Nepal’s Unified Marxist Leninist’s party Chairman K.P Oli in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times
Khadga Prasad Oli, or KP Oli as he is popularly known in Nepal is the current chairman of the Communist Party Nepal-Unified Marxixt Leninst. He was the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal during the interim government in 2006 and was elected the leader of the CPN-UML Parliamentary Party in the 2nd Constituent Assembly on February 4, 2014.
Oli in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar, spoke about the political problems Nepal faces, and the reasons why the Constituent Assembly was unable to draft and promulgate an all inclusive constitution on 22 January 2014.
The Excerpts below gives us an insight into his views:
Can you tell us about Nepal‘s current political scenario?
During your five-day stay in Kathmandu you might have known the status of current affairs and political trend in Nepal and might have also observed the Banda (general strike) yesterday. Though the situation looks very complex, its not so. There are two sides— one democratic, which holds two third of Constituent Assembly seats and wants to promulgate the new constitution at the earliest and the other side, which among others includes UCPN Maoist, Madhes centric and other fringe parties, that wants to disrupt the constitution drafting process.
This other parties are pressing for drafting and promulgating the constitution in consensus among all parties while they are steadfast on their stance, thereby ruling out any possibility to reach consensus. They are trying to trigger communal and ethnic hatred and violence among the people and to separate the entire southern plain land from east to west from the hill areas. This issue can damage national unity and integrity.
Does it mean that you are against Federalism?
Federalism was not my demand. This is a small country with a small population of 27 million people, with around 20 per cent of its area always covered by snow , with a small stretch of hilly area and plain area in the south. Our rivers flow through the Northern mountains, to hills and to southern plain (tarai) region. We have a complex civilization that integrates around 125 ethnic groups that speak 123 dialects. We have Mount Everest and even lands with altitude ranging lower than 100 meters from the sea level. This is our beauty. Despite being a small country, it has tremendous diversity.
I respect the prevalent sentiment for federalism but only history will judge it’s relevance in Nepal. However, that does not mean that I agree or will accept conditions that are against national interest or might be so in the long run, in name of federalism. So, basically we are in favor of federalism, but we cannot bear federal states or federalism or provinces. Nepal’s economy, territory, population and particularly its level of development cannot afford so many provinces.Federalism is supposed to be a democratic practice that promotes healthy competition among states and provide support to the central government. Considering the prevalent fear among certain Nepalese population about the possible disintegration of the nation and ethnic harmony due to federalism, do you think there is possibility of federalism in the near or distant future.
So you are ready to accept the formation of federal provinces?
There are two problematic aspects about federalism – one within the Constituent Assembly that talks about federalism and another one out of the CA that is pitching in for a separation, revolution and independent tarai-madesh province. Some voices from the latter are advocating openly to get rid from the colonial rule of the hill people. So for them, federalism There are two problematic aspects about federalism – one within the Constituent Assembly that talks about federalism and another one out of the CA that is pitching in for a separation, revolution and independent tarai-madesh province. Some voices from the latter are advocating openly to get rid from the colonial rule of the hill people. So for them, means making separate provinces. This has not yet been implemented. And even if we implement federalism in theory how are we going to deal with another aspect that are extremists– a breakaway faction of the erstwhile extremist element.
Who are these extremists?
Netra Bikram Chand, leader of the newly formed splinter party of the erstwhile extremist Maoist party. He is not satisfied even with the mother party that created violence. The Maoist party has split in four groups- one led by Matrika Yadav, second led by Puspa Kamal Dahal, third by Mohan Baidya and fourth by Chand. Except the one led by Dahal, the other three parties are calling for revolution. They are outside of the parliament and are openly advocating violence, armed struggle, and launching the peoples’ war once again.
How do you see the Nepalese bent of mind– religious or democratic in nature?
