Nepal keeps mum as world leaders condemn attack on US democracyForeign Ministry chose to remain silent, with officials saying they have received no orders from ‘higher political authority’–whether to say something or not say anything.
World leaders on Thursday sprung into action to condemn what they called an “assault on democracy” after Wednesday's pandemonium and mayhem at the Capitol Hill carried out by the supporters of US President Donald Trump.
From British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders of democracies were quick to express shock and outrage at the storming of the US Capitol in Washington by supporters of President Donald Trump. The list of those condemning the mob storming at Capitol Hill included even America’s best foes, with the likes of Venezuela, Iran and China.
The Nepal government, however, until Thursday night, even hours after sanity and sense prevailed in America and the Congress certified election victory to Joe Biden, had not spoken a word.
There was no official statement—neither by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli nor by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—on the US Capitol siege by Trump supporters that left at least four people dead.
An official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter, said there were no immediate plans at the ministry to release any statement. “Nor is there any directive ‘from the top political authority’ to that effect,” the official told the Post, indicating at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Those outside the government said that the KP Sharma Oli government has lost the moral and political ground to speak up or condemn the incident.
Oli is facing massive criticism for attacking the constitution and democracy at home ever since he suddenly on December 20 dissolved the House of Representatives, the hallowed chambers which in February 2018 installed him as the prime minister.
While Oli has argued that he was “forced” to dissolve the House after an intense intra-party feud which made it impossible for him to work, in America Trump incited his supporters to storm the Capitol refusing to concede his defeat in the November 3 elections.
“Our House of Representatives was dissolved [by Oli] and their [Americans’] House was attacked. It does sound similar somehow,” Madhuraman Acharya, a former foreign secretary and ambassador, told the Post. “Can we really expect our government to speak up?”
The Post’s repeated attempts to reach out to Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali went unanswered.
At least two senior leaders of the governing Nepal Communist Party refused to comment, giving a nonchalant shrug. They said they had not followed the goings-on in the United States seriously and that they were “busy” in their own party affairs.
After Oli’s move of dissolving the House, the Nepal Communist Party has split into two, with the other faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, which has taken to the streets.
While leaders of the Oli faction have been trying their best to justify the House dissolution, the Dahal-Nepal faction has described it as an attack on the constitution and democracy.
Many say it’s surprising that Nepal has opted not to say a word amid concerns from the world’s big democracies as well as lecturing from some countries like Venezuela and Iran to the US on democracy and democratic values.
A Standing Committee member of the Nepal Communist Party (Oli faction), said that the government is like “once bitten twice shy”.
“Don’t you remember the Venezuela case?” the member asked.
“We don’t want to be dragged into yet another controversy,” said the member, who did not wish to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
He, however, was referring to an incident that happened in January 2019.
Dahal, who then was the chair of the Nepal Communist Party, had issued a statement, denouncing US intervention in Venezuela and expressing solidarity with the people of Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro.
Dahal’s statement had caused a deep diplomatic crisis after the US embassy raised its concern, forcing the Oli administration to scramble for an answer.
Foreing policy watchers say Nepal’s position on international matters has always remained poor and when it comes to democracy, democratic principles and even human rights, the Oli administration has simply lost the plot.
World leaders on Thursday spoke with conviction about the US Capital storming.
“Disgraceful scenes in US Congress,” said British Prime Minister Johnson in a tweet. “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
"Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour," said Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.
Describing what happened in Washington as the "very distressing scenes", Australian Prime Minister Morrisson wrote: "We condemn these acts of violence and look forward to a peaceful transfer of Government to the newly elected administration in the great American democratic tradition.”
“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC,” Indian Prime Minister Modi wrote on Twitter. “Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”
Sridhar Khatri, a professor of political science, said the Oli government’s silence on what happened in the US is understandable as it has failed to keep its own house in order.
“For the Oli government to have an opinion, it has to set its house in order first,” Khatri, who has taught political science in Kathmandu and Colombo, told the Post.
According to Khatri, the reason countries like India and others were quick to speak up is they are a functional democracy.
“On what basis–democracy or constitutionally–should we speak up or criticise the incident? What is our justification to speak up at a time when a hearing is going on at the Supreme Court against our government’s decision to dissolve the House, which according to our constitution is not right,” Khatri told the Post. “Do we really have a stand?”
Historically, Nepal does not follow any standard rule book when it comes to having a stand on what are described as “internal matters” of a particular country.
A Nepali diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that in various cases in the past, it has always been based on which party was ruling in Kathmandu.
According to the diplomat, Nepal often tends to choose to say or not to say depending on the country in the question.
“So our confusion continues,” said the diplomat who has served in three different countries in the past and recently as an ambassador to a western country. “This is basically because we don’t have a strong foreign policy. We don’t have any proper understanding of the world order. And we don’t even have any idea how fast geopolitical shifts are taking place.”
After the mayhem and calls for an impeachment, Trump, however, finally pledged an “orderly transition”, helping restore peace in America.
Sueresh Chalise, a former ambassador to the US, described the incident in Washington as America’s “internal affairs”.
“The incident does show that there are some flaws in the US election process. That is also associated with American democracy so it is concerning,” said Chalise. “But for Nepal, it is purely the United States’s internal affairs. And, as a small country like Nepal, we should be mindful while speaking about internal affairs of such a big country.”