Transition period: Who is not ceremonial?

It may sound cynical but is nonetheless true that a lawless Nepal has proved better than a Nepal marked by the rule of law. Before the Jana Andolan II, there was a lawful country with the constitution intact and rule of law unbroken in judicial sense, notwithstanding the alleged violations committed by the government and the Maoists. There was a basis for public criticism and defence. But it was marked by war, bloodshed and wanton deaths.

After the Jana Andolan II, there is no rule of law because there is no recognised constitution and no law to rule the country. But we have peace and order with intermittent cases of public disturbance. The general public is definitely happier than before as there is relatively greater calm in the country. It was testified by the onrush of the urban dwellers going to the villages for Dashain and Tihar festivals and the tourists flocking to different destinations in Nepal.

It is a clear demonstration of peaceful nature of the Nepali people who would like to see a more secure and lasting peace with or without a voluminous constitution and juggernaut of laws. The current laws are nothing more than ceremonial as they are not effective in delivering justice, security and peace.

Why blame the laws alone? We are living virtually in a ceremonial society rejoicing more over ceremonies than over actions of consequence. We have a King who is technically symbolic with no other job than receive the credentials from the new ambassadors to Nepal. We have a PM confined to his official residence and performing the function of holding the official cabinet meetings and peace talks with no substantive outcomes, which the people could really rejoice over. How would you describe a prime minister who is seen issuing meaningless directives to his disloyal colleagues? A ritual Prime Minister.

We tend to believe that two deputy prime ministers who are powerful in their parties are equally so in the government. But one deputy prime minister, K P Oli, holding the foreign ministry, promises, ostentatiously matching his flashy necktie, to solve the problem of the Bhutanese refugees in one stroke by a final and decisive discussion with his Bhutanese counterpart. We wish he is true to his word. But, given the unhelpful Bhutanese attitude and other conditions remaining the same, we know that it is beyond his official capacity and personal capability to do so. Is it just to appear magical and miraculous? If so, we are to blame for taking him seriously for his specious claims. Was it not more ridiculous than rhetorical when he blamed the Maoist workers seizing the roads leading to the Prime Minister’s residence for Nepal’s defeat in seeking a non-permanent Security Council seat?

The other deputy PM, Amik Sherchan, is not lagging behind in appearing funny by promising success of the peace talks without any grounds. He was almost in tears when he was kept out of the last summit talks. How could he convince the people of his logic when he could not persuade his staff in the Health Ministry to abide by his commands? By making superficial promises he is inflicting pain on the people.

Let us now look at the high-profile Rayamajhi Commission investigating the excesses committed during the Jana Andolan II, which put hundreds of politicians and officials in the dock to determine the crimes and identify the culprits responsible for the deaths and suffering of the people. But when it came to pinning down the King for his role as the chairman of the council of ministers during the turbulent days it turned out to

be a hoax. Its forthcoming report will in all probability face the same fate as that of the Mallik Commission as the government in charge of carrying out its verdict of punitive actions is too weak to satisfy the general public.

Similarly, the monitoring committee to oversee the violations of the 25-point code of conduct between the government and the Maoists is performing its ceremonial duty of receiving complaints, investigating the incidents, issuing public statements and calling the attention of the signatories. Logically, the number of violations should have gone down if it really meant something to them. But, on the contrary, the number is going up with the public affairs getting more and more chaotic. The incident of the alleged ferrying of arms by the Nepali Army put the committee investigation to an acid test and injured its credibility. What else can the committee do except follow the footsteps of other equally glitzy institutions?

The irony of our society during this transition period is that the legitimate government is ceremonial but the illegitimate authority is real, that belongs to none other than the Maoists. Dualism that had ended with the royal takeover has come back with the de jure government only in name and the de facto authority in the hands of the omnipresent Maoists. Was it not evident when the Maoists nabbed the criminals in the capital and handed them over to the regular police for penalty? The sooner they are together the better it will be.

Shrestha is a freelance journalist