Daily Briefs

Photo :

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief, 29 May 2023, Monday

The republic is dying, says The Kathmandu Post

By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George and Lakshmi Parimala H



"The republic is dying," says The Kathmandu Post

On 29 May, an analysis in The Kathmandu Post looked at the 16 years of Nepal being a republic, what the nation wished for and what it is now. The following are the key points:

1. People losing trust in the republic, federalism and governments:

The people's participation in decision-making is low, reducing their faith in federalism. The self-serving politicians and political parties themselves do not intend to improve people's lives. The republic is not people-centric.

2. Unstable governments:

The power politics has intensified after Nepal became a republic. Nepal's multiparty democracy and proportional representation system, which were established after the first constituent assembly, have led to the formation of coalition governments that have destabilized the country. For the past 16 years, no major political party has managed to complete a full five-year term. The current government is also going through twists and turns. The collapse of the government impacts the stability of the provincial governments as well. 

3. Overstepping Presidents: Since 2008, Nepal has had three Presidents. They have been trying to gain executive power and thus crossing the constitutional boundaries. 

4. Person-centric political parties' lust for power:

The person-centric politics, corruption and thirst for power made traditional parties like the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML decline. The Maoist party, which appeared as a redeemer for the poor and marginalized and the Madheshi party, which was based on identity politics, emerged as the main political force. The Bibeksheel Sabha and the Naya Shakthi were some new parties which came after the promulgation of the constitution in 2015. They went into oblivion as they became corrupt when they started enjoying power. The Rastriya Swatantra Party, which won 20 seats and the Janamat Party, which bagged six seats, in the parliamentary elections, is also following a similar path.

5. Regional and ethnic parties with short-term interests:

Nepal saw the rise of regional parties which included a few armed groups after the Madhesh movement that struggled to stay relevant. However, corruption, splits and disputes within them led to their decline. (Nishan Khatiwada, "Republican Nepal fails to achieve its stated objectives," The Kathmandu Post, 29 May 2023)

India to export 300,000 tons of wheat to Nepal

On 28 May, The Kathmandu Post reported that India cleared the export of 300,000 tons of wheat to Nepal, along with several other countries such as Indonesia, Senegal and Gambia. In April, amidst the pressure from the flour industry, struggling with insufficient domestic production, the Nepal government requested a consignment of 300,000 tons of wheat. According to the economic survey published by Nepal, its wheat production has dropped by 2.14 per cent this fiscal year. The government officials stated that the demand for wheat has been increasing significantly. The Indian government's ban on wheat exports last May, due to poor harvests, has caused 80-85 per cent of Nepali flour mills to shut down. The embargo was lifted in December, when India instituted a quota system for its neighbours. (Krishana Prasain, "India clears export of 300,000 tonnes of wheat to Nepal," The Kathmandu Post, 28 May 2023)

The global recession has directly affected Nepal, says FM Mahat

On 28 May, presenting the economic survey for the financial year 2022-23, the Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat stated that the global recession has directly affected Nepal. He said that while the impact was seen in the overall economy, the areas mainly hit were the wholesale and retail market, construction and mining and manufacturing industry. The high inflation, caused by the rise in petroleum products, has decreased demand in the market. According to the survey, Nepal’s banking and financial institutions have become fewer as a result of the merger and acquisition programme. Their branches, however, are growing. It reported that the forest cover grew from 44.8 per cent last year to 45.31 per cent this fiscal year. It further stated that Nepal had only 1.15 doctors for every 1000 population. ("Economic survey shows lingering effects of global recession in Nepal," The Kathmandu Post, 28 May 2023)

Nepal’s diplomatic note to the US on its religious freedom report

On 27 May, in the meeting of the House of Representatives, PM Dahal said that the government had sent a diplomatic note to the US, seeking views on its latest religious freedom report. Earlier, on 15 May, the US published its 'Report on International Religious Freedom', calling out Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and India for religious freedom violations. The report alleged that India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been providing funds to politicians from major parties in Nepal, such as the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), to speak in favor of a Hindu statehood. ("Nepal sends diplomatic note to US regarding religious freedom report," The Kathmandu Post, 28 May 2023)


12th Expert Group Meeting held with China

On 27 May, Kuensel reported that the 12th Expert Group Meeting (EGM), on the Bhutan-China boundary issue, was held in Thimphu from 24-25 May. In the meeting, the two countries reviewed the positive consensus reached at the previous meeting and held discussions to take forward the implementation of the Three-Step Roadmap. They also emphasized increasing the frequency of their meetings. ("Bhutan, China hold expert group meeting," Kuensel, 27 May 2023)

