A leader and a statesmanPromulgating the constitution within a year would be a befitting way to remember Girija Prasad Koirala
Former US president Jimmy Carter had expressed his admiration of then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala during a meeting by calling him the “hero of the nation”. When Koirala died, the former president praised him as a “great statesman” who remained “unwavering in his commitment to sustainable peace and multiparty democracy in Nepal”. Similarly, the President of India Pratibha Patil described him as “a towering personality in the political arena of South Asia” in her message of condolence.
Leader of the masses
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remembered him as “a mass leader and a statesman, whose knowledge and wisdom guided the polity of Nepal in the right direction at a critical juncture in the country’s history”. The Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China Wen Jiabao remembered the late leader Koirala as a “statesman and an outstanding political leader of Nepal”. World leaders remembered him for his contribution to peace and his unwavering commitment to democracy and the greater good of the nation. This week, people remembered the late leader by holding various programmes in his honour in the capital city of Kathmandu.
Various programmes were organised to celebrate Koirala’s 91st birth anniversary and commemorate his contributions to the nation. The GP Koirala Foundation chaired by his daughter and leader of the Nepali Congress Sujata Koirala held a very interesting interaction on hydropower integrated with agriculture and natural resource management for national and regional cooperation. His vision that was reflected in his speech at the 10th Saarc Summit on July 29, 1998 was also “greater regional economic integration and collective capacity building to promote the region’s competitiveness”.
GP, as Koirala was affectionately known, was always fully aware of the goodwill and sympathy of our neighbours and Saarc nations. Once, at a meeting with experts, he expressed his views on regional cooperation for the conservation of the great Himalaya, the source of water for all the nations located in the watershed area on both sides of the mountain range. He seemed to be serious about the trend of ruthless exploitation of natural resources in the Himalayan region resulting in rapid deforestation, soil erosion, and most critically, the fast melting of the great deposits of water—the thick glaciers. He seemed to be deeply concerned as he talked about the serious trend of rapid erosion of life and culture and the miserable living conditions in the high mountains. This thinking is reflected in his messages and speeches at various summits.
When major international media reported his sudden death, the attention of the whole of Asia and the world was drawn to Nepal. His death raised concerns over the progress of the peace process, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist fighters, and above all, the writing of the constitution with suitable restructuring of states. These vital issues had always been GP’s prime concern. He wanted to see a practical settlement of the complicated and complex matters of greater national interest through consensus, cooperation and unity.
GP was fully aware of the sentiments of the Maoist party and other regional parties. He was worried by the results of the last election, hence he was very cautious about the unexpected implications of many demands and few achievements. He first wanted to consolidate the great achievements of the peaceful Janaandolan II. The first step was to declare Nepal a ‘republic’ and the second was to establish the ‘sovereignty of the people’’. He used to say that if the first step was not firm, the next step may be more challenging, if not a failure.
Moreover, he often used to suggest to all the major political parties not to worry about threats from other parties but to strengthen their own parties from within. Perhaps most of the parties have come to realise this, though belatedly. GP in his last days wished to see the new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in his lifetime. But because the petty interests of party politics prevailed, vital issues like constitution making through consensus became a distant dream.
Land of opportunities
The leaders of the major political parties may still remember GP’s final words: “Nepal has many opportunities. Once it picks up the pace of development after the promulgation of the new constitution, no doubt, it will move forward and reach the take-off stage very soon. It has the second largest reserves of water resources; it has wonderful forest reserves of herbs, rare species of vegetation of medicinal use and perfumes. More than that, it has a large reserve of both hard and liquid water—pure for drinking purposes and found nowhere else in the world. To the surprise of all, it has a wonderful combination of the cultures of more than 100 languages and about 126 ethnic communities living in one country in harmony through the centuries. Moreover, the workforce is unique with hardworking capabilities that can be perfectly matched with the vast resources for a prosperous Nepal.”
Thinking of all these potentials, he often used to become impatient to capitalise on them for the greater interest of the country. Towards the end of his life, he thought much about the large number of people who, despite the ongoing national development efforts, were still living a miserable life as they had for centuries. Keeping in view his thoughts about development, the interaction programme on the potentialities of hydropower, agriculture and natural resources was an appropriate way to remember him on his birthday. However, a more appropriate and befitting way to remember him would be to promulgate the constitution within a year. This will definitely provide stability which is the precondition for overall development in the country. If we do so, it will also be a great tribute to the late leader GP Koirala who led the country through the greatest change the Nepali people had ever seen.
Pokhrel is a former chief secretary of the Nepali Congress