Nepalese people are very simple, honest, laborious and straightforward. About 84 per cent of them believe in Hinduism along with Buddhism Sikhism, Islam, and Christianity, among others. The state gives religious freedom to everyone. Though it was Hindu Kingdom earlier, it has been declared a secular state. The state does not interfere in people’s religious belief. Citizens are free to practice and adopt religion of their choice.
There is no place of religion in Marxism and Leninist ideology. We have examples of this in Afghanistan, Russian countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. How do you look at this? Is there a similarity between Marxism and Leninism that you follow and they follow?
Marxism doesn’t believe in orthodox thinking, conflict and killing people in the name of religion. It does not says that there must be only Muslims and no other people, or there must be only Christians and no other people, or there must be only Buddhist and no other people. In Nepal also there was conflict and killing between Shakhacharya, a brand of Hindu and Buddhist for long time. There have been conflicts in many countries in the name of religion and ethnicity, but there is no logical ground for it.
So, what is religion in your view?
Religion is developed in a form to protect and to develop civilization. There are many aspects of religion but basically it is a set of behavior of the people. But as Marx said, religion can be opium as well.
So, do you agree with this?
Sometimes, yes. In Afghanistan the fighting and killing between the Shia and Sunni group is an instance of this. But religion should not be the reason to hate people. If you are a Christian, I am Hindu and she is Buddhist, what is the reason to hate each other? I can respect your opinion and religious views, and therefore it’s not like opium.
All religions are good, because of its followers. I have no religion but I respect all religions. I never bow in front of a stone or anything. I never sacrifice goats or dogs or chicken in the name of god, its nonsense. In my opinion people have different faces, languages, religion, civilization because of various geographic, climatic, social and economic conditions they are born in. The differences should not be the reasons for hating and killing each other.
That is how it should be, nothing else. Our party has never meddled with people’s religious views or practices. It is the Maoist party that has disturbed many religious functions and harassed and killed people while they were following their religious practices.
Our relationships with both countries are very good and neutral. Both of these neighbors are bigger, larger, and have higher level of development than us. There is no reason for us to be hostile against either of them. We are happy that they are developing very fast and that we can follow them.
Regarding the constitution drafting— is the constitution coming on January 22, as promised by Nepal’s political parties?
We are trying our best. It would be easier to declare the constitution on the promised day or within that day, if there was consensus among political forces. But since some people are steadfast on not paving the way to declare a new constitution, I don’t see any possibility. We have to go through the process to resolve outstanding issues and these people can disturb the process also inside the Constituent Assembly.But we will face that too – we cannot prolong the promulgation of the constitution, forever. We have to promulgate the constitution to institutionalize the rights that we gained after many years of struggle, to end the transitional phase as soon as possible and to stabilize peace for creating investment friendly environment for national and foreign investors. In lack of constitution, these factors cannot be ascertained.
What are these outstanding issues that you are not able to agree on?
There are many issues, but we cannot agree on two of them, particularly. First to separate the entire southern plain land (Terai region) from the hill areas. We don’t accept this as it is against national interest because it is against the hill people and it will increase hatred between people of terai region and hilly region, in the long run.Second is naming provinces along ethnic lines. As I said before, we have 125 ethnic groups and they are mixed through out the nation. We cannot name the provinces, or create provinces in the name of any ethnic group. Suppose if we create five provinces in the name of five ethnic groups that will leave out 120 ethnic groups without a province of their own. They too will demand for separate provinces. This is evident in Nigeria where even after creating 36 ethnic provinces, they have been not able to reach a solution to end the chaos. We just don’t want to create chaos, anarchy and instability again. We want to end violence and all kinds of discrimination. We want to create national unity among people.
The most serious problem of our nation is that it is backward and its citizens are poor. Development and prosperity is the real solution to address these problems. We cannot waste our time in the name of revolution. Revolution against whom?
How do you take criticism?
Many people criticize me. I am a politician and my party has its own policies that are different to other many political parties. My opinions are different than other politicians and they criticize me because they do not agree to my views and opinions.