Vehicle imports decline by 35 per cent

On 27 May, Kuensel reported that Bhutan's imports of vehicles had declined by 35 per cent. This was due to the government's move in August last year to implement a vehicle import moratorium, to conserve the forex reserves and reduce the trade deficit. Initially, the halt was imposed for six months. However, it was later extended for six more months, till 18 August of this year. The forex reserves, which stood at USD 736 mn in August 2021 rose to USD 970.4 mn. The significant decline in vehicle imports was particularly from India, which fell by half, while the imports from other countries doubled, primarily due to the purchase of electric vehicles. However, the import value of fuel increased by Nu 3 bn in 2022. (Thukten Zangpo, "Vehicle import sees significant decline of about 35 percent," Kuensel, 27 May 2023)


The fallouts of a fishing ban on Bangladeshi fishers

On 29 May, an analysis by Md Mehedi Hasan in the Daily Star, outlined the negative impact of the fishing ban on coastal fishers in Bangladesh. The government introduced a 65-day fishing ban in 2015. However, it has been enforced annually from 2019. Under this, the fishers are prohibited from fishing every year from 20 May to 23 July. Despite the ban being important in observing fish stocks and promoting sustainable fishing practices, several factors have led to its negative effect on the coastal communities. First, the intrusion of Indian fishers into the Bangladeshi waters. The fishing ban in India ends earlier (20 June) than in Bangladesh. This resulted in Bangladeshi fishers catching only 70,000 tons of fish of the total eight million tons of fish caught annually in the Bay of Bengal, therefore, underlining the need for coordination and alignment between the two countries. There is also a necessity for harmonized regulation, decided through collaboration between the countries. Secondly, the ban on fishing. The ban is also pushing the lives of Bangladeshi fishers into turmoil in the absence of proper and fair relief distribution, thus necessitating government monitoring and long-term solutions such as skill development programmes. Third, the exploitation by those who claim to be the 'protectors of the ocean'. These include the naval police, foresters, and coast guard personnel. This also adds to the frustrations of the coastal communities. Therefore, this calls for strong strategies needed to enhance the fishing ban and ensure the protection of rights and the livelihoods of these communities in the process. (Md Mehedi Hasan, "Fishing ban in Bangladesh is a bilateral issue," The Daily Star, 29 May 2023)


ASEAN-Japan Center invested in Junta's ministries, says Justice for Myanmar (JFM)

On 27 May, The Irrawaddy reported that according to Justice for Myanmar (JFM), an activist group, the Tokyo-based ASEAN-Japan Center for Trade, Investment, and Tourism has invested funds in the investment and tourism ministries of Myanmar's junta regime. The center is under criticism for working alongside the junta regime, which equals its legitimization and further engaging in capacity building through its ministries. The group laid accusations that the 2022-23 grant of the center was used at least for an event in March inaugurated by minister Kan Zaw. The center denied revealing the size of the grant. Further, it alleged that the center has worked with the Ministry of Commerce to aid market access to Japan. ("Japan-ASEAN Center Supports Myanmar Junta's Trade and Tourism Ministries: Report," The Irrawaddy, 27 May 2023)

Around 30 Myanmar junta forces were killed in resistance attacks

On 29 May, The Irrawaddy reported that at least 30 junta forces were killed in the last three days of attacks between the People's Defense Forces (PDFs) and ethnic revolutionary organizations (EROs) on one side and the junta forces on the other. The attacks were reported in Sagaing, Magwe, and Mandalay regions and Karen State. According to Black Wolf Army, at least two regime soldiers were killed in a drone attack conducted at the school of Hpone Bwet Village ("Over 30 Myanmar Junta Forces Killed in Three Days of Resistance Attacks," The Irrawaddy, 29 May 2023)


Stand-up comedian arrested over insulting Buddhism

On 28 May, the thirty-one-year-old Natasha Edirisuriya was detained by the CID over complaints of insulting Buddhism. According to the police, Edirisuriya casted a video programme called "Modabhimana" (Fools' Pride – a stand-up gig), which was derogatory towards the Buddhist religion. She was taken into custody by the CID and a group of officers from the Colombo Computer Crime Investigation Division for interrogation. Further, there were allegations that she offered lectures that defamed Buddhist philosophy and culture. Moreover, the police are in search of a male who accompanied her at the airport. ("Comedian arrested at BIA," The Island, 29 May 2023)

Board of Investment increases FDI target to USD billion

On 26 May, the Sri Lankan Board of Investment director said in a press conference that the board has increased the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) target from USD 1.3 billion to USD 2 billion. This move has come on the sidelines of rising investment prospects amidst the economic crisis and from an anticipated huge investment inflow for the oil refinery project in Hambantota. The board further noted that among the RFPs under process, the selected investors are expected to invest around USD 2.5 to 3 billion in the project, thereby making it one of the largest FDI projects in the country. Sinopec, a Chinese oil and gas enterprise, is one of the investors to submit the RFP. ("BOI ups FDI target to US$ 2bn amid growing investor interest," Daily Mirror, 29 May 2023)

