Refreshing rollback

Soon after revoking all ‘political’ appointments, the Cabinet has started rolling back the ordinances issued after the October 4 (2002) royal takeover. Six such ordinances were scrapped on Tuesday, including the widely denounced Media Ordinance, which aimed to cow both the print and electronic media into submission; the Local Administration Ordinance, which authorised the King to appoint the regional and zonal administrators; and the Social Welfare Ordinance, which tried to control NGOs largely for political motives. With four others lapsing last Saturday, there are still well over two dozen ordinances in force. This process of review, revision, and annulment has started as part of the seven-party alliance’s commitment or in response to public sentiment or the lobbying of those concerned.

Undoubtedly, the main thrust of a number of ordinances was to strengthen and entrench the royal regime. But this should be no reason to make those now in power view with disfavour even positive aspects that may be contained in them. For example, though the Social Welfare Ordinance largely sought to make the NGOs subservient to the autocratic rule, the ideas of accountability and transparency that were there should be embraced in days to come in a democratised and improved fashion so that on the one hand NGOs may function freely in their chosen fields without arbitrary state control, but on the other, they may be made to demonstrate amply transparency and accountability. The public has the right to know where the NGOs get their funds from and how these are spent. Billons of rupees have been pouring into NGOs annually without any record, a problem Girija Prasad Koirala while Prime Minister several years ago had also raised, but, unfortunately, without taking any corrective action.

Questions of transparency and accountability are also bound up with national interests, as, at present, the government has no way of checking effectively any undesirable activities that may be going on against national interests, such as religious conversion through NGOs. Donors pick and choose their local protégés and through them they push their agendas. The way the NGOs themselves and their donors appear opposed to any kind of control raises the question of whether this government can muster the courage to bring some good governance to NGOs. Concepts of good governance, fairness, public or national interest, and democratic norms should be guiding principles in formulating rules and regulations, whether they relate to NGOs, the media, labour law, civil services act and regulations, and virtually anything else. The anti-terror law which has been grossly misused by those in power and widely criticised as being anti-human rights has yet to be annulled. While talking of laws, one’s attention is also drawn to the need to review the existing laws to bring them fully into harmony with the democratic spirit, a task which was only done partially after 1990 people’s movement. This time around, Mission Democracy must not be left unfinished in any respect.