Why are people protesting against you and your coalition government?
These elements are motivated by their extremist backgrounds. They are extremists who killed 17000 people unnecessarily despite being in a democratic nation. They fought against democratic process and forces.
But as part of the media freedom and freedom of expression, people have the right to protest?
Yes, they have but there must be a reason. They have reasons, but are these mala fide or bona fide? Are they doing this to create chaos and anarchy across the nation to benefit from it or are they doing it to establish peace, democracy, rule of law, good governance? What do they want?
I am not asking for special authority or privileges, but we have to move ahead as provisioned by the constitution and laws to end the transitional phase as soon as possible. It is essential not for my personal interest but for the national interest. What people want is peace, not violence. And against whom are they launching violence? If its against me or my party they can fight election and defeat me and party. In the first CA elections our party was a loser but in the second CA elections we recovered it. We accepted our defeat in the previous election as people’s verdict. If we say sovereignty is with the people, and if it lies with the people then we have to accept their verdict.
A lot of NGOs in Nepal are actually governed by your party and the money is going into the pockets of people of your party instead of being used in the development of rural areas. How do you take these claims?
know how to make attractive proposals and how to get to money from INGOs and the donor community. Most of the money, which comes from outside, goes in the hands of such people. In the name of poor people, millions of rupees are spent in organizing seminars in star hotels. Only twenty percent of the total amount they receive is spent on the actual activities while the rest of the 80 percent is misappropriated by forging fake expenditure bills and reports. They know very well how to present the expenditure bills.
As a leader, how do you take the recent attack on French weekly Hebebdo?
It was a very ugly scene that challenged humanity and human civilization. That is basically a terrorist attack, may be in different names, I don’t know which name. But attacking correspondents, media people and house is a symbol of intolerance and inhumanity.
What is your perception on making cartoons about religious faith and beliefs?
If a picture of any god or goddess – maybe Buddha, or Muhammad, or Jesus, or Shiva, or Bishnu – is lying in the foot, or in the shoes, it is not good. But in case of cartoons people have innovative minds, and artists see things from different angle and have different ways of presentation.
I am in favor of the media freedom and freedom of expression. Cartoonists don’t deliver or express anything through speeches. They express their views through cartoons. Sometimes these expressions might be satirical but that does not mean that there must be Jihad in the name of religion. I am not in favor of war or Jihad killings.
Nepal is home to Muslims as well. What do you think about Islam?
So many people respect Muhammad across the World and I also respect him. I respect Jesus because so many people in the World respect and believe in him. I believe in Shiva and Bishnu and Durga because so many people believe in them. I respect the theory of Buddha, and his message of peace that is most important in the present World. But I don’t participate in this or that side, I want to remain neutral respecting all the gods and goddesses and religions.
But are communists neutral?
Even now also I am neutral, but I oppose the attack against media in France.
Lets come to Nepal on religion. Nepal is declared as a secular state, but apparently there are political parties here who are fighting to reinstate it as Hindu nation. What do you have to say about the growing Hindu extremist feeling in Nepal?
I am not in favor of a Hindu state. Nepal will be a country where each and everybody has religious freedom. But even if Nepal is made a Hindu state it should not be governed by religion but by the constitution and law. However I am not in favour of making a Hindu state, Nepal should be a secular nation.
Do you have any special message for our readership?
Your readers, most of which I think are Europeans, are educated people because Europe is ahead in education. Particularly Denmark and Norway have achieved a lot in the field of education, I think. I would like to wish grand success to your paper and your readership. I believe your paper is really independent and is serving humanity, which is my faith. I am always in favor of human rights. I am a politician and my politics is not separate from human rights, environment, conservation or the eco system. All these things are my subjects too. I am not just a politician, but I have some responsibility to develop my nation, to eliminate poverty, create job opportunities for our youths, among others. My countrymen and me want to learn from your people. I will see your magazine online and I will, perhaps, send you my opinion.
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