Sunday, February 22, 2015

Open Questions On The ‘Secret’ Agreement

Days after former king Gyanendra resurrected the ‘agreement’ in his Democracy Day message to the nation, all heads are still firmly turned to Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The second-ranking leader of the erstwhile Seven Party Alliance (SPA) has denied the existence of any such agreement in writing that had led to the restoration of the House of Representatives.
In a television a couple of years ago, too, Shah had suggested that he and the SPA leadership had agreed on political terms that were ostensibly narrower in scope than what has eventually transpired in the nation. Then, too, Madhav Nepal had rejected that suggestion outright and challenged Shah to produce the said document.
What struck Maila Baje as interesting is the difference in the political establishment’s response to Shah’s assertion. This time, the first politician to react was Krishna Prasad Sitaula of the Nepali Congress. But Sitaula’s denial can be easily discounted. Sitaula came in the picture only after the Constituent Assembly voted to abolish the monarchy. The agreement Shah refers to was already breached by then and events had careened out of the 12 Point Agreement between the SPA and the Maoists. So Sitaula’s question as to why Shah vacated the palace so willingly in 2008 becomes moot.
As to Madhav Nepal, the last time he spoke, he seemed to carry the political establishment with him. Now, the Maoists (at least the Pushpa Kamal Dahal/Baburam Bhattarai faction) and Madhesis (the Upendra Yadav faction) have pressed the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist for further clarification. Yadav, for his part, seems to be suggesting that such an agreement does in fact exist.
Clearly, one side isn’t telling the truth. No less important is ambiguity surrounding the terms of any such agreement. Did the parties provide assurances that the monarchy would remain untouched? In his TV interview, Shah pointed in that direction. This time, he was less specific. Or were both sides silent on that subject (because, at least in the palace’s view, it wasn’t even an issue)?
On the other hand, did the monarch receive explicit assurances that the SPA and the Maoists would restore peace and stability far faster in a democratic way than the three years the palace had sought so ‘undemocratically’?
Something happened after the first royal proclamation, which resulted in the issuance of the second two days later. When exactly was the ‘agreement’ said to have taken place? If it was before the first proclamation, did the monarch expect the SPA to honor it in perpetuity? Did the parties feel they were not bound to do so given the new ‘realities’ that precipitated the second proclamation?
What if both sides are right? Maybe there isn’t a written agreement in the form of a document the then king and the SPA leaders signed in the presence of witnesses. What if this debate revolves around an oral agreement?
And what if there is video recording somewhere of that, complete with extreme long shots, close-ups, tilts, pans and full ambient sound?