section of his own party leaders accuse Koirala of being the most corrupt politician. His political opponents, and even the general public, consider Koirala as one of the most controversial political figures. In an interview to the national TV channel, Koirala had even revealed that he was involved in printing counterfeit Indian currency notes and masterminded the hijacking of a passenger plane during his political exile in India in the 1970s.

The peace process is still fragile

and lot needs to be done for attaining sustainable peace. The number of armed outfits active in the Tarai and hilly areas has grown. The fragile

peace process has not even succeeded in satisfying people’s expectations.

War, in its true sense, has not ended even after inking of the peace deal. Since the introduction of a federal republican system, Nepal has been passing through an unstable phase. It is too early to assess the long-term impact of Koirala’s beliefs, but it will certainly be a great honour for him if he becomes the 121st Nobel laureate.

In a book — ‘Simple Convictions: My Struggle for Peace and Democracy’ — author Kanak Mani Dixit writes, “In the period covered by the pronouncements of Girija Prasad Koirala contained in this volume, he evolved as a national figure, beyond being leader of the Nepali Congress party. Between October 2002 and December 2006, Koirala became indispensable to the people in the fight for peace and democracy.

Through his dogged insistence on the restoration of the Third

Parliament, he helped quash Gyanendra’s dictatorial designs, and simultaneously

legitimised the evolution

of the CPN (Maoist) towards

the political mainstream. These are reasons to appreciate Girija Prasad Koirala

at the beginning of 2007. As for the rest of his legacy, let history be the judge.”

The book also emphasises Koirala’s departure from conventional diplomacy. “I was convinced of the need to defend democracy from the guns of both the Maoists and the king... I wish that there should be no need for future generations to fight for democracy like I have had to. This is the decisive struggle of my life. The people are eager to see peace and democracy established in the country. I will be happy when this becomes a reality,” the book quotes Koirala.

Will periodic peace initiatives be enough for Koirala to claim the peace prize? Human rights activist and one of the peace negotiators, Daman Nath Dhungana, is quite optimistic. Hailing the government’s move, he said, “It should not be made just a formality. The government must start a global campaign to lobby support for Koirala in the Nobel race.” Dhungana termed Koirala a peace leader.

Koirala’s nomination

has had a low-key public reaction, as peace is yet to prevail in Nepal. Nevertheless, Koirala’s homegrown popularity does not matter. The fresh evidence is: US President Barrack Obama got this year’s prize for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples, despite a CNN poll that found that just 19 per cent of Americans think that Obama deserves the prize.

It is said that the Nobel Prize was established to honour individuals or institutions for their outstanding achievements in peace. The establishment of the prize came

after the death of Alfred Nobel who left most of his wealth

to the establishment of such an award. According to the Nobel Foundation, the coveted prize has been awarded to 120 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2009 - 97 times to

individuals and 23 times to