Illegal immigration; Britain seeks Colombo's support

On 27 May, in a meeting between the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton and Public Security Minister Tiran Alles, the latter sought the cooperation of the Sri Lankan government in preventing its illegal immigrants from entering Britain. Further, Sri Lanka's Prevention of Terrorism Act underwent a major discussion during the meeting. When inquired about the latest four arrests under the PTA, Alles responded that the arrests were related to the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. Moreover, Hulton noted that a Zoom conference would be arranged as a part of the training workshop on the use of rules and regulations for the officers of the Sri Lankan Police. ("Britain seeks Sri Lanka's cooperation to prevent illegal immigration," Daily Mirror, 28 May 2023)

India did more for Lanka than IMF: Jaishankar

On 27 May, the Union Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar said that the Modi government is working towards an "extended neighborhood" that includes islands in the Indian Ocean, Gulf countries, and nations in South-East Asia. He went on to highlight how the perception and linkages of India in the neighborhood have changed in the past nine years under the Modi government. He added, "Last year when they (Sri Lanka) went through a very deep economic crisis, we stepped forward in a way we ourselves have never done before. What we have done for Sri Lanka is bigger than what the IMF has done for Sri Lanka. If any of you have visited Sri Lanka recently, then you will note the popular perception that has accrued from this action." ("India has done more for Sri Lanka than IMF – Dr Jaishankar," Ceylon Today, 29 May 2023)


Ballot boxes for presidential elections to be placed in eight countries

On 27 May, the Election Commission's Vice-President reported that the ballot boxes for the presidential election in September will be placed in eight countries. They include India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, UAE, Japan, and the UK. But the prerequisite for the former is that at least 150 members should register for voting. Further, 15 countries have been sent an invitation to witness the electoral process of the country. There are 2,82,755 eligible voters for this year in the country. ("Ballot boxes to be placed in eight countries, 15 invited to observe electoral process," avas.mv, 28 May 2023)

Civil court orders against EC's move to dissolve MRM

On 28 May, the civil court issued an order to halt the Election Commission's decision on 24 May to dissolve the Maldives Reform Movement (MRM), a political party founded by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. The decision of the EC came after the party failed to meet its minimum membership criteria which is 3,000 while as per the EC's website, it had only 2,981 members. The party mentioned in the claim submitted to the civil court that it had secured enough members and the EC's move was influenced by corruption. The party further stated that it plans to file a case against the EC. Meanwhile, the civil court noted that the order will cease to be effective in case of non-filing a claim against the EC within 30 days. ("Civil Court orders to halt enforcing MRM's dissolution," sun.mv, 29 May 2023)

Defected members of MDP lose their government positions

On 29 May, Avas reported that the members who left the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were subsequently dismissed from their government positions. The party responded that the defectors were actively criticizing the working of the government from their positions. The party faces criticism along the lines that only MDP members have lost their government positions and not the members from other parties in the ruling coalition. The number of dismissals, so far, is still unknown. ("MDP defectors dismissed from gov't positions," Avas, 29 May 2023)

Campaign manager and spokesperson appointed for MNP's Mohamed Nazim

On 28 May, the Maldives National Party (MNP) announced the appointment of a spokesperson and a campaign manager for the party's presidential candidate Mohamed Nazim. As per the announcement, Mohamed Fayaz was appointed as the manager while Villimale's MP Ahmed Usham was appointed the spokesperson for the September election. ("MNP appoints campaign manager, spokesperson for presidential candidate," Avas, 29 May 2023 )


Three killed in clashes between Iran and Afghanistan over water rights 

On 27 May, at least three people including two Iranian border guards and one Taliban fighter were killed in an ongoing clash between Iran and Afghanistan over a water rights dispute. Iran's official IRNA news agency later said that two Iranian civilians were injured. The clashes came in the backdrop of Iran accusing the Taliban of violating a 1973 treaty by blocking the water flow from river Helmand to Iran's eastern regions. However, the Taliban has denied the allegations. Enayatullah Khowarazmi, Taliban Ministry of Defence spokesman said, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers dialogue and negotiation to be a reasonable way for any problem. Making excuses for war and negative actions is not in the interest of any of the parties." On the other hand, Iran accused Taliban forces for shooting first. ("At least three killed in shooting at Iran-Afghan border," Al Jazeera, 27 May 2023)

Other Daily Briefs