F.d. presidenten Jimmy Carter reser till Nepal för daliternas skull


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Report by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Trip
to Nepal and Myanmar, March 28-April 6, 2013

April 8, 2013

 

Rosalynn, Trustee Sherry Lansing and I traveled on Trustee Richard Blum’s Gulfstream and met David Pottie in Nepal and David Carroll in Myanmar. John Hardman was with us in both countries.

 

NEPAL

Background:
The Carter Center has been active in Nepal full-time since 2004, and I have returned to Nepal four times during the Maoist revolution and transition from the monarchy to a democratic republic. We have had the only international observer group there since the U.N. peace mission ended in January 2011, continuing our contacts with political, military, and civil society leaders with 12 international and 20 national observers deployed throughout the country. Our efforts have been to promote peace, democracy, and respect for human rights while being very careful to honor the customs, culture, and sovereignty of Nepal.

Unable to negotiate a constitution after five years of effort, an historic agreement has been reached for Supreme Court Justice Khil Raj Regmi to serve as acting prime minister in order to orchestrate elections this year at a date to be determined.

Goals in Nepal:

  1. To prepare for free and fair elections, accepted by all major political groups, and to observe the process;
  2. Help insure transition to a new and stable government;
  3. Help promote inclusiveness in Nepalese society; and
  4. Monitor local elections, not held for 15 years.

Challenges:
Nepalese political leaders have struggled with the degree of federalism to accept, how to involve different political and ethnic groups, to insure equal status for women, untouchables, and other marginalized people, to incorporate former Maoists fighters within the national army, and how to honor democratic principles in the aftermath of the historic caste system.

Activities:
During our first afternoon we met with President Ram Baran Yadav, a Madhesi, former medical doctor and minister of health. I congratulated him on the great progress Nepal has made since I first came here in 1985, and he reported steady progress toward developing a comprehensive voters’ list and making preparations for the next election, which is now scheduled for June but will probably be delayed until November. Serving under the acting prime minister is an adequately representative election commission. One faction of the Maoists is opposing this recently contrived political system, but the president believes the opposition can be overcome. The big question is how to form a system of federalism that represents ethnic and geographical divisions without too much fragmentation of the national system of governance. Local elections will be held after the national election while a new constitution is written by the elected parliament.

With Trustee Richard Blum we had a series of meetings to learn about the multiple projects of the American Himalayan Foundation involving preservation of native culture, education, health care, and prevention of the taking of Nepalese girls into sexual slavery.

In our meeting with Chairman Regmi, who is acting as prime minister, he emphasized his commitment to the same principles we had discussed with the president. He is willing to serve in this executive capacity until resuming duties as chief justice after a successful national election is complete, and said he will use whatever action is necessary to overcome the ongoing intimidation and violence designed to subvert the process.

From civil society leaders we learned about challenges to equality in civil, economic, and political affairs. For instance, mothers do not have the same status as fathers in assuring citizenship (and voting rights) for their children, and leaders of major political parties, all from the upper Brahmin class, have reduced the opportunity of disadvantaged people to be elected to parliament by increasing the portion to be elected by “first past the post” results instead of proportional representation from 40 percent to 50 percent.

Dalit leaders described the overt and covert obstacles placed in their path to full citizenship. They comprise 13 percent of the total population but are scattered geographically and lack both unity and effective leadership. None of the major parties now espouse their cause.

At dinner with Army Chief General Rana, he reported a successful incorporation of 1,400 former Maoist revolutionaries into the national army, with one colonel and two lieutenant-colonels. He said the military has been reduced in size, with half their helicopters grounded and in need of service.

The next day, Sunday, we made an early morning visit to the bustling Pashupatinath Hindu Temple area, where thousands of people were worshiping in the 600-acre compound. We watched the ceremonial bathing of deceased family members in a dwindling stream and the cremation of the bodies. They have an average of about 25 such ceremonies each day and are anticipating the installation of electric crematoria to replace the existing wooden pyres. We were impressed with the solemnity and enthusiasm of the crowd, which our guide said was the smallest of the week.

We then met with leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), Nepali Congress, United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Madhesi parties, indigenous groups, and the Election Commission. I also arranged a meeting with Maoist leader Baidya, who is attempting to disrupt the electoral process with protests, intimidation of voter registrars, and confiscation of computers and other material. He claimed that his opposition was peaceful in nature and promised to consult with other political leaders and to refrain from violence, but the next day they kidnapped three registrars, who were held for six hours. I told him he would either have to compromise or be restrained by police and face legal action.

Monday we went bird watching on a mountain overlooking the city and then met with Indian Ambassador Prasad and had a roundtable discussion with representatives of Denmark, the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada. At a large press conference, I outlined our impressions of the electoral process and answered questions.

Observations and conclusions:
The Carter Center enjoys widespread respect and appreciation for its long-term presence and our staff’s constant visits to all parts of Nepal. The country has made great progress during our presence here since 2004, with an end of the civil war, replacement of the monarchy with a democratic republic, the incorporation of previously violent Maoists into responsible participants in government and society, and improvement of the status of women, Dalits, and other marginalized people. Their five-year effort to evolve a constitution has failed, and this contrived technocratic government of the four major parties and a chief justice appointed as acting prime minister is perhaps the best avenue to the election of a new parliament. I pointed out in my private meetings and through the news media our hope and expectation for improving the commitment to peace, a federalist democracy, improved equality for all citizens, the drafting of a new constitution, and a successful national election and local elections in the 75 districts and 4,000 villages. The Carter Center will observe and assist in all these activities as requested.

After completing a full agenda, we departed Tuesday morning for Